By Benjamin Haslem
(The following post is adapted from a webinar delivered to members of the Public Relations Institute of Australia [PRIA], by our Co-CEO Benjamin Haslem)
Government is a major stakeholder, with the potential to impact you or your operations – both negatively or positively.
And if ever the time comes when you need the government’s assistance, it’s far more likely you will get an audience, let alone an outcome, if they know you.
For that reason, it is necessary to develop good long-term relationships with key decision makers and to establish contact early and maintain it regularly, not merely pressing government at times of need.
The first is the political arm. The politicians – the Government, Opposition, minor parties and independents (who in Canberra currently carry a lot of weight) and politicians’ advisers, known as staffers.
The second is what we broadly refer to as the Bureaucracy – Government departments, agencies, regulators, government-owned enterprises.
Both these groups operate across all levels of government – Federal, State and to a much smaller extent, local government.
So why communicate with them?
By Kathy Lindsay
Our experience is that a properly-planned and thought-out communications strategy significantly increases the likelihood that your objectives will be met. And within an acceptable cost. Although a communications strategy takes time (around one month through refinement and sign-off), future activities determined by the strategy will be more efficiently and confidently undertaken.
A communication strategy will:
1. Determine your objectives
The success of the strategy is measured against achievements of the objectives.
2. Analyse issues
An issue is an unsettled matter impacting on - or potentially impacting on - the attainment of objectives.
It is crucial to the successful implementation of a communications strategy that issues are identified and tactics developed to manage those issues.
3. Know your stakeholders
A comprehensive stakeholder analysis will inform the strategic approach used to achieve your objectives.
The successful implementation will require the careful management of a broad range of stakeholders with competing interests and levels of influence.
Stakeholders must be identified, communicated with, listened to and understood.
In undertaking a stakeholder analysis it will be necessary to determine:
4. Agree on key messages
Getting the key messages right is crucial as they convey the essence of communication. In a sense, they are what communication is all about; ensuring that what you mean is understood by others.
Messages encapsulate the key points or themes you wish to communicate to your audience about you and your organisation, your activities, policies, initiatives, needs and wants.
When they are received and understood, they represent the point at which you begin to exert influence in your communication, whether you are trying to raise awareness, shape opinion, or change behaviour.
5. Develop a strategic approach
With the establishment of clear objectives and identification of issues and stakeholder expectations, you can develop a broad strategic approach to underpin the whole strategy and its implementation.
6. List activities and a timeline for implementation
The strategic approach will guide what you do and in what order and will inform an accurate pricing of the work in terms of hours spent on implementation.
How many of those activities you actually undertake will depend on available resources (financial and personnel). Some will be crucial to achieving your objectives, others will be nice to have but not essential.
7. Refine your budget
As decisions are made about the level and extent of activity you undertake regarding the final strategy, budgets can be further refined.
Wells Haslem is a member of the IPREX global communications network, through which our clients can access 1,800 staff in 112 offices worldwide.
Michael Schröder, CEO of ORCA Affairs and Global President of IPREX, was quoted recently in New Business, the influential German communications magazine for agencies and clients.
Michael was asked to comment on networks versus owner-run companies and pointed to a third model: international agency networks consisting of owner-run agencies.
"For many agencies worldwide, belonging to a communications holding (company) such as Omnicom, WPP or Havas is not necessary since networks of owner-run agencies such as IPREX offer the same advantages. The core question is: how can agencies do justice to the growing demand of international expertise? What does my agency, what do my employees and my clients need? I would even ask: what is the essence of my agency work? Is it to increase the shareholder value of my owner, is it to constantly keep an eye on my holding or is it my clients’ success?
"This is where international networks of owner-run agencies such as IPREX enter the picture. The mission is committing to the value of successful and efficient state-of-the-art communication on the highest level. It is not to create dependencies for the agency and its clients.
"In a holding (company), the struggle between the different international member agencies for the shareholders’ favour is not necessarily in favour of the client.
"For networks of owner-run agencies, the opposite is the case: the cooperation in IPREX between 69 partner agencies with 112 offices in 36 countries is not marked by shareholder values or dominance. The network reflects the DNA of the member agencies: independence, entrepreneurship, quality, trust and flexibility. These values make us partners on a par with our clients. We are global, but are not subject to the negative management effects of globalization.
