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.

Matching Vision with Action

The key task of leaders is to explain what the future should look like and to build consensus around this shared vision.

This means setting setting objectives to achieve the goal; in other words, developing a great plan to deliver the goal.

Nelson Mandela summed it up as: “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision is merely passing time. Vision with action can change the world.”

To deliver the Mandela principle requires the actual delivery to be entrusted to experts who have delivered such projects before. Great leaders do this and delegate successfully. Poor leaders want to do everything themselves – micro manage. Great leaders also ensure that everyone knows that they care about the work and expect success.

This approach has led to the re-emergence of I CARE values (Integrity, Courage, Accountability, Respect, Excellence) in programs across the PR industry focused on stakeholder engagement.

Although these values are not new to RMKA – it has been adhering to them in programs developed and delivered for almost two decades in the public and private sectors. The effective use of new technology tools in communication now allows such values to be systematically applied across multiple programs.

The outcome is the efficient delivery of important information in a timely manner and to defined audiences and consistent with the initial expressed central vision and objectives.

It also enables efficient, values driven, responses, both internally and externally, to unprecedented events; being proactive with responses; being prepared for all possible outcomes; and readiness to address questions about the legitimacy of the events.

The current Victorian Government appears to be going down this path in an effort to deliver better outcomes for the community.

Unfortunately, all governments can get drawn into the agenda of sectional interests resulting in a piecemeal approach to policy development and communication resulting in damage to the central objective of effectively communicating a vison. This is where ministers and officials must work together and resist the temptation to address minor, but loud, and negative stakeholder voices in isolation.

RMKA’s stakeholder management technology (Stakeholder Matrixtm) helps avoid this trap because it enables the user to effectively manage total program communications whilst ensuring adherence to messages that clearly outline how the desired vision can be achieved.

Stakeholder Matrixtm enables the segmentation and understanding of stakeholders and the determination of the best methodologies for engagement. The aim being that all stakeholders, particularly objectors, understand the broader picture and the objective of better outcomes for the community.

Yes, reputation matters

Does it really matter when a major television channel allegedly conspires to commit a crime in another jurisdiction; when a company behaves in ways that show its supposed concern for the environment is trumped by the profit motive; and when a company leader fails accountability in public?

The short answer: yes, it does – it matters a lot. Here’s why. Research shows that reputation influences purchase decision–making and most of all, trust. Lose trust and you’ve probably lost a swag of your customers, too. More than that, you can end up paying a huge opportunity cost.

After the US Environmental Protection Agency decided BP wasn’t doing a good enough clean-up job in the wake of the huge Gulf of Mexico oil spill, it had BP banned from Federal contracts for a while. BP continues to make money around the world – but it could have made so much more.

The reputation challenge can come down not only to perceptions of an organization as a whole, but also specifically to the performance of the CEO. No fewer than five reputation-related reports were released recently and one has interestingly highlighted the need for CEOs to be more visible in discussing societal issues than in talking about financial results. The recent Australia Post CEO Ahmed Fahour is a typical example of this with the Tall Poppies meeting when 100 entrepreneurs and leaders discussed how to realise the potential of Australia’s female entrepreneurs.

The figures show 72% for financial results and 80% for societal issues such as income inequality, public policy issues and the CEO expressing their own views on societal concerns. That’s confronting for organisational leaders who think that they only have to satisfy their board and the shareholders. In fact, the survey showed that 65% of respondents thought CEOs focused too much on short-term financial results while nearly as many (63%) believed CEOs were not focused enough on job creation.

All the surveys highlight the fact that reputation is a complex construct, and that trust should not only focus on being trustworthy, but also having a positive influence on society and conducting business honestly and ethically.

The events in Australian of recent times affecting reputation show that it’s time not only for executives to take reputation more seriously, but also to ask themselves whether their public relations strategies are helping to build and protect this vital intangible asset. It’s not for nothing that the London-based Chartered Institute of Public Relations calls PR ‘the discipline which looks after reputation’

The importance of being positive

This is not a piece about mindfulness. It’s a piece looking at the importance of delivering your message in a positive context.

Example one is Malcolm Turnbull.

Since being elected (by the Liberal Party) as Prime Minister on September the 15th this year the Australian mood has lightened a great deal. Why?

We ostensibly have the same policy settings that existed prior to MT’s elevation to the top job; it’s about jobs and growth, tough on borders, tough on terror (albeit with a more nuanced commentary), and a budget that is still in need of repair.

The economy has not miraculously turned around, it’s still “pitchy” and in a transition from the mining boom.

So what has changed?

It used to be the economy, stupid. Now it’s the manner in which the message is delivered.

Despite the somewhat hilarious appropriation of #ideasboom, the concept of embracing challenge, establishing policy settings that promote the very Australian pursuit of “having a go,” and accepting that failure is often the first step to success. Our public discourse is now framed in a remarkably different manner to that of the last 8 years.

The result; a nation that is more upbeat and a hope that is not based on “hard” data (if it was, one would expect to observe the status quo continuing), but based on being engaged in, and a part of, the discussion.

Update: I read with pleasant surprise earlier today in today’s The Australian (Shows potential but more work is needed, December 16, 2015) that Janet Albrechtsen agrees with my sentiment,writing:

Malcolm Turnbull earns early good marks too for setting a new tone and focus. Positive words are no substitute for good policy but there is undeniable power in a dose of upbeat leadership.


Example two is climate change messaging.

When the Paris climate talks were being discussed recently, an observation was made that the negative “doom and gloom” messaging was no longer gaining any traction in the public realm.

The conclusion reached was that people were simply sick and tired of the negativity associated with the issue. It didn’t mean that they were any less interested in climate change, nor were they any less interested in seeing action taken. The general consensus was that they wanted the discussion framed differently.

Both previous blogs published by RMKA and media commentary in the immediate aftermath of Tony Abbott’s demise commented on the Australian public’s lack of appetite for overtly negative and aggressive discourse.

The takeaway here is that if there is an opportunity to ‘be the statesman’ and frame your message in a positive light it will have greater cut through and success in the current climate.

Finding your positive angle and framing the associated positive messaging is something that RMKA excels at.

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