A conversation with Emilio Robles

April 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Blog

Emilio Robles completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at UOW in 1980 and a DipEd in 1981 intending to become a teacher, but never made the classroom. Instead, he forged a career first in journalism then as a high-flying Public Relations executive in the United States before returning to Australia. He is now Director at Howorth. This is his journey.

Childhood:  I was a first generation migrant, arriving in Australia in 1961 at the age of three from Madrid, Spain. By the age of five I was my household’s translator: everything from helping buy our first TV to running down to the corner shop in Lake Heights to buy my dad his favourite brand of cigarettes (something I’m pretty sure a kid that age wouldn’t be allowed to do now).

The trust and confidence my parents had in me to communicate effectively on their behalf inspired me and helped shape my character.

Big Break:  Actually, it was a series of ‘big breaks’ rather than just one. The Illawarra Mercury newspaper gave my first two big breaks. Firstly, it hired me as a journalist on its weekly free paper, which had just started up. I learnt a lot, not just about writing but about stories and more importantly about people.

The other break it gave me was asking me to help the paper transition from old hot metal technology to computerised typesetting. I was a bridge between the editorial department and the printers and I helped train the journalists on the new computer systems and workflows.

That led to my third big break: sparking an interest in technology that got me a job as the Corporate Affairs Manager at Apple Computers in Australia in 1987 and then as a senior PR manager at Apple, Inc. in California in 1991.

Read the full story here.

Embrace empathy – it’s good for you and your people

April 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Blog

Whether we work in an agency or inhouse, regardless of the discipline, most of us are, or will end up, leading, coaching or managing people.

But what type of person are we when we’re leading?

My very first PR agency boss, a kind-hearted Lancashire man back in England, gave me a bit of his wisdom that has stuck with me. He said: “Employees will often forget what you say. They will often forget what you do. But they will never forget how you made them feel.”

He was so bloody right …..

Click here to read more.

PR isn’t about polishing turds

March 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Blog

Shit! You Work in PR? Not that old chestnut again. Isn’t it time to move on and say something different?

Last Thursday in Sydney at the CommsCon Awards, the night to celebrate the best of the PR industry’s efforts over the previous 12 months, we were yet again subjected to the narrow view of the discipline. This time through the moderator on the night, journalist Joe Hildebrand.

Whether it was black humour or not, the message in Joe’s speech was fixated on the art of spin – cover up, manipulation, hiding the truth, trying to make the negative look positive, and so it went on. If you want to see what Joe had to say, he published his edited speech in the Daily Telegraph.

I have worked in public relations for almost 20 years and did not find Joe’s attempts of humour remotely funny. But that’s not what bothered me. What did was his opinion that we, public relations professionals, spend most of our time trying to polish turds. That, quite frankly, is a turd.

Back in the 90s we were called Hemispheric Communicators. Like the half crest moon, we were told we only focus on the bright side and keep the dark side hidden.

Click here to read more.

Getty Images: Embed Launch

Challenge:  Getty Images is among the world’s leading creators and distributors of award-winning still imagery, video, music and multimedia products.  The challenge to Howorth was to generate mass awareness and positive coverage across ANZ business, technology, marketing, creative and photography media for the global launch of Embed – a tool that, for the first time ever, allows people to easily embed and share content from Getty Images’ huge library of editorial, creative and archival imagery, free of charge, for personal sites, blogs and social media posts.

In addition to securing media coverage, the brief also required Howorth to position Getty Images’ role in educating social media users on copyright and licensing infringements.

Strategy:  A two-pronged media strategy was developed to engage traditional media and key influencers and bloggers on the significance of Getty Images’ new business model; the practical applications of the tool; and, the importance of sharing licensed digital content. In executing the traditional media element, Howorth developed targeted pitches offering pre-brief interviews with Getty Images’ spokesperson, Craig Peters to titles across the business, consumer tech, social media and IT spaces – Australian Associated Press (AAP), CNET Australia, Technology Spectator and New Zealand Herald. Howorth also engaged an Australian Getty Images contributor to provide ‘grass roots’ comment on how the Embed tool affects professional photographers.

The second element of the media strategy is to be executed in the months that follow the launch of the Embed tool and will cultivate momentum among key influencers and bloggers by offering practical activations of Embed so users begin to understand the relevance and ease of using licensed digital content in a ‘right-click and share’ era.

Results:  The pre-briefing interviews paired with the distribution of a media release generated 24 pieces of media coverage in the ANZ region, with a potential global audience reach of 159,187,660.  Each article was positive in sentiment appearing in key business, technology, creative, marketing and photography titles including: The Australian, BRW, CNET Australia, CNET global, Gizmodo Technology Spectator, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, SBS, Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand Herald, Desktop Australia and Good Gear Guide. The news was also shared across social media sites such as Twitter, reaching millions of users across the globe.


Howorth honoured at CommsCon 2014

March 21, 2014 by  
Filed under News

The CommsCon awards are intended to recognise excellence in the fields of PR and communications. This year Ogilvy Public Relations was shortlisted for four awards.