"Networks such as IPREX are a platform constantly shaped and designed by its members."
3 May 2016
Sydney public relations and government affairs company, Wells Haslem Strategic Public Affairs, has boosted its Asian credentials recruiting Kathy Lindsay, who has extensive communications experience working in Japan, Thailand and Indonesia in banking, mining and energy.
Kathy’s recruitment will be complemented by the recent hiring of University of Sydney graduate, Timothy Mantiri, who combines a passion for politics and public relations with a fluency in Bahasa Indonesia.
Kathy was previously head of internal communications, Asia-Pacific, at Lehman Brothers, Tokyo (2004-08) where she was member of corporate transition team during Nomura Holding’s acquisition of the global banking giant.
Following the takeover, Kathy was appointed vice president, group corporate communications at Nomura, managing the Tokyo headquarters’ liaison with non-Japanese news organizations in Japan and with international media in the Asia-Pacific, Europe and the US.
From 1997-2001, Kathy was Executive director at the Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok, where she increased the chamber’s membership by 25 per cent to 254 corporate and individual members during the Asian economic crisis.
Kathy’s most recent role was as business development manager, energy, utilities & mining sector at PwC Indonesia in Jakarta (2012-15).
Kathy returned to Australia late last year with her journalist husband, Peter Alford, at the completion of his tour of duty as The Australian newspaper’s Indonesia Correspondent.
Kathy has previously worked as an adviser to then Victoria Premier, Jeff Kennett and NSW Environment Minister, Chris Hartcher.
Wells Haslem Chairman, John Wells, said Kathy joining Wells Haslem was like welcoming back an old friend.
“Kathy worked with me at Wells Haslem’s predecessor, Jackson Wells, from 1995-97 and again from 2001-03,” John said.
“We had no hesitation offering Kathy a position at Wells Haslem; she brings an extraordinary level of expertise working in three key Asian markets across a range of industries.
“Kathy’s deep understanding of the cultural nuances of three major Asian nations will be invaluable to local businesses and organisation wishing to communicate with other businesses, media and governments in a rapidly growing region.
“It will also help businesses and organisations in South East Asia wishing to expand into the Australian market.”
Wells Haslem CEO, Benjamin Haslem, said Tim Mantiri’s keen interest in both politics and public relations made him an ideal fit for the company.
“Tim already has experience working as a volunteer for the Liberal Party and the LNP on the 2013 Federal Election; 2015 Queensland election and the 2015 NSW election,” Benjamin said.
“He was the Communications Director at the Sydney University Liberal Club from 2013-14.”
Tim, whose parents were born in Indonesia, has a Bachelor of Political, Economic and Social Sciences, from the University of Sydney; where he is currently completing a Master of Strategic Public Relations.
By Isabelle Walker
The Republican Candidacy always has its share of colourful characters, but rarely are they the consistent frontrunner.
Donald Trump continues to surprise. The Presidential Candidate is sitting at the top of the polling for the Presidential Primaries (25.3 per cent) and not showing any signs of slowing down, despite the fact that any credible political reporter wrote him off from the get-go.
His closest adversary, Ben Carson, is a point behind. From there, the next Republican Candidate is Marco Rubio, polling at around 11 per cent. The establishment favourite, Jeb Bush, is languishing on 5.5 per cent.
To a politico, Trump’s success is a mystery. He has not one shred of political experience. He openly declares that Mexico has given America a generation of ‘rapists and murderers’ coming across the border. He headed a public campaign that seriously questioned whether Barack Obama was born in the USA. He is also seriously sexist. The man should not be considered a genuine candidate for President.
Even so, he continues to gain ground and popularity. Perhaps the fatigue of career politicians has taken its toll on an increasingly tired America. Maybe Trump is vocalising what a lot of Americans think. Maybe it’s just because his media coverage is so outstanding, some people can’t name another Republican candidate.
When Trump supporters are asked about why they support him, there are various reactions. “Trump is low risk, high reward”; “Trump is a Moderate compromiser”; “Trump is a corrective to American pathologies”; “Trump embodies the rage of the white middle class”; and Trump is stringently anti-establishment.
