A few odds and sods on PR

It is reassuring to find that publicists can still get blatant puff pieces into quality newspapers – even when the content is nonsense.

The Saturday Age (7 July 2018) included a My Career piece in the business pages headlined: “In a league of his own” – a story about a former journalist “using the art of storytelling to turn the public relations industry on its ear.”

Now the blog is the first to admit that it, and its former staff, have at various times managed to get blatant puff pieces into various media outlets albeit rarely about PR or themselves. Although the blog did get rather unwittingly flattering coverage of its consultancy into The Age by vigorously denying a journalist’s questions about its significance and influence and insisting that managers and Boards made decisions – not their PR advisors who only provided advice. The journalist then kindly helped the promotion along by even publicising the blog’s hourly rate (not provided by the blog of course).

But the My Career piece was a bit of puffery unlike anything seen outside a News Corp publication shilling for one of its favourites or causes. The article – unlike the half page My Small Business columns The Age runs periodically which are inevitably accompanied by a half page ad discreetly placed below the fold on the same page – didn’t even include an accompanying ad.

The article extolled the ‘innovatory’ approach of a new PR business set up by a journalist, Luke Buesnel, “who knows that genuine storytelling is the key to marketing and public relations success for businesses.” He disparages PR or marketing graduates for thinking “a little GIF for Twitter is content. That should supplement more meaningful stories.” What’s more innovative apparently is that he is in the ‘content creation’ business using podcasting and “videos….like a 90 second news report.”

The Age quotes Mr Buesnel as claiming “that the key to finding and researching the right kind of stories and content for his clients is by using a team of experienced journalists.” Well looking at much of the media today the blog is not sure that many journalists, with some notable exceptions such as Adele Ferguson, are doing that. Instead a fair number of them are producing Tweets and even click bait.

Moreover, the blog would also have thought that the same skill set applies to novelists, filmmakers and any other people accustomed to developing narratives – for instance experienced PR people who know a bit about narratives and framing. Indeed, the sort of PR practitioners who have been doing it for some decades since at least when, judging from his photograph, Mr Buesnel, was still in either kindergarten or primary school.

Crises follow-ups

Following the blog’s post about crisis lessons and Tony Jaques’s Managing Outcomes newsletter the blog got two suggestions about crisis preparedness and response – one from Tony himself and one from John Spitzer.

John Spitzer wrote: “It occurred to me that the crises you discussed show an uncanny similarity to earthquakes – the statistics are well known but the individual events’ occurrences are unpredictable – perhaps they follow a power law of intensity vs number of occurrences too! Perhaps a Richter Scale for intensity can be developed.” Unfortunately, as many of the PR people the blog has known had trouble adding up their consultancy hours – even with the help of a computer program – this might be a task instead for a CSIRO communications person, one of Mr Buesnel’s ‘experienced journalists’ or a young mathematician looking for an offbeat research topic.

Meanwhile, Tony Jaques pointed out that the banks are finally getting around to the best crisis management tactic – admitting the problem, fixing it up and apologising. In this case, removing part of the problem by hiving off their wealth management businesses in anticipation of the probable Banking Royal Commission findings. CBA and NAB have announced sell offs and ANZ sold its last year.

It’s only a pity they didn’t think of it a lot sooner – well before the first community earthquake tremors started rather than letting it become something akin to the one which devastated Lisbon in 1755.