March 2011

Recently, we at AHA have been working with several clients to develop communications strategies that include social media and issue and crisis components. The clients are in diverse industry sectors and have very different stakeholder groups. For each organization, we had to define what engagement meant for their specific “community” when it comes to traditional public relations outreach and for social media.

That’s an important definition to make – what engagement means to your stakeholders or community. For some, engagement is truly a verb and they are very active in participating – responding and creating opportunities for conversation, discussion and, yes, even discourse. In fact, for some stakeholder groups, discourse, disagreement and even conflict drive them. It doesn’t necessarily mean that their organization or brand is perceived negatively. It does mean that they live in an active world, where ongoing communication is key.  In this type of environment, it is crucial for an organization to be proactive in keeping stakeholders up-to-date. It is important to participate in online and real world conversations about their industry, field of expertise or what their organization is doing in areas of concern or importance.

There are many ways that people participate online. Some are more active – like content creators (there can be a real opportunity for your organization to effectively engage with this group), some comment or participate, and some just consume.

Not every organization has a stakeholder group that falls into a nice, neat demographic range. (In fact, with a few exceptions, I can say that for the most part, AHA clients have external communities that are incredibly diverse.) It’s important to have an overall communications strategy, and it’s equally important when you are working out the tactics and tools that you look at the groups and subgroups within your stakeholder group. Facebook contests may work to move some of your community to participate, but others may just be following along and not participating at all.

If a campaign that you recently ran didn’t hit the participation numbers you were expecting, it may be because some of your stakeholders are not participants.  Defining what segments of your stakeholder group are likely to participate fully, to comment or respond, or whether they may be following along – even sharing information and telling people about the campaign, contest or event – without “joining in” before you launch is important for measurement. Asking yourself what segment of your stakeholder group you want to connect with and can realistically expect to connect with – and how that will happen – is an important component of the planning process.

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AHA Blog Post ImageIn a communicator’s life there is always talk about what works and what doesn’t. What’s hot and what’s not. And recently, we’ve heard lots and lots of chatter about how blogs are dead. We, at AHA, don’t believe that they are. We don’t believe everyone should blog; but in our experience there are many opportunities for an organization to have a blog and to have it be effective.

Not all blogs are alike. For example, we rarely get comments on our blog here at AHA, but we have a strong number of people that read our AHA blog post every day. The objectives of our blog are to share some valuable information, to engage with stakeholders, to showcase our knowledge and the AHA culture, and to help those interested in working with a PR agency find us.

We review our objectives on a regular basis to make sure our blog posts are supporting our goals.

For many organizations, a blog provides an opportunity to showcase the people behind the brand, to engage and connect with stakeholders and to further explain ideas, services and products in a non-commercial way. While attention spans are shorter these days, you can still say a lot in two to four paragraphs and if someone is interested (and you have provided engaging, valuable content), they’ll read it.

Producing a good blog takes time and effort. The content needs to flow; it needs to be informative, relevant and interesting. A good blog isn’t about you; it’s about your readers and providing them with what they want to know from your organization.

At our Vancouver PR agency, we often work with clients to review their current communications vehicles – to see what’s working and what’s not. We develop blog policies and processes, which includes editorial schedules (especially if there is more than one blogger) and we assist clients in reaching out and building a community that engages through the blog. Understanding the blog community is at the heart of it all. Knowing what conversations are important to your stakeholders is key. It is where it all begins.

I recently read a great piece in Inc.com on blogging mistakes that small businesses make. I think this piece translates to any organization that wants to or is blogging. It’s worth a read.

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We, at AHA Creative Strategies, are participating in #Blog4NZ. A campaign developed by a group of travel bloggers to showcase the country of New Zealand and to encourage travel there.

Since we provide a range of travel public relations services at our Vancouver PR agency and Tourism New Zealand is one of our favourite clients, we wanted to participate in this excellent initiative.

We have had a great deal of success in having travel articles that we’ve written about New Zealand published in both traditional and online media. We thought we would share one of those articles with you today. It’s about Auckland, which is where you initially land when you travel to New Zealand from Canada. I love Auckland. There is so much to do there – in the city itself and just a short drive or ferry ride away. It is a fabulous place – and I am hoping this piece inspires you to spend some time there when you visit New Zealand!

 

WHY AUCKLAND IS MORE THAN A JET LAG CURE

For many North American travellers, Auckland is a place to recover from any jet lag and to get their bearings for their New Zealand vacation. However, visitors soon discover that the beautiful city on the bay is so much more than a stopover to the rest of the country.