Over the weekend, Trump was the host of Saturday Night Live (SNL) – the stalwart of American comedy sketch shows. From all sides, the appearance was deemed a failure. The jokes, that could have easily skewered Trump, did nothing but feed his ego. He didn’t have much of a chance to laugh at himself, and apparently vetoed many of the ‘risque’ jokes. As the clip shows (below), his delivery was awkward and he was trying desperately to be funny.
The issue with Trump is that because he’s a joke to political buffs, critics don’t take the time to seriously question his credentials. Critics don’t even want to engage with his policies, let alone analyse them. But this is to their peril, because Trump appears to be getting through to a lot of average Americans. He represents the American dream of success and riches, and he’s had his own reality show to boot.
The only way to stop this runaway train of success is to stop thinking Trump is a joke and start to take him seriously. If an Austrian blockbuster movie star can become the Governor of California, it is not a stretch that a flamboyant billionaire can make it to the White House. But how will he combat ISIS and maintain diplomacy with myriad competing interests? Will he repeal Obamacare and restrict women’s reproductive rights? How exactly will he be the ‘greatest jobs President God ever created’? Will he actually build ‘the wall’?
The sooner Trump is taken down once and for all through effective criticism of his policy credentials and questionable beliefs, the sooner a serious conversation can be had about who will potentially be the next leader of the free world.
In the mid-1960s, two US National Bureau of Standards employees warned in an article for the ACM journal of the ‘’information explosion” and how storing and handling this data would become a major challenge in the future.
Now, 50 years later, everyone is talking about the “new” big data hype and its importance for both governments and companies worldwide. However, with so many of us jumping on the bandwagon, it is time to take a look at the actual usefulness of big data, as well as its benefits and limitations - especially when it comes to public relations.
Covering the constantly-expanding world of big data can be overwhelming. Ever tried to follow the big data hashtag on Twitter? The rapid speed of updates will make your head spin. But where did that trend come from? The term was arguably coined by Gartner analyst Douglas Laney who defined big data by the growing amount of information available, the high speed at which the data is generated and processed and finally by the increasing variety of sources and types of data material.
With digital technology and new media platforms taking over, so much more information is being produced and collected, creating modern treasure boxes filled with data. Every article read online, every purchase, every transaction, every communication, every click exchange leaves a trace of information behind. With the change in the type of data becoming available to organisations, it is important to reduce or filter these datasets in order to make sense of their complexity. Imagine this to be like a digital version of IKEA self-serve warehouse, where certain data has to be picked up from a number of different shelves to analyse it and put it together to create meaningful insights. With the right tools, an appropriate understanding of statistics and computing skills, the less important noise can be blocked out and profound conclusions can be drawn from the data. The insights gained can be used to identify patterns and to make a more informed decision - for example: when, where and how to communicate.
The more dynamic the industry setting (or settings, for that matter) a company operates in, the more important it is to monitor and measure content and data, if possible in real-time, to communicate more effectively. It can help to predict and identify trends before they hit their peak in the media world. It can help to with pitching for work, because the campaigns that are being developed and the stories that are being told will be backed by substantial data. For those working in PR, it is important to understand stakeholders and if possible, how they can be brought to maintain or change a certain point of view. Using a data-driven approach it is now possible to identify opinions, how they change over time and how they affect PR activities. Analytics can also be used to assess performances and point out weak areas in a communication strategy.
Sounds great so far. Now, where are the downsides?
Many businesses still lack the capabilities for dealing with big datasets – maybe because they do not have the resources to hire someone with the right skills, maybe because they are intimidated by trying to find the needle in this haystack of information. Another reasons could be the technical issue of where to store all the information or choosing the right program for interpreting and visualising the data. Decision-makers may become frustrated because it takes hours or days to get answers to questions, if at all. Making even a minor mistake can lead to false conclusions and a lack of accuracy in predictions and it becomes more difficult to find out where an error has been made later on when big datasets are involved. While correlations between information can be detected, it still takes the sound understanding of a human element to judge which correlations are actually meaningful. Big data can be used, for example, to show a correlative relationship between the consumption of sour cream (per half-pint, if that is of interest) and the number of motorcycle riders killed in non-collisional transport accidents in the United States. Another statistic shows an alleged correlation between the number of global, non-commercial space launches and the number of sociology doctorates being awarded. Conclusions based on data suggesting two trends seem to occur at the same time should be drawn with care.