Emma Pearson was nominated for Emerging PR professional of the year and Pulse Communications was nominated in the category of Event/activation of the year for Carnival Cruise Lines: Being Silly for a Cause.

Howorth was announced the winner of Best use of research / insights for its Kronos: Hidden workforce campaign at last night CommsCon awards for PR and communications professionals.

Ogilvy PR Health was highly commended for its Fitness First relaunch.

The work was judged over a two-stage process by a panel of around 30 jurors from PR agencies, internal communications leaders and independent consultants.

Read the full list on winners here:



CommsCon Awards shortlist revealed

March 11, 2014 by  
Filed under News

The shortlists have been announced for this year’s CommsCon Awards for PR and communications professionals.

Ogilvy Public Relations has been shortlisted for four awards which include Ogilvy PR Health, Howorth and Pulse.

Congratulations to all of the teams and join me in wishing them the best of luck at the awards dinner on Thursday 20th March.


Emerging PR professional of the year:

*   Laura Douglas – Launch Group

*   Mark Yeow – Text100

*   Tracy Yong – Edelman

*   Emma Pearson – Ogilvy PR Health

*   Ishtar Schneider – Palin Communications


Launch campaign of the year:

*   Museum of Brisbane relaunch – Agency North

*   Bonds: Boobs – Mango Communications

*   Xbox One launch – PPR

*   Samsung: Light Up The Sails – Edelman with Razorfish

*   Viagogo Australian launch – n2n Communications with viagogo internal team

*   Fitness First relaunch – Ogilvy PR Health with Fitness First internal team

*   Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth games launch – Javelin Australia


Best use of research / insights:

*   Kronos: Hidden workforce – Howorth

*   IBM: The era of smart – Text 100


Event/ activation of the year:

*   Bookworld – Ikon Communications and Subnine

*   Carnival Cruise Lines: Being Silly for a Cause – Pulse Communications

*   Petbarn: Pet dating – PPR

*   Gumtree Garden – Edelman

*   King Kong Activation at Eureka Skydeck – Progressive PR and Publicity


You can view the full list of awards here:


Howorth Celebrates its 20th anniversary with a fresh new look

December 16, 2013 by  
Filed under News

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Howorth has a fresh new look to reflect its vision to be famous “for campaigns that make people feel, imagine or act”,

“A strong differentiator for Howorth has been the importance we place on storytelling,” said Graham White, Managing Director. “Human history is built on stories, written, spoken, drawn on walls, broadcast and today – uploaded. The brands that succeed in this new world are the brands that can tell their story in an interesting and engaging way. Everything we do is based on good storytelling, regardless of the industry or market you operate in, or the channel or platform through which you tell them.

“The combination of our 20th anniversary, the shifting communications landscape, and our vision to show why and how great ideas and clever thinking pays off, it was time for the brand to have a fresh look. It was time to evolve.”

The key change is the introduction of a logo to sit alongside the Howorth brand name. This logo symbolises Howorth’s belief that great campaigns will provoke some kind of visceral reaction – physical as much as rational.  They have the ability to lift and shift your thinking. They can make you feel, imagine or act. The three circles represent those three reactions. Howorth calls this Thinking That Moves.  Thinking that can move you, your business, your brand, opinions, reputations, people, perceptions or even agendas. This belief underpins everything we do.

Graham adds: “We’re very proud of our new look. It’s clean, modern, maintains our Ogilvy heritage, and embodies our evolving position.”

Expensive lesson in crisis control

October 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog

Sam North, Media Director Ogilvy Public Relations

As usual, Warren Buffett has the right advice. Talking about handling a crisis, the Sage of Omaha once said: “One’s objective should be to get it right, get it quick, get it out, and get it over. You see, your problem won’t improve with age.”

It’s one of the first rules of crisis management and it’s the one that Tony Abbott should have heeded when the stories about politicians’ dodgy expenses first surfaced. Instead he did nothing and the extended political honeymoon that should have accompanied a thumping electoral victory over an unpopular government disappeared with unprecedented speed. So much so that now, a bare six weeks post-election, the brand new Abbott government has an old and second hand feel to it and the expenses story continues to get traction.

Crisis management is a much studied art and the new world of social media has changed the rules completely. People now have a voice, and they have no problem in exercising it. Just as on-line comments over the past three years were filled with an unending diatribe against Julia Gillard’s ‘carbon tax’ so will the next three years be preoccupied to the point of nausea with questions about probity and dodgy expenses. Every time Abbott takes part in one of the many athletic events for which he is famous, questions will be asked whether the taxpayer is paying for his recreation.

Social media has also added to the professional media’s armoury. Apart from the obvious benefits of news tips, on-the-spot reporting and feedback, crowd-sourcing was responsible for one of the biggest story in the never-ending expenses saga – WA MP Don Randall’s claim which related to a trip to Cairns for he and his wife, ostensibly for electoral business but co-incidentally at the same time the Randalls purchased an investment property in the city. Randall eventually repaid the disputed amount. Through readers with time on their hands, Fairfax was able to enlist a number people to trawl through the publically available data on political expenses claims, resulting in the  bones of the story.

