Five ways to wellbeing

This week the Honner team hosted our pro bono PR partner superfriend – a not for profit mental health foundation formed by Industry Super Funds and their Group Insurers.

Program Manager, Kristina Basile, took the Honner team through the five key actions that research shows are important in our day-to-day lives to enhance our well-being:

Connect: With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them.

Take notice: How often do you see people walking down the street or sitting on the bus absorbed by their mobile phone or iPad? How often is that you? Take a moment to notice your surroundings. Be in the present, savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends.

Keep learning: Try something new whether at work or in your personal life. Sign up for that course. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set yourself a challenge.

Give: Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Research shows people feel significantly more rewarded when doing something for someone other than themselves.

Exercise: It doesn’t have to be strenuous. If you don’t like running, go for a walk or ride a bike. Step outside, dance, laugh, find what works for you, whatever it is, it will make you feel good.

The above actions apply as much for individuals as for businesses. Honner is continually looking for ways to incorporate these into our work environment. Our next challenge: our team is entering this year’s jp morgan corporate challenge in Sydney on November 11. We look forward to seeing you on the start line!

What does Abbott’s spill tell us about today’s media environment?

In his final speech as Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott noted how much the nature of politics had changed in the past decade.

“We have more polls and more commentary than ever before. Mostly sour, bitter, character assassination. Poll-driven panic has produced a revolving-door prime ministership which can’t be good for our country. And a febrile media culture has developed that rewards treachery.”

So what has changed so much in the past decade?

In my view, the five key trends having the most impact on news today are:

1. The changing pace of news

The rise of the 24/7 news cycle with demand for online content and round the clock access to news has changed the way companies and politicians deal with the media. Politicians now have a morning message, an afternoon message and an evening message. The agenda is moving so quickly that there is no longer time to have proper and thoughtful debates on key topics. A key criticism of Abbott was his use of slogans – such as ‘stop the boats’, ‘great big tax’ – which played into the frantic 24/7 news cycle.

2. The increasing use of commentary as news

As Abbott mentioned in his speech, there is more commentary than ever before. The demands of the 24/7 news cycle has led to the rise of the use of commentary instead of news. Paywalls have put up barriers to news websites for some people and instead they access their news on free websites. Readership numbers are decreasing; fewer people are watching the news on television which has impacted advertising rates, classifieds and more importantly, the number of gainfully employed journalists. The result of which is more space to fill with the changing news cycle, but fewer journalists to fill it.

3. The rise of ‘brand journalism’

As media outlets shrink and brands become publishers, there has been a trend towards content hubs and digital newsrooms. For example, ANZ BlueNotes, launched in 2014, is one of the most advanced content publishing hubs in Australian business, bringing together content from BlueNotes journalists/editors, ANZ columnists and external contributors. Key to the success of ‘brand journalism’ is an emphasis on the value of the journalism, not on the brand.

4. Socially-driven news

If searching for news was the most important development of the last decade, sharing news may be among the most important of the next. One in three of all mobile internet minutes in Australia are spent on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp. Social media users are increasingly sharing news stories, images and videos in addition to discussing news issue or events. Additionally, some users are also covering the news themselves, by posting photos or videos of news events.

5. Headline-driven news

Last year, BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith dismissed luring the reader in with clickbait, noting that “you can trick someone to click, but you can’t trick someone to share”. Instead, the trend is now to create a headline that describes promising content and delivers on that promise, called the curiosity gap. The curiosity gap is the space between what we know and what we want or even need to know.

In his speech Abbott also requested that: “If there’s one piece of advice I can give to the media, it’s this: refuse to print self-serving claims that the person making them won’t put his or her name to. Refuse to connive at dishonour by acting as the assassin’s knife.”

I think we all have a role to play in what the future of media will look like.

Zen and the art of corporate blogging

There was a time – just a few of years ago – when a corporate blog was like the latest Blackberry: all the cool kids had one. But many have since been abandoned, having fallen victim to a lack of time and interest.

Or perhaps, more accurately, the time invested hasn’t delivered the expected business results.

This isn’t to say that a blog is a bad idea. But, like any tactic, a blog needs to be a part of a strategy.  And it needs to be based on sound fundamentals.

So, what are those fundamentals? Put another way, what could a Zen master teach you about the art of corporate blogging?

1. If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody hears, does it make a sound? 

If you write a great blog but have no distribution strategy, will your words echo out to nowhere?

There’s no point in writing a blog until you’ve put the hard yards into building: a LinkedIn network; a Twitter following; a Facebook fan base; a YouTube channel, an Instagram presence; or a decent email list.