Positioned on a narrow piece of land between two magnificent harbours – Waitemata and Manukau – Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city with a population of 1.5 million. While it has a big city feel, when it comes to culture and sophistication, Auckland also gives off a comfortable, down-home vibe. People are friendly, the streets are safe and whether you want a city experience or would like to get a little closer to nature, you can find it either in the city itself or in just a short drive or ferry ride away.

Food

Auckland is a foodie heaven. No matter where you turn, there are incredible restaurants ranging from little hole-in-the-wall local spots to prestigious eateries run by world famous chefs. Want to know where to go for lunch or dinner? Ask a local. They will happily give you a rundown and directions to their favourite spots. Knowing how friendly Kiwis are, they might even join you!

Wine

The Auckland region is known for its wine and is home to some of New Zealand’s oldest established vineyards. In fact, just a short 40-minute ferry or water taxi ride from the city’s harbour is Waiheke Island, which boasts about 100 wineries. Quaint and beautiful, Waiheke Island is home to a range of boutique wineries that produce unique, high-quality wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc grape varieties. Some of the more well-known vineyards include Kennedy Point, Mudbrick and Man O’ War. Waiheke Island is also known for its olive oil and the island has a range of artists who sell their work at local shops and boutiques throughout the community.

Fun

No matter what your idea of fun is, chances are you can find it in Auckland. Activities range from sailing on Auckland Harbour, to shopping the boutiques on High Street; or you can check out the view from Sky Tower where, on a clear day, you can see about 81 km of the volcanic landscape. Just a short drive north of Auckland, visitors can also walk the black sand of Karekare Beach (made famous in the film The Piano), horseback ride at Pakiri Beach or surf at Piha. And, of course, with New Zealand playing host to the Rugby World Cup 2011, checking out a rugby match at Auckland’s Eden Park is a truly Kiwi experience.

Air New Zealand has direct non-stop flights from Vancouver to Auckland and also offers flights from many other North American cities. Visit www.airnewzealand.ca for more information. Qantas (www.qantas.com) also offers flights from many North American cities.

For more information on Auckland, please visit www.NewZealand.com.

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AHA Creative Strategies is participating in #Blog4NZ, a three-day blogging extravaganza that spotlights New Zealand as a fabulous tourist destination. (To see other tweets and posts from travel bloggers around the world, visit Twitter here.)

As the Canadian PR agency for Tourism New Zealand, we connect with Canadian travel journalists on a regular basis. We work with Tourism New Zealand to create the opportunity for leading travel journalists to visit New Zealand and to share their experience with their readers and/or audience. Recently, we have been fortunate to have received coverage about New Zealand in The Toronto Star, Canada AM, The Vancouver Sun, The Globe and Mail, Sympatico.ca, Canoe.ca and The Discovery Channel and many others.

Without fail, what we hear back from travel journalists that visit New Zealand is how incredible the country is, how beautiful the landscape is, how delicious the food is, how amazing the wine is and how many things there are to do in New Zealand. One of the fabulous things about New Zealand is that there is something for everyone.

Below is an article that we wrote and distributed free of charge to media across Canada. Hope you enjoy it!

Five Things You Might Not Know About New Zealand

 

You probably know New Zealand for its adventure, adrenalin, and the great outdoors, but there are also a lot of interesting things that most people might not realize. Here are five fun, funky, and unforgettable things about the land of the long white cloud.

The South Island city of Dunedin celebrates chocolate for a whole week during the Dunedin Cadbury Chocolate Carnival  (July 11 – 17, 2010). One of the highlights has organizers letting two sets of 25,000 Jaffas loose. As the chocolate candies roll down Baldwin Street – the steepest street in the world – thousands of spectators eagerly await their arrival. (Just for the record, Dunedin is known as the “quirky capital of New Zealand” and this small city also boasts the country’s only annual naked rugby game.)

North Island’s Napier is known as the “Art Deco City” and maintains that title because of the local Art Deco Trust. The buildings in Napier underwent massive reconstruction after an earthquake in 1931, which almost leveled the city. Art Deco was in fashion at the time and it greatly influenced the rebuilding. Now Napier and South Beach in Miami, Florida are considered the two best preserved Art Deco towns in the world.