Politicians in power also need to ask themselves the question: ‘Did they vote the other mob out or did they vote us in?’ The last Federal election was certainly an anti-Labor vote, rather than a pro-Coalition vote; the same is true of  the last NSW State election which delivered a huge electoral majority to Barry O’Farrell.  That lack of positivity gives governments an even shorter honeymoon period because the problems that the other guy had are now your problems and without the cache of charisma things quickly turn sour – as O’Farrell found with the 27 per cent swing against his government in Saturday’s Miranda by-election.

Governments and companies regularly face crises, and the majority of those crises start from within. The public understands that problems arise and they normally judge on the effectiveness of the response, not on the crisis itself.

Trust is something that good crisis management stresses. Another study – by The Oxford Executive Research Briefings, Templeton College, Oxford – found that the share price of companies judged to have mishandled a crisis had fallen by an average of 15 per cent a year after the crisis, while the share price of those judged to have handled a crisis well had risen 7 per cent on average at the same time.

A Monash University study, Mapping Social Cohesion, released this week shows that trust in the Federal Government has fallen dramatically in recent years – from 48 per cent in 2009 saying that the government could be trusted ‘almost always’ or ‘most of the time’ to just 27 per cent this year.

With that study in mind,  Buffett has another quote which politicians should remember: ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.’

Australia’s rock royalty

October 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Ancestry, Business to business, Case studies

The challenge: Over the June Queen’s Birthday long weekend Ancestry.com.au wanted to promote their free open database, of over 250 million British records to encourage Australians to start discovering their story.

Strategy: Rather than embarking on a straight PR release focusing on the open data base, we worked with Ancestry.com.au to research the history of Australia’s ‘Rock Royalty’. Through trawling through the collections, we discovered that a lot of Australia’s rock the talent was in fact shipped in.

Ancestry.com.au discovered a celebrity link between famous Aussie rock legends who migrated to Australia from England in the 50s and 60s.

Records showed the Bee Gees, Red Symonds, Bon Scott from AC\DC and Olivia Newton-John, were all a part of the 10 Pound Poms migration influx.

Perhaps the most well-known names to stick out of the collections include Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb – commonly known as The Bee Gees. Arguably one of the most successful Australian imported exports, the Manchester-born trio dominated the industry world-wide.

Arriving in Sydney in the summer of 1958 aboard the Fairsea, the brothers weren’t the only future rock legends to step onto Australian soil, with Red Symonds, then to be future lead-guitarist for Skyhooks, also on board the ship.

We approached Channel 7’s, The Morning Show, with an exclusive story on these famous rock legends. We  offered viewers of the Morning Show exclusive access to the open database on Ancestry.com.au in order to provide viewers with a unique experience.

Results:  The live interview with Ancestry’s Brad Argent lasted over five minutes with the program reaching over 263,000 Australians across 42 Channel 7 TV stations within Australia. Within a 15 minute’s appearing on the show Ancestry.com.au, the website experienced a high volume of unique visitors and registrations that continued throughout the day.

The TV segment which can be viewed here.

Life imitates art for the Great Gatsby greats

October 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Ancestry, Business to business, Case studies

Overview: In order to capitalise on a timely news cycle surrounding the Australian premier of The Great Gatsby, Ancestry.com.au set about researching the backgrounds of the lead characters to see if there was any angles to generate a news story.

Strategy: Through examining the research, Howorth uncovered a storyline of life imitating art a for a few key actors in the film. Following this discovery, we set about pitching the story to key entertainment writers and radio shows to drive broad coverage and awareness of Ancestry.com.au, while showcasing the wealth of information available on Ancestry.com.au

Through research we discovered Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Gatsby, great grandfather, went from a street sweeper in 1900 to a real-estate broker in 1930. Like the character he played in the film, the rise of the Nouveau riche, seems to be in the DiCaprio’s blood!

The Great Gatsby love story is epitomised in Tobey Maguire’s great grandparents tale of love conquering all. It appears Tobey’s Great grandparents, on his father’s side are from opposite ends of the world but, found true love. Bartholomeus Kropfl (Tobey’s great grandfather) is from Austria while Ana (Tobey’s great grandmother) is originally from Puerto Rico.

Director, Baz Luhrmann, it appears has his own tale of a rise from rags to riches. Baz’s 5th great grandfather, Pierce Collits, owned a famous inn in the Vale of Clwydd (near Lithgow) in the early 1800s. He came to arrive in Australia as a convict from Ireland in the early 1800s with his wife and children. For 10 years the Inn was the most famous landmark on the journey from Sydney to the ever-expanding town of Bathurst.

Carey Mulligan’s ancestors originated from England and Wales and were from all walks of life. Occupations in her family tree include ‘iron turner,’ ‘stock trader,’ ‘coal miner,’ and ‘colliary lampman’ (in the coal mines).
Results:  Ancestry.com.au received  broad consumer coverage, with hero pieces being achieved on News.com.au and Nova 96.9. Nova’s Fitzy and Wippa used the information as part of their interview with Carey Mulligan.  Announcing her Great Grandfather was a colliary lampman in their interview. You can watch her reaction to the news here.


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