Category: Our Blog

A very small band of protestors invaded Sea World in Brisbane this week, causing the operator to cancel two of its dolphin shows.  The protestors, some in the dolphin pools, were removed by police. What struck us was the uncompromising tenor of the company’s communications response. It used two techniques to stand up for itself;…

The idea that Christmas is stressful because of family feuds is a common refrain, and a myth. But it’s a myth that could become true through repetition. These formulaic ways of talking about common parts of life spring readily to people’s lips. We joke about the “terrible twos” when a kid throws a tantrum. We…

Three versions of the song “Baby it’s cold outside” are getting airplay this Christmas, and appealed to the general public to overcome an effort to ban them. The song’s lyrics, in which a man tries to persuade a woman to stay in with him after Christmas drinks, has come in for micro-analysis in the year…

In 2019, you should finally get that crisis planning done, because your job depends on it. Despite what the PR industry says, a reputation crisis rarely creates long-term harm to a business (see long-term impact). This year, research has convinced us that the real impact of a crisis is on the jobs and reputations of…

Organisations that fear disputes put their business at greater risk. New Zealand’s banks increased the long-term risk of unreasonable regulations when they did not quarrel with policy-makers who criticised their ‘culture and conduct’. A recent review found no cases of criminal behaviour from New Zealand’s banks.  But regulators’ still said they had concerns that “banks’…

The haste of organisations to avoid criticism has been spotted by journalists, who now use the PR industry’s thoughtless “apologise and dump” strategy to create even more public criticism. This appears to be what happened with the New Zealand Herald’s ‘sexist Santa’ story. The Auckland Santa parade organisers unceremoniously dumped their long-term Santa provider who…

Following the Jami-Lee Ross controversy, there was a lot of attention on the study by BPR’s Mark Blackham and academic Geoffrey Miller into the work experience and education of MPs. We studied the backgrounds of MPs for the same reason we examine the audiences of any client; to understand how they think and act. The…

He also got the opportunity to get in a sales pitch: “It’s coastal lamb. They are browsing grasses, herbs and clovers and shrubs and native bushes. So there is a flavour profile that is more complex and deeper than any other lamb”. If your business was criticised for its mode of operation, can you make…

When the Government announces a review into an industry, we advise clients to use the initial publicity to influence the outcome. At this early stage, most organisations hope against hope that the issue will go away or the outcome will be benign. So they avoid saying anything, except blandly claiming they “welcome the review”. This…

By Geoffrey Miller and Mark Blackham   Since 2010 were have tracked MPs’ work and education backgrounds. We have done this to help us understand influences on their decisions, and to track our hypothesis that New Zealand politicians are becoming less like the voters than previously. Employment backgrounds and education are highly suggestive of our…

Academic institutions are one of the toughest environments for communicating.   Most academic PR challenges are effectively internal issues exposed to the general public. They arise because there is a wide variety of strongly held opinions among the audience groups, a passionate diversity of opinion about educational purpose, and a hierarchy with only nominal control….

Organisations are often exasperated by the tendency of media to choose one ‘narrative’, making it challenging to get the other side of the story accurately reported.   One way of circumventing media-driven narrative is to not give journalists the time to shoehorn quotes from an interview into their stories.  A sure fire way of achieving…

Many New Zealand organisations are launching significant change programmes, transformations, or new operating models. These initiatives are intended to deliver benefits to customers and organisations, so they involve all parts of a business, and a wide range of stakeholders.   Why then does mentioning ‘transformation’ or ‘operating model’ often elicit groans of despair from communications…

The reaction of pundits to Nike’s “believe in something” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick is so confused that it offers no lead for companies about the wisdom of doing something similar.   It’s common for PR experts to call any whiff of controversy a #PRfail, but some have claimed that the vitriolic US reaction against Nike…

A new study released by PR company BlacklandPR, shows that New Zealanders think Waikato is largely cows and a river, and it appears that locals think the same.   Unprompted, the one thousand participants were most likely to associate the Waikato with dairy or farming in general (16%), the Waikato river (10%) and Hamilton (8%)….

These results are from a Horizon Research nationwide survey of 1000 adults conducted between 7-14 August 2018. Respondents were members of Horizon’s nationwide adult online research panel. The survey results (prompted and unprompted) are weighted by age, gender, personal income and employment status to represent the New Zealand 18+ population at the 2013 census. At…

There is an answer for all those who argue that a company, industry or region needs a “story”.   The answer is to not to say we need a story, but to write it – provide the content and the words.   Story writing is hard. When written by corporates the result is usually a…

We’ve reached peak virtue-signalling by businesses.   More research has emerged that customers don’t want businesses or CEOs to be social activists.  Last year the American Association of Advertising Agencies found that while brands and their agencies are keen on values-based marketing, the majority of consumers don’t like it one bit.   Similar research this…

On RNZ’s Checkpoint this week, John Campbell ridiculed comments by Genesis Energy CEO Marc England on the basis that he “could hear the media training” in them.   Campbell meant that the England’s message about Genesis becoming an energy management company was boring and unnatural.   His frustration revealed that a lot of what CEOs…

BlacklandPR Waikato is moving into Panama House next week as we expand our business in the Waikato. It’s a lovely site overlooking the mighty Waikato river. We look forward to sharing it with our Waikato clients.

