Friday, November 30, 2007

The Eight Closely-Guarded Media Secrets of the Australian Federal Election - First published 20th Oct 2004

By Thomas Murrell MBA, CSP - International Business Speaker

What are the skills required, to not only get people to like and respect you, but to elect you to positions of power.

In Australia, the John Howard-led government has just been swept into office for a record fourth term.

Later this year, Mr Howard will overtake former Labor leader Bob Hawke as Australia's second longest serving Prime Minister behind Sir Robert Menzies.

As George Bush and John Kerry battle it out in the US, how did Howard persuade the Australian people to vote for him in increasing numbers during a period on uncertainty and change?

Besides pledging A$6.5 billion in election promises, they were very clever about how they managed the media.

They were able to persuade and influence large numbers of people because the media provided the channel to get their message across to the masses.

Here are the 8 closely-guarded media secrets of what the Howard government did to win the Australian Election:

1. Clarity of Message

Howard focused on the BIG issue of the election .... interest rates. While Labor leader Mark Latham admitted to having "a thumping big mortgage" of his own, he failed to convince the Australian public of his ability to manage the economy.

In a post-election interview, Mr Latham even confessed ... "obviously, economic policy is an area where we need to improve our stance and credentials."

What are the big issues you need clarity of communication on for your life, work or business?

2. Consistency of Message

John Howard never deviated from the message about having a strong track record in economic management.

He stayed "on message" and wouldn't be taken off guard by "red herrings".

It is easy to get "off message" in an election campaign. Just ask US Presidential hopeful, John Kerry.

The International Herald Tribune on October 19th reported that after 4.5 hours and 45,000 words delivered in three detailed and substantial debates with George Bush, one remark may derail Kerry in his final days. In his pitch, he noted Dick Chaney's daughter was a lesbian. Republicans were quick to pounce on this calling it an invasion of privacy, a personal insult and a crass political calculation that may backfire, claiming Kerry "will say and do anything to be elected".

In media interviews and speeches, be disciplined to stay on message.

3. Constancy of Message

There's a little known fact about the visual imagery John Howard uses to deliver a solid, patriotic and constant personal brand.

If you look carefully at Howard's photograph on his publicity material, the backdrop to his media conferences and in his stage presentations, you'll notice one constant sign.

What is it? Well, it is the Australian flag, always appearing over his right shoulder. But the flag is always folded in a special way, showing one corner of the Union Jack and the largest of the stars of the Southern Cross.

Clever, subtle and powerful. What non-verbal signals do you want to communicate about your personal brand?

4. Continuity of Message

How does continuity and constancy differ? Constancy relates to frequency, continuity relates to a planned and strategic approach to managing your message.

Howard was deliberate, rehearsed and measured when dealing with the media.

Latham made policy on the run. His most infamous (and some would say both defining and damaging) was to pull Australian troops out of Iraq before Christmas after a suggestion by a talk-back radio caller.

Writing in his 'Sunday Times' newspaper column on October 17th 2004, journalist Matt Price summed it up this way: "it was a wrong decision and terrible way to make such an important call, raising doubts about his capability to govern."

5. Credibility of Message

One of the recurring media images of John Howard is of him in the early morning on his daily power walk briskly followed by security agents.

While Latham, aged 43 years talked about "being in his prime" and "ready to govern", Howard at 65 years old was out there doing it.

He has stuck to his daily routine for many years regardless of weather, location, crisis, distractions, protesters or sickness in his family. He literally "walked his talk", adding credibility to his message he is not ready to step down as Prime Minister.

6. Congruency of Message

Your media message must match your behaviour and core values.

The Labor Party, representing traditional blue collar timber workers, sent a wrong message to swinging voters when the media showed footage of Latham in the back of a car sneaking in the back way to negotiate with environmentalists about logging in old growth forests.

This was in stark contrast to Howard two days later shaking hands with smiling forestry workers over a compromised deal.

7. Control of the Message

Both parties took the regular Canberra Press Gallery out of their comfort zone, often keeping them in the dark over where they were heading for the day during the election.

In the past, politicians and the media traveled together allowing for more informal interaction.

This time they traveled separately, even in different planes, totally controlling access to the leaders and therefore what they could report on.

