The politician that keeps on giving

Media training: Clive Palmer and the gift that keeps on giving

By John Kananghinis

Media training and professionalism aside, you just have to love unpolished and ill-prepared politicians. They fall into the most embarrassing and entertaining holes.

In the last edition of The Word we remarked on the effective media stunt that was Clive Palmer fronting with Al Gore to announce he would support voting down the Carbon Tax.

That was a well-executed stunt that, irrespective of the value of the content, gave Clive media dominance for at least a day.

Recently on ABC’s Q&A program, he gave the perfect demonstration of how being ill-prepared to deal with persistent media questioning can go badly.

Not to be outdone by his PUP Senator from Tasmania, whose musings on the optimum size of the male reproductive organ doubtless added to the sum of human knowledge, Clive managed to emit a racist and highly offensive rant straight at our most important trading partner and emerging geo-political superpower.

Tony Jones knew perfectly well that his line of questioning was riling Clive and he persisted until he got the explosion that provided the grist to the next day’s media mill.

The look on Penny Wong’s face as she sat between the Clive volcano of highly politically inappropriate anger and the smirking Jones was precious.

The lesson is clear. If the person you are placing in front of the media is in any way subject to poor impulse control, just don’t do it.

On the other hand, even the most calm of front-persons can benefit greatly from effective media training and regular refreshers.

Of course it is literally Clive’s party and he can do as he likes, so any advice suggesting he should hold his temper and his tongue is wasted. But even he had to apologise, twice.

ICG has provided media training to senior executives, communication and PR managers, CEOs and Board Chairs across many industries and sectors for over 30 years. A small investment of time to gain vital knowledge could make all the difference when the serious questions come.


Wake-Up Call on crisis communication LG

Wake-up call on crisis communication

By Robert Masters

Victorian business and government were delivered a wake-up call this month in crisis management and community engagement with the release of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry report and recommendations.

The Inquiry, headed by former Supreme Court Judge Bernard Teague AO, who also headed the Black Saturday Bushfires Royal Commission, has effectively told all companies and government that international best practice is the operating standard required for communication and community engagement plans.

Although some communicators, with coal-face experience in crisis communication, may question some of the relevance and details of the evidence given at the Inquiry, companies and governments now have a ‘must do’ action on their plate.

If you fail to bring your current crisis management and communication plans up to international best practice, you leave yourself exposed to reputation damage and litigation to name just a couple of major risks that you may never have envisaged or imagined. The fact is that those two risks alone can destroy your business.

At the end of the day, crisis communication is about ‘perception management’. If your plans and actions on the day don’t embrace this as the over-riding principle, your community licence to operate comes into question.

The media, the community, legal profession, politicians and interest groups will ensure that everything you do will be under the microscope. It is no longer acceptable to say that ‘your first priority is managing the incident’. Community interest, knowledge, consultation and engagement now all share equal status in the incident management pyramid.

The Inquiry’s recommendations highlight this in a stark manner. They draw attention to lack of co-ordination among the agencies, confusing messages, contradictory messages, communities struggling to find answers, communities seeking reassurances, inadequate consultation, lack of international best practice, lack of ‘trusted networks’, lack of internal emergency management plans… the list goes on.

Compliance with community expectation is always difficult, even for the largest companies with significant resources at their disposal. Sadly, the risks are the same for SMEs should something go-wrong. Consequently it could be argued that industry associations should also be looking at developing at least standard crisis management and communication plans for their members to be able to activate should the need arise.

ICG has decades of experience in planning, development and implementation of crisis management plans, training exercises and in handling incidents. We can assist business and government to develop international best practice crisis communication plans and community engagement models.


Whiz Bang Pop

Strategic communication: where’s the Whiz, Bang & Pop?

By Angus Nicholls

You know that you have reached middle age when you are speaking about a state election that is still three months away.

Having since processed this sobering realisation, I began thinking about what the common theme was that had emerged in the conversations with my contemporaries regarding strategic communication and this upcoming poll. It was that “something was missing.”

