28 December 2008

Some journalists must be idiots

This has nothing to do with PR, but has everything to do with PR. 

It's all about journalists spreading misinformation. Dangerous misinformation.

We are continually told that Perth's hot weather is ideal beach weather. Channel 9 told us so last night, as Perth heads for a 39C day today – the first of the annual heatwaves.

Bloody irresponsible. Journalists mustn't know anyone that's had skin cancer.

This type of reporting is trite, but is also insidious and irresponsible.

What's it got to do with PR? Well, I'm going to run a PR campaign against idiotic journalism. This could also include things like over-use of unnecessary adjectives (i.e., gruesome murder). But it won't.

It might even save someone's life. 

14 November 2008

Malcolm Turnbull's gone nuts

I read one article on Malcolm Turnbull using Twitter while in Parliament, so I decided to check out the Leader of the Opposition.

I'm not fan of Twitter. However, Mal's presence led me to discover he's spreading himself all over the social media landscape.

Mal's got a presence on: a personal web site, Facebook, YouTube, two blogs (one is on his two dogs - a dog blog?), Flickr and MySpace. And of course, he has e-mail and his parliamentary web presence. I don't think there's much more he could use.

And there's the key word, "use". What exactly is Malcolm using these platforms specifically for? I'm awaiting the conversation to determine the strategy.

Methinks it's a just a matter of the scattergun approach: try to engage as many people as possible. However, I think he may find this won;t work, as all these mediums have different user demographics.

And who's putting it all together? These things take a lot of time, thought and energy. Hardly enough left for walking the dogs. If it is to be successful it will have to have the personal touch, otherwise he'll be "outed".

I wonder if he's on LinkedIn?

From the PR Lab at http://www.prlab.com.au

WA miner's puzzling stance

WA miner Fortescue Metals is a strange beast.

On the one hand its owner, Andrew Forrest, is heralded as a “saviour” of Abroigines by creating a scheme to employ them. On the other, the company is taking them to court in oder to access their tribal lands - or in this case, part of Port Hedland Harbour.

Whether the Aborigines or Fortescue is found to be in the right by the Supreme Court, the action has undone all of the goodwill the company built with its employment initiative.

And from the company? Stony silence. The normally media-friendly Andrew Forrest seems to have gone to ground.

The PR Lab: http://www.prlab.com.au

28 October 2008

Hotel in the "poo"

Pardon the headline, but it really is the case with Sydney's iconic Coogee Bay Hotel, which has been accused of allegedly putting faeces in customers' gelato after they complained about several issues.

The hotel's novel approach to PR was to offer its customers free gelato. This, from the Australian Hotels Association's top pub in 2005 and 2006.

On top of that, management wouldn't comment because it was "a legal issue" and they said they thought it was sabotage. Heaven forbid they express concern, or that they are taking it seriously.

There's also some argy-bargy going on, with the hotel saying the customers demanded $1m, and the customers denying they asked for any money.

More PR at the PR Lab - http://www.prlab.com.au

25 October 2008

Pitfalls of a social media release

As if we haven’t had enough information about social media floating around the “blogosphere” these past few years. Yet still, many people don’t get it. Social media is just one method (with several sub methods) of delivering PR.

I received a social media release from some students the other day. They had just attended the national PRIA conference and were, no doubt, fired up by one of the keynote speakers, who turned out to be disappointing.

At 6mb it was a “weighty” document. The main problem is that the Australian media wouldn’t even give this a glance, as they don’t accept attachments in e-mail releases. Apart from that, it didn’t contain the necessary elements people use in these documents (at least I think some people use them).

I commented back to the group, but they never responded (that’s bad PR, people).

As my boss at work said: “haven’t they heard of a phone call?”

See: Australian PR at http://www.prlab.com.au

07 July 2008

Police PR. Money well spent?

The Australian newspaper today revelead that police forces (services) are spending about $10 million a year on communication programs.

While there are legitimate media demands made on police, such as obtaining information on crimes, much of this money could be seen to be used for pushing a government’s political agenda.

There’s a fine line between a commissioner being seen to promoting new crime-fighting initiatves and supporting a political agenda.

