Digital services lead the way as Australian PR firms invest in growth (REPORT)

 PR in Australia Report

Australia’s public relations consulting industry seems to be in pretty healthy shape if a new survey is any indication. 

The annual Public Relations Institute of Australia’s (PRIA) consulting sector benchmark study was conducted by Galaxy Research and used financial and operations data submitted by consultancy owners and chief executives.

The report, which has run for 14 consecutive years, reveals that most firms predict strong growth in the year ahead; tellingly, PR firms are investing heavily in digital services, providing an indication as to where they think future growth will come from.

Key highlights from the report include:

  • 83 per cent of PR businesses forecast growth in 2015
  • Average monthly client retainers now exceed $12,400
  • 42 per cent of businesses making strategic investments in digital services
  • Hiring intentions on the rise for all consulting roles

According to the survey, which included 48 consultancies nationally, PR consulting activities grew an average of two per cent in 2014, while one third of respondents reported average annual revenue growth of 19 per cent. 

PRIA report


Year-on-year results

According to the PRIA, 73 per cent of consultancies submitting data this year also participated last year, thus enabling year-on-year trends to be tracked and tested with a high degree of confidence.

“Public relations consultancies are investing actively in their future,” says Adam Benson, National Chair of the PRIA’s Registered Consultancies Group (RCG).

“More consultancies plan to hire staff this year than last year, with hiring intentions strong at every level.  Investments in digital services are also high on the agenda.  42 per cent are planning a significant expansion of their digital offering, while 40 per cent already have dedicated digital services staff in place.

“Average monthly client retainers rose 15 per cent and are now approaching $12,500. However, the study reports a growing dependency on fewer, larger clients in many consultancies.  This concentration of revenue sources increases long-term structural risk in the industry,” says Adam.

“Most business owners and operators are bullish about 2015. 83 per cent predict revenue growth of 14 per cent, with smaller consultancies targeting growth of 35% or more. We’ve not seen targets this high since the GFC.”

Excellent shape

“This year’s study shows an industry in excellent shape. Bad debt is at a record low. Confidence is high. Business owners and operators are investing proactively in new services for the future. 

“In the year ahead, the greatest challenge will be to manage these investments prudently and, as much as possible, and ensure they reduce dependency on clusters of large clients,” Adam said.


SOURCE: Information for this article was sourced from a PRIA media statement 

Love your work? Promote your small business online with a #spruik

spruik header

Accounting software company MYOB has just launched Love Your Work, a campaign that encourages Australian small business owners to showcase via the social web their unique passion, product or skill.

I’ll declare my hand here – MYOB is a client and I’m involved in the campaign :)

It works like this:

Business owners design a ‘#spruik’ (see examples below) – these can be as simple or as creative as you like.

Simply (a) write your #spruik on paper or cardboard, (b) shoot it with your smartphone or mobile device, (c) upload your photo to the Love Your Work competition page and (d) promote your #spruik via social media to encourage people to like and share your entry.

So, on one hand small biz owners can promote their business in a fun and creative way in order to reach a broad audience, plus there is the competition element involved with the opportunity to win one of four $25,000 promotional packages from MYOB – more details on the Love Your Work website.



What do you do? How a former academic turned ‘eclectic’ digital geek positions herself in the marketplace

Multi-tasking Business Woman

Joanne Jacobs is a company director and a digital strategist. She’s also a blogger, a trainer, a public speaker, a change manager, an operations and project manager; she does business development, and on occasion, she can even do a bit of programming and fix technology software and hardware.

She is currently involved in four businesses, and is on the board of another two and sits on the advisory board of another organisation. She also writes for a range of sources and is still exploring other business investment and strategic opportunities. Phewww!

JoanneJacobsSo how does Joanne (left) position herself in the marketplace?

While she prefers to explain why she does what she does, if pressed Joanne defaults to her ’elevator pitch’:

“I help businesses change utterly the way they work,” she explains in this episode of REPUTATION REVOLUTION (listen via SoundCloud below).

I was keen to speak to Joanne because she epitomises the ‘what do you do?’ issue that many professionals and thought leaders face in that they possess an eclectic spread of skills picked up over the journey and it’s this combination of skills that makes them unique.

But having broad knowledge, skills and experience can also play havoc when it comes to positioning oneself in the marketplace.

