When tactics take over from strategy

The most common error in developing communication strategies is to confuse tactics with strategy – an error that PR students learn to avoid while highly-paid political advisers have ensured the error is endemic in contemporary politics.

Indeed, you can easily see the problem on any given day in Australian politics. While political campaigning is supposedly becoming more professional – and has become so in areas such as data mining and target market identification – the day to day hurly burly of politics is so awful in communication terms that it is hardly surprising that people look at Parliament and politicians with contempt and that the annual Edelman Trust Barometer rates Australia at 21st place (out of 28 and just 4% ahead of Russia) for trust in institutions. As veteran journalist Mungo McCallum, says: “Australian government has in recent years, become debased – opportunist, secretive, poll-driven, fixated on short term political gain and unwilling to engage in serious issues when (as is always) they interfere with its internal wranglings. It has been depressing and demoralising, and the public has responded by branding our parliamentarians a bunch of untrustworthy go-getters, obsessed with their own well-being rather than the public good.” (John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations 8 February 2018) read more

Ignorance, semiotics and perceptions

Watching a recent London National Theatre Australian performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time the blog was struck by the shock and stillness of Christopher, the main character, when he is told Sherlock Holmes is not real.

Now for those who haven’t seen the play, or read Mark Haddon’s book, you need to know that Christopher appears to readers and theatre audiences to suffer from Asperger’s even though Haddon is adamant that the book is not about Asperger’s, high functioning autism or savant syndrome but about ‘difference’. But when the blog saw the play’s Holmes scene it reminded it of a similar view of Sherlock Holmes in a recently posthumously-published book, Chronicles of a Liquid Society. That book was written by one of the blog’s favourite writers, Umberto Eco, who profoundly influenced the blog’s approach to PR. read more

What the world needs now is ……….compassion, sympathy and empathy

What do one of Australia’s leading social researchers, the former British Chief Rabbi, a US philanthropic organisation, Adam Smith and David Hume have in common?

All are concerned about how societies live together and the glue that creates communities which Hugh Mackay, the researcher, says “nurture, sustain and protect us”. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, in a TED talk, quotes Thomas Paine’s words about times which “try men’s souls” and says “they’re trying ours now.” Adam Smith devotes the first chapter of The Theory of Moral Sentiments to ‘sympathy’ or what we call empathy. Daniel Lubetzky, founder of the KIND Foundation has launched a program, Empatico, which is developing an online learning tool that “will connect students across the globe….(and give them the chance) to explore their similarities and differences, expand their horizons and strengthen their empathy muscles.” David Hume wrote that “whatever other passions we may be actuated by …the soul or animating principle of all of them is sympathy.” read more

A New Year Miscellany part two

Trump’s hero Andrew Jackson

Reading Ron Chernov’s terrific biography of General Ulysses Grant the blog learnt a lot about the Southern terrorism which ensured that the South won the peace even though it lost the Civil War. The blog also found out how some southerners, such as General James Longstreet, fought hard to make Reconstruction work. read more

A New Year Miscellany – Part One

Many good old techniques still work well

Politicians, advertisers and PR people love using statistics – whether accurate or not – because they believe they add credibility. The problem is that over-use, or a record of outright distortion, can detract from a claim’s credibility.

We all remember – before misleading advertising legislation – assertions about how many dentists use particular toothpaste brands and older industry people will remember the Camel ad campaigns suggesting that “three (unnamed) independent survey companies” proved that most doctors preferred Camel cigarettes. Similarly, as an example of endorsements ,Ronald Reagan didn’t use statistics – just lent his name to Chesterfield cigarettes which he gave to all his friends for Christmas according to his ads for the company. read more

Turnbull echoes Trump

Anyone who thinks Malcolm Turnbull is a step up from Donald Trump needs to look at the appointments his Cabinet Ministers are making and the way they are copying the Trump technique – don’t worry about being unable to change the law, simply appoint someone who will undermine it.

It is exemplified by the new CEO appointment, Dr Gary Johns, to the ACNC (the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission). The ACNC was opposed by Tony Abbott – largely at the urging of Cardinal George Pell and a number of trustee companies. Why George opposed it is a bit of a mystery but some trustee companies (who administer deceased philanthropic estates) were presumably not that keen on disclosing the fees they charged for administering said estates. read more

Newspapers not dead yet – just not making much money

Everyone trumpeting the death of traditional media would be surprised by the latest Roy Morgan Research readership report for Australian newspapers for the year to September 2017.

The newspaper proprietors have their own measure through NewsMedia Works, which used to be called Newspaper Works but changed its name in 2016, suggesting a bit of a delay in confronting reality. The blog has always liked the Morgan figures – mainly because the NewsMedia Works reports are implausibly relentlessly upbeat given the industry’s problems – while the Morgan figures are rather drier. read more

A tried and true method of reaching audiences

There has always been a very effective way of reaching and convincing audiences of your messages – find a trusted third party to deliver them.

Despite the advent of fake news and social media the principle still holds. If anyone doubts it think about who you listen to when buying a major item – advertisers, social media or some person in your office or family who knows everything there is to know about cars, TVs, computers or whatever. read more

Methodism, Marx, cooperatives and conspiracies

Since Morgan Phillips coined the phrase that Labour owed “more to Methodism than Marx” it has been repeated by many others – from Harold Wilson to Barry Jones. But what if the catchy alliteration is wrong?

Race Mathews’ new book, Of Labour and Liberty, shifts the focus from Methodism back to the co-operative or distributist ideas of Robert Owen and a long Catholic tradition starting with the Papal encyclicals Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo through to the work and words of Cardinals Manning in England and Moran in Australia. read more