It’s an area that I will take a little more notice of, particularly in Western Australia, where a State election is looming later this year. Hopefull, the “commish” will stick to operational matters.

05 July 2008

His Grace? Hickey a dis-grace

I don't know if archbishops can be sacked. But surely the Catholic Archbishop of Perth should be, following revelations he lied about complaints made about a Catholic sect.

Hickey initially said he had not received complaints about sexual misconduct in the sect. Today, it transpires he was personally presented a report in 2000 about the sect.

In essence, he lied. An Archbishop lied.

At the end of the day, it was left to a Church spokesperson to handle the flak.

12 June 2008

Rudd defensive in Japan

A PR nightmare. Your Prime Minister is in Japan having high-level talks with that nation's leaders. At the media conference he gets asked about the behaviour of MP Belinda Neal, who allegedly has threatened restaurant staff and also been found guilty of kicking an opponent (while she was on the ground) during a soccer game.

Incredible. What must the Japanese think of us?

Rudd at least phoned her, presumably dressing her down and saying she had to get anger-management conselling. Not good enough in my books. Hardly decisive. But he can't run the risk of putting half of his cabinet off side.

In reality Neal should be sacked, except that it would only be from the Labor Party and not from parliament – more's the pity.

Neal certainly has an image (PR) problem, apart from her behaviour. It seems she has a constant scowl on her face. Her language and intonation sound like they belong on the backstreets of the roughest neighbourhood.

What politicians don't get it that people want firm leadership. If it was you or I assaulting someone, then allegedly abusing and threatening workers we'd be on a hiding to nothing from our employer and the law.

Honestly. What federal parliamentarian kicks someone when they're on the ground?

These are the little incidents that mount and can contribute to a government's undoing. People DO pay attention.

08 June 2008

Alcohol industry kidding itself

The Australian alcohol industry had the temerity this week to ask the Federal Government to conduct a campaign to educate parents about teenage drinking.

While governments have a role to play in this area, if anyone should be conducting the campaign it's the industry. They're the ones making wads of money from the product.

Other blogs at the PR Lab http://www.prlab.com.au

15 May 2008

Lazy media exposed

Matt Hayden does “sit down comedy” (he writes a blog). His irreverent swipes, however, became national news this week when he said the leader of the WA Opposition may have mishandled a quokka (a small marsupial found on Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth.

While it has nothing to do with PR, it has everything to do with journalism (our close neighbour) and how easily the media is fooled (and how slack they are).

After apologising to Buswell, Matt said: “Now it has become news in the mainstream meeja. Which I’d say makes the meeja the bloody joke, wouldn’t you?”

The incident highlights how easy it is to pass non-news as news, simply because journalists are too lazy to check their sources.

In a roundabout way, it’s encouraging for (ethical) PR practitioners, as it highlights another trend in the media: that they are becoming so short-staffed there is little time to check stories.

More: http://www.prlab.com.au

11 May 2008

Olympic committee gets gold for common sense

The decision by the Australian Olympic Committee to lift the ban on its athletes commenting on sensitive issues during the Beijing Games is sensible.

Why they had the ban in the first place is a mystery, as is why the sudden change of heart.

From a PR aspect, it will mean far less work "putting out bushfires" during the Games.

Denial of free speech never was an Australian "strong point" anyway.

More PR at http://www.prlab.com.au

09 May 2008

What's important in PR: part 2

Following the release of the Delphi study into PR practice, for what's it's worth, I still believe that research and the ability to prove PR's worth to employers/clients are the most important things.

• Without research you won't know where you've been, how you're going to find a better route and what you're trying to achieve.

• Without proving the profession's worth we will never get that "seat at the head table" we're so fond of saying we should have.

To achieve the latter you need measurable objectives – something not included in many PR plans. If you can't measure success or failure, you can never know your true value.

More PR at http://www.prlab.com.au

08 May 2008

What's really important in PR

A study released this week outlines the 10 most important things that PR (educators) should be focusing on.

Compiled by Tom Watson, of Bournemouth University, the study appeared in Corporate Communications: An International Journal.

