Crisis management crisis

Crisis management: Three or four word problem in a crisis

By Robert Masters

There is a major problem for business today facing a crisis or issue in the public domain.

We are in the midst of a bubble that is now international, with the crisis with Malaysian Airlines disasters and the conflict in the Middle East.

If you do not master the three or four word principles of crisis or issues management you will flounder.

However, you have a very good case study in the Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s handling of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 tragedy, and all sectors could do no better than take a leaf out of his book.

He displayed his strong understanding of the communication principles behind effective crisis management and put them into effect with precision and timeliness.

Acknowledgement, Sympathy and Action – the three principles of sound crisis management – were on display for all to see and study.

He also ensured that the supporting platform for the principles were also in place – Defend, Deny, Defer or Deflect.

He left the Australian community, and the superpowers, in no doubt that Australia was going to take strong action with the tragedy when he called on the world to ensure that the victims were brought home as expeditiously as possible and that the perpetrators be brought to justice.

His actions with families, international leaders and at the United Nations highlighted that he was not going to defer any decisions to a later date.

His naming of those responsible for the event highlighted that he was deflecting any doubts about who was responsible for the tragedy to the Rebels and Russia and what needed to be done to address this issue.

Further, he put into place a nationwide movement – which is now international – of sympathy and grieving for the families of the victims.

The Prime Minister implemented a most effective crisis management strategy that should be studied by all sectors.

To learn more about the three and four word foundations of effective crisis management contact Robert Masters & Associates, experts in effective crisis and issues management, planning, training and implementation.


Thumbs Up Clive Palmer!

Media relations: Feeding the Chooks, Clive Style

By John Kananghinis

At precisely 5pm on Wednesday June 25, 2014 the current “Clown Prince” of Federal Parliament gave a media relations master-class on political spin control.

As Clive Palmer strode into the press room in Parliament House with global warming Saint and former US Vice President Al Gore in tow, all watching knew they were in for an interesting few minutes.

What Clive actually said was not really that much of a surprise, but the way it was delivered showed that the former white-shoe-wearer from the Gold Coast had learnt a thing or two about media management from his old boss Joh Bjelke-Peterson who famously called his press conferences “feeding the chooks”.

How Palmer convinced Gore that PUP has an environmentally sound position is a topic for another time but the press conference and his immediate post conference media management, allowed Palmer to both control the news agenda for the next 24 hours and to avoid any media questioning without having had the time to fully prepare both key messages and specific answers.

A 5pm timing is perfect to hijack the evening news bulletins on both television and radio. It is just as prime time news shows are being finalised, allowing enough time to trump all other stories but not enough time for any meaningful analysis or comment from other sources.

Announcing at the outset that there would be no questions taken at the press conference ensured that no pesky journalist question polluted the pure message. Then by asking for all questions to be handed to his press secretary in writing Clive got full warning of any questions likely to come up.

Given that he was then unavailable due to having a very, very early dinner appointment, there was plenty of time to prepare answers before his eventual first post press conference public appearance on Lateline over 5 hours later.

As evident as it is that Clive hasn’t missed too many dinners, even he doesn’t need 5 hours for a nosh just after he’s dropped the equivalent of a news media atomic bomb.

In the meantime Al Gore, conveniently, had to fly out of the country.

The outcome was that Mr Palmer gave one of his best media performances on Lateline that night and he was front page in every newspaper and online news site in the country the next day and subsequent days thereafter.

His turning up to Parliament in his Rolls Royce and Mercedes-Benz SLS were cheap but effective stunts.

The June 25 press conference was so well managed that from now on pulling off a similar news media full sweep will likely be known as an ‘Al Gore Moment’.

It is easy to dismiss Clive Palmer as a clown and side-show act, but he and his advisors have shown consummate skill in leveraging notoriety, turning it into dominance of the news cycle and some considerable actual political influence.

It has often been said by commentators and electors alike that we need more colour and character in Australian politics. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

If you think an ‘Al Gore Moment’ (of appropriate nature and scale) could be just what your organisation needs, ICG has over three decades of experience delivering press conferences, journalist briefings and media opportunities for the benefit of our clients.


Australian Politics: a lost art?

Australian politics: Raiders of the Lost Art

By Angus Nicholls

Our political system was established as an adversarial environment with the purpose of contesting ideas in a robust manner. For the life of me however, I cannot recall one occasion in recent Australian Parliaments (or Australian politics) where this has actually happened.

