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 public money. In this era of intensified social and emotional interactions, our organisations are now noticeable and fair game for criticism.
That’s going to present new challenges for a region used to flying under the radar of national issues, and used to getting things done pragmatically, without fuss.
We’ve had a taste of the national front-page focus, when local organisations in health, education, agriculture and sport have copped criticism.
The lesson from other major centres is that this scrutiny doesn’t stop – it will only intensify.
Neither will it focus just on big organisations. Smaller Waikato companies are now fair game. Just this week a local VTNZ branch got a national roughing up over failing a teenager’s driving test for a fuel light. One moment you’re serving Hamiltonians from Lincoln Street in Frankton. Next moment, a large slice of the New Zealand public is judging you.
We don’t need to be victims of this scrutiny. The robust, plain speaking, pioneering Waikato style can be as much a secret to PR success as it is to our social and economic success.
The first step is appreciating that being in the public spotlight is not the same as being criticised or endorsed by the public. We don’t need to be too eager to attract attention, nor too worried by getting it.
The region’s success has come from concentrating on what matters to those we work with. The challenge of attracting national attention is that it implies you need to keep everyone happy. That’s fruitless. There’s too many opinions to ever do that.
Big city organisations and businesses lose public and political battles because they do not advocate their case with sufficient passion, purpose and clear evidence – to the people that matter most to them.
That’s the Waikato advantage, still untainted by big city over-thinking. The PR secret on a national scale is telling your business or organisation’s story in real and simple language. It’s the same style and hard graft that got you to where you are now.
The Tron is now being heard by the rest of New Zealand. We need to let them feel a welcome breath of fresh Waikato air.