By Benjamin Haslem
Your choice of words and the emotional response it elicits in the reader can either make your message highly effective or a disaster.
The meme at left was posted by a friend on Facebook.
It was originally posted by a group called Young Mums.
I am the father of a boy who is severely allergic to peanuts. He has to carry an epipen with him. One peanut consumed, without a shot of adrenaline from the epipen, could kill him. Thankfully, we have never had to use the epipen.
So I came to the meme with a certain lack of objectivity.
I am also a passionate opponent of the anti-vaccination movement, which poses a grave risk to public health.
My initial take on the meme was one of anger. To my eyes it was cheapening the risk posed to some children by peanuts.
The words "because someone might be allergic" smacks of condescension or a sense that people are being put out or inconvenienced, especially when contrasted with the message below.
It also suggests the danger posed by peanuts is not very high or even exaggerated.
However, my friend argued that he read it as along the lines of (to paraphrase) "why is it that as a school community we can organise to ensure our playgrounds are safe for kids with peanut allergies but we can't make parents vaccinate their kids?".
That's a reasonable interpretation for someone who doesn't have a child with a peanut allergy.
But the problem with the meme is that the choice of language doesn't convey that message.
By Benjamin Haslem
The recent decision by the Biennale of Sydney to reject private sponsorship from Transfield is another example of doing something because it makes you feel good and not because it will deliver any tangible benefits.
I've lost count of the number of times I've cautioned a client against taking a particular course of action with the words: "It may make you feel good but...".
When planning any communication activity it is important to understand who your stakeholders are, their interests in an issue, their expectations, their level of influence and how they are likely to react to particular actions.
By Benjamin Haslem
A friend shared this image (left) on Facebook yesterday as part of her efforts to fight plans to build three coal export terminals at Abbot Point in Queensland. The development will include the dredging of 3 million cubic metres of sludge, or spoil – which will be dumped in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
I'm not here to take sides in this debate - primarily because I'm not across all the facts.
But what piqued my interest in the above image were what appear to be skyscrapers on the horizon.
The image was originally posted on Facebook with the following text:
"This is as ugly as it gets. Dredging 40km off the Great Barrier Reef occurring NOW just to make money for coal mining. This Government stinks."
The wording implies the photograph is of the actual dredging occurring 40km off the Great Barrier Reef now.
But there is nowhere off the Great Barrier Reef that would have skyscrapers in the distance. The Reef does not extend as far south as the high-rise lined Gold Coast, on the far southern coast of Queensland.
And Port Abbot is near Bowen in North Queensland.
So using Google's search by image function, I was able to quickly determine the photograph is from work being conducted on Palm Island in Dubai.
If you're going to use social media as part of your campaign for change it is crucial you be accurate and honest.
This goes for any communication effort.
If you lose credibility by posting images or making claims that are not backed up by the facts, people will quickly turn off and the people whose attitudes you are trying to change will not engage.
All the original poster of this image needed to write was:
"This is as ugly as it gets. Dredging off the coast of Dubai. This is also what is happening now, 40km off the Great Barrier Reef, just to make money for coal mining. This Government stinks."
Nevertheless, the original post has had over 5000 shares in two days.
Wells Haslem has helped its client, the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, produce a short video documenting the Church's amazing efforts feeding hundreds of firefighters working on the devastating bushfires that ravaged parts of New South Wales, Australia, recently.
Over seven days 350 volunteers from the Church served up to 1600 meals per day.
Thousands of firefighters, other emergency personnel, council workers and media were served 24 hours a day.
The Church's Rapid Relief Team (RRT) supplied 99,000 litres of bulk water.
In the first four days, half of the food and drinks were delivered by the RRT directly to the frontline.
Donations of food and drinks were received from Coles, Woolworths, Joe’s Meats, local butchers, bakeries & Penrith Party Hire.
Hinchinbrook Public School donated a cool room of food and drinks.
The video was shot mostly by Church members. Wells Haslem CEO Benjamin Haslem then worked with video producer, Phil Donnison, to pull the footage together in the video above.
Click through to the Church's YouTube channel and see other videos Ben and Phil helped produced for the Church.
By Benjamin Haslem
The team at Wells Haslem has been involved in at least half a dozen benchmarking studies of senior Federal and State Ministers, their shadows, MPs, chiefs of staff, advisers, senior public servants and political journalists.
These qualitative and quantitative surveys have helped us develop 11 rules of effective advocacy to government, which we use in all our government relations work.
1. Operate inside the tent
If you'll excuse the colourful language, US President Lyndon Johnson once said of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover: “It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in”.
This applies to good government advocacy.
It’s better to be inside the tent working with government than standing outside picking a fight. Go in the front door.
Try to work with people. Don’t pick a public fight over a disagreement with government or opposition. Go and talk to them.
So many companies and organisations mistakenly think the best way to get a government to do something is to try and shame them publicly through the media.
2. Establish rapport
Establish and nurture relationships. Don’t just go and see ministers relevant to your business when you need something.
3. Offer solutions not problems
If you have a problem don’t speak to MPs without having a solution.
Do the thinking for them.
4. Be Realistic
Don’t ask for something you know the government can’t deliver.
Don’t use ambit claims. Go in with what you want.
5. Use evidence not assertions
All government policy is now evidentiary based so you must get away from political assertions.
Government departments often have studies showing the opposite to what you assert.
Go equip with independent studies that demonstrate how your ask will help government by delivering cost savings, better health outcomes etc.
6. Work within Government agenda
You would never propose socialism to Tony Abbott or David Cameron or universal healthcare to a Tea Party-backed GOP congressman.
And remember political parties' agendas change. The Australian Labor Party has long dropped
its blanket opposition to privatisation; the Liberal Party now supports Medicare.
7. Public good not private benefits
Stress how your ask will benefit others.
Don’t appear disingenuous; acknowledge the benefit for you and your organisation.
Governments want to be able to sell public benefits so it can wins votes.
8. Recruit allies and 3rd party endorsement
Independent support dilutes perceptions of self-interest.
The government also knows it risks independent criticism if it refuses to help
And if or when you take your case to the media it is more credible and therefore places more pressure on government.
9. Build a credible public profile
Always, not just at times you are seeking government assistance or support.
For example, seek out opportunity to promote your company or organisation’s sustainability credentials.
10. Present your case professionally
Rehearse your pitch to ministers, advisers and so on.
Have a leave-behind briefing paper and other materials but don't overwhelm.
Try and anticipate questions and have answers ready.
Follow up with z thank you note and ask: “did we answer all your questions?”.
11. Say thanks and give some credit
When the Government delivers on your request, it's good form to acknowledge publicly via a media release; even if you don't get everything you asked for.
It's amazing how often this is not done.
1. Is Social Media Stifling Political Debate?