While there were only 31 respondents, from an original 44 who were approached, the study used the Delphi method, which is "characterised by a structured process of questionnaires or rounds of discussion until a group consensus is reached" (Beretta, 1996; Green et al., 1999), sort of process of elimination. Not rigidly academic, but nevertheless has been used in various professional.

So, according the the "experts", the 10 things we should be considering are:

1. Public relations' contribution to strategic decision-making, strategy development and realisation, and efficient operation of organisations.

2. The value that public relations creates for organisations through building social capital and managing key relationships.

3. The measurement and evaluation of public relations both offline and online.

4. Public relations as a fundamental management function.

5. Professional skills in public relations; analysis of the industry's need for education.

6. Research into standards of performance among PR professionals; the licensing of practitioners.

7. Management of corporate reputation; management of reputation.

8. Ethics.

9. ) Integration of public relations with other communication functions; the scope of public relations practice; discipline boundaries.

10. Management of relationships.

Then came: Client/employer understanding of public relations, The impact of technology on public relations practice and theory, The role of public relations in community/social responsibility programmes, International issues in public relations.

More later. And more PR blogs at the PR Lab home site http://www.prlab.com.au

04 May 2008

Poor PR for PR

The excellent British TV series, Absolute Power, provided viewers on the ABC with a dark comedy that portrayed PR in a poor (some would say, realistic) light.

The fictional firm of Prentice-McCabe dealt with a diverse range of clients, including politicians, drug-taking pop stars, ambitious archbishops and even Osama Bin Laden's cousin, who wanted to buy British Airways.

Each episode seemed to have one quote which summed up the writers' views of PR. Some examples: "Authenticity is not a currency we actually deal in ... PR means never having to say you’re wrong ... Everything we do is predicated on deceit. We’re shit. We’re in the gutter ... PR is intercourse with people you despise." You get the picture.

The trouble is that this show, and others about the profession, such as Absolutely Fabulous and Sex in the City, portray PR as all those things it is not.

Sure, there are many practitioners who used to be like that. And there are still some who follow those mantras.

My point is that the industry does nothing to correct these impressions. Possible it believes no harm will come; that it's just good entertainment. What the heck. They say any publicity is good publicity. Not in this instance.

These types of shows do irreparable harm to the profession's image. It's probably part of the reason few men are not studying PR at university. Males simply don't see PR as a serious subject. This is backed by findings of my PhD study into why more women than men are entering PR.

But why do we so little about it?

02 May 2008

When public perception dictates politics

In Western Australia, the Leader of the Opposition, Troy Buswell, has become notorious for his "schoolboy" behaviour. First it was snapping a female MP's bra strap. Now he's been outed for sniffing a female colleague's chair.

The amazing thing is that, despite public sentiment showing he should be dumped, its taken his party months to realise he's not the man for the job.

It's a lesson in how not to handle public perception and opinion. The chair-sniffing incident caused outrage in all media. Yet the Party line was "he's a decent bloke".

However, it looks as though common sense and decency might just prevail. One MP, Graeme Jacobs, at least had the sense (and guts) to call for a Party meeting to decide the issue.

More on PR at The PR Lab

28 April 2008

Puzzling support for Olympic Torch Relay

I found it strange that Aboriginal elders welcomed the Beijing Torch Relay to Canberra.

For one oppressed people to welcome the Chinese, who oppress the Tibetans, is just weird.

Also just as troubling is aboriginal Olympic gold medallist Nova Peris’s decision to run with the torch. Honestly, athletes just don’t think further than sport. The same goes for you, Thorpie and SMH journalist Jacquelin Magnay.

More blogs at the PR Lab, http://www.prlab.com.au

2007 Yamaha Majesty Scooter for sale in Perth

This is more than a scooter. A cross between city commuter and weekend tourer, this 2007 Yamaha Majesty is a wonder.
Talk about agile. The 400cc engine has plenty of grunt at take off, and loads of high-end power to take you breezing along the freeway at 100km/hr. It’s extremely manoeuvrable in city traffic.
With excellent wind protection and loads of storage in two gloveboxes and under the seat, this bike is practical, and versatile.
The best thing is that it’s almost new, with only 3500km on the clock; so it’s still under warranty and has loads of registration .
At only $8600 (ono) you’re saving $2400 on the new-bike price.

