Archive for January, 2011

Flood of Compassion – Turning Crisis Into Opportunity

queensland floods
Queensland has just survived the biggest natural disaster since the floods of 1974, and even Publicity Queen experienced power outages and disruptions to our regular business operations, although thankfully we were spared inundation, stock loss and property damage.  Sadly for many local businesses this was not the case, and the road to recovery has begun in earnest.

It has been interesting watching the local people of Brisbane rally around to get this city back on its feet, but even more fascinating – in public relations terms – has been the response by the corporate sector to this disaster.

While some insurers have stuck to the letter of the contracts of their insurance cover, and refused to make payments to flood-affected people and businesses despite serious personal hardship, others have gone above and beyond and shown genuine corporate compassion (yes, such a thing does exist) and extended a hand-up to their fellow Queenslanders.

There are many examples I could cite here, but I would briefly like to applaud the efforts of Suncorp and Westpac in this area.

Suncorp took the extraordinary foresight in 2008 to extend automatic flood cover to all of its domestic insurance policy holders, and has taken a proactive approach in assisting its customers with seeking their insurance payouts, and used timely radio spots to reach as many people as possible to explain the how to access their assistance.  Suncorp’s website also features a well-designed and informative “flood facts” section, with practical and timely advice on how to make a claim.

Westpac, similarly, took the altruistic line, offering its affected customers assistance in the form of optional waivers of mortgage repayments and credit card payments for up to three months for those worst affected by the floods; and Chair Gail Kelly even made the extraordinary statement that in some cases, mortgages could be waived for some customers.

These big companies have certainly led the way, and their efforts have been supported by business across the State and across the country, where jars collecting funds for the flood appeal seem to be in every bank, shop and cafe that you go to.

This is not just human decency at work, it makes smart business sense.  The public relations bounce that will be felt by companies like Suncorp and Westpac will be felt long after the floodwaters have subsided, the mud has been cleaned up, and life has returned to normal.   Queenslanders and customers elswhere will remember which companies, big and small, stood by their long-time customers in their time of need. 

As Queensland drags itself, literally, out of the mud, it is comforting to know that many members of our business community are taking a big-hearted approach to the disaster, generating goodwill for their own brands, and consolidating their market position at the same time. 

Publicity QueenYours in PR

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Biggest PR Disasters of 2010

Australia's biggest PR Disasters for 2010
According to PR analyst and author Gerry McCusker, the brains behind www.prdisasters.com, it’s official… drumroll please!  The Qantas A380 engine blast has been named the worst Australian PR disaster of 2010.

The scandal surrounding The Canberra Raiders and one of their player’s ‘relationship’ with a dog, the Commonwealth Bank’s premium interest rate hike and the David Jones sexual  assault case were just some of the diverse incidents to make the year’s definitive list of PR gaffes.

Celebrities Stephanie Rice, Matthew Newton and Lara Bingle also hit the headlines for the wrong reasons in 2010.  The awards highlight the worst examples of business, celebrity, government, media and sports gaffes. For the first time, the results have included PR disasters in both traditional and online media, including social media spaces, showing the increasing prominence of this channel as a legitimate platform for the dissemination of information.

According to Gerry McCusker and his partner on this project, Bree Dwyer from online and social media monitoring agency Cyber Chatter, in order to qualify as a PR disaster, the incident must catalyse sustained, negative media coverage for the brand, business or person at the centre of the story.

So, without further ado, Australia’s Top 10 PR Disasters for 2010 were in descending order (meaning the biggest disaster first):

1. Qantas – A380 fleet consecutive engine issues and passenger delays
2. Commonwealth Bank ‐ premium interest rate hikes
3. Labor Party ‐ corporate backlash against the proposed ‘super tax’
4. Melbourne Storm ‐ salary cap scandal
5. Stephanie Rice ‐ homophobic comments posted via Twitter
6. Canberra Raiders ‐ Joel Monaghan’s bad taste photo with a dog
7. Virgin Blue – reservations and check‐in system crash
8. Matthew Newton ‐ after alleged assault of then partner Rachel Taylor in Italy
9. David Jones – CEO sexual assault scandal
10. Lara Bingle ‐ media relations following split with Michael Clark

One can’t help thinking that if the poll for this year had already begun, that the photo scandal involving St Kilda players and indecent photographs taken on tour and then posted onto the internet would certainly have rated highly already.  And one wonders about the glaring omission of Queensland Minister for Health Paul Lucas’ mis-handling of the Queensland health workers’ pay fiasco – surprising that this did not rate a mention?

Certainly in the case of Qantas and Virgin Blue, there are definitely lessons here in terms of maintaining core standards of business efficiency, core business operations and risk management; while others on the list merely demonstrate the power of a few poorly-chosen words, tweeted in haste, with dire and career-long consequences.

It is worth taking the time, when contemplating any public expression even of private opinions, that your remarks have an audience far wider than you might first imagine and that once you press ‘send’, there is no way to snatch back those thoughts best kept to yourself.  In other words, think before you tweet.

Publicity QueenYours in PR

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