When PR people judge how well a PR campaign has done the degree of difficulty is often a major factor in weighing the merits of various projects. But there’s not so much attention to the easiest jobs and campaigns.
Currently doing PR for Tony Abbott would have to be up there among the easy ones. Just do nothing and craft a few populist sound bites and you will soon be advising a PM. Admittedly there would always be that worry that he might say or do something really, really stupid. But even then there is always the safety net that News Limited and the shock jocks provide. After all, imagine a situation in which the toughest questions you get all day from the interviews you arrange are zingers like: Do you think Julia Gillard should resign today or next week? Just how dishonest and incompetent do you think she is?
But my nomination for easiest PR job would have to be PR for the Australian Grand Prix. While a few journalists put the organisation, and the event, under some scrutiny the majority seem to blithely report whatever the Grand Prix claims.
The Save Albert Park group (www.save-albert-park.org.au) has been keeping track of some of the claims. For example: the global TV audience seems to be about 16 million although the GP has claimed at various times audiences of 350, 500 and 600 million and once even that the annual F1 telecast totals 54 billion; hotel accommodation generated is claimed to be about three times the actual number of rooms in greater Melbourne; attendances are always ‘estimated’ to be in the hundreds of thousands although never actually counted; the GP corporation continues to claim benefits even though the Victorian Auditor-General found that the event is a net loser for Victoria; despite claims of massive ‘branding’ benefits to Melbourne and the event Qantas managed to get naming rights for just $100,000; and so on and on.
The Herald Sun’s Terry McCrann belled the cat on the ‘branding’ value and The Age’s Greg Baum did the same on the dodgy attendance figures. But generally most of the claims just get translated straight from media release to media coverage. The loss the GP makes is becoming a bit of an issue partly because at a time of government cutbacks in Victoria a few people from education to health are arguing that they need the money the Government pumps into the GP more than the petrol heads do.
Part of the problem is the political paralysis in place. Neither party in Victoria wants to be seen to ‘lose’ the Grand Prix and the ALP is worried that any opposition will feed assumptions that it is more concerned about inner city trendies than about real, red blooded Australians who love sniffing the fumes. Unless someone comes up with a circuit breaker – such as perhaps a co-ordinated campaign from all the groups and areas which are currently suffering cuts in government funding – the status quo will continue past 2015 when the contract is up for renewal.
In the meantime life for the GP Corporation PR people is not that bad when compared to that of other PR people. Although, as the evidence mounts and the Save Albert Park group keep persisting with FOI applications, deconstruction of false claims and formal Press Council complaints there would still be that nagging doubt that, as with Tony Abbott, everything could change quite quickly.