The simplest way to acknowledge colleagues and gain free publicity for your organisation is back again; the 2019 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards. You should nominate someone for a category in this award.   Nominations close at midnight on September 17 and can be submitted online at www.nzawards.org.nz.   Awards categories include:  …

Some intriguing research has recently revealed that people must notice change before they remodel their predictions and expectations.   Apparently, the main purpose for memory is to model the future (if fire hurts to touch, it will hurt next time).  If we encounter changes in real life, we alter our memories to improve the predictions….

Within minutes of a power outage in Wellington today, punters were speculating on the reasons.   Power began being restored after two hours, along with a reason for the outage – a substation equipment failure.   But rumours about the outage had already spread rapidly on the streets where office workers unshackled from dead computers…

The Nurses union has waged an excellent public campaign during its pay negotiations, but it got beaten by the “first to a number” trick.   The DHB’s released details of the latest pay offer, but this time gave an estimate of what the pay deal may deliver a nurse in certain circumstances: $93,000.   The…

The controversy over origin of World’s fashion wear shows us the two major factors necessary for a controversy make the leap into public consciousness.   A Spin Off story revealed that although World’s clothes may be assembled in NZ, materials were made in Bangladesh and China. Most New Zealanders can hardly be troubled by this…

A fascinating thing about the demise of the house safety meth test is how a social phenomenon of many years ended in one day.   In a stroke, the PM’s Chief Scientist Peter Gluckman tore down an incredible and ephemeral practice that had mutated into a form of hysteria. The meth test policy led to…

Eric Murray featured in an advert that claims beer has nutritional values.  According to the Advertising Standards Authority, this ex-rower is a hero of young people, so he had to be removed. We asked our own kids. They hadn’t heard of him. They hadn’t seen the advert either.   When the attack came via a…

Following the first wave of reports about Israel Folau’s comments, journalists stoked the story by printing views from an ever-widening circle of prominent people.   Every couple of hours a new person was headlined, each predictably outraged.   This is a reminder of the magnifying power of follow-up phases in media coverage. Every piece of…

Qantas got the Israel Folau furore wrong because it confused a profile sponsorship for a value sponsorship.   Profile sponsorships are of big-ticket established organisations. You’re paying for a platform to achieve brand awareness and marketing. If there’s brand alignment, it’s at the highest conceptual level (e.g. fitness, excellence, achievement), not values. Most consumers don’t…

In terms of Waikato’s role on the national stage, growth is a double-edged sword. Our city, our institutions and our companies will be scrutinised with the same fervour applied to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.   The scale of our success and operations means there’s either many customers or supporters involved, or a large amount of…

Mike King demonstrates that to achieve your communication objectives you usually must risk someone disagreeing with you.   The tension in our professional lives is how to express our opinion without getting offside with others.   We measure our communication by agreeability. We talk in truisms. Our views are expressed only very broadly. We echo…

BlacklandPR has today announced the opening of its new office in Hamilton, to be run by ex-journalist and PR expert Greta Shirley.   The opening reflects growth of the Waikato economy and the demand for Blackland’s mission; PR that reaches people in the suburbs and regions of New Zealand.   Blackland PR Director Mark Blackham,…

Mental health awareness campaigner and New Zealand of the Year finalist Mike King has been named winner of the 2017 Communicator of the Year Award for his ability to communicate directly and openly about mental health.   BlacklandPR director Mark Blackham said Mike King was the outstanding communicator over 2017 due to his clarity and…

When people communicate, we often use words we know other people like. But this causes trouble when our meaning of the word is different to theirs.   For example, it’s de rigueur to talk about “vulnerable” people. But what we mean by using this word is extremely variable. Is it poor, aged, adolescent, female…? And…

A little-known tool organisations can use to influence new Ministers, especially new governments following general elections, is a dedicated briefing paper.   Traditionally, new Ministries and government agencies supply the new Minister with a written briefing paper explaining their portfolio responsibilities, current issues and work-in-progress.   Known as a BIM (Briefing for the Incoming Minister),…

New research reveals that New Zealand institutions are failing to deliver effective public communication about imminent natural hazards.   Most of us know the story of the boy who cried wolf. In the versions popularized in the 1500s, the tale-telling boy is not believed when a wolf does appear. In some versions of the story…