New Zealand is well-known for wine tours and tastings, but for those who like their drink with a little hop, there are also a wide range of microbreweries and brewery tours. For beer aficionados, there are many different types to choose from including North Island’s Galbraith’s Alehouse in Auckland, Waiheke Island Brewery on Waiheke Island, and Sunshine Brewery in Gisborne. The South Island brew opportunities include The Twisted Hop in Christchurch, Moa Brewery in Blenheim, and Bays Brewery in Nelson. Asking what local microbrew to try in any local bar or pub is sure to make you new friends.

New Zealand is predator-free, which means no cougars, bears, wolves or snakes. A walk in the forest is much less worrisome than a stroll in the woods in North America. There’s nothing waiting up around that bend except more flora and fauna, and perhaps a waterfall.

And last, but certainly not least, New Zealand makes exceptional espresso-based coffee drinks. According to locals, it has only been over the past five years or so that the country has embraced great coffee. (But when Kiwis decide to do something, they do it right!) Even in little out of the way coffee shops, you can get an exceptional Americano, latte, cappuccino or flat white (similar to a “wet” cappuccino). The best of the best are honoured at the annual New Zealand Coffee Awards.

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AHA - Zorb Image

Zorb Rotorua during my 2010 trip.

We, at AHA, are taking part in #Blog4NZ, a three-day blogging extravaganza designed to highlight how spectacular New Zealand is as a travel destination. This initiative was created to help restore travel to New Zealand after the tragic earthquake that hit Christchurch in February. While this isn’t a travel blog, we do quite a bit of travel PR at our Vancouver PR agency. Since Tourism New Zealand is one of our favourite clients, we thought we would focus on posts on New Zealand for the next three days as a show of our support for the youngest country on earth.

This campaign showcases the value of connecting with stakeholders online. The objective of it is to engage travellers, to showcase New Zealand and to move those interested in visiting New Zealand to buy a plane ticket, book accommodations, and begin researching activities in New Zealand. #Blog4NZ is a grassroots campaign that will allow travellers to connect with other travellers, with travel bloggers, with other like-minded people who can (and will) authentically tell them about the things to do in New Zealand.

I have had the opportunity and privilege to travel a great deal for both professional and personal reasons. I have been to some amazing places and, with few exceptions, can always find something to marvel at in any destination. Having said that, New Zealand is one of the most incredible places on earth. Full disclosure (again) – at AHA, we are the Canadian PR agency of record for Tourism New Zealand. My love for New Zealand isn’t because they are a client – they are a client because New Zealand is a fabulous place to visit.

We are currently planning a trip to New Zealand. It will be my fourth visit and Paul’s first. As we map out our itinerary, it looks like our trip will include a visit to the artistic community of Waiheke Island – just a short ferry ride from Auckland – for wine and olive tours and tastings; Rotorua which provides a look into Maori culture, the opportunity to check out boiling hot pools of mud and, of course, to visit the lovely Dorian and Ann at Volcanic Air Safaris and take a trip to White Island – an active volcano; and the amazing Hawkes Bay, which includes the art deco city of Napier, and the start of the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail (a must do for wine drinkers). Hopefully we will also have the opportunity to tour the world-class golf resort Cape Kidnappers and, of course, have a glass of wine with one of our favorite Kiwis, the fabulous Annie Dundas. Then we’re off to Queenstown for TRENZ 2011, New Zealand’s tourism trade show. In Queenstown (another breathtaking place) we’re hoping to zipline at Ziptrek Eco Tours (the same company that has the zipline in Whistler, BC), and we will have to stop for a burger at FergBurger (best burgers ever!). I am looking forward to showing Paul around New Zealand.

New Zealand is a magical place. We hear how incredible it is all the time from the travel journalists that we work with – and these folks travel for a living! While the cities in New Zealand offer a vibrant, cosmopolitan experience, you are never too far from getting away from it all and getting out into nature. New Zealand offers a unique combination of feeling a little like home (especially for us Canadians) and yet being totally different from anything we’ve ever experienced before. The people of New Zealand are at the heart of it all. They are helpful, open, friendly and have a wicked sense of humour. Being a tourist in New Zealand brings life to that cheesy saying about there being no strangers, just friends you haven’t yet met.

New Zealand is a place worth visiting. If you have ever thought about going to New Zealand – take that next step today. Check out flights. Air New Zealand and Qantas have some great prices. And for any of you worried that it’s a really long flight, there are direct, non-stop flights out of Vancouver. You get on the plane in the evening, have a glass of wine, have dinner, watch a movie, maybe another glass of wine and you go to sleep. When you wake up, breakfast is served and you’re there. It’s an easy flight.

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