New priorities in an upended world

By Alexander Corne

The world has been turned upside down and had the last few coins shaken out of its pants, by the COVID-19 virus.

Aside from the human suffering, the economic shellacking, and the social dislocation, or possibly as a result of it, in most countries, we have actually wound the clock back almost a century to a time when value was placed on learning, knowledge, concern for others and a degree of humility.

In other words, the Me! Me! Me! Instant Gratification Generation has been plundered, punctured and punted into touch.

Who would you rather pay a weekly salary of $850,000 to now? A young man who is good at kicking a ball into a net or over sticks, who can run for 90 minutes without getting puffed out, or a specialist researcher identifying and formulating a vaccine to cure the virus? Just think about that for a minute.

In every western culture, the deity of sport has been deposed. Almost soundlessly. Practically effortlessly. Religious extremists of every stripe have joined the sports folk, kicked unceremoniously to the kerb. No-one on a ventilator has been saved by a Shaman of any colour.

And in the epicentre of world entertainment, Las Vegas is shut and Hollywood’s great names are unmasked as nothing more than a sideshow when the matters are life-and-death.

It seems we don’t need Hollywood’s uber-liberal mavens to entertain us when the SHTF.

Scale up a few notches to bear witness to globalism melting faster than the polar icecaps. The splintering of the UK from the EU has raced to become a chasm separating the EU’s rich and sophisticated northern kingdoms from their poverty-stricken southern neighbours.

Borders are back in fashion, and EU members were not even up to sharing masks or gloves. Reckon they’ll pony up their armed forces if one of their number gets eaten alive by the hungry bear to the east?

The irony of the entirety of Europe being dependent on PPE being flown in from China appears to have been lost on folks, from national government and EU ministers down.

Hopefully Australia will be a bit more savvy, in its post-cataclysmic reconstructionist phase, and finally realise that it must not be wholly dependent on China to make everything it needs in the pursuit of life, love and happiness. Just as we can’t rely on the US to warehouse our liquid fossil fuel energy security stockpile, offshore and across the Pacific.

For fun, why not extrapolate the events of the past 8 weeks and just imagine how vulnerable we would all be this time next year, if a black hatted player (pick one: there is no shortage of unprincipled states and terrorist organisations) decided to let loose a new and similarly murderous concoction at the Olympics or World Cup soccer finals.

The ‘dry run’ when Bergamo played Valencia certainly shows how effective a sports crowd is at spreading a virus across two nations, without even trying. Ramp it up a few notches and you have World War III declared, run and won without a shot being fired.

So the take-out is that we all, individuals and businesses, must lobby our elected representatives to ensure that we are better prepared next time. For example, the last pandemic drill run in Australia was in 2008. We must tell our ‘leaders’ not only to gameplay the scenarios, but actively prepare, stockpile and train. Because if they don’t, the wilderness beckons.

RMK+A is highly experienced in government relations and in assisting businesses and organisations in engagement with policy makers.


Post COVID-19 predictions. A brave new world?

By John Kananghinis

Channelling Nostradamus – without the quatrains – we take a, not entirely serious, look into the near future.

Likely to be as accurate as the ABC’s Dr Norman Swan’s predictions that there would be 60,000 to 80,000 cases in Australia by mid-April (actually around 6,600 with over 4,000 recovered and less than 75 deaths).

Based on, probably, the same amount of in-depth analysis.

Domestic economy

  • Lots of empty CBD office space as companies realise they can have a significant proportion of their employees work from home.
  • High demand for home office equipment as the same companies gear-up staff for remote working.
  • Timid consumers when it comes to discretionary items.
  • Interest rates stay low for a decade.
  • House prices bounce back, except for apartments.
  • Unemployment rate at around 7%. Youth unemployment double that.
  • Shopping centres with many, ‘exciting new shopping experience coming soon’ hoardings on empty spaces.
  • No one mention the phrase ‘budget surplus’.
  • Not as many foreign students in the Melbourne CBD.
  • Universities crying poor and having to find ways to educate Australian kids.
  • Tourism, hospitality and entertainment jobs thin on the ground. Plus far fewer backpackers serving you at your fav trendy spots.
  • A bunch of hotels shutting up shop and being converted to apartments.
  • ASX popping up and down like a hip-hop dancer but gradually climbing back.