For a career that has become a profession, the political class perform surprisingly badly at the job. Here’s two lessons you can learn from their mistakes last month.   1) Tell your story, then stop. Journalists are very good at spotting weaknesses in stories.  Bill English kept telling them his story about Todd Barclay each…

If you insist on making an unpopular decision then at least have the courage to stick by it.   Sky TV broke into its coverage of the All Blacks test to play an advertisement after the haka. Within 24 hours of the resulting viewer criticism they backed down, promising the ads wont air in the…

When public safety is threatened people seek reassurance in the simple answers, even though they may be the wrong ones.  Organisations can use this to their advantage.   In the weeks following the Grenfell fire a particular type of cladding has been singled out as the cause.   Of course, the cause of the fire…

A new analysis of the removal of Sevens Rugby from Wellington has blamed the organisers, including NZ Rugby, and the police for the decline in crowd attendance. The Report, Demise of the Wellington Sevens, by public relations consultancy BlacklandPR, concludes that organisers collaborated in a “moral panic” led by police and the Wellington “establishment” against…

Companies sponsoring stuff would have whistled with relief that they weren’t BNZ when a prominent rugby player taped over their logo on his shirt.   While rugby organisations did their usual stuck-in-headlights routine, the BNZ was left alone to say it was unfazed by the individual’s action and he was free to choose.   It…

Many self-inflicted publicity wounds are the fault of your marketing department.   We’ve seen some notable examples within a past few weeks. Pepsi was mocked for an absurd “attitude” advert about people dancing and protesting for peace and diversity while drinking the fizzy stuff.   Cadbury was pilloried for removing the word “Easter” from a…

Some days, especially on LinkedIn, the sheer weight of corporate marketing about “doing good” is depressing.   Heart-sleeves point-scoring is made worse for knowing it has zero impact on sales.   This was demonstrated in a series of revealing studies outlined in The Myth of the Ethical Consumer. They revealed that while consumers profess social…

Three brothers were part of a team that invented a portable medical diagnosis device for an innovation competition.   Which of the two photos above is the best one to help tell the story about their technology? The one of the three brothers dressed up as Star Trek figures holding their Dr McCoy version of…

When a woman complained about being sent photos of her deceased son even though she had asked for the full file, the Ministry of Justice apologised and said it had changed its processes to ensure that never happened again.   A Google search of world news reveals that in just the past three days, at…

A journalist commented on our Communicator of the Year award; “You’d expect them to be good communicators because it’s their job.”   That made us smile because it imagines that communication comes easily. It assumes that ‘news’ is made by people whose job it is to make news.   There are thousands of people with…

The Oscars hired PwC to run a process that didn’t lead to errors in awarding gongs. They would have been better hiring a PR company to focus on clarity of leadership and communication.   That’s because when the process went wrong, as process inevitably does, brave communication and leadership is the only thing that could…

Former Police Association President and Labour Party election candidate Greg O’Connor has been named winner of the Communicator of the Year Award.   The winner is selected by BlacklandPR and students at Massey University’s School of Communication, Journalism, and Marketing, from New Zealanders who have illustrated communication skills at the national level over the previous…

A strict “media policy” on who can speak to journalists only works if those who do speak are good at it, and free to use their skills.   Muffin Break illustrated the weakness recently when media inquiries about “maggots” in a chicken wrap were referred up to its national office by the Upper Hutt outlet….

The death throes of the Wellington Sevens illustrate one of our favourite business maxims: act in the interests of your audience, not your peers.   A few years ago the Sevens reached its crazy hedonistic zenith. Criticism of the audience took hold among Wellington influencers and decision-makers.   Anxious to assuage the critics, the organisers…

Donald Trump has been elected US President despite months of intense, high-profile condemnation from the political and media establishment, and social media shouters.   No previous candidate in living memory, not even Ronald Reagan, has been so vilified. Critics even questioned his right to stand as a candidate – his right to a place in…

A challenge of our social era is that it is hard to ignore headlines, but more necessary than ever before. The challenge of good PR judgment is knowing what headlines matter, and which don’t.   WeightWatchers copped bad headlines when it sent a lightbulb to female journalists encouraging them to leave the light on when…

A common factor in the unfolding public relations misfire of Ardent Leisure, owner of Dreamworld, is misjudged actions.   Ardent executives falsely believed that the issue was all about them, and that they needed to be seen to take action.   Organised action is an artificial construct. We mistrust artifice because it requires conscious planning….

