The wind is in Craig Pearce’s sails

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Craig Pearce, Principal, Craig Pearce Strategic Communication & Editor, Public Relations 2011: Issues, Insights and Ideas

New e-report: Public relations 2011: issues, insights and ideas

In December 2010 an email arrived in my inbox originating from the other side of the world, inviting participation in an intriguing project initiated by Australian (online) colleague, Craig Pearce: a planned (free) e-report comprising a variety of contributions from PR practitioners and academics located in different parts of the world. Besides being persuaded by Craig to contribute (two submissions!), I was intrigued to find out more about both how this endeavour evolved, as well as more about the visionary himself. Craig Pearce graciously agreed to provide me with answers to questions here. I also invited the e-report’s other participants to weigh in about how or why they were similarly persuaded, plus add to the collective knowledge base about Craig; responses received are woven into the interview proper.

Tell us a bit about your background

I’ve worked in public relations in Australia for 16 years, both in-house and with agencies, after mucking around in journalism and DJing in nightclubs. I was retrenched in the global financial crisis nearly two years ago and whilst I’d started my social media engagement before then, I thought at that point it would be beneficial and interesting to deep dive into it.

Hence my rationale in establishing a blog, a concerted effort to engage through LinkedIn and a deliberate and careful navigation of Twitter and Facebook. All this has helped me with the branding and reputation of myself and my sole-operator PR business.

Public relations was a life saver in many, non-hyperbolic ways. I discovered it in a sort-of accidental manner but its mix of creativity, hard-nosed business requirements, collaborative dimensions, making a difference to organisations, their stakeholders and society and, of course, the actual communication involved, I find pretty thrilling when the wind is in the sails.

“I first got to know Craig in the virtual world, and came to admire his enthusiasm and energy. There are always people about whom you say, ‘I should have done that, if only I had the time/energy/initiative/opportunity.’ Craig is one of those people, so it was a complete no-brainer [to participate] when he asked me to contribute to his project.“ Tony Jaques (Australia)

How did the idea for an e-report come about?

I’ve written a couple of e-reports in recent times, reporting on and analysing PR and social media conferences, so I’ve long had an interest in the e-report approach. Giving away free e-reports is recognised as a best-practice way to generate interest in, and subscribers for, your blog. And, by extension, your business.

As for this e-report, it was a gradual dawning of the fact I was fortunate to be mixing with some pretty cluey PR and communication pros around the world; I was eager to crystallise that network into something tangible. Think of Public relations 2011: issues, insights and ideas as a concrete expression of this idea.

Describe how the concept evolved

I knew what communication professionals I wanted to contribute. And I equally knew that getting them to write on a single ‘PR’ topic would have been logistically difficult in regards to the collective time it would take to nut out precisely what dimension of this topic everyone could write about without duplicating each other.

So I thought it best to ask for a discussion on a different topic from each person, with the view in mind of trying to come up with content that would be insightful, professionally useful and/or stimulating and looking forward into 2011. I was always open to suggestions for different topics, but in the main the various contributors took my suggestion and riffed on it, with some incredibly stimulating thinking being the general result.

Then there was the process side of things, which was pretty straightforward, though of course much of it is pure spade work.

Using just a few words, how would you sum up your e-report’s focus and intent?

It may sound inane for me to say this, but the report’s title, Public relations 2011: issues, insights and ideas, encapsulate it quite well. The focus is professional communication and how we can make it more effective, what are some opportunities and barriers to us achieving this and, generally, adding to the plurality of thinking on the field.

“Craig Pearce is a lovely guy with a very fine strategic mind. He was a student of mine when I co-wrote and taught a special subject on strategic negotiation and communication for the UTS Masters in Communication Management degree (and he did well!). We kept in touch and he was very supportive of my training consultancy. He was a client, too. I also admire his blog and think he is doing a very good job with it. His writing is always good and subjects interesting.

I decided to contribute because of a combination of the above: It was a good idea and I wanted to support Craig.” Jane Jordan-Meier (USA/Australia)

Why and how did you recruit the contributors? How much did areas of expertise, geography, gender, etc., play into the mix?

I asked contributors whom I respect a great deal for their expertise and the way they have made the effort to value-add, sometimes over many years, to the PR profession. They do this partially for their own satisfaction, sure, but much of it is driven by a humility and willingness to put themselves in the firing line by daring to express an opinion. This is an underestimated quality.