Aside from that issue, Joanne and I riff on a number of topics, including: 

  • Joanne’s rule of not saying the same thing twice when presenting or speaking in public; 
  • how her intellectual property is out of date on the day it’s delivered;
  • how content needs to developed in such a way that it addresses the immediate needs of the community (“Content needs to be timely, it needs to be appropriate for the audience at the time they are receiving it … it needs to be specific to people’s needs … we have the capacity to solve people’s problems on-demand”);
  • the importance of getting out of the office and meeting people face to face, of being physically and intellectually present at events or in places where you’re going to meet people and can start doing business – “you need to make yourself available”, Joanne says;
  • why Twitter is “a fabulous place to do research”;

… and let’s not forget the joys of downloading advertisements for Star Trek back in 1996 that would take all night to download!

I hope you enjoy this episode of REPUTATION REVOLUTION!


If you like what you hear, why not subscribe to REPUTATION REVOLUTION on iTunes?




Is it best to brand your business as your personal name? (Interview on Digital Marketing Radio)

I was recently interviewed by David Bain for his UK-based Digital Marketing Radio podcast (you can listen via SoundCloud player below if you’re looking for something to do other than grocery shopping or doing your tax).

We chatted all things personal branding, including the importance of building a body of work and leveraging your own platform; we also explored the concept of the ‘micro maven’ which I wrote about in my book microDOMINATION.

Here’s a sample quote I provide during the show:

“We have a personal brand whether we like it or not. What people think about you as the … the saying from Jeff Bezos, ‘Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room,’ so it opens the question up what do you want people to say about you when you’re not in the room and so, wouldn’t you want to have an influence on that?”

I really love what David’s doing in terms of building his own media company.

He’s posting a daily episode of Digital Marketing Radio, and then repurposing the content from those interviews for his Digital Marketing Radio Magazine (available from Apple App store and Google Play).

Digital Marketing Radio Magazine is published once a week – every Monday – and includes all the audio interviews for that week (usually five interviews) with no interruptions. And the magazine is published before the interviews are released as a podcast. The magazine also includes the full transcript of every interview in an easy-to-digest format that includes sections and quote highlights.

Definitely worth checking out if you’re into all things digital marketing.


The one massive opportunity most businesses are missing on Twitter

Twitter header

Okay, this is anecdotal but borne of years of active ‘in the trenches’ Twitter service plus keen observation of other people’s activities on the social platform.

Here’s the thing. I quite regularly hat-tip businesses on Twitter. That means that out of the blue, I tell the world (well, my meagre sliver of the Twitterverse) that I like/love/am rapt in a specific product, or I’m highlighting that a particular brand’s service is exceptional. Let’s file it under ‘credit where credit’s due’.

I’m not the only one who does this of course, I see this type of hat-tipping activity often. Which is why it can get quite frustrating when we hear ad nauseum the negative stuff that takes place on Twitter, but what’s not often reported are the positive responses brands receive from the public. But that’s another story …

And herein lies the missed opportunity … AND IT’S A BIG ‘UN!

I reckon for every 10 positive ‘out of the blue’ comments I make about a brand or product or service that I like, one – maybe two max – will tweet back to me. You know, acknowledge the comment, thank me (if that is their wont), or more importantly (but something that’s less prevalent), engage me in further conversation around the comment.


But you know what these brands do do?

They will, more often that not, retweet and/or favourite my tweet.

You see, they’re monitoring the Twitterverse (kudos for that guys!) but they are straight-out ignoring the opportunity to create a connection with someone who may well be not only an advocate but also potential long-standing customer.


Why are businesses so reluctant to engage with someone who has publicly expressed positivity about their brand?

Twitter signTo be honest, I don’t know the real answer but I can hazard a guess: It’s because in business, it’s always about us and our brand. Building relationships with people – one at a time – is hard work and not considered worthy of the effort. Best to keep pushing promotional stuff out and see what sticks; if someone along the way happens to say something nice about us, record it for prosperity and move on.

Well, good luck with that; it’s a pretty self-centred attitude, but then marketing has been like that for years, hence the difficulty many brands are having in changing their approach in order to make their marketing more human and customer-centric.

Smart marketing and PR today is about those one-to-one micro engagements.

It is about acknowledgement and conversation and being an open and accessible company made up of real human beings who recognise and treasure the power of such interaction.

It’s about understanding that generosity, humility, empathy and relationships hold the key to marketing success today, and if you think you can do that with broadcast promotional campaign after broadcast promotional campaign with minimal human interaction in between, you’re going to find the going tough as our world becomes even more socially connected.

Marketing and PR is as much about imbuing a philosophy that’s in-sync with the public than merely a set of clever creative tactics.

Which side of the marketing fence does your business sit? 


How Sean Callanan uses podcasting and social media to grow his profile and influence in digital sport

Soccer online, sports game

Self-confessed sports geek Sean Callanan is a perfect example of how someone with passion and expertise can strategically use social media and online publishing platforms to leverage themselves into a bigger game.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Sean was an IT coder toiling away in obscurity in suburban Melbourne.