The New Zealand Rugby Union did not need to enter the issue of a Wellington rugby player escaping conviction for street violence.   The appearance of CEO Steve Tew in interviews painted a target on the NZRU, inviting the professionally outraged to demand apologies for a “violent and sexist” rugby culture. Tew was bullied into…

24 hours after being vilified for firing a disabled worker who stole a colleague’s drink bottle, the chief executive of Bunnings went on Newstalk ZB to explain the sacking. The explanation gave enough hints to suggest that there was more than one side to the story.   “These decisions aren’t taken lightly… it’s just not…

Did Brexit win because the word sounded better than Remain? An argument in the referendum wash-up is that ‘Brexit’ was snappy and active, while ‘Remain’ was dour and static.   Brexit supporters were Brexiteers – adventurous, swashbuckling. Those supporting staying were Remainers – boring and against change.   Words are critical to persuasion. They can…

A survey by UK-based PR week found journalists think half the PR people they deal with are not good at their jobs.   The main complaint of journalists was that PR people don’t spend enough time looking at the output of the media they pitch to, making the stories of their clients irrelevant.   We…

The Wellington Rugby Union hit trouble over its response to player Losi Filipo escaping conviction for a vicious fight in Courtenay Place.   The WRFU initially decided to support Filipo’s court case, and stand with him under public scrutiny. But after 24 hours of pressure, the WRFU ‘mutually’ agreed to end Filipo’s contract.   Many…

Bürgen’s campaign to attract “Bürgen virgins” to try their bread in bed sparked a little negative feedback on their Facebook page. This formed the basis for stories on the Stuff and New Zealand Herald websites.   Bürgen did not appear to answer media inquiries, the story died, and the campaign continued. This is an interesting…

There is an easy way recognise the people in your networks and to get some effortless publicity for your organisation; nominate a staff member, friend or acquaintance for the New Zealander of the Year Awards.   BlacklandPR has been working with the Awards for five years and is an official sponsor.   Nominations close on…

It has been fascinating to study performance of the “transparent” approach to communication adopted by councils over contamination of the Havelock North water supply.   We’ll put aside the initial slow response to connect the dots, as that’s disappointingly normal for all of us facing the uncertainty of contamination.   Once the water supply was…

We live in in a topsy-turvy, hyper-sensitive era, where photos of staff playing the fool get a public treatment worse than dangerous malfunctions that risk lives.   AirNZ declared itself “appalled” at photos on social media of a pilot kissing a blow-up doll and video of a flight attendant spitting water, and taking the issue…

The writer of a “human interest” story on Stuff about safety box cutters got in touch with Foodstuffs to ask whether their staff used them. Foodstuffs would not confirm whether the staff used safety box cutters.   What they said:   “At Foodstuffs we adhere to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 across…

Most of the time organisations apologise in public, they either don’t need to, or they do it in a dreary, formulaic and saccharine manner.  The Birkenhead Brewing Company chose to withdraw and apologise when called out on some new Maori-influenced product branding. They did it thoroughly, and in a way unique to their style.   What they…

Beware of people claiming customers respond well to companies that take stances on social issues. There’s a US study by Weber Shandwick doing the rounds.   A quick look at the numbers doesn’t back up the claim that we’re witnessing the “dawn of the activist CEO”.   Here it is in a nutshell: More than…

In our Mind the Gap function this week over 30 professionals working in agriculture addressed the effects of a growing divide between urban and rural New Zealand.   Data presented by Andrew Fraser of DairyNZ and Emma Higgins of Rabobank, illustrated an alarming lack of familiarity with the rural sector among urban New Zealanders.  …

According to research by the Economist Intelligence Unit, CEOs say reputation is their organisation’s most prized asset. But they also say it is the most vulnerable and hardest to get right.   It is the capriciousness of reputation that makes CEOs wary of engaging when their organisation is criticised in public. When you’re not certain…

The tether that once bound urban and rural New Zealand has come loose. Urbanisation has disconnected us. Some people even contemplate a country without rural industries.   I don’t.  I am convinced we need to rebind urban and rural New Zealand for the better of our economic and cultural future.   We need to build…

It was revealed that the Wellington Rugby Football Union faked a video depicting an uncover “sting” operation by Hurricane players of sideline abuse at junior rugby.   BlacklandPR commented on the issue because parents and players were depicted unfairly and inaccurately, it deceived the public in the interests of a “good cause”, and because a…

Complaints from vegan activists about “secret” animal ingredients are becoming a regular part of media diet.   Earlier this year complaints and a news story frightened Z Energy into stopping use of a feather-based pastry conditioner in vegan pies (fair enough), and reviewing its use in meat pies (what?).   This week people promoting their…

We’ve got a lot of time for the response of ex-All Black Troy Flavell when media asked him about his guilty plea and conviction for driving over the alcohol limit.   Flavell owned the situation: he refused to apply for name suppression. He said the community needed to see him take responsibility for his actions….

OJI Fibre Solutions could not have imagined that its business recycling cardboard would be in the public spotlight for a week. But it was, when a body was found in cardboard bales on the premises.   There was no controversy about the company’s involvement, but as so often happens, the attention spooked the company into…