Not all of them are bloggers, or very active bloggers, but most are. To tell you the truth, I went for the biggest brains and nicest people I had a connection with, then hoped it would fall into place. Thankfully, I think, it did. Most people I asked to contribute honoured me with a submission and, as you will see, these are not slight pieces. There is a lot of thinking that went into their work.

The expertise was spread over different topic areas I have an interest in and I thought would make for engaging, relevant reading:

  • social media
  • PR agencies vs. in-house dialectic
  • CSR
  • teaching PR
  • people and their importance to communication…and more.

I wanted a global spread and that worked out pretty well. But it is a definite weakness that the contributors’ countries are all western ones. Also, I did ask more women than accepted the offer; I was hoping for a greater female representation.

I’d like both of those aspects to change in a future. I would particularly like to be inclusive of India, where I have many professional LinkedIn connections. As to the specific nature of the report…well, like PR is meant to do, it would be great to give a voice to those outside the dominant coalition, which in our case are arguably non-Western countries.

Besides vision, organizational and writing/editing skills, what do you think you brought to this project that you do better than anyone else? Any challenges where you felt you were lacking?

I’m not sure that I have done anything that is ‘better than anyone else,’ but the simple fact is I have done it. This is not so easy. It takes time, sweat and follow-through. These things don’t happen by talking about them. I think there is great benefit in the report for many people in the business communication fields and, hopefully, it will be appreciated as such.

As for lacking, I could always do for more talent—in all areas! But my determination got me through on this one, as it generally does. The biggest challenge has really been the concomitant updating of my blog, which has been getting a number of SEO, subscriber process and other value adds occurring to it. Painful and educational, but hopefully worthwhile.

“I’ve never met Craig Pearce but I know he’s a star. He knows all about Ian Dury, whom I love, and he likes! I love his blog—it is cooler than mine and I can’t match him for that. I encountered him via Twitter or reading his blog, I cannot remember which. Craig comes across as a real pro who is fun to know.

I agreed to contribute to this project because he schmoozed me by saying I was ‘important’ or some such guff…but it got me writing for him! The public relations field needs people like Craig…. connectors with their own ideas who know how to pool ideas and make a splash in their own right.“ Paul Seaman (Switzerland/UK)

Were there any disappointments or (better yet) surprises during the process?

The e-report’s content runs the gamut of strategic insights to tactical tips to observations of the PR industry. So no, there were no disappointments.

There were plenty of surprises, but they were expected surprises, if that makes sense. You don’t invite thinkers with proven credentials in offering thought-provoking notions and not expect to be jolted by some of their insights.

How is Public relations 2011: issues, insights and ideas being rolled out?

There are a number of tiers to this:

  • making it available on my blog
  • promoting it through my social media channels and encouraging contributors, friends and professional peers to do the same
  • doing a series of blanket emails to my 1,300+ LinkedIn contacts, as well as to my many business contacts, drawing the e-report to their attention and asking them to consider promoting it
  • sending it to key PR/communication bloggers and asking them to critique it
  • offering guest posts (of my own contributions to the e-report) to one or two bloggers (the other 10 contributors’ articles will, in time, be posted on my blog*)
  • sending news of it to selected PR and marketing media

“I was fortunate enough to meet Craig via social media. As a long-time PR guy still learning about how social media is changing our industry, I found Craig’s blog and Twitter account to be great resources. After a number of (mostly humorous) Twitter exchanges, Craig and I connected on LinkedIn, became regular readers of each other’s blogs and have exchanged guest blog posts. In a short time he has become a peer whose opinion and feedback I value greatly.

Without a doubt, I was truly honored that Craig asked me to contribute to his e- report; it took me about 30 seconds to agree. Just as his blog is well done and very professional, I’m sure this e-report will be a project of which all the contributors will be proud.” Paul Roberts (USA)

How will you measure success of this venture, in both quantitative and qualitative terms? And what is your optimum audience mix?

It is already a qualitative success because I have been lucky enough to have intelligent PR professionals with bucketloads of expertise contribute some very interesting thought pieces on our discipline. That means my credibility—and that of my blog—is being enhanced by being associated with such credible PR pros and excellent content.

On a quantitative basis, whilst I don’t have any specific numbers in mind, I’d like to see the report significantly increase email subscribers to my blog and also to see a lot of sharing of news of its existence and discussions on its content via and on social media platforms.

In a business sense, it is most important to me that the e-report is seen and read by Australian PR and marketing pros. This will enhance my branding and might lead to more work for my sole-operator business.