Australian politics

  • A great deal of difficulty for the Federal Government in retreating from the higher level of New Start (now rebranded Jobseeker) allowance. Same with the free childcare.
  • Saint ScoMo going to an election in 2021, before all the stimuli and incentives have been fully removed, and winning a thumping majority.
  • Politicians of all colours rediscovering a passion for Australian manufacturing – read lots of investment incentives.
  • Labor party has nowhere to go, seeing as Coalition has gone further left than they ever dared to dream.
  • Australia to never pay off government debt, becomes the perpetual political football for the next century.

Global politics

  • Finally, no one believes anything the Chinese Communist Party says.
  • Climate change what now? Gretta who?
  • India/China conflict becomes real possibility if India’s death toll from the virus becomes too great.
  • Trump loses to Biden and VP Kamala Harris or VP Michelle Obama. (Yup, that’s probably the biggest call of all).
  • Boris Johnson has his statue added to the panoply of heroes, colonists and rogues in Whitehall.
  • Italy changes government, at least twice, by the end of 2021.
  • Germans finally give up on ever seeing one euro cent of their money back from the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain).
  • National borders actually mean something again. Who knew Aus would be proved right on that one?
  • Instability in global markets and high unemployment open the door for right and left extremist parties to increase popularity. Both sides only needing a charismatic leader to push their agenda.
  • UN and various bodies like WHO face reform pressure but opt for resistance that sees their funding slashed.
  • US China trade war on again as Trump makes last desperate effort to look tough and CCP just waits him out.
  • Middle East – same.
  • Russia never discloses coronavirus death toll. Kremlin doesn’t care. Vladimir Putin still Tsar.


  • Much grumpiness about our third world standard NBN speeds. Thanks Rudd and Turnbull.
  • Turnbull memoir ‘A bigger picture’ (no, seriously, he wanted a bigger picture) the bargain bin winter read (or draft-stopper) of the year.
  • Not to be outdone. Rudd releases third tome entitled  ‘How I would have crushed coronavirus, if only that two faced f’n @#%* had backed me for UN Secretary General’.
  • No more Bali trips, so more tattooed and toothless on the Gold Coast. One wouldn’t think it possible, but it is.
  • Great OS travel deals, assuming you’re allowed into destinations and you don’t face an involuntary 14-day extension to your time away from home on return to Aus.
  • The ABC’s credibility plumbing new lows, given that they predicted we would all be dead by now, because we didn’t lock ourselves away for six months. While they continued to ‘work’ – and get paid.
  • Coronavirus beard growing becomes new status symbol. (Labelled misogyny by feminists)
  • New office game of spot the colleague’s naked partner walk across the background of screen in teleconference meetings.
  • Louis Vuitton release a range of tracksuit pant business wear. No, wait, they already do. No joke, LV monogramed Track Pant for the low, low price of $1,760.

But sadly

  • Africa and India suffer massive death toll from coronavirus. Near Asia not far behind.
  • We collectively learn little from this fiasco and the next one is worse, or worse still, deliberate.

Time for the opposite of desperation marketing

By John Kananghinis

In last week’s special edition of Words + Insights we wrote about the need for businesses to stay calm and to communicate.

This week we explore how to communicate to customers, during times of crisis, in a way that will build trust by reassuring, offering value and being measured.

By now, almost everyone will have been deluged by notifications from a range of businesses advising of the measures they are taking to address the pandemic.

Too late, then, to discuss the initial salvo of communication. What of the ongoing?

As with all marketing it must be driven by addressing a customer need. Right now the customer does not need to know that you are desperate to shift product. They know. Bombarding them with desperation ‘offers’ and ‘opportunities’ will not help them cope with the unique circumstances. More than likely it will annoy.

Frankly, there are more important things to worry about than missing out on a ‘great deal’. And such an approach may also strike a particularly discordant note, as if not really recognising the situation.

Delivering customer value must orbit around the needs of the current circumstance. If a business offers an essential service, communication must be around reassurance. If not essential, there are still many ways businesses can demonstrate that they are aware of the situation and doing their bit to help.

We have already seen many stories of the repurposing of capabilities to assist in providing vital aid to the fight against coronavirus. Breweries and distilleries producing branded hand sanitiser, luxury goods brands manufacturing personal protective equipment, auto manufacturers building respirators. All positive reactions and all legitimate and appropriate topics to communicate to their customer base.

