Moving goal posts of PR measurement

The value of a brand is built on what customers think of a company and how they convey that message to others via word of mouth.

This basic public interaction is usually shaped and directed by various reputation management tools, which with no doubt will eventually translate into profitable foot traffic.

Transcribing this benefit, however, into a tangible language that corporate bean counters understand was only a recent development and is still making its mark at various increments among global practitioners and corporations alike.

Even though the developing the Barcelona Declaration of Research Principles, which are voluntary guidelines that were established to measure the efficacy of PR campaigns, were already agreed upon by agencies from 33 countries in Spain back in 2010, measuring the return on investment of PR is still inconsistently applied, which continues to murky the water for marketing managers and their budget proposals.

Some agencies still advocate the archaic Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) measurement, which is able to put a rand value on media coverage and, by extension, allow a direct comparison with advertising.

Others still propose statistical correlations that are tailored to each client’s needs or measure tactics like reach and number of placements, rather than outcomes (like increase in sales or website conversions).

David Gallagher CEO of Ketchum EMEA told Magna Carta employees on his recent visit, that even though public relations has evolved in line with consumer’s growing need for more informative and valuable content, agencies in general need to have more serious conversations with their clients on what such an evolution means for their specific PR strategies. Adopting a more comprehensive and effective way of measuring the value of our communication efforts will tilt their strategies in the right direction.

Gallagher emphasised the fact that the industry needs to work even harder to break through the resistance and start practicing what they preach to be more consistent in our approach.

Ruan Jooste,

Media Director at Magna Carta

Newsjacking in the midst of tragedy

In today’s ever more cluttered advertising environment, brands are constantly looking for ways to achieve cut through for their messages.

One of the most effective tactics adopted by brands  to achieve this goal of late, has been the practice of newsjacking, with Nandos being South Africa’s most consistantly celebrated protagonist of this very delicate practice.

For the uninitiated newsjacking is essentially the art of injecting your brand  message into a breaking news story with the objective of generating media coverage and social media engagement, or more succinctly put, “The process of leveraging trending news to elevate your brand.”

When done right, the pay off can be lots of eyeballs and positive sentiment for your brand, however, as with most things, there is an equal and opposite downside for brands that get it wrong.

This approach is even more fraught with risk in the midst of an unfolding tragedy and the risk to any brand’s reputation can be very serious.

Take for example this rather tasteless and tone deaf tweet from Urban Outfitters during Huricane Sandy in 2012. In the midst of the destruction caused by the storm, they not only trivialised a very serious and tragic event, but also attempted to benefit financially of people’s plight. This was a clear example of how not to do it.

urban Outfit


Or when Kenneth Cole trivialised the suffering of many people in Egypt during the revolution, with this tactless post on Twitter, that one can only assume was an ill advised attempt at humour.



Both these brands paid the price, with both experiencing a significant amount of backlash from on social media and negative news stories being written about their efforts by some media outlets, forcing them to back track and issue apolgies for their respective faux pas.

In Johannesburg we recently witnnessed a tragic accident when the temporary bridge near the Grayston Drive Bridge over the M1 collapsed, resulting in two deaths and 23 people being injured.

As a result of the accident, the M1,  a major highway in Johannesburg, used by tens of thousands of motorists every day was closed, causing major traffic jams in and around the Sandton CBD as motorists were forced to find alternative routes to their desitinations.

The accident also resulted in a huge amount of media coverage, both traditional  and on online media, with the news trending on Twitter for some time.

Now ordinarily, this would be fairly trecherous ground for any company to try and leverage for its brand, however one brand, in conjuction with the City of Johannesburg did exactly that.

Using its unique offering and online footprint to offer a truly valuable service, Uber took to Twitter and it’s mobile app to offer free rides for people in and around Sandton to and from Gautrain stations in an effort to relieve some of the traffic congestion caused by the bridge collapse.

The tweet, promoting the initiative received 432 Retweets and 151 favourites and a significant amount of goodwill.


What Uber demonstrated through their actions, was that with the correct message that offers a truly useful service or solution that is not just opportunistic, brands can garner a great deal of positive sentiment.

We’ve summarised a few lessons to be taken from these examples:

The first being that brands who rush headlong into a trending news story without understanding the context, nuances and tone of the story and without adding anything of benefit to the intended audience, can find their actions causing serious damage to their brand’s integrity and reputation.

On the other hand, in similar circumstances, when brands take the time to understand the story and what the major issues are with the addition of making the decision to get involved in the story based on whether their brand is able to add something truly beneficial in an authentic manner, can be a great way for your brand to achieve that desired break through and generate significant positive impact .

Sifiso Mazibuko, Social Media and Content Marketing Director


Social Media in the Mobile Era

I recently presented the South African Social Media Landscape 2015 Report at the ITWeb Social Business Summit and the research demonstrated some pretty interesting trends.

As a result of the rise of technology and Internet access, South Africa’s trends in incorporating social media in corporate environments, are not far behind those of the United States and the rest of the developed world.

Most notably, however, are the advances that South Africa continues to make when it comes to mobile technology, with local advances often eclipsing those witnessed in the US.

Additionally, the report also highlights how the increased adoption of largely mobile visual platforms such as Instagram, which experienced over 100% growth in the 12 months, have been fueled by cheaper data costs, free Wi-Fi and cheaper smartphones.

According to the report, Facebook has also continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace than its photo sharing subsidiary, growing by 10% year on year with 13 million South Africans now on the platform and 77% of them logging on using their mobile devices, continuing the strong mobile theme.

Smartphones are being used by 7.9 million South African Facebook users with 1.9 million using basic feature phones to log onto the service.

The past four years has also seen a notable increase in video content and most branded content on platforms like Twitter also being supplemented by images.

They key thing for brands, is for them to recognise the vital role that visual media has always play, even before the Internet. The difference now, is that social media is largely the domain of consumers, and TV-style advertising is nearing obsoletion.

The challenge for brands will be to leverage the power of social media influencers and co-create content in order to grow their communities.

When it comes to the adoption of Snapchat in South Africa, the young generation is quickly adopting these new platforms, and local interest has increased dramatically in the last two years, even though exact numbers have not yet been confirmed. Snapchat fills the need of ephemeral messaging, as people have realized that not all content needs to last forever.”

As use of mobile devices continues to increase, instant messaging platforms will be the future of CRM, as Standard Bank has shown using WeChat to communicate with its customers 24/7.

Michal Wronski, Business Development Manager  at Ornica Group