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.

Social Media – To be, or not to be? A case study.

By Angus Nicholls

The reports that were published last week regarding a social media attack by anti-Halal groups on the Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company (FMYC) started me thinking. Do all companies need a social media presence? The next thought was what other actions, rather than dropping Halal certification (and, as a consequence, a $50,000 contract with Emirates), could have been pursued?

With regard to a social media presence, my opinion is that not every company needs to be there. I accept that this is probably an unpopular stance amongst most communication practitioners on the basis of being “left-behind.” However, my position is informed by the simple proposition of whether social media is tangibly contributing to your business, rather than just following the herd.

Given that forward planning is an essential element of business, the key questions that I would use to assess whether to establish and/or maintain a presence on social media are:

  • Does the business require social media to engage and interact with our customer base (understanding your customer demographics is essential to accurately answering this question)?
  • Is our presence generating and/or underpinning sales?
  • Is social media contributing to the development of our brand?
  • Do we have the resources to keep our presence up-to-date, monitored, and interactive?

In short: Is social media directly relevant to our activities?

I would further argue that unless there is a specific strategy in place for the use of social media that there are two particular categories that it does not sit comfortably with: Small businesses with a tight resource base (human and financial), and perishable products. That is not to say that businesses in these spheres should not have an online presence.

From my reading of the reporting on FMYC it looks as if they suffered the perfect storm: Some unreasonable online zealots attacking their business pursuing an unrelated agenda; the company adopting a course of action to placate their detractors (it would seem as a symptom of not having the resources available to comfortably manage the issue); losing a contract for a product that generally does not require Halal certification by most Muslims; and suffering yet more opprobrium for backing down in the face of the attack that the business had endured.

In line with our philosophical position that if you are going to commentate, it is always important to make practical and constructive contributions in parallel. So what would have we recommended to a client in this situation.

  1. Do not panic.
  2. Decide a course of action. We would have recommended holding the business’ position, and explaining why that was the right thing to do based on facts and the values of the business.
  3. Develop a standard online response (for use across all online platforms).
  4. Establish a set of talking points for telephone enquiries, importantly including a polite way to exit the conversation so as not to waste excessive time.
  5. Alerting key customers (i.e. Emirates) to the situation and explaining the course of action that had been decided upon, and seeking their support and third party endorsement.
  6. Develop and release a statement to the media outlining the issue and FMYC response, as well as the rationale justifying the response.
  7. Establishing a monitoring regime, escalation/de-escalation triggers, as well as defined escalation/de-escalation actions.

I am the first to admit that it is always much easier to have an opinion in retrospect, however the core element to any form of great communication is exceptional planning. That is what we here at ICG/RMA do.

Furthermore, I hope that other Australian businesses either do not have to endure the online thuggery that FMYC have recently had to (sadly I suspect that this is a forlorn hope given how courageous anonymous online operators seem to be); or that they are at least prepared to protect their values and operations in the face of any unreasonable attack that may be launched against them.

ICG Auto

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Tesla v The Times (or should that be ‘Tesla with The Times’?)

By Sarah Carnovale, New Media Strategist

The current battle between electric motor car start-up Tesla and newspaper behemoth the New York Times is a powerful case study in twenty-first century reputation management.

Here’s a quick summary: Times reviewer John Broder put out a review of Tesla’s Model S car that didn’t show the vehicle in the best light, and Tesla CEO (and PayPal founder) Elon Musk responded with a line-by-line rebuttal on Tesla’s website via its blog, and also via its social media pages in Facebook and Twitter.

The exchange has now descended in to a media war with no end in sight, but this is secondary to the main issue – Tesla’s reputation management was successful and efficient.

New media (blogging, Facebook, Twitter etc) spoke directly to Tesla’s electric vehicle loving base. The story was then picked up by traditional news agencies and flowed down to newspaper, tv and radio.

New media went crazy and it didn’t take long for traditional media to follow.

Moving with the times (nee new media response) gave Tesla the upper hand in a dirty fight against a seasoned campaigner and protected, possibly even enhanced, its reputation in the meantime.

Once upon a time, this could never have happened so quickly and fluently.

In a live interview on internet news site Huff Post Live, former Obama Whitehouse Communications Director Anita Dunn said “There are a lot of different ways to communicate to people, and in the modern world of communication you use as many platforms as you can productively to speak to as many audiences as you can productively.”

Tesla’s harnessing of new media embodies Ms Dunn’s philosophy to great and lasting effect.

Today, reputation management has never been easier. An organisation that seeks to better itself in the eyes of the public needs to open its doors and welcome in the potential buyer, invested stakeholder, interested passer-by, and the apathetic sceptic with the same web-based smile and welcoming grin.

Harnessing your organisation’s online presence via a website and social media gives organisations the opportunity to market, defend and communicate directly with the world at large.

Your organisation’s brand is invaluable and the digital era allows for brand protection and reputation management more than ever before. There are a few simple steps your organisation can take to ensure its digitally ready and enabled to meet and greet reputational challenges that unexpectedly come your way.


When was the last time you checked your organisation website for readability and ease of accessibility to information? Have you considered having your website checked by a company outsider?

As a company matures so too does its priorities, and more importantly so does the priorities of its customers and stakeholders. Your organisation’s website is the first port of call for people wanting to know about your business and it should display your offerings in the best possible light.

Integrating a web content and structure review system will ensure that your organisation is ready to meet the challenges and welcome the successes of today and tomorrow.


Does your organisation have a blog? Do the people of your organisation contribute to it? Are they giving a voice and personality to your organisation?

A company blog, with contributions from people at all levels of the tree breathes life in to the online platform, increases trust in your organisation via emotional connectivity, and gives a pathway to ‘right-of-reply’ in the event that your organisation ever needs to defend itself, as was the case with Tesla.


Facebook is a two-way communication website, an open door to your organisation where you can post photos, competitions, customer feedback, and links back to your organisation’s website. Twitter is the conversation, the signpost on the highway to point people to where you need them to go to market a point of view or product.

Social media tools in general are great for pushing the marketability of your company in positive times, and provide a platform and a proactive voice when you most need it.

New media is not an island

Reputation management is a consolidation of efforts across traditional and digital mediums. Whilst new media is way to speak with target audiences and supporters, traditional media (such as newspaper, radio) is the vehicle to reach mass audiences.

Tesla’s new media commandeering will ensure its brand and integrity remain intact long after the New York Times battle had faded into memory. It’s important for us to remember that the same tools are available and ready at our fingertips.