Communicating without communicators

The horsemeat scandal in Europe has an interesting sidelight – the company at the centre of the crisis, Findus, has sacked its entire senior communications team. Not, mind you, after the crisis hit but way back in 2011 as a cost-cutting exercise.

 Private Eye (22/2/13-7/3/13) reported that “smug cries of ‘I told you so’ are reverberating around (UK) PR land” after the crisis erupted and the news about the communication cutbacks was revealed. read more

Putting academic research to use

The attitude of many PR practitioners to PR academic research has always been puzzling. While a practitioner myself I was always glad that others neglected it because it was often a source of competitive advantage which those who didn’t use it missed out on.

 In contrast, the legendary and sadly late US practitioner Pat Jackson had two claims to fame. He worked from an office in New Hampshire which had to be the most attractive PR office in the world; and, more importantly, he was the first practitioner to think systematically about how PR and other social sciences research could be applied to doing PR. Indeed, the world’s most famous PR academic, Jim Grunig, once mused (perhaps a tad sadly) to me about how successful Pat had been in applying his, and other academic ideas, to how he did business. His firm Jackson Jackson & Wagner still exists ( and his former partner, Isobel Parke, is still involved. Both were great influences on my thinking about the PR business and successful consultancy. read more

Not even close

Just as the opinion poll forecasts were wrong in last year’s Presidential election so were the vote percentages called on the night.

 While the Electoral College vote result was very clear cut it appeared last November that the popular vote was actually pretty close. However, David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report (subscription only unfortunately but if you are a US political fan the cost is $US350 annually) looked at the figures after the final canvass by electoral officials. On the night the vote was called as 50.4% Obama to 48.1% Romney. Since the canvass it emerges that the final figure was Obama 51.06% to Romney 47.21? – a shift from a 2.3% win to a 3.8% win. read more

Communication certainties

There are two certainties in the communications business: first, that whenever the subject of communication comes up in any organisation everyone in the room is an expert; second, that whenever anything starts to go wrong everyone says the organisation is not communicating well enough.

 How this paradox comes to pass when everyone is an expert has always been a puzzle to me. Generally the answer to the puzzle is that the self-styled experts are not so expert or they are in denial about some more fundamental problem. But it isn’t any the less of a puzzle to me with the departure of Ted Baillieu as Victorian Premier, allegedly because of his failure to communicate the Government’s achievements and narrative. read more

Taking a break – but some odds and sods before then

The blog is taking a break for a few weeks while we travel to places with poor Internet connections (yes Virginia they do exist!).

 But before we go a few odds and sods

 Never trust the conventional wisdom or PR shorthand for market trends

 At the start or 2012 the markets were full of doom and gloom. Analysts and pundits listed all the problems – from the debt cliff to Europe – which would ruin us all. The outcome, despite the predictions, was that markets achieved their best performance since before the Great Recession. Now, one year on the analysts are talking about the ‘great rotation’ from bonds etc etc etc to equities as investors will shift their investment behaviour. read more

A grand old party

“The Republican Party must be known as a progressive organisation or it is sunk. I believe that so emphatically that I think far from appeasing or reasoning with the dyed-in-the-wool reactionary fringe we should completely ignore it and when necessary, repudiate it.”

 Clearly not the views of a Fox News commentator but an interesting view of the GOP even if it is now more than half a century old. The comments were by a Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower, who would no doubt be regarded as a RINO by the Tea Party. It sits well with his more famous comments about the ‘military-industrial complex’ although that comment was expressed in a speech while the view of the GOP was contained in his diaries and cited in Jean Edward Smith’s biography, Eisenhower in War and Peace. read more

Civility and a touch of class

Writing about Ann Wroe, The Economist obituaries editor, the other day reminded me of two acts of civility which stood out – for me at least – during 2012.

 One was an obituary of Eric Hobsbawm the Marxist historian and one was a tribute to him. The obit was in The Economist (4 October 2012) and the tribute was in the Financial Times (6 October 2012) by Weekly Standard writer Christopher Caldwell. Now neither the FT nor The Economist are left-wing rags, neither are even that keen on social democracy and Caldwell is not that keen on Barack Obama either, so how did they handle the death of a life-long British Communist Party member? read more

The cost of crises

There has been much research on the benefits of handling crises effectively but now there is new evidence about the cost of doing it badly.

 Tony Jaques, in his invaluable Managing Outcomes newsletter, has recently reported on a number of new studies and linked them to some older ones, to give insights into the consequences of not handling crises well. The full report can be found at  Jaques says: “A study by international law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Derringer examined 78 major reputation crises across 16 stock exchanges – including New York, London and Australia – and found not only a share price hit but an increased departure rate among executives in companies which were less able to resolve a crisis. The departure rate of senior executives from companies which suffered a share price hit averaged almost 10% within a year of the crisis breaking.  This increased to 15% among executives unable to steer their company’s share price back to previous levels within six months, but dropped to just 4% among those who did. read more

A must hear in Adelaide

The Adelaide Writers’ Week is always outstanding but this year’s program contains one exceptionally interesting speaker who might not get as much attention as other, higher profile, writers.

 The writer is Ann Wroe, The Economist obituary editor and writer of many of the obits. The Economist obits are a delight – a great example of how simple, elegant, witty and cerebral writing is still possible in the modern media.  She was also the paper’s US editor in the Clinton years. read more

Why no comments?

Have had a few queries about why there is no comment function on the blog. It’s because the function is switched off. The problem is that I  have neither the time nor inclination to moderate comments and, from my experience with the crikey column, such moderation is essential. Sorry.