This in turn took me back to 2004. At the time I was drafting policy documents for the Federal Government to take to the upcoming election. The consistent question that was put to me during the drafting process was “…where’s the Whiz, Bang, Pop?

Though sounding more like the tag line for a new and exciting confectionary product, it summed up the essence of presenting not only the Government’s past achievements, but also how the future actions of a re-elected Government would capture the imagination of the electorate.

It was not simply re-hashing a “business as usual” approach, but linking proposed actions to an overall improvement for the nation.

An approach that referenced future opportunities for the current generation and their children; wellbeing and improved standards of living were certainly front of mind.

The key was to then link this “Whiz, Bang, Pop” to the core business of Government and provide the context that accounted for why the proposed actions of a future Government were the right ones to take. In short: narrative.

With the benefit of middle age and hindsight, I am not quite sure that I nailed the brief, although the Government was re-elected and gained control of the Senate.

Why is this relevant today?

Because I would contend that there is a distinct lack of narrative being applied by both major parties to the policies that they have released in the lead up to this poll.

The importance of providing a narrative is no better illustrated than by giving candidates a story to tell. It enables them to link the macro to the local environ.

Additionally, by developing policy with narrative/context as a central theme it guides it down a “bigger picture” path, rather than land locking it into a specific geographic area and time.

The following example is an illustration.

East West Link – how the story could be told:

  • This road is being built as a part of Victoria’s infrastructure jigsaw.
  • It is a critical piece of infrastructure that will help to reduce congestion (in conjunction with regional and metro rail projects) and increase the efficiency of our freight-based industries.
  • Freight and trade in Victoria are massively important to our economy.
  • The State is well placed to double it’s food production in the next 15 years (and has a plan to do so).
  • This not only underpins the current employment of 145,000 people in food related industries in Victoria, but also strengthens our regions through increased trade, which underpins robust and diverse regional economies.
  • What a great outcome for Victorian regional youth! Providing them with both opportunity and choice as to whether or not they wish to forge their career in the country.

By way of counterpoint I contend that the ALP’s $70m announcement for the ongoing redevelopment of Kardinia Park will be a hard sell for local candidates.

Why? It has been made against the backdrop of companies closing sites (Shell, Ford, Alcoa, Target) leaving thousands with an uncertain employment future.

Outside a deep-seated love of their football team, how does this help Geelong and surrounding residents now and into the future?

The conclusion that I draw out of all of this? To get your “Whiz, Bang, Pop” you need to put your target audience in the middle of the picture with the view to improving their current and future circumstances.

If you’re not sure where to start in pulling your story together, give ICG a call. “Whiz, Bang, Pop” is a small part of what we do.






Apple: not so innocent

by John Kananghinis

For anyone who still laboured under even the slightest illusion that what one does in cyberspace/the cloud/the Internet is in anyway secure and private have a look under U2 in your iTunes library.

Apple dispelled any fanciful and naïve notion of online privacy with their September 9 mass release of the latest U2 album onto any device connected to iTunes.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Songs of Innocence is great, and so does my 13 year old. I also think it’s a very clever play by both Apple and U2. For all the noise from the professional chatterers and critics the fact remains that 33 million people listened to the new album in the first six days alone. Name another dinosaur band that can get that number of ears inside a week?

Apple acknowledges that sometimes they will do things that please some people and not please others, but in the end they are happy to have all as part of the ‘Apple Community’.  Ultimately Apple used their platform to give us a gift. If we don’t like it we can just leave it in the proverbial sock draw along with all the other “Dad Day” contributions.

The important lesson here is that anything online is in a communal space that is controlled by those who set up the community be it Apple, Google or Microsoft. The communal online space is also open to anyone whom they allow access to, or those who can hack their way in.

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently differentiated the Apple business model from that of Google, Facebook and others, by saying: “A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realise that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer, you are the product. Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetise” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. If you want stuff to be private it needs to be private.”

An important distinction, but none-the-less, it is Apple’s ecosystem and not your private space. In the commercial world nothing can be truly for free, not if it is to be sustainable.

Certainly something to think about when next conducting your online/social media activities.