And, even then, it’s likely that you will need to invest some more money in paid promotion, to ensure it gets seen. You’ll also need to consider a judicious use of hashtags to be found in searches.

2. Who am I and why am I here? 

Many a blog has failed due to an identity crisis. Without a clear audience in mind, and a clear editorial strategy, failure is likely. Who are you writing for? What value are you delivering to them?

Remember, corporate blogs should not degenerate into propaganda about projects that have gone well. People come to blogs for insight, instruction or entertainment – not a hard sell. That is, unless the blog itself is actually about the art of hard selling.

The ideal readers are those who will do business with you because they trust you.

3. Is a masterpiece the work of a single master? 

Peter Paul Rubens, an Antwerp-based communications expert working for the Spanish government and the Catholic Church in the early 17th century, often sub-contracted the painting of elements of his masterpieces to other painters who were specialists in still life or animals etc. In a similar way, a corporate blog should not be the endeavour of one lonely writer. An organisation is a group of individuals, each with their own insights, ideas and writing style. These writers should be given a license to be creative and, within defined limits, opinionated.

Blogging needs to be a team activity that isn’t hemmed in by a dull, corporate style of prose.

4. Is an enlightened man subject to the law of karma?

The number of readers of a blog is important: so is the number of responses.

Being part of a community of thinkers means that you are indeed subject to the laws of karma: if you don’t read, comment on and share others’ work, it’s much less likely they will engage with yours.

This is linked to the first point about building a following. Without a ‘warm’ audience, it’s hard to build traction, especially in the early days of a blog.

5. How does thought arise?

One of the common complaints about blogging is ‘I just don’t know what to write about’. Firstly, it’s about practice. The more you write, the more you understand the process. But, to some extent, the topics find the blogger, rather than the other way round. Be on the lookout for enlightening ideas. Meet interesting and varied people. Read interesting and varied things. Write brilliant and varied blogs based on these insights.

The art and science of surveys – Five steps to research that yields results

There are a number of different reasons why an organisation might choose to conduct a survey. Whether it’s to help design the latest innovative product or to track sentiment across a certain target audience, business decisions and communications campaigns based on real information and insight, rather than guesses and assumption, are clearly a far safer bet.

Honner recently attended a research optimisation course hosted by Hendrik Mueller, user experience researcher at Google. We’ve summarised a few key take outs to consider before taking the plunge.

1. Objectives and sampling

It’s important to clearly define what the overall purpose of the survey is and what problems you are trying to tackle. You also need to be confident about reaching your desired population. If you have a large stakeholder road show coming up or are about to send out a client newsletter, these could be opportune times to capture their insights and attention.

2. Get the questions right 

This may sound like a no-brainer but there is a certain skill involved in asking questions the right way to ensure they actually meet your desired objectives. Mueller recommends following this simple formula when drafting the questions:

Goal (overarching research goal of the survey) + Construct (the essence of the thing you are interested in, that is also measurable) = Question(s) (survey questions that collect data about the construct(s)

There are also different question types to consider – open or closed-ended questions, if closed, rating or ranking, single or multiple choice? For rating questions, what’s the right scale?

3. Biases sway your results 

Unintentional biases can easily creep into survey questions and can substantially impact the reliability and validity of the data collected. Mueller identifies five common questionnaire biases and how to avoid them:

A. Satisficing = short-cut the answering process, mainly due to long and complicated questions – keep question and answer responses short and simple

B. Acquiescence = tendency to agree with any statement – avoid statements with agreement scales

C. Question order = tendency to be influenced by questions that appeared earlier in the survey – ask high level statements at the beginning

D. Social desirability = sticking to norms and expectations – move questions about sensitive or controversial topics to the end

E. Leading information = swaying a respondent to answer in a certain way – keep questions neutral and avoid biasing text

4. Avoid fielding faux pas

The rise of low cost online research tools such as Survey Monkey, Zoomerang and Google Forms have made it easier for firms to gather data across a broader reach of populations.  The likelihood is that your target audience is getting pummelled from every direction so there needs to be a compelling reason for them to complete the survey – will they be helping others, how can they make use of the survey results? What’s in it for them?

As Mueller eloquently puts it – try to contact them in the ‘least annoying’ way possible!

5. Analyse and apply

This is the fun part – turning the data into useful information. If you are thinking of conducting a survey, it’s worth involving your marketing or communications team from the outset so they advise on how the results can be packaged into meaningful content used across multiple channels.

At Honner, we understand conducting research projects is an investment of time and budget. We support clients every step of the way to ensure the whole process runs smoothly and delivers high quality results.