8. Communication Connection

In this election, because of the instant communication of messages and information via the media (including SMS and Internet), local stories could become national stories.

This backfired for Labor because their local candidate for a marginal seat in Perth let slip during a local ABC talkback radio debate certain people may be worse off under their policies.

Soon a local story became a national one as the party went into damage control.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Seizing Business Opportunities

Pictured below with Michael Hollyman, Managing Director of Musicway Corporation in Victoria and Dato' Ng Jui Sia, Chief Exectutive Officer of Times Publishing Limited in Singapore.

Taken at the Times Publishing Limited Annual Business Planning Conference for 2007/2008.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bindeez Toy Recall Causes Shares To Fall 22 Per Cent

Shares in the UK listed toy company, Character Group fell 22 per cent following an announcement to customers it would recall the colourful bead toy Bindeez.

The group is listed on the AIM market in London and distributes Bindeez in the UK and Ireland on behalf of Melbourne-based Moose Enterprises.

Reports indicate Bindeez have been manufactured by a third party in China.

It has not been a positive time for toy manufacturers or retailers. Parents can be rightly concerned because between the months of May and July of this year select lines of toys sold by US giant Mattel were found to have high levels of lead paint.

A third party manufacturer in China was found to be at fault but more than 19 million toys had to be recalled globally.

"Character Group believes that its stock of Bindeez products conforms to UK safety regulations.

"However, the group has, as a precautionary safety measure, instructed an independent test laboratory and a EU toxicologist to immediately test and analyse the chemical composition of representative samples of the group's Bindeez stocks in order to fully satisfy as to their safety," said a spokesperon.

Character Group's shares fell 43 pence, to 146 pence.

This shows that a product recall, even by a supplier can have a negative impact on share prices.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bindeez Toy Recall Example of Crisis Management

Can Bindeez recover from its product recall?

The award-winning children's toy has been recalled because it contains a chemical which turns into a dangerous party drug when metabolised in the body.

Bindeez are made in China and reported to contain hundreds of beads which can induce seizures, drowsiness or a coma if eaten.

It is a big blow for the company which has experienced great growth since winning the 2007 Australian Toy of the Year award at the Melbourne Toy and Hobby fair.

Media reports suggest the beads should contain a non-toxic glue but instead contain the chemical which the body metabolises into gamma-hydroxy butyrate (GHB), also known as fantasy or Grievous Bodily Harm.

All Bindeez products will be removed from sale and households with the toy were urged to get rid of it.

There are nine actions Bindeez should now do to minimize the risk to their reputation:

1. Commit and engage – accept responsibility, do not blame others, engage with stakeholders especially consumers.
2. Clear plan – work to deadlines, work out differences & get any ‘dirt’ or negative actions out in the open.
3. Calm - company leaders must show confidence, caring, and certainty in a time of uncertainty.
4. Currency & accuracy - key messages – focus on human life - show empathy to those affected, accurate facts & figures, what is the company doing to help, and what is the call to action for concerned parents.
5. Control the media – rehearse to stay on message, no speculation, no “off record”, no “ambush”.
6. Concise – release information, make it to the point and timely
7. Convene – set up a crisis team, a crisis centre, hold a press conference so the action is a “one to many” communication activity.
8. Connect – set up up to date distribution & lists and release information
9. Correct – evaluate, review & correct if necessary any misinformation

For more advice on product recall, crisis management and reputation management go to our website.

Friday, November 02, 2007

How To Deliver A Really Entertaining After Dinner Speech: Multiple Speaking Intelligences Part Three

By Thomas Murrell MBA, CSP - International Business Speaker

Have you ever been asked to deliver an after dinner speech?

I want you to imagine, a room full of 200 University track and field athletes from all over Australia.

It is May 15th 1989 at 9.05 pm at the South Perth Civic Centre.

The Vice-Chancellor and his wife are seated on the head table.

Copious amounts of alcohol are being consumed by the athletes after three hard-days of competition which has now finished.

The only events remaining are unofficial ones, the skulling races and the nude 400 metres!

I rise to speak as the after dinner speaker, having been a three-time Australian University Games Champion, and small 'c' media celebrity.

Throughout the speech, I'm continually challenged to skull beer, together with the Vice-Chancellor.