Today, thanks to his embrace of social media including blogging and podcasting, Sean has found himself:

  • consulting to some of the biggest names in the sports business,
  • speaking at international digital sport conferences, and
  • securing an interview with Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of NBA team, Dallas Mavericks, for his popular Sports Geek podcast.

sean_callananHe also regularly appears on ‘ABC Grandstand’ with Francis Leach and on ‘Harf Time’ with Daniel Harford on radio 1116 SEN.

Sean’s mission is to connect sports, fans and sponsors using technology; his business Sports Geek is connected with over 1,000,000 digital fans with clients in the NBA, AFL, NRL, football and cricket.

Sean is a big podcasting fan and has founded two podcasts that over the past 12 months have amassed 100,000 downloads.

Beers, Blokes & Business, which he produces along with Melbourne-based entrepreneurial types (including Steve Vallas, Jim Stewart, Scott Kilmartin, Steve Sammartino) accounts for approximately 60,000 of those downloads, while Sports Geek is the top ranking sports digital podcast on iTunes.

Jump on a plane

In this episode of the Reputation Revolution podcast, Sean tells us of his journey from suburban coder to digital sports influencer, and discusses how perhaps his most successful strategy to date has been to jump on a plane and visit industry contacts in the US and UK. It’s these relationships, reinforced face to face, that have had potentially the biggest impact on his career to date.

What works well for Sean’s business

  • Building long-standing relationships with key influencers on and offline.
  • Publishing a content-rich podcast on a regular basis (it brings in leads and sales, says Sean).
  • Curating interesting articles and sharing them through his various social channels.
  • Incorporating in his regular newsletter links to the top 10 most shared and clicked-on curated articles that he shared during the week (“…they become the articles in my weekly newsletter”, he says).

Connect with Sean


Here are 7 inspiring examples of business-to-business blogs from the smaller end of town

Blogger in a black shirt

It’s no secret that a useful, content-rich blog can be super-effective in building visibility and credibility (not to mention traffic, leads and sales) for a business, whether it’s large, medium, small or micro.

Consider these compelling statistics (sourced from HubSpot via

  • Companies that blog 15 or more times per month get 5x more traffic than companies that don’t blog.
  • Small businesses (1-10 employees) tend to see the biggest gains in traffic when they post more blog articles.
  • Companies that increase blogging from 3-5 times/month to 6-8 times/month almost double their leads.
  • B2B companies that blog only 1-2 times/month generate 70% more leads than those who don’t blog.

With so much content (READ: dross) cluttering up the social web, it’s an absolute joy to stumble upon a well-written and maintained online content hub produced by a business that truly ‘gets’ the power and nuance of this blogging caper.

7 examples of small and medium-sized business B2B blogs

With this in mind, here are seven brilliant examples of small and medium-sized businesses in the B2B space that are blogging with passion, purpose and strategic intent.

N.B. I’ve tried to include an array of blogs from different industries, ones that are not ‘the usual suspects’ such as Convince and Convert, Copyblogger and Content Marketing Institute which are well known globally because they’re very much at the top of their game. I’ve also tried to focus on companies that are blogging versus individual thought leaders who are ‘caning it’ in this space e.g. David Meerman Scott, Jeff Bullas et al.


Any small company blog that can turn out massively chunky, valuable posts like this one deserves to be on a list such as this!

Buffer is a brilliant app that helps you manage multiple social media accounts at once (I use and recommend it!); the company’s super-useful blog focuses on social media because its audience is made up of community managers, PR and social media marketing teams.


With an opt-in subscriber list around the 20,000 mark, the Buffer blog covers:

  • Social media tips and strategies
  • Productivity tricks and hacks that will make you more efficient today
  • Scientific studies to improve your online marketing and effectiveness

Here is another example of the utility provided by Buffer on its blog: How to Become a Columnist: The Ultimate Blueprint for Guest Blogging and Syndication


Recruitment software company Gild produces a blog that features content of interest and relevance to its core audience – recruiters and HR professionals in the tech space, for example:

A feature of the Gild blog is Hiring Headlines Weekly, a regular series that highlights valuable hiring and recruiting content from around the web. 


Visage Mobile is a San Francisco software as a service (SaaS) company that provides mobility management solutions for enterprises.

Its Chief Mobility Officer blog is jam-packed with useful information for an audience interested in tips, news and insights around enterprise mobile communications.

