Category Archives: PR Tools and Techniques

Information will be the biggest need in Airlie Beach now

The Airlie Beach community is pretty tough.  I discovered this when I did some interview research after Airlie Beach was hit in 2010 by Cyclone Ului, which was a Category 3 cyclone when it made landfall.

So what will the people in this community be doing right now?

Information gathering will be a focus, between long periods of cleaning up.

Based on my interviews, in the days after the cyclone most will be trying to get a sense of what the destruction means for them in terms of home and work.  This means checking out their properties and checking on neighbours.

Some might even drive to work to see if it is still standing.  All very rational behaviour.

Once they have this sorted out, they will be looking out for friends or getting together with the community groups they belong to, and setting up sausage sizzles for the stranded backpackers or clearing up for older neighbours.

By Day 2, they will be working with other people to clear their homes and neighbourhoods.

The questions I asked in 2010 were about their experiences leading up to, during and after the storm, and how they got information about what was happening. People’s approach to the cyclone was calm, educated and practical.

Most heard early (about six days out) and used their normal weather website to track the path of the storm.  They talked to other people about it, but the experienced people made their decisions based on information coming from BOM and other well-known websites.

Residents fairly new to the area and who hadn’t experienced a cyclone consulted friends, relatives and neighbours who did have experience.

Everyone used the information to trigger their preparation – some relying on experience to guide the process, some referring to council and agency preparation materials they received at the start of cyclone season or had in their Sensis phone book.

This diagram shows what their activity looked like and where its focus was – each of the bigger circles represents more mentions of concepts within these themes, and more connections to other concepts.  To generate this map, I fed all the interview transcripts from Airlie Beach into concept mapping software to see what the main themes were and how they were connected with others.

You can see the biggest circles (which represent the most interconnected activities) were news, information and visuals. Other people were a feature too – you can see this by the more intense colour on this circle and its close relationship to family.

News was the biggest – which seems like a no-brainer.  Everyone wants to know what is going on, the extent of the damage and what it means for them.  The big component of this need for news is making sense of what the situation means for each family or individual – can they go to work or school when this is all over, will they still have an income? Sense-making is a big driver for the information-seeking process in disaster literature, and much of that will happen the day after the cyclone – Wednesday, for people in Airlie Beach.  It will probably go on for weeks for some people.

Information is very tightly linked with news in this sense-making activity.  It has been separated from news in this computer-generated analysis because the linkages are not only with news, but other sources of information such as agencies and – most of all – other people.  You can see it is also very close to the concept ‘looking’ – in fact, news, information and looking are a cluster with connections to other key sources, radio and weather websites.

People and family are separate but joined concepts, and these are among the most important sources of information for anyone involved in any disaster.  So today, people in Airlie Beach will be listening to their battery-operated radios as other people call in to report damage. This important information will enable residents to get a sense of what has happened to their community.  They will have contacted friends and family.  Those family and friends outside the district will have added more pieces to the jigsaw showing the big picture of what just happened. Other people will remain a key source of information throughout the recovery process. It will become most distressing for residents if they lose contact with family and friends because landline, internet and mobile phone connections are down.

What this diagram shows is that agencies will have to be very good at communicating across all sources of information, particularly harnessing ‘other people’ to help spread the word about what has happened, safety issues, what is going to happen and the recovery process.

Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways from my interviews at Airlie Beach after that comparatively minor cyclone was its effect on the tourism industry.  Tourist perceptions that the town had been destroyed persisted for months afterward, even though operators had cleaned up and were back in business within the week.  This will be the case for the entire Whitsunday Coast.

Image by – lion_down

Dr Barbara Ryan researches disaster behaviour and teaches in the Graduate Certificate of Business (Emergency and Disaster Communication) (which starts July this year) at the University of Southern Queensland.  She used the content analysis software, Leximancer, for this project.













Keeping your edge with books

One of the great things about being an academic is early notice of books that update industry practice. Here are a few of the latest – we haven’t reviewed them, just showing you what’s available.