But it is equally important that business communication professionals around the world utilise the report and get value out of it. A major reason for the existence of my blog is that I like sharing thoughts on our field and encourage others to add their thoughts to this dialogic platform. I enjoy engaging with my peers and learning from them.

If you knew at the conceptualization stage what you do now (in terms of blood, sweat and tears), would you still undertake this initiative?

Yes…but I’m certainly in no rush to do so!

“They say life changes with a phone call…in my case it was an email. From a country I had heard of [Australia] came a message from someone I hadn’t, but it bore the very glad tidings that out of a search for truth, meaning…and maybe even justice…in cyberspaceland Craig anointed yours truly as being worthy of consideration. The connection grew from there and only improved with more communication and contact. The fact Craig thinks that Derek Trucks and his band are among the more important musicians in the world—a sentiment I share—only made the bond grow closer.

In a time of more but less communication, and at a time when many voices will help to make one better world, I congratulate Craig Pearce for his passion and drive and am very humbled and honoured to be included in this project with him and some other fantastic people.“ Dwight Whitney (New Zealand)

What are some (non-PR) interests or passions in your life that feed your creativity and keep you energized?

I have a seven-year-old son who is involved in activities like football (soccer in North America) and surf lifesaving (for littlies—we call it Nippers in Australia). He is involved in other activities, too, but in the case of football and the surf I take a leadership role and that really feeds into my passion for providing value to those other than myself.

I’m also very, very passionate about literature. I’ve written before about the paradox of writing being PR’s most important skill, but that we are generally forced to dumb it down to perceived ‘tolerances’ of target audiences. So I love out-there writing that feeds into both writing capability and creativity as well as, of course, the essential humanitarianism and society-benefiting dimensions of public relations. I don’t love Dickens and Dostoevsky and Marilynne Robinson as writers for nothing!

Another manifestation of my passion for writing is the reviews I do of live music performances for a street mag called Drum Media. I’ve written about rock’n’roll for many years and this is a lot of fun. I don’t push (corrupt?) the boundaries of syntax as much as I once did, but I hope people find them pretty creative. This feeds into my business writing in a useful manner.

Following is the order of the e-report’s submissions and contributors

Public relations 2011: issues, insights and ideas, edited by Craig Pearce (free e-report)

1.    PR education – getting the theory-practice balance right by Prof. Jim Macnamara (Australia)

2.    Critical elements public relations strategy should always consider by Paul Roberts (USA)

3.    Let’s talk sense about trust and CSR by Paul Seaman (Switzerland/UK)

4.    PR is second rate CSR by Craig Pearce

5.    Are you ready for the social revolution? by Mandi Bateson (Australia)

6.    Internal journo and SEO expert; new ‘trust’ calisthenics for the PR pro by Judy Gombita (Canada)

7.    How social media has added value to the PR agency business by Trevor Young (Australia)

8.    Messiah or just socially inept by Dwight Whitney (New Zealand/Japan/USA)

9.    PR primer for (social) networking by Judy Gombita (Canada)

10.  Is social media is helping PR become more influential as a business discipline by Craig Pearce

11.  Issue management: changing risks, changing expectations by Dr. Tony Jaques (Australia)

12.  To CEO or not to CEO? Crisis communication in action by Jane Jordan-Meir (USA/Australia)

13.  What fascinates PR students? by Dr. Catherine Sweet (UK/USA)

14.  Fundamental truths of success in public relations by Craig Pearce

15.  The power of PR and what makes it unique by Craig Pearce

[*Note: when the various e-report submissions are posted on Craig Pearce’s blog, they also will be hyperlinked above on PR Conversations.]

Finally, how can interested individuals receive a copy of Public relations 2011: issues, insights and ideas?

Visit http://craigpearce.info/ to subscribe for email updates; you’ll be given access to the report. And any discussions and sharing via social media are encouraged.

Read Craig Pearce’s own blog post announcing the e-report, Public relations 2011: issues, insights and ideas.

Other contributors, Paul Roberts and Trevor Young, also weigh in.

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Craig Pearce is an award-winning strategic public relations professional (and noted PR blogger), with 16 years of business communication experience. Based in Sydney, Australia, he specialises in formulating, then rolling up his sleeves and implementing, communication strategies that deliver business-relevant results. These strategies utilise corporate communication, marketing communication, issues and crisis management, CSR, media relations and digital communication approaches.

He can be networked with through his PR and marketing blog, his LinkedIn profile or on Twitter @commaim.

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