The blog is categorised into content ‘channels’ – Data & Devices, Mobile Intelligence, People & Productivity and Visage News.

visage_mobility blog


Influence & Co, in its own words, “tackles the world of thought leadership and content marketing from all angles”. A relatively new business, the company helps companies position their key leaders as industry experts.

A good part of the growth of Influence & Co can be put down to its multi-author blog; it’s jam-packed with information, tips and advice around creating content to develop thought leadership positioning.

Here are some example posts:



While the ID Group’s blog is essentially written by one person (the company’s owner, Mark Masters), it’s a wonderful example of what can be achieved with focus and passion.

A feature of the blog is an interview series with content marketing experts and thought leaders, called ‘Talking Content’.

Mark’s a prolific content creator and while he loves writing on the subject of content marketing, there is another reason why he blogs: It’s great for business!



OpenView is a Boston-based venture capital firm with a focus on high-growth software, internet, and technology-enabled companies.

OpenView’s blog is a key thought leadership play, and is categorised into content ‘channels’ to enable readers to pick and choose topics of interest to them; these include Product, Customers, Sales & Marketing, Recruitment, Management and VC & Startup.

The blog’s authors understand their key audience (the startup community) and write articles with a laser focus that address issues and pain-points experienced by entrepreneurs.


7. MOZ

Inbound marketing services company Moz oversees not one but four blogs!

Indeed, the company’s main blog is so well read that people from other companies want to write for it (that’s a sign of a successful blog!); this works for Moz because it gets a spread of views from multiple experts in the business; it’s good for the contributors because they gain exposure for themselves and the businesses they work for.

A feature of Moz’s blogging efforts is founder Rand Fishkin’s ‘Whiteboard Friday’ video posts in which he uses a whiteboard to educate viewers on the finer points of SEO practice.


Hope you enjoyed checking out these wonderful blog examples.

Have you got any others in the B2B space you’d like to add to the list?


Thought Leader Minute: Have you considered LinkedIn’s blogging platform?


Do you want to start blogging but you’re not really sure at this point in time that you want to go to the trouble of setting up a blogging platform such as WordPress or Typepad?

Then why don’t you take a look at LinkedIn’s recently launched new blogging platform? By blogging on LinkedIn you’ve got a built in audience ready to go, all of your connections, and if everyone starts liking and sharing it, it has the potential viral effect to go out even further than your broader network.

I know a lot of people who are now using this platform, and some of the numbers of readers they’re getting for each post certainly high hundreds, and sometimes thousands and sometimes tens of thousands.

It really is an avenue worth exploring for thought leaders.

Do you want to be Bob Dylan or The Monkees? What thought leaders can learn from Seth Godin


I recently spent a day (along with 150 other people!) with best-selling business author and marketing provocateur Seth Godin at the Art Gallery of NSW (and then backed it up with lunch with the Great Man the next day in Melbourne along with a tableful of savvy individuals including authors and bloggers Valerie Khoo, Steve Sammartino and Darren Rowse – photographic evidence above, hat-tip Infinity Photography and Business Chicks).

For episode #28 of the REPUTATION REVOLUTION podcast (you can listen below or via iTunes) I sift through my notes and pass on multiple ‘nuggets of gold’ I gleaned from the day-long and lunch sessions with Seth.

I then try valiantly to put Seth’s wisdom, stories and advice into perspective i.e. what does it all this mean for aspiring thought leaders, subject matter experts, change agents and entrepreneurs who want to increase their influence, grow their audience and build their brand and their business?

While Seth covered enormous territory, he tied his on-stage output to three big ideas:

  1. “People like us do things like this” (the power of tribes).
  2. “How are you changing your customers?”
  3. “What it is to be an impresario”.

And of course I discuss the proposition Seth put to the Sydney audience:

Do you want to be Bob Dylan or The Monkees?

P.S. You’re going to have to listen if you want the full story behind this gem :)

Trevor Young_Seth Godin

THE NEW THOUGHT LEADER: Building visibility, influence and trust in a digital world

thought eadership

I must admit I have a love-hate relationship with the term ‘thought leader’.

Having been a PR practitioner for over two decades, I’ve spent a good part of my professional life helping people – my clients – to become seen as thought leaders in their community, industry or profession.

Notice that I wrote, “to become seen as”. This is because you’re not a thought leader because you say you are; you’re only a thought leader if others think (and tell the world) that you are. In other words, it’s a status that needs to be earned. That’s why positive third party endorsement – as difficult as it can be to attain – is such a powerful thing.