So where does this leave us?
At the end of the day, big is a trend that is here to stay – and that is good. Companies, especially PR businesses, should seriously look into the opportunities large scale information analysis has to offer them and what can be gained by making use of statistical methods. It might just be the key to unlocking a few doors in terms of stakeholder insights. Big Data should not be ignored or overlooked in decision-making in favour of an unspecific gut feeling.
However, data analytics is not yet a patent remedy and still needs careful judgement and informed handling before using it to solve problems.
By Robert Masters
Director - Robert Masters & Associates*
Circling the wagons is fast becoming the common idiom for governments and corporations today.
It means that you stop communicating with people who don't think the same way as you. You want to avoid their ideas.
In business, it is often an indication that you are losing your competitive edge and need to re-think your engagement strategies. This thinking shares the common theme of providing a defense from circumstances that can seem overwhelming when, in reality, it is not the case.
Adopting this head-in-the-sand approach sees governments and companies becoming paralysed in engaging with stakeholders and in taking a leadership role in a debate.
Communities throughout the world are now seeking leadership and forward thinking on issues and want to be engaged in the debate. However, governments, in particular, are steeped in the ‘old thinking’ of ‘testing the water’ with small sections of the community before putting leadership ideas to the broader community.
The Australian newspaper recently highlighted the issue when business, unions and community groups called on the federal government to give the nation ‘real reform’, rather than engage in a ‘race to the bottom’ of not doing anything. Former Treasurer Peter Costello also highlighted the issue in the Herald Sun.
The federal government should have a stakeholder engagement strategy in place to engage and lead the community on the reform agenda and highlight how it will be achieved.
Political strategists will ague that it is not prudent to telegraph desired outcomes too far in advance. This thinking highlights the weakness in the communication strategy and an understanding of the stakeholders.
Strong stakeholder engagement strategies allow you to adopt sound ideas, promote them and use them to strengthen the foundations of your agenda.
The frustrations of the current ‘circling the wagons’ approach defy its origins. In reality, the idiom was not about protection against attacks (by local Native Americans or outlaw gangs), but protection of livestock from wandering off.
If your stakeholder engagement strategy allows your ideas or agenda to ‘wander off’, those protecting it need to demonstrate there is no substitute for leadership. The adoption of sound stakeholder engagement strategies not only protects proposals (i.e. the livestock), but also adds to their value and appeal.
*Robert Masters & Associates is Wells Haslem's Melbourne affiliate
Journalists, particularly those in the Press Gallery, are often maligned for being out of touch with the rest of Australia (actually, it’s a criticism leveled at anyone who lives in Canberra – for the record I was born and raised there).
It’s not an unreasonable observation. Press Gallery journalists spend most of their days inside Parliament House and many live within a short distance, socialising in the nearby suburbs of Griffith and Kingston, home to many federal bureaucrats.
It’s not a reflection on the dedication or talents of the men and women who cover federal politics, more on the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne when Australia was federated in 1901, forcing the infant nation to build its capital from scratch on the banks of the Molonglo River.
Anyone working inside the Washington DC Beltway cops similar accusations of living in a fishbowl.
I recall arriving in Canberra on a January morning in 2003, having returned recently to The Australian’s Sydney bureau, to cover devastating bushfires that the afternoon before had razed more than 500 homes on the city’s western flank, injured 490 people and killed four.
Many Press Gallery reporters had no idea where the mysterious suburbs affected (Duffy, Holder, Rivett and Chapman) were in relation to the Parliamentary Triangle, let alone how to get there.
It’s against this background that I have pondered the influence of social media on political journalism and political debate more broadly.
Follow many political journalists’ tweets and one thing becomes apparent: they often respond to each other’s tweets. It’s literally a digital version of conversations I had in the pre-social media days with colleagues in the Press Gallery.
It’s hardly surprising. It’s been long-observed that we gravitate towards people who have similar interests and opinions to our own.
But what happens when our conversations are posted online for all to see (or at least those we have 'friended' and followed)?
What does it to political debate and opinion?
But if an organisation lacks a properly-designed and implemented system to communicate with staff those assumptions remain just that - assumptions.
Employees and managers that communicate well are an essential ingredient in a properly functioning organisation.