13 March 2008

TV campaign not the answer to alcohol problem

The government's simplistic approach to teenage binge drinking will not assist to solve the problem.

For a start, the Prime Minister admits he doesn't have much data to back claims there is a problem (which there is, if the number of media reports are any guide. And just talking to my teenage children is enough to alarm me).

But what does the government propose? A TV campaign. In this modern day and age of communications, this is hardly inspiring, as any first-year PR student could tell you.

Teenagers do not use television as their medium. All an advertising campaign will do is boost the agency's and TV stations' profits.

What's needed is a well-crafted IMC campaign. However, this will have to be an extremely long-haul program which goes beyond the standard education program. It should even extend beyond the target audience.

As nation, we have to overcome a decades-old alcohol-abuse culture. This will require a massive shift in thinking across several generations.

This post can also be found at http://www.prlab.com.au

10 January 2008

Supermarkets' stance a load of rubbish

I don’t intend any pun, but I’ve just heard the greatest load of rubbish relating to the use of plastic bags at supermarkets.

The federal government says it wants plastic shopping bags banned. The response from The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is that consumers will be the ones who pay if that happens.

It’s not clear from that stance what the ARA means. Do they mean pay (for an alternative carrying method) or pay (in terms of inconvenience).

By my logic, prices should fall because supermarkets won’t be buying the cursed things.

There’s sure to be a bit more argy-bargy on this issue in the coming weeks. But, let’s get on with doing away with plastic.

Whatever did we do before them anyway?

This blog also appears at http://www.prlab.com.au

09 January 2008

Holden stretches credibility

Australian car manufacturer GHM stretched its credibility somewhat when it announced the third recall of its Commodore model – 86,000 of them, in fact.

The V6 vehicles are being recalled due to a potential fuel leak.

Company spokesman Ian Butler said it wasn't unusual for a vehicle to be recalled three times.


This blog also appears at http://www.prlab.com.au

06 January 2008

Whale hunt response lame

You really have to wonder just what the government is playing at with its supposed response to the Japanese whale hunt in the Antarctic.

The plan seemed positive. To monitor and put pressure on the Japanese. They had a vessel on standby in Fremantle for weeks. But nothing happened … until yesterday. The ship left its berth, bound for … the Garden Island navy base, just 20 or so kilometres away.

Greenpeace reckons by the time the ship gets to the Antarctic the whales will have been slaughtered.

The government’s PR response was pathetic. Three ministers (yes, three) issued a joint statement, which said there was plenty of time to conduct the operation.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert said it was just “hollow rhetoric”. Couldn’t have put it better. Hollow rhetoric is even better than just rhetoric (which these days is generally is taken to mean spin).

Let’s hope this federal lot don’t follow the path of their NSW Labor colleagues, who mostly do nothing about anything.

This blog also appears at http://www.prlab.com.au

03 January 2008

Words in my mouth

A local AM radio station interviewed me the other day. The 6PR afternoon drive-time host wanted comment on the new Labor government's missive on telling certain agencies that all media material had to be cleared through the relevant minister's office.

What the shock jock wanted me (being an 'expert') to say was that nothing had changed from the previous Liberal government. Cripes, Labor's only been in power a few weeks and already the media's beating it up.

All I could do was to continually reinforce my key message (developed quickly after his introductory comments and first question) that "it was early days and you had to give the government the benefit of the doubt".

I doubt whether this chap was really listening. He had his agenda, and I really didn't. After all, I was just there to comment.

For me, this interview was a prime example of the media trying to influence opinion, when it should be striving for balanced coverage. How blissfully naive of me - a former daily newspaper journalist.

Yes, it asked for an independent person to provide comment, but it becomes hard when the interviewer just doesn't want to see the other point of view (or even a neutral one). It's not entertaining radio.

All up, it was a pretty amateurish interview (not helped by the cliché of 'spin' as an analogy linked to the first cricket Test, which was being played between Australia and India).

I didn't hear the interview, as I don't listen to talkback radio. One of my surf club mates said he referred to me as Dr Greg Smith, from Curtin University. Well, he got the university wrong, which just proved my point about the amateurism. It was my last interview on 6PR.

About Me

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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.