People’s perceptions

Thought leadership – like authority, personal branding, reputation and expert status – can be quite a nebulous concept. While track record and demonstrated outcomes from your body of professional work will help your cause from an evidentiary perspective, what we’re talking about here are people’s perceptions: What do peers and colleagues, clients, people in your community and the media think of you in a professional sense? Do you share your knowledge? Drive conversations? Lead opinion on topics relevant to your profession, industry and expertise?

In the past thought leaders were considered pillars of their industry; high profile individuals who had a voice and a point of view that people were attracted to. The (traditional) media chased them for quotes and conference organisers sought them out to appear at their events. A chosen few even got to the point where they were well known and respected enough to warrant a book publisher knocking on their door.

In other words, the thought leader was someone who had, through their high-profile vocational work, networking and personal branding activity, succeeded in getting past the ‘gate-keepers’ (journalists, editors and producers; conference organisers; publishers) which in turn further fuelled the elevated status they enjoyed in their community, profession or industry.

Media attention

Editorial exposure in the media sparked interest from the public speaking and publishing fraternities, which in turn fed further media attention, and so the loop went.

thought leaderBut so often the loop was closed and very hard to break into. Established thought leaders were popular with certain sections of the media, while conference organisers often erred on the side of caution and engaged the services of high profile speakers who in turn could put ‘bums on seats’.

Don’t get me wrong: This ‘traditional’ scenario still holds true today. You’re a savvy professional, an expert in your space; you’re known to have a forward view on your subject matter; you start sharing quotes with and/or writing for your industry trade journal (whether you’re invited to do so, or have a PR representative pitching your ideas to journalists).

Get enough media coverage and there’s a good chance you’ll start being asked to appear on panels or deliver a keynote at relevant conferences and events; if you’re okay at it, you will probably be asked to present on a regular basis.

Lofty heights

A hallmark of the traditional thought leader was their seemingly inaccessibility to the public. Yes, they would make themselves available to a journalist at a moment’s notice but there was no real mileage to be gained in dealing with the public directly, unless you had a speaking gig to attend.

To be fair, there were no social technologies available at the time to help them interact with the public with scale, but my opinion of many of the better known thought leaders from the pre-social media era is that unlike best-selling author Tom Peters, many haven’t adapted well to the social web – they don’t blog much (if at all), nor do they proactively interact with the public, preferring to use social channels to broadcast news about themselves. The view I have is that it’s all about them, not their community of fans and followers.

The other reason it was difficult for professional individuals to reach the lofty heights that traditional thought leaders enjoyed within their industry was that their reach was often fuelled by editorial exposure. Once a journalist had latched on to an expert who could consistently deliver the goods, they often stuck with them.

This truism you’d think remains the case today as deadline-driven journalists and producers are in constant need of getting their stories locked away – why chase new talent when the tried-and-true will suffice?

Although the other school of thought is that today the media is in constant need of fresh faces and new perspectives, which opens the door somewhat to new and emerging thought leader talent. Don’t forget either the media now extends to blogs and podcasts and online video shows, all of which are keen to interview talented experts who are accessible and willing to get involved, no matter how large the audience may be.

So while thought leaders will continue to emerge via traditional media, I see that increasingly they are being one-upped by more entrepreneurial types who are strategically using social technologies and online publishing platforms to increase their visibility, tell their story, grow their audience and build their personal brand.

Welcome to the world of the New Thought Leader.

Unlike thought leaders of the yesterday, today’s New Thought Leader is digitally savvy; they vigorously and passionately share what they know by creating and publishing their own content on the social web.

More than that, they proactively shine the spotlight on other experts in their space, and curate other people’s content on the web.

They are also more accessible (thanks to social media) and rather than see interaction with the public as something to endure, they actually embrace the opportunity to engage with people who are interested in what they have to say.

Put another way, today’s New Thought Leader uses the tools available to them to take their expertise to another level, plus they bring people along for the journey.

Yes, these New Thought Leaders know their stuff; yes, they have a progressive view and a forward-thinking mindset as well as ideas and opinions of matters relevant to their expertise. But they are also passionate about teaching and empowering people, about drawing others into the fold to discuss their thoughts, ideas and views on the topic in question.

Open and connected

In this way, the New Thought Leader is probably a lot more open, connected and community-minded than their more traditional predecessors. And the fact there are no longer ‘gatekeepers’ in the way – that you can now become your own media channel and communicate directly with your audience – means we will be seeing a lot more interesting, smart and passionate professional people rising to ‘thought leader’ status over coming years.

And yes, they will be the ones the media (and conference organisers and publishers) are drawn to because they will boast not only a solid communications platform but also a growing audience of followers, supporters and advocates of their personal brand and what it is they stand for.

FURTHER READING: Valuable lessons from 10 established thought leaders