Tactical SEO by Lee Wilson (Kogan Page)

This book explores:

  • What succeeds in search marketing but also why, including analysis of ‘ripples’ and other concepts that underpin best practice
  • Moving from process-driven to organic search marketing and the value of exploiting opportunity
  • The Google ethos and the symbiotic nature of Google and SEO
  • How a value-checklist can re-focus your strategy and generate positive results

Essential reading for practitioners and students, Tactical SEO provides thought leadership as well as strategic practical applications for those who want to develop real and lasting expertise.

Brand Protection in the Online World by David N. Barrett (Kogan Page)

This book explains the full scope of Internet infringement, and associated monitoring and enforcement options that are most relevant to brand owners and managers. Covering crucial topics such as brand abuse, counterfeiting, fraud, digital piracy and more, Brand Protection in the Online World provides a clear and in-depth exploration of the importance of, and ideas behind, the brand-protection industry.

Global Writing for Public Relations: Connecting in English with Stakeholders and Publics Worldwide by Arhlene A. Flowers (Routledge)

A book that aims to develop storytellers who can work anywhere in the world. It provides:

  • Insight into the evolution of English-language communication in business and public relations, as well as theoretical and political debates on global English and globalization
  • An understanding of both a global thematic and customized local approach in creating public relations campaigns and written materials
  • Strategic questions to help writers develop critical thinking skills and understand how to create meaningful communications materials for specific audiences;
  • Storytelling skills that help writers craft compelling content
  • Real-world global examples from diverse industries that illustrate creative solutions
  • Step-by-step guidance on writing public relations materials with easy-to-follow templates to reach traditional and online media, consumers, and businesses;
  • Self-evaluation and creative thinking exercises to improve cultural literacy, grammar, punctuation, and editing skills for enhanced clarity

We hope you find a good read!

Andrew, Barbara, Chris and Matt



Scare tactics remain as mainstay in electioneering

Dr Chris Kossen

The Labor Party’s statements that Medicare will be privatised under a Liberal Government or the Liberal Party’s dire warnings of Labor economic management. Donald Trump fomenting fear about Islamic extremism or Hilary Clinton telling voters they will be worse off under Trump. It must be election time.

Election campaigns are interesting because they involve a particular style of public relations tactics and messaging. Campaigning by the Liberal/National and Australian Labor Party for the July 2016 election highlights the specialised but also predictable pitching used to persuade voters.

In the political context, core strategies become constant: (1) to win government, by promoting credentials with positively framed messaging, and (2) discrediting opponents with negatively framed tactics and messaging for the same purpose.

Intense repetition as a tactic, also underpins the effort to ‘stay on message’ and ensure message consistency. It is used to penetrate public consciousness and gain vital political traction.

The key positively themed slogan developed by the Liberal/Nationals in this campaign is ‘Jobs and Growth’. The underpinning messages underpinning these three words: (1) economic growth provides the path to jobs growth and (2) that these are the conditions necessary to ensure future prosperity and security for Australians.

A heavy reliance on relentless attacking of opponents also features highly in the art of persuasion in political campaigning. Instilling fear is regarded as an exceedingly effective tactic in the high powered battleground of political communication.

The Liberal/Nationals ‘debit and deficit’ attack slogan is framed as a warning on the perils that would ensue if Labor were to win government. It is based on an assertion that Labor, are by nature, high spending and high taxing. And that this policy mix would destroy the ‘growth and jobs’, upon which the future of Australia depends.
The slogan, ‘budget repair’ reinforces ‘debit and deficit’ invoking the idea that the budget is broken, and it is Labor who have broken it.

Labor in reply, coined the key slogan ‘Budget repair that’s fair’ which uses positive framing i.e. fairness, combined with implicit negative framing, that is, that the Liberal/Nationals are not fair. This message also attempts to confront the ‘debit and deficit’ idea that Labor is fiscally incompetent by acknowledging that budget repair is indeed a key priority.

It is also interesting to see that the campaign rhetoric of both sides draws heavily on traditional political mythologies of class warfare so often associated with times gone past.

ALSO Chris’s LinkedIn Slideshare Persuasion Tactics 2016 Australian Election Campaign Launch