Public relations is primarily directed toward gaining public understanding and acceptance. PR usually deals with issues rather than products or services, and organisations use it to build goodwill and mutual understanding with various audiences or ‘publics’, as they are known in PR-speak. These publics might be customers, clients, employees, shareholders, community neighbours, business partners, government regulators, the media and others.
At MacLean Communications we approach public relations from a strategic perspective. We identify and prioritise the publics, the organisation's messages and its essential communication or marketing goals, as the first steps in crafting a plan of action that will deliver results.
Developing public relations strategies requires good research and analysis, a large dose of creativity, good judgement and clear objectives that focus on people to deliver the desired outcomes. We have a sound knowledge of public relations theory and practice and can identify and apply the tactics and strategies that are appropriate for different situations.
Strong and responsible news media are an essential part of an open and democratic society. Our experience in the news media and as media representatives for organisations has given us the skills to deal with high profile media issues. We are able to develop a good rapport with reporters and can help our clients to work with the media to ensure their story is told.
Our areas of expertise include:
- News media relations — Preparing media strategies and advising clients how to use the news media to reach their relevant audiences.
- Change and internal communications — We have practical experience in leading the communications for large restructuring exercises and can handle them with openness and sensitivity.
- Issues management — Helping organisations to identify and track issues that are going to cause problems for them or their publics.
- Publications — Writing and producing printed and on-line publications.
- Strategic planning — Making sure your communication plans are aligned with your business objectives.
- New Zealand Parole Board — Iain was the Board's communications advisor for five months in 2003 while a permanent position was established. Most of this work involved media liaison and issues management for a number of high profile offenders.
- Chief Electoral Office — Iain assisted the Office with media communications during the Te Tai Hauauru by-election in 2004.
- Families Commission — Iain was the Commission's media advisor during its first six months of operation. He also established a number of communication systems and built the Commission's web site.
We are very consumer and customer focused and enjoy the challenge of matching an organisation's products or services with its customers' needs.
Many businesses with a strong sales focus treat ‘PR’ as an off-shoot of marketing where they get stories about themselves in the media, which they consider to be like ‘free advertising’. Of course, it's not really free—someone has to write the releases and distribute them to the media—but it can have more credibility than advertising and helps to reinforce branding programmes. A reporter or editor has decided that the story is interesting enough to publish, which is a form of independent third-party endorsement.
When we handle a client's marketing communications we start with a plan that includes their marketing or sales objectives—if we don't know what they are trying to achieve then we won't know whether we have been successful or not. If they don't have such a plan we can help them prepare one. Once the objectives are agreed, we will write their marketing copy, engage a designer to develop the materials, get it printed and distributed, organise advertising and deal with the reporters to get stories in the media.
We are also able to help with on-line marketing. We can optimise websites so they show up near the top of search engine results pages and match potential customers closely with our clients' services. We can also prepare and organise web-based advertising campaigns such as Google's AdWords or AdSense programmes and Overture's services, which place advertising on AltaVista, MSN, Yahoo! and many other search engines and directories.
- Greater Wellington Regional Council — Don't Burst Their Bubble cycle safety campaign.
Every public relations company includes web design in its list of services, even though they generally out-source much of it to a web design firm. We go further than that at MacLean Communications; we build the sites ourselves. While we will rely on graphic designers for design concepts, we do all the rest of the planning and development ourselves.
The combination of communication and web development skills is a powerful one. Our communication and marketing background means we can help clients identify what they hope to achieve with their websites. Our understanding of website usability allows us to avoid many of the more common mistakes in web design and enables us to keep the technology focused on the user and the need to communicate clearly with them.
The sites we build are lean and fast. We avoid the ‘bloat’ found in some sites by making sure the code is stripped down to the bare essentials and by using a style sheet language, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), that allows authors and users to attach styles (e.g. fonts and spacing) to structured documents (e.g. HTML documents and XML applications). By separating the presentation style of documents from the content of documents, CSS greatly simplifies web authoring and site maintenance.
We also know from experience that comprehensive planning at the early stages is the key to avoiding mistakes later in the project. We document what the client requires of the site and then build it to their specifications. That way we build the site they were expecting to get and stick to the budget.
The web services we provide include:
- Design and document the site's requirements.
- Build sites using established, international standards to ensure they will work in current and future versions of web browsers.
- Make sure sites are accessible to people with visual or physical disabilities and who may be using assistive technologies.
- Ensure public sector sites comply with New Zealand e-Government Web Guidelines, which also focus on accessibility.
- Use techniques supported by sound research to make sure people can find the information they are looking for on websites.
- Write strong copy and advise clients on techniques for writing good on-line copy.
- Organise purchase of domain names and host and administer sites.
Writing and editing
Whether it's a media release, magazine article, book or brochure, we can write it.
Once the strategy has been agreed and the designs approved, most communication relies on words. We write in a clear and easy-to-read style. We use plain language that people can understand the first time they read it. That increases understanding and, more importantly, decreases mis-understanding.
We adapt our writing style to the audience and media. We specialise in journalism and writing for the web where space is at a premium and we need to use as few words as possible. We can also write much longer publications, where there is a lot of information or complex ideas to communicate, and make them readable and interesting.
Once we have written the material we can also edit it. We work as a team and edit each other's work ruthlessly. We’re fussy about the best way to say things and insist on good grammar and style. We also edit documents other people have written and bring fresh eyes to the writing.
- Learning Media — Kate is one of Learning Media's most sought-after freelance editors and writers.
- New Zealand Immigration Service — Iain is a regular contributor to the NZIS's Linkz magazine for new and intending migrants.
- KPMG — We developed guidelines for their technical writers to use when writing for the organisation's web site or e-mail newsletters.
public relations marketing communications web development