Category: Media Relations

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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….

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…

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…

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…

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…