It appears to me that the only instances of bipartisanship occur during times of tragedy and where there is only one course of action that should be adopted. That in itself is a tragedy for the functioning of our nation.

Furthermore, Opposition strategy in this day and age simply appears to be a wholesale “No” to any Government position, rather than constructive input to the issues of national importance.

There have been murmurings of late referring to the dire state of Australian politics, including the resort-to-slogans as mantras (The Blame Game, Stop the Boats, Greatest Moral Challenge of our Time, Budget Emergency, Great Big Tax, Debt and Deficit Disaster, to name a few); the ongoing hunt for a “Gotcha” moment; and a lack of philosophical basis for positions that parties take (who would have thought that The Greens would stand in the way of taxing “The Rich” more and opposing the re-indexation of fuel?).

The overall tenor with which we are left is extreme negativity (not to mention the images of the clowns now running the circus – sorry, Senate).

It is not fair however to lay the blame solely at the feet of our elected representatives. The rise of the 24-hour news cycle and journos who commentate as much, if not more, than report, has created a vacuum that will suck the most irrelevant considerations into the public domain.

And then there is us, the general public, whose appetite for detail and rigour seems to have dissipated. Is that driven by the fact that we do not generally care about what is being said, or our national and community standards, or is it seriously meaningless?

We here at ICG refuse to be drawn into the ranks of the commentariat without offering solutions. We believe two things are missing from public discussion. The ability to tell a story (narrative), and a vision that provides aspirational content and hope linked to the issues of the day that capture the public’s (self) interest.

It is not difficult to articulate a vision, given that the decisions made today will deliver what we get tomorrow. In essence, the best way to predict the future is to invent it. On this basis we, as a nation, are confronted with many challenges, ranging from infrastructure bottlenecks to an ageing population, to how to manage climate change, to putting the Budget onto a structurally sound footing.

Australia needs a frank and robust discussion about how we want our nation to look in the future to not only maintain, but also to improve our quality of life in the face of these significant challenges.

Once that vision has been established it is simple to invoke the lost art of story telling to explain where we currently are, where we are headed, and the actions that are being taken and the context in which they are being taken to get us there.

As a company that helps our clients to tell their stories and articulate their vision we believe that taking a positive and constructive approach will not guarantee that people will start listening again, but it certainly creates an environment in which it is more likely.


Victorian government

Victorian Parliament: 18 days to clarity or nine to calamity

The Victorian Parliament has 18 more sitting days before it is prorogued to end one of its most dysfunctional periods of government.

The Victorian Parliament’s last sitting day of October 16 will then see the government move into the mandatory six weeks purdah period before the designated election on November 29.

Three sitting weeks in June and August, or nine days, will be without the disruptive suspended independent member Geoff Shaw who has been principally the instigator of this dysfunctional period.

He holds the balance of power and is set to return on September 2 when parliament resumes for two weeks in September and the final week of sitting starting on October 14.

It will be during this period that the parliament will either be able to deal with many of the infrastructure bills and other regulatory and legislative matters that the Coalition government wants signed off, or Victoria faces another destabilising period.

The State does not need the latter.  Politicians and their Party administrations need to ensure that they are there for the advancement of the State, not for personal headlines or egos that appeal to minorities and don’t make a significant contribution to the development of the State, or go towards achieving a vision for the State.

This is also the period in which private sector needs to put its cases to all political parties to get them either incorporated into election policies or have them addressed before the purdah period.

In the health sector, the government is looking at outsourcing many of its functions to the private sector, in the agriculture sector they are looking to expand trade into Asia as well as enhance local processing, in the mining sector they want to highlight the significance to the State to the future opportunities, including a direction on future onshore exploration, in the manufacturing sector they are looking at every opportunity to attract new industries and grow jobs.

Transport, health, education, law and order are key functionary elements that the community expect, but they are not visionary. They are necessities that governments must ensure they plan and manage well.  This is not to say that the parties could not turn education or health (medical research and best practice) into a vision for the state with a bit of thought!

However, the window for the private sector to act is narrowing. They must act now!

All parties will be running functions to meet with Leaders, Ministers, Shadow Ministers and candidates.  All are important to you in the information process, but you must ensure that your case addresses the current policies of all the parties, or seek to influence these policies.

If you are going down this path and want expertise counsel, talk with us. Experience and knowledge are the basis of our practice.

Robert Masters