New Partner Botica Butler Raudon Discusses New Zealand History, Trends and Best Practices in PR

Botica Butler Raudon is the newest agency to join Oriella - just last month - which expands our reach to New Zealand. From our first conversation with founder Allan Botica, I was impressed with his client portfolio and approach to communications, but also his candor and wit. I like this Q&A for all of those same reasons and for the insight into New Zealand's leadership and history.

Q. What is Botica's story, in a nutshell?

A. Botica Butler Raudon started life in 1987, helping entrepreneurial technology clients tell their stories before doing so became fashionable. We identified fast growing companies (among them Intel, Compaq, Symantec, Microsoft and Nokia) and helped them manage their entry into the New Zealand market. They grew and prospered and so did we. And because we both learned fast, they demanded more from us, which opened new doors and made us learn new skills. We increased our practice scope and range of services. Today our portfolio includes insurance, airline, pharmaceutical, biotech, and FMCG companies and we assist them with media, investor, government, community and internal relations from strategy through execution. We think. We talk. We write. We produce. We source. We partner. But first we listen.

Q. What are the big stories making the headlines in New Zealand right now?

A. Last month a general election was held in which, despite massive earthquakes in Christchurch (our second largest city), a mining disaster (with 39 bodies not yet recovered at the time), an oil spill that has threatened large tracts of our western coastline, low growth and high unemployment, the government was returned to office. And this on the promise of more austerity, with state sector budgets to be held below the level of inflation and population growth, and debt to be reduced via the sale of state assets. In other words, we’ve done it hard; we’re geared for further difficulty, and we’re looking to do more with less. Businesses are lean and tight, but business confidence is rising and businesses are looking for export growth.

Q. What are the trends in PR and communications that you're advising clients on right now

A. We see ourselves as change agents, whether by helping them develop best practice models for internal communications or encouraging them to adopt unconference practices in place of traditional presentation techniques, killing PowerPoint and telling stories. We run programs to help our clients face tough issues and engage constructively in hard conversations. We recommend that they challenge their prejudices, engage with traditional opponents, adopt counter-cyclical strategies and consider unlikely partnerships. We advise them on building narrative principles into their social media practice. We help them identify simple, cost-effective solutions to communications problems. We advise them to adopt new ways of reaching out to people and to enter into unfamiliar and potentially uncomfortable conversations.

Q. What's next for Botica and the New Zealand agency market?

A. Our longevity gives us the licence to be a somewhat unconventional, and that helps us maintain a credible point of difference in a highly fragmented PR market. We’ve seen interesting research on corporate social responsibility which suggests that, when applied as a dressing, it has little positive effect on reputation. We recommend instead that our clients go deep: extending their cross-cultural communication practices, identifying and addressing relevant human rights issues and working on creating fully engaged communities. We advise them that their social media practice must be aligned with their overall corporate posture, that openness and transparency can’t be applied as a layer or worse, faked. Our view is that, as long as you continue to deliver on the fundamentals, you owe it to your clients – and yourselves – to challenge them.

Q. As one of our newest partners, what appeals to you most about Oriella?

A. While we would like to assist clients of our new partners establish a presence in New Zealand, we’re realistic: New Zealand is a small market; it’s seldom high on anyone’s market expansion list. However ours is an export-lead economy: innovative New Zealand companies have to gain access to international markets in order to grow, and the Oriella network allows us to put our clients in touch with agile, like-minded PR companies in key markets. And everything we’ve seen so far says it’s a network brimming with smart people and smart ideas. We like that a lot.

Q. And what can you tell us about New Zealand – apart from scenery, sheep, hobbits and rugby?

A. New Zealand has long been a social laboratory. It was the first country where women gained the right to vote. The Treaty of Waitangi, a founding constitutional document, is a working template for structuring post-colonial relations between indigenous peoples and numerically superior immigrant groups. The country does not host nuclear power plants or admit nuclear weaponry, and the majority of the energy we consume comes from renewable resources. Over the last two decades New Zealand has been a leader in the deregulation of the telecommunications, electricity and financial sectors and we have one of the lowest tax rates in the OECD. We’re a trading nation: we were a founding member of what is now the Trans-Pacific Partnership and still play a lead role in its development.

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