PR expert Gerry McCusker was interviewed by Radio Australia this am – exploring the Fiji Govt’s use of online PR and social media. McCusker told Radio Australia it makes perfect sense: “If an organisation posts regularly online through blogs and tweets and online press releases, and by feeding this material with the kinds of search terms that people are using online PR can influence what is said about any organisation, any corporate, any brand, any government, whether it is a democratic government or slightly less democratic one,” he said.
Speaking on ABC regional radio this morning, ‘PR disasters’ author Gerry McCusker made the following observations: Qantas and CEO Alan Joyce were addressing a business imperative, not a brand challenge. Via a skilful PR team, they had probably calculated that the recent PR turbulence wouldn’t outweigh the benefits of staff/operational efficiencies being pursued. McCusker mentioned the A to Z of agenda opportunists (Tony Abbott to Christopher Zinn of consumer group Choice) and a growing social media commentariat who were prolonging the PR pain for the airline, the Gillard government and the unions, too. Gerry concluded by questioning whether the entire concept of reputation was really worth what it once stood for. Indicating that the Qantas share price had gone up since Joyce redrew the battlelines, the PR analyst McCusker suggested that Qantas could win back consumers with marketing and PR initiatives, saying that goodwill now has a (sic) relatively cheap price.
While the growing commentariat looks to “tut tut” on any and every move with a whiff of differing opinions, the reality of the Qantas strike situation is simply this: the airline is focused – Exocet-like – on a goal of staunching losses to and repositioning its international business. To do this, it needs to manage staff/operating costs – and that means outsourcing cost bases where possible. In forcing FairWork Australia to help bring strike action to an end, Qantas has doubtless weighed the cost of negative short-term PR it will accrue, and deemed it mere collateral damage in a skirmish that’s part of a much bigger battle. Bad PR, in this case, isn’t as important as long term revenue management. In today’s media environment, which should bring searing scrutiny to corporate and government decisions, we instead see a ‘forget if not forgive’ attitude from customers and stakeholders. This bad news story will blow over. It seems to me, that reputation damage isnt as influential or telling as it once might have been – the blighted and maligned recover more quickly than in the past; shame or remorse fade as quickly as the news agenda changes it appears to me.
I was asked for an interview by New Zealand Talk Radio in the wake of the furore re a – now hated – promotional campaign for NZ Telecom aimed at supporting the mighty All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup. Basically, the campaign encouraged Kiwis to abstain from sex during the competition duration. Here’s a quick overview of my interview preparation notes:
A storm in a rugby world (tea)cup. Has the whole of New Zealand lost its sense of humour? Perhaps they don’t get the concept of creative irony? As an ex-Scot mysel’, I sense a wee bit too much po-faced Presbyterian plasma in the kiwi bloodlines. Creatively, this was a (maybe too) cute, tongue-in-cheek way of making fans feel like they were upping their commitment to their national heroes. Was it the best creative idea around – no. Was it cause for commentary by the NZ Prime Minister et al – definitely not!! In today’s reputation environment, any grumpy stakeholder can critique or carp – and that feeds direct into the media’s hunger for alleged controversy; we have a new wave/tsunami of emotionally reactive commentariat who vent their spleen, necessitating retractions and forced humility from big corporate concerns: It’s accountability gone mad! As for NZ Telecom’s PR response, it seems very well executed; they (pretty quickly) acknowledged unpopularity, made an apology followed by a retraction – that’s what good PR is! Good PR isn’t – contrary to pop opinion – perfect spin. Good PR is listening to feedback, then taking appropriate, responsible action to bring the org in line with stakeholder sentiment. Pulling the campaign – even at great cost – is actually responsible PR. Two areas of real creative concern for me; why was the Saatchi&Saatchi PR agency solution so out of touch with community feeling? With all the stakeholder research tools at our disposal – was the campaign pre-tested with a target audience sample?? And finally, because the campaign was so reviled, why didn’t the creative agency take a bullet for its client NZ Telecom? They should have fessed up and fronted the media (rather than go to ground and let their client carry the can for an unpopular creative exectution). As an option, maybe one fresh PR idea would be to turn the campaign around from an anti-sex to a pro-sex agenda – “We’re rooting for New Zealand!”
Late August, Gerry McCusker will explore how to create reputation-enhancing digital PR within social media spaces at an Ark Group event. Gerry will explain the best ways to create positive digital assets and equity. And he’ll scare you off the underhand tactics that promise to clean up social media and search engine finds, yet could result in negative consequences. A must-attend workshop for anyone looking for a better, fairer and more representative share of social media voice. See you at the Novotel between 22-24 Aug.
Here in Australia, an academic/lawyer and indigenous affairs adviser seems to have got off lightly after having sent a Tweet suggesting that watching bestiality with a horse wasn’t as offensive as watching an(other) indigenous representative speak on television. While at first suggesting that people were taking her derogatory remark “out of context” (as if context could excuse away such a mean-minded barb), Larissa Behrendt offered an apology one day later (no doubt after being advised by government or similar PRs) which has been rejected by the object of Behrendt’s disrespect. Why can’t allegedly ‘smart’ people understand that commenting on Twitter is the same as sending out a personal press release to any and every media outlet in the world? Twitter is the no1 PR disaster platform of the social media space, and is the medium that reveals more about an individual’s true nature and character than a polished and prepared resume ever could.
IABC (New South Wales) is hosting a workshop featuring online reputation expert and author of “Public Relations Disasters” Gerry McCusker. The lunchtime social media marketing session – at L47, MLC Centre, 19 Martin Place, Sydney – explores how to better control and manage your online reputation via social monitoring. On 13 April, McCusker will show PR firm and in-house practitioners the best ways to create positive digital assets and equity. The rationale for this “media social” event is that anti-corporate and activist publishers are brilliant at promoting bad news in digital spaces. Because their ‘bad oil’ can quickly rise to the top of search engine finds, mis-informing and negatively influencing stakeholder perceptions, organisations need to know how to respond to these PR threats. McCusker answers the question; “What if you could keep negative commentary and coverage off the first few pages of Google? As a canny Scot, McCusker also asks “What if you could do it for free?”