The audience was well lubricated, riotous, wild and out of control.

I don't think they remembered a word of my speech, but it was certainly a memorable evening and despite an invitation, I declined to make a comeback and race in the nude 400 metres afterwards.

The point of this story is that an after dinner speech is one of the most difficult presentations to give.

The duration often lasts from eight to twenty five minutes.

If alcohol is being served, a key rule is to never speak for more than fourteen minutes, because what do people want to do at a dinner or even a sundowner where alcohol is being served?

They want to network, they want to get to know other people, meet other people and perhaps even flirt a little bit.

There are eight other multiple speaking intelligences; key note, acceptance speech, thank you speech, panellist, training, chair person, MC and facilitation.

Whatever you do, never try to train, teach or facilitate in an after dinner speech.

Many confident speakers fail badly because they get both the context and content wrong.

If you ever have to give an after dinner speech, here are thirteen different criteria to help you structure such a speech:

1. Starting Point

As after dinner speeches are given in a relaxed setting, planning is best done by choosing appropriate personal stories that contain humour or war stories, stories that the audience can relate to and keep the mood light-hearted.

2. Focus

Light and Sweet should always be the focus of an after dinner speech, in line with the occasion.

3. Means

While you may have been chosen because of your knowledge on the topic at hand, ensure you keep your speech witty and charming.

4. Style

The style must be complementary to the dinner theme drawing attention to the reason people are there.

5. Interaction

Depending on the type of function at which you are speaking, interaction should be kept low to medium, after all, you are the one who has been chosen to speak.

6. Preparation

Although you may not feel it is necessary to prepare for an after dinner speech, high preparation will help you keep in line with the theme of the evening.

Remember it is an honour to speak and this carries great responsibility.

Do not try and wing it!

7. Entertainment

After dinner speeches should be very entertaining, remember light and sweet.

8. Content and Expertise

While you might have been chosen because you have some relationship to the topic, eg. Father of the bride at your daughters wedding, you are not expected to be giving an academic speech, so content and expertise remains relatively low.

9. Scripting

As with preparation, scripting should be high. Make every word count. Cut out unnecessary words.

10. Rehearsal

A high degree of rehearsing will make the world of difference when you have to get up in front of an audience.

Always do a sound check and get comfotable with the stage and lighting prior to your speech.

11. Narrative

As stories often feature in after dinner speeches, the narrative aspect is high. Make sure people can relate to your stories by relating them to the theme of the evening.

12. Ends

The aim of an after dinner speech is usually to celebrate the occasion. Build in this call to action. For example, if appropriate you could get everyone to charge their glass in lieu of the situation.

13. Summary Questions

Your primary task is to entertain, ask yourself as a summary and review question, ‘did they laugh?'

Connecting Investors with Internet Video

A recent study at the University of Dallas has found Internet video is under-utilized as a medium for connecting investors with SmallCap companies (IR Web Report, 29 October 2007).

A survey of Wall Street Hedge Fund and SmallCap 600 Investor Relations Managers found that investors and SmallCap companies are slow, in general, to adopt Internet video as a marketing or prospecting tool. Marketing methods and relationship management tend to rely on the tradition of personal selling techniques. Websites are pervasive, but the use of Internet video to connect SmallCap companies with investors is lagging (IR Web Report, 29 October 2007).

If you search for the term 'investor relations' on YouTube for example, very few videos come up.

The project research revealed that most investors surveyed found Internet videos to be more credible if produced by a third party, such as the media, versus by the SmallCap company.

Surveyed investors consider financial metrics critical content, including reference to key ratios such as the P/E ratio and profitability (IR Web Report, 29 October 2007).

To see how publicly listed SmallCap Australian biotechnology company, Stirling Products Limited has used YouTube click the following links for of my interview with CEO Dr Calvin London.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Part Five:

Maximising Marketing Effort: Key Note, Bus Industry Confederation National Conference, Esplanade Hotel Fremantle, 30th October

Pictured with a sample of the 300 happy delegates at the conference.

Pictured with Russell Coffey, Director Industry Development Bus Association Victoria (left) and Michael Apps Executive Director, Bus Industry Confederation (right)

How do you like the stage set-up with the front of the bus?