Revealing communication hiccups

Almost every communication program is affected by some small hiccup or other. Most of them are just minor unless they inadvertently highlight a major public relations problem an organisation is experiencing.

This week saw Opera Australia have a minor hiccup – an error in an email broadcast to Melbourne opera subscribers – which highlighted one of the major complaints Victorians have about Opera Australia, its Sydney-centric focus and its relative neglect of Melbourne.

The email was the regular message OA sends out to subscribers and ticket holders before a performance. It summarises the opera plot, details the cast, gives some advice on ‘correct’ behaviour at the opera and some stuff about parking, eating and similar stuff.  In this case it was for the opening night of Verdi’s Masked Ball at the Melbourne Arts Centre’s State Theatre. Now the production is a new one – something Melbourne audiences claim Opera Australia provides far too rarely for Melbourne – so it ought to have been a bit of a PR coup for OA except for one minor error in the email. All the stuff about parking, transport, eating and what not in the email applied to the Sydney Opera House and not the Melbourne Arts Centre and, on top of that, the cast list was wrong. The latter error was no doubt caused by the fact that OA often, understandably, employs different casts in the two cities.

The first email arrived in the blog’s in box at 9.17 am and the corrected email arrived at 3.47pm suggesting it took some six hours or so to spot and correct the error. No doubt some Melbourne tickets holders saw the email, contacted OA and asked what was going on. The blog just took it as one of those Sydney-centric mistakes which get made and didn’t think about it beyond the very minor, but symbolic, statement of why OA has not been taken to Melbourne’s heart.