29 December 2007

PR without real meaning

Some companies do things by the book – the PR textbook. The result is often an insincere response to the issue or crisis.

Take BHP, one of the world's largest companies.

The Sydney Morning Herald (29 Dec) reported the company's coal mining activities could damage a heritage-listed canal, which in turn could affect part of Sydney's water supply.

With big dollars at stake, the company produced a mealy-mouthed statement from a PR spokeswoman.

The statement surely came out of a PR textbook: it was clinical, highly-structured and jam-packed with 'quaint' words like "stakeholders, infrastructure owners, structural integrity, rigorous risk assessment, independent peer review".

This is nothing more than BHP (the same company whose Ok Tedi mine gouges out pristine wilderness in Papua New Guinea) saying: "we went through the motions but we were always going to mine".

I'd have thought they could have written it without the jargon. If they're going to ruin the landscape, and perhaps part of Sydney's water supply, they could at least sound sincere about it.

This type of amateurish PR response should be consigned to the archives.

PS: BHP is currently being sued for $5b by PNG villagers.

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The PR Lab is a consultancy, specialising on research, reputation management, social media, media relations and the development of measurable strategies that produce results. It is run by Dr Greg Smith, a former journalist and PR professional. Greg worked on daily newspapers in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. He held senior PR positions in the Australian Defence Force, Sydney Olympics and national not-for-profits. He has also lectured in PR at Edith Cowan University and the University of Notre Dame Australia.