Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wrong end of the blog stick - failure to communicate

If you're after a good example of miscommunication, you need look no further than my previous blog entry about 'Brand Australia' and the comments that follow. Was it a cultural exchange gone wrong or outright blame-mongering or worse xenophobia? I hope it was the former because while I admit my diatribe can be a little abstract, I'm not one to blatantly offend - my interpersonal communication skills are generally better than that. It's up to you but I would explain further by adding that my comments regarding a group of international students and the situation faced by them in Australia recently - where students were left high and dry by private training organisations offering cheap and quick qualifications when it went belly-up - were not directed at international students undertaking university education or vocational education and training provided by Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) Registered Training Organisations (RTO) such as TAFE. I found another blog entry on the same subject but arguably better expressed than mine - Malcolm King explains further in On Line Opinion.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Brand Australia

Recently the Australian Government launched a $20 million tender to reposition the country as a tourist destination with a new advertising campaign, but Australia as a popular destination for international students is under threat following recent overnight closures of private, 'shonky' VET providers and alleged violence against Indian students. So bad is the situation that international students took to the streets across the country last week in protest. So what does this mean for Australia's image and who is responsible for communicating our country's reputation - whether to overseas tourists or prospective students?

Dr Peter Kell from the Hong Kong Institute of Education said in Campus Review last week that all this is a bad advertisement for "Brand Australia" and says many private and public providers are ill-equipped and inexperienced to deliver international education.

I would argue against such broad statements and ask why the link between how we market Australia as a tourist destination and how we market Australia as a study destination has not, so far as I can see, yet been made.

What seems unfair, for international students and quality VET providers, is that somehow the news that public providers, such as TAFE (that provide education that meets the Australian Quality Training Framework), who deliver guaranteed high quality vocational training doesn't reach the overseas students...? Perhaps they are simply lured by cheaper and faster qualifications and if so, is it appropriate to tarnish the rest with the ails of the few?

I guess any effort to repair a damaged reputation is a job for a clever brand strategist - maybe even an issues management practitioner - and believe me if I could come up with the answer I'd provide a two-for-one solution to Australia's global tourism and international education reputation and cash in the 20 million myself.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Is Michael Jackson alive - viral media would have you think so

This week German broadcaster RTL conducted an interesting experiment about the power of social media and celebrity. The broadcaster posted an anonymous fake video on YouTube which showed Michael Jackson appearing to emerge from the back of a coroner's van in an underground car park. The video - only posted for one day - received 880,000 hits and has quickly become an online viral phenomena. The SMH today printed a story by the Associated Press that says hoaxes and rumours commonly spread like wildfire on the internet and the rise of Twitter - dubbed by some academics as social media in real time - has quickened the pace. This example, along with that of Chaser the squirrel from Banff, Canada, illustrates just how quickly information, false or truthful, can spread when coupled with celebrity.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Upsetting the Apple cart - part two

If it's not cracking iBooks it's exploding iPhone cases. Seems Apple may have failed to pay attention to this issue when it was fledgling and as a result have not implemented strategies to steady the cart. Have they underestimated their loyal public and failed to predict the backlash from the media and consumer authorities in France following a handful of faulty handsets? Or has their performance failed to meet their promise? Apple now risks managing a full blown crisis! If the number of youtube videos or blog posts about the exploding iPhone are anything to go by I'd say they're well into the critical phase of Hainsworth and Meng's Issue Life Cycle. Read the article

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Going to a higher place

'Going to a higher place' is the headline in an op ed in the VET section of Campus Review this fortnight which aptly summarises the dilemma that VET is facing under pressures for higher education reform. It suggests that VET needs to undergo a realignment of cultures to survive in the higher education sector but that universities have a role to foster a new kind of culture that is more inclusive.

Are VET and universities strange bed fellows or can they co-exist, complement and enhance the education experience? What role does public relations play in communicating this new culture and do PR professionals from both camps have to cooperate for it to succeed? Given that universities have a tradition of exclusivity - and may fear an association with VET providers that may drag their reputation down - this might be a tough sell for education reformers.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It's spooky just how pertinent the news is today given the topics discussed in yesterday's Strategic Communications class. Check this out My brand loyalty is not under threat though - I've never owned this model! ;-)

What should Apple do now though? With a reputation for high quality products and customer focus it seems odd that they don't recall the laptops and replace them. They've done that before with other products - and while obviously the cost would be large, the savings on maintaining a spot-free Apple reputation might offset any market losses in the long run.
I read an op ed in today's SMH online about trust and the media written by SMH owner, John B Fairfax and, while it's not linked to my blog topic higher education, it is interesting because it passionately talks about just how trustworthy and truthful journalists are - particularly compared to the evil three 'Ps: politicians, PR professionals and the public'. It's interesting that Fairfax thinks that the 'public' are manipulating journalists isn't it - that's an awful lot of untrustworthy people isn't it?

Communications theorists would argue that this so called 'manipulation' is simply integrated marketing communications (IMC) and to suggest that politicians, PR professionals and the public are the manipulators and that the media is the great equaliser, is a bit rich. While I'm sure that journalists attempt to practice with integrity and honesty, I'm also sure that many, if not most, of the three Ps do the same. Newspapers are commercial organisations just like the corporations who employ PR professionals and as such are in the business of selling - doesn't such commercial interest suggest that they too would engage some kind of IMC?

Might it be that this system (of operating within guidelines and protecting the interests of the organisation and their stakeholders) that warrants careful and strategic communications planning -the catchcry of PR professionals - rather than the 'hold nothing back' approach sometimes undertaken by journalists and fiercely defended in this article, is the real protagonist? I would argue that this system is in fact the public sphere that we all exist in and contribute to and that journalists, as well as politicians, PR professionals and especially the public, all have their place in it - let's just all get on with our jobs and put the parochial one-dimensional arguments to bed. Read the article, 'Trust, like respect, must be earned, and the media take that job seriously'.