There are even tangential ways businesses can help customers meet current needs. Using connections and partners to provide practical assistance. For example, reading lists, YouTube channels or viewing lists, home cooking recipes, fitness at home ideas from linked sportspeople. The ideas are limited only by imagination.

The reality is that most businesses will face a significant fall in sales. But with the extra time customers have in front of computer screens there need not be the same drop in engagement.

For those providing discretionary products and services keeping communication going, with value-adding content, can also be an opportunity to keep building desire. Just allowing customers to view/build/configure their dream product or service is a soft sell that can be both enjoyable and diverting. Again, not trying to shove distressed product down their throats, but a distraction that may help get them through a difficult time.

In short, keep communicating, reassure, be imaginative, offer value, be relevant and don’t be a pest.

Businesses that stick to those principles will build recognition and loyalty that is sure to give them a head start when the crisis abates.

RMK+A has developed and implemented integrated communication and marketing plans for clients in sectors as varied as automotive, heavy equipment, transport and logistics, energy, tourism, waste, insurance, finance and professional services.

The post pandemic political picture

By Andrew Elsbury

The political landscape of Australia and the world will be shifted significantly by the COVID19 outbreak. Indeed, as State Governments close their borders, effectively reinstating the sovereignty of their jurisdictions, many Australian citizens are getting a taste of the pre-federation Australia.

While Western Australia closed its borders almost completely, and both South Australia and Queensland have police at their border crossings, the Federal Government continues to attempt a coordinated response to the pandemic.

Prime Minister Morrison has already stated he is fighting a war on two fronts, one against the virus and the second against the potential economic disaster that the shutdowns and unemployment present.

On the first front there are signs of hope and new cases, for the time being, seem to be plateauing. On the second there will be a much longer road to recovery. For while paying employers to keep employees on is a welcome measure it is certainly unsustainable for a long term.

On the Friday (3/4/2020) episode of A Current Affair, Economist Chris Richardson stated “Our Governments don’t owe much debt, whereas the rest of the world owes heaps”. This is as close as a tick of approval as you are going to get for Coalition Government post 2013 fiscal policy. It does not mean we are immune to the global financial catastrophe but we will weather it better than most nations.

The third front the Prime Minister diplomatically avoids talking about is the one he is fighting against the State Premiers. In particular Gladys Berejiklian and Daniel Andrews. Both have been problematic with their push for school shutdowns and a stated desire for complete population lockdowns.

You only need to listen to the Victorian and New South Wales government lines of ‘ensure you have 14 days of supplies in your homes’, while Canberra is saying don’t panic buy, to see an inconsistency in messaging.

For the time being, a détente has been reached between the states and federal government. However, with school holidays in Victoria ending next week, you can expect the debate around students returning to school campuses to become a flashpoint.

The comfort that Australian governments, of any persuasion, can have in a crisis is that voters are loathe to change the government of the day. Barring a complete failure, the population will generally seek the security of a continuation of government.

The Federal Parliament does not need to go to an election until 3 September 2022, however, I would suspect that an election will be held in 2021, allowing the Morrison Government to maintain the momentum of the COVID19 response. Victoria is not due to go to the polls until November 2022 and NSW is March 2023, and I would suspect both incumbents will retain power.

Even when concern around the virus is gone the lingering financial impact of the pandemic will be only the beginning of the disruption it will cause.

Many nations will take a Trump style approach to trade, seeking to maintain industrial capacity inside their country with a greater emphasis on self-reliance for critical supply chains.

Social media is already rife with anti-China rhetoric. This is not just an Australian phenomenon. We are already seeing various states blaming China, not just for the pandemic but accusing them of profiteering from the global impact.

This sort of talk can be dangerous. Those of a radical political agenda may seek to capitalise on high unemployment rates and increasing nationalism. Pride in one’s nation is not inherently a bad thing, but when that translates to hatred of another, that is where danger lurks.

There is no doubt that the world will emerge from this crisis significantly changed. The political impetus for greater globalisation will not only have been halted but, most likely, reversed. That, alone, will create new geo-political pressures.

National sovereignty, control of borders, greater self-reliance and residual government social and economic support will make traditional left and right ideological divides almost obsolete.

Governments that have managed to avoid total catastrophe (however one defines that) will likely accrue a significant incumbency benefit. How they continue to govern will also look quite different.


RMK+A has decades of experience working with clients to help them understand the political environment and its impact on their business. We provide analysis and briefings based on client’s market position, competitive setting, the political background and regulatory framework.