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  • Eddie McGuire school of public relations: what to do when journos do their job?

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    On February 8, 2017 • By

    Andrew Butler
    June 22, 2016

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  • Communicating in a Crisis: Our wires are more than crossed – they’re lying on the ground in a tangled mess

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    On February 8, 2017 • By

    Andrew Butler
    September 30, 2016

    ctk2lkhuaaaoitcWe now know that 23 power pylons, the backbone of South Australia’s electricity distribution, buckled under the force of an unprecedented weather event, plunging the state into darkness.

    Over 80,000 lightning strikes hit South Australia, some striking a power station and the two interconnectors to Victoria which could supply power to South Australia in a shortage, shut down automatically to protect the national system from long-term damage.

    This has brought to the fore some vital lessons about communicating in a crisis.

    First, don’t jump the gun. Often in a crisis, one of the first tasks is getting to the root cause of the problem. Your key goals early in a crisis are to demonstrate to your key stakeholders that you’re a) on top of the problem, and then b) that you’re well on the way to fixing it and eventually c) you’re working to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Identifying the problem and getting on top of it, can take some time.

    So until you don’t know, don’t guess. And be open – you don’t know, but you’re working hard to find out.

    Secondly, many of your key stakeholders may be quite comfortable guessing at the cause – doing so quite publicly. Malcolm Turnbull, energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, ABC journalist Chris Ulman and several others made a go of joining the dots between the blackout and renewable energy. Even the radical centrist Nick Xenaphon, normally a bastion of common sense, was making mention of the renewable mix in his explanation of Wednesday’s mess.

    In these cases, it’s necessary to counter the misinformation, as Premier Jay Weatherill did, and repeat as often as needed. Complicating Weatherill’s task was a second storm front and a raft of other problems still being rectified from the first front. In this context, it was more than a little opportunistic for outsiders to be lobbing criticism and blame while emergency services were still battling challenges and South Australians prepared for a second battering.

    Thirdly, don’t let the blame game distract you from the main game. Look after those at risk, those who have been injured and their families.

    So while opportunists were pointing the finger, the Premier was hitting the airwaves and social media channels, providing updates on weather warnings, crisis relief centres, school closures and flood warnings. And of course, from the outset, he was praising emergency services and the community at large for their efforts.

    Lastly, for natural events of this scale, it’s often difficult conveying the severity of the event; illustrating that it is indeed a crisis, not just an inconvenience. Many stakeholders have an expectation that major infrastructure and services ought to be able to withstand natural disasters. Yet most design standards for built assets have their limit – a necessity if our infrastructure is to be built at a costs that’s not prohibitive. Sooner or later, those limits are inevitably tested. Balancing those expectations and knowing where the line is between underprepared and unlucky is difficult. Again – it’s an argument that forms part of the “who’s to blame discussion” and best left to when the dust has literally settled.

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  • Campaign behind referendum will need to address hard truths

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    On February 8, 2017 • By

    Andrew Butler
    April 6, 2016

    One of our key values at Etched is integrity. While we’re hardly going to embrace the opposite (though some Panamanian Law firms seem to have made a fortune from that offering) it is still an indispensable value to uphold in public relations.

    More than acting with integrity, we’ve identified it as a value because it is a core and constant pursuit. For integrity – and the supporting pillars of truth and honesty – is central to any advice we give to clients.

    Take the process of developing campaign messaging for instance.

    At its heart, this process is about finding the inherent truths in your argument that will resonate with your stakeholders, that will persuade them, and/or move them into action. It’s a process best done arm in arm with the development of visual creatives as the two are intertwined in any integrated campaign.

    To have integrity, the messages must try to present the whole truth, or at very least not conveniently omit a major fundamental truth.

    So as the nation continues to mull over the pending referendum on constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians, there are some fundamental truths we must come to terms with. And all signs to date suggest those truths will be hard to bear for much of the community.

    The Daily Tele led furor over UNSW’s suggested changes to language used to describe Australia’s colonization from settlement to invasion. Clearly the Tele and many conservative commentators were riled. It does beg the question – why?

    Equally Stan Grant’s speech last year, while widely applauded, was revolutionary for its truthfulness on issues that each of us, frankly, ought already to know as truths – albeit shameful.

    And the events that Grant chose to introduce in that speech – the sustained booing of Adam Goodes in the 2015 AFL season still divides fans – many of whom still insist their booing was motivated by Goode’s arrogance as a player – not by the colour of his skin. Dig a little deeper, and ask the same fans why they consider Goodes arrogant and it generally has roots in the fact that he’s dared to stand up for himself and his culture.

    The discussion around the referendum will need to address our forefather’s most shameful acts. We’ve apologized for the stolen generation but even that isn’t the darkest part of our history. For it is this context that helps us understand the plight of today’s indigenous people.

    Indigenous Australians were massacred, hunted, imprisoned, dispossessed and more. Australia’s colonisation – its invasion – was often bloody and far from peaceful. Yet few of us really understand it and it’s seemingly still vehemently denied.

    If in the campaign for constitutional recognition is to have integrity – we can not ignore those truths, however painful they may be.

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  • Hello world!

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    On November 15, 2015 • By

    Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!

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