VP Pence – sane and reasonable? What it says about journalism and political PR

One of the great characteristics of traditional Jewish humour is its capacity to change a statement from its seemingly obvious meaning to its exact opposite simply by an implied upwardly questioning tone.

A famous example is the apocryphal story about the man who went up to Stalin after a speech soon after Lenin’s death. Leon Trotsky was away from Moscow at the time, a bad decision as it turns out, and according to the story he sends a telegram to Stalin saying: “Stalin, you are the true heir of Lenin.” Stalin gleefully reads it out but the man comes up after the speech and tells Stalin that he’s got the telegram wrong. Instead, with a big shrug, he says the telegram actually says “Stalin you are the true heir of Lenin?????

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How the Whittaker memorial events started

Speech to the annual Port Melbourne 1928 Dock Strike memorial event October 28 2016

Some years ago the former Port Melbourne Mayor, Perce White called me to talk about Alan Whittaker and the 1928 Dock Strike

He reminded me of an article I had written in the local paper, The Record, most of which I actually wrote every week as well as subbing my own copy and laying out the pages. The article was about Port’s maritime workers and in particular the 1928 dock strike.

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They don’t make them like that anymore

For many years historians of PR have been identifying a much more complex history than the traditional one focussing on Bernays, the US, the arrival of Gen MacArthur in Australia and so on.

But while we push our knowledge of the industry back further it is also interesting to look at the changes in PR and the changes in the backgrounds and approaches of those who practise it.

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Instructive snippets

The advantage of subscribing to a variety of news outlets – particularly when few of them are Australian – is that you keep finding instructive snippets.

In Australia you might find them with Tim Colebatch on Inside Story, Michael West’s website, or Fairfax’s Adele Ferguson and Ross Gittins, but generally you can rely on getting from the Australian mainstream media either the pompous reiteration of the conventional wisdom or harangues about issues which even Barnaby Joyce has ridiculed.

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A round up of derivative Australian failings

One of the most spectacular examples of how ideology can triumph over fact is the current Australian Treasury head, John Fraser, who proudly announced that ‘austerity works’ citing the example of UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.

Sadly Fraser is still there although Osborne was sacked by Theresa May; took up a lucrative position with a hedge fund which had profitedy massively from some of his decisions; and is apparently also now editor of the Evening Standard. Of course he is still drawing an MPs’ salary to demonstrate that he totally understands the sacrifices society has to make to get the economy moving again and that he empathises with all those workers forced to survive on a portfolio of jobs.

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Consumer activism – is it becoming more effective?

A spate of recent research – and a prominent Australian case study – are suggesting that there may be an increase in the effectiveness of consumer activism with some implications for corporate reputations.

The Australian case study, Coopers and the Bible Society, is fascinating because it highlights how the more specialised your brand is the more vulnerable you may be. Coopers make great beer, donates lots of money to the conservative parties and also makes generous contributions to the Bible Society – which is apparently not in favour of gay marriage. A special Coopers Bible Society beer (they apparently aren’t teetotal) was launched by a Liberal MP who just happened to be a former IPA (the lobby group not Indian Pale Ale) person.

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CoPP provides another great communication case study

The City of Port Phillip has a remarkable track record in providing case studies for communicators – particularly examples of tactics and strategies to avoid.

Regular blog readers may recall that the Council managed the remarkable feat of failing to convince the community of the need for a remediation plan for a polluted site – reversing the situation in 999 out of 1000 similar cases. Then it ran a community consultation plan strong on pretty pictures and online dazzle but ineffective.

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An insider’s view of how public relations really works