Organisational failure is often a result of a lack of a strategy reaching internal stakeholders at critical times.
To avoid this, key messages that align with organisational goals should be developed and shared with employees across the organisation from the CEO down.
Open, informative, honest and continual communication creates champions among an organisation’s workforce, which then advances the organisation’s mission and programs both internally and externally.
Platforms used to carry key messages can be varied and used to reach different internal stakeholders.
An intranet is a powerful and effective tool to communicate with staff but it is only useful if all staff have regular access to a work-based computer or tablet.
Staff who work outdoors or drive machinery will find an intranet’s utility lacking and many also have only sporadic access to emails and even text messages.
Older workers can find digital mediums intimidating and difficult to navigate.
The humble poster; newsletter, one-on-one face-to-face meeting and old-fashioned toolbox talk should never be overlooked.
By Isabelle Walker
As the gears begin to turn on the next Presidential Race, we thought we would go in depth into some common misconceptions, uncertainties, or complications associated with the beast that is US politics.
1. The President has less power than you might think
This was the way the Framers of the Constitution knew they could set themselves apart from the British system. The Framers did not want the President to have so much power that he (or she) could become tyrannical, like a Monarch. The Congress was to make laws, and the President was to exert his power only at times of crisis or war with an Executive Order. All other times, the President is seen as a figurehead, leading and informing the national psyche.
The President, however, is responsible for appointing Ambassadors, Chief Justices, and the White House Cabinet (think: Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security, Treasury Secretary, etc.)
2. The Electoral College
The Electoral College is the institution that officially elects the President. There are 538 electors in all, doled out to different states based on population. Each elector corresponds to: 435 Representatives, 100 Senators, and three electors from Washington D.C. The candidate who receives an absolute majority (270) from the Electoral College is named President.
If a Candidate receives the majority of the electoral votes in one state, they receive all the votes of that state. For example, if Obama was to receive 13 of a possible 25 electoral votes in one state, and Romney 12, Obama would have taken all 25 votes.***
This makes large swing states vital in the Presidential race.
It also means a candidate can secure a minority of the national primary vote but still win the keys to the Oval Office.
***Maine and Nebraska employ a “Congressional District Method”. This means the States give their district votes to the winner of the popular vote in that district. The two Senate votes go to the winner of the state-wide vote.
3. The Congress is: the House of Representatives and the Senate
A ‘congressman’ in American can refer to either a representative or a senator. The Congress is both houses of government, charged with making the laws of the land. You may have also heard of ‘committees’? These act as panels of review for every facet of law making, from appropriations, to defence, to education, and to ways and means.
A Bill must pass through the House, the Senate, and survive the Committee process. By the time a Bill has passed all these hurdles, it is normally hugely different to what it looked like when it was first introduced to Congress. Even then, after all this rigmarole, the President can veto the Bill.
4. You can’t get fired from the Supreme Court
Once someone is made a US Chief Justice, they have that entitlement for life. They are more than able to step down from the position if they would like to, but Chief Justice is a tenured position. This is the reason why Presidents are eager to appoint Chief Justices if they have the opportunity – once their term is over, their interests are represented in the Supreme Court for years to come.
This contrasts with Australian High and Federal Court justices, who must retire when they reach 70 years of age. This is set out in the constitution.
5. The Donkey and the Elephant
The Donkey and the Elephant are two enduring symbols of US politics, representing the Democrats and the Republicans respectively. But where do they find their origins in US History?
The Donkey became a symbol around the time of the Presidential election between John Quincy Adams (R) and Andrew Jackson (D). Adams’ campaign named Jackson a ‘jackass’, comparing him to a ‘stubborn, dumb donkey.’ Jackson, not to be perturbed by the slur, turned the derogatory comment into political gold. He pointed out the ‘jackass’ had the virtues of: “persistence, loyalty, and the ability to carry a heavy load”. Thus the Democratic symbol was born and has endured.
The Elephant symbol for the Republican Party first appeared as a rally cry for Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. ‘Seeing the Elephant’ was a popular phrase that meant to engage in battle. The two symbols endured through the work of political cartoonist, Thomas Nast, who used the animals to personify the parties in his satire and political comment.
Need to know anything else as we embark on the road to November 2016? Leave a comment!
1. Is Social Media Stifling Political Debate?