Instant feedback is going to get you – a cautionary lesson

One of the most damaging and cringe-worthy moments in the Ardent Leisure response to the deaths at Dreamworld was the sight of Ardent CEO, Deborah Thomas, live on-air asserting that that a family had been contacted when she was seemingly not in possession of the full facts.

She was asked if the company had reached out to the mother of the two adult siblings who died on the Thunder Rapids ride. She said they had.

When told that one of mothers, Mrs. Dorset, was watching and had told the journalist who had asked the question that no one from the company had actually contacted her, Ms Thomas then change her statement to say that the company did not know how to contact Mrs. Dorset. The reporter then gave Ms. Thomas Mrs. Dorset’s mobile number.

Crisis management lesson: When fronting the media and you are not absolutely certain of your position don’t try to muddle through. If you have not done something yourself don’t assume it has been done and state it as a fact. If you don’t know or are not sure, say you don’t know or are not sure. That may not be the best outcome, but it’s better than getting it wrong because today’s instant media feedback loop will catch you out and make you look a fool, or worse.


When 10% failure is way too much

The recent Parliamentary Committee Hearings into the big four banks may have been considered a ‘damp squib’ by those calling for even greater public accountability but it did force some interesting admissions from the bank bosses.

There was a standard and expected amount of mea culpa and contrition in evidence but one form of words could come back to haunt Ian Narev, the CBA boss. Here’s a transcript of an exchange on the quality of financial advice provided to customers:

Narev is asked by Coleman (Committee Chair Liberal MP David Coleman) about the financial advice scandals.

He acknowledges the bank failed to act with “requisite speed” to protect customers, although only about 10 per cent of the 8000 people whose files were reviewed were found to have been given faulty advice.

Whilst Mr. Narev was being as honest as he could it is hardly reassuring to hear that if you seek advice from the ‘experts’ at CBA there is a 10%, or possibly even higher, chance that you will be put wrong and suffer a financial loss. They don’t advertise for business by saying ‘we get it right, most of the time’.

Again, words really do matter and even with the most thorough preparation (which we are sure CBA undertook) they can come across quite differently to the audience from the intent of the speaker.


How hard can it be?? The transition from print to digital

The two leading Fairfax Media properties for decades were The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. And didn’t advertisers know it.

Often referred to as being ‘rivers of gold’ the spend on advertising in their voluminous publications were the stuff ad rep’s dreams are made of.

That was then. Now, both papers have been reduced to wafer thin tabloid-sized weekday editions with virtually no advertising and barely a page of classifieds or public announcements.

There could be no better demonstration of Fairfax’s fall from grace than the post AFL Grand Final edition of The Age. Made up of only 40 pages, 13 of which were sport, and carrying only two half page colour ads.

So how hard could it have been to get so few ads right? Apparently too hard. The Age ran an ad from Western Bulldogs supporters,  University of Victoria, congratulating them on a fine season and a great effort despite not winning the flag.

Notice anything unusual? The Age’s ad department clearly did not.

One mistake isn’t the be-all-and-end-all but it’s not just one mistake. Industry insiders tell us that there is a constant stream of similar mistakes that, in most cases, are only picked up once the client or agency puts in a call.

Fairfax has all but given up the ghost on print and, it would appear, allocated resources elsewhere. They are focussed on online content but even there questions abound. The content deal with the Huffington Post has opened them to the accusation of becoming nothing much more than ‘click-bait’ focussed. And the recently revamped online editions for the leading mastheads do little to disprove that theory.

Fairfax’s mismanagement of the transition to digital has left fertile ground for more agile competitors. Witness the arrival of The Guardian with a digital only Australian edition.

Companies and organisations are faced with an increasingly segmented media landscape. There is now a combination of online ‘broadcasters’ and digital ‘narrowcasters’ that businesses need to work with in order to get their messages through to their target audience. A ‘publish and pray’ media release will not do the job. Actually, it never really did.

It is a rapidly changing and evolving media environment and RMK+A harnesses its media expertise to continually review the risks and opportunities for its clients’ media engagement needs.


News Creators Miss The Real News

By Robert Masters

Business and communication leaders are no strangers to the ‘gotcha’ journalism that appears to be a fundamental element of news-making (as opposed to news reporting) today.

Instead of reporting news, by seeking to create it and get climate change on the G20 agenda, the media fell into its own trap, and largely missed the main story.

The St Petersburg G20 summit of last year identified the G20’s immediate task was breaking the cycle of low growth and diminished business and consumer confidence.  There are tens of millions fewer jobs and global trade still has a way to go to return to pre-financial crisis levels.

Not small issues one could say! But they don’t make headlines in the land creative news. You need the really important issues of warships off the coast, streets in lockdown, cops on buses, people heading out of town, and you need to manufacture a conflict or embarrassment… that will satisfy today’s news creators.

Because US President Obama agreed to a pre-conference climate agreement with China, to come into effect in 15 years (2030), and he raised the issue in a public address, the news creators played their game (no doubt influenced by climate change advocates) by claiming that the whole thing had become the ‘gotcha’ moment for the Prime Minister.

Let’s not worry about the next five years, let’s look 15 years ahead and postulate on this. Forget the need for jobs, higher living standards and greater financial stability in the next few years. Don’t worry about trying to lift G20 GDP by more than 2% by 2018, which would translate to $US2 trillion in real terms in global economies, bringing 100 million more women into the work force, creating millions of jobs.

Hardly any of this was reported in the following day’s TV and radio media; let alone the item, which showed that the G20 supported strong and effective action to address climate change. (Item 19 in the final communiqué). To their credit the major newspapers did give it coverage, but continued to speculate on the policy gap between Australia and China/USA, even though Australia has not announced its final policy for the Paris COP on Climate Change in November 2015.

If serious and important news is not an agenda item for the news creators of today, business and communication leaders need to take this into account when they are dealing with issues that they believe are important.

The ‘spinning’ of news stories by the news creators must be taken into account in any media planning. There is a need to  analyse how each media outlet, including social media, is likely to treat news if the key message is not to be lost in the noise of the news creators’  ‘gotcha’ journalism.

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