Reputation is everything

Lately it seems reputation management issues in Australia are occupying centre stage.

First it was seafood giant Kaillis Brothers (see following article). Now, one of Australia’s most revered and respected organisations is in the spotlight – for all the wrong reasons.

The Returned Services League, or #RSL, has been assisting Military Veterans since 1916.

However, financial questions are being asked by the national broadcaster (more on that later) about it’s operations.

In early October the deputy president of the RSL asked the organisation’s federal president Rod White to stand aside, following allegations of money earned as a consultant while he was a board member (LINK).

Today, the NSW arm of the RSL is being accused of hoarding ,millions, which could be used to assist #Veterans (LINK).

An investigation is underway into the first claim. However, this latest allegation is yet to be acted on.

This is tremendous problem for an organisation as old and trusted as the RSL, which has built it reputation on Australia’s war history and military. There are few organisations that would come close to having such community respect. It is the guardian of the word ANZAC.

However, blind Freddy can see these two issues (strangely following closely from each other, both revealed by the ABC) have the potential to cause tremendous harm to the RSL.

Certainly it seems there could be something unseen at play, as both stories were “broken” by the ABC. Anyone wanting to achieve maximum impact on a national organisation would use the national broadcaster. After all, these issues seems confined to the NSW branch of the RSL. I don’t see the need to embroil other States, whose operations vary markedly from NSW.

Those State branches of the RSL would be well advised to make themselves aware of the situation and prepare contingency statements so their operations are not affected.

As they say in the Classics: “All will be revealed”.

ARTICLE 2: Kaillis has much to lose from its namesake

I’m not sure Kailis Bros keeping the name for its local restaurants is a good idea.

Kailis sold the wholesale arm of its seafood business to a Chinese company. That arm is still called Kailis.

Trouble is it’s been receiving bad publicity for incorrectly labelling its products.

When it comes to food, Australians don’t like to be lied to. With brand integrity so vital these days, the negative impact of the wholesale seafood company on Kaillis’s seafood restaurants (Fremantle, Leederville and Trigg) could be immense.

The other PR outcome from the most recent episode (reported in local media on the weekend) was the poor response from Kaillis (wholesale) about the dodgy labelling and an alleged incident of food poisoning.

A company spokesman said “there was some ambiguity” over the labelling.

I’ll bet there was, with companies skating as close as they can to the labelling laws (to infer an imported product is home-grown).

For the local Kailis operation, perhaps a name change might be best, given that the practices of many overseas operations seem to be always doubtful.

No company can sustain ongoing reputational damage like this; especially when the offender has the same name!



Break out the beer

I have to ‘congratulate’ the makers of VB (a beer) – from a PR perspective. Every year around ANZAC Day they roll out the Raise A Glass campaign, which is run in conjunction with the RSL. Previously they used Maj Gen Peter Cosgrove. This year they’re using recent VC winner Mark Donaldson, from the SASR. Call me cynical, but I’m against this campaign, as I see it primarily as a selling tool. I might be labelled un-Australian. Not so. I served in the Army for 22 years (four in the Regulars and 17 in the Reserve). My gripe (whihc I expressed two years ago to the RSL in writing) is that with alcohol abuse such a problem in the Defence Force, this product is not really the ideal vehicle for fundraising. While part proceeds of beer sales go to the RSL (of which I’m a member) the cynic in me sees it purely as a company riding on the coat tails of Defence and Australian patriotism around ANZAC Day. I suppose the beer needs all the help it can get, as it’s a pretty boring drop. If you want to support the RSL, make a direct donation.

Hotel in the poo

Pardon the headline, but it really is the case with Sydney’s iconic Coogee Bay Hotel, which has been accused of allegedly putting faeces in customers’ gelato after they complained about several issues.

The hotel’s novel approach to PR was to offer its customers free ice cream. This, from the Australian Hotels Association’s top pub in 2005 and 2006.

On top of that, management wouldn’t comment because it was “a legal issue” and they said they thought it was sabotage. Heaven forbid they express concern, or that they are taking it seriously.

There’s also some argy-bargy going on, with the hotel saying the customers demanded $1m, and the customers denying they asked for any money.

More PR at the PR Lab –

What’s important in PR

A study released this week outlines the 10 most important things that PR (educators) should be focusing on.

Compiled by Tom Watson, of Bournemouth University, the study appeared in Corporate Communications: An International Journal.

While there were only 31 respondents, from an original 44 who were approached, the study used the Delphi method, which is “characterised by a structured process of questionnaires or rounds of discussion until a group consensus is reached” (Beretta, 1996; Green et al., 1999), sort of process of elimination. Not rigidly academic, but nevertheless has been used in various professional.

So, according the the “experts”, the 10 things we should be considering are: 

1. Public relations’ contribution to strategic decision-making, strategy development and realisation, and efficient operation of organisations.

2. The value that public relations creates for organisations through building social capital and managing key relationships.

3. The measurement and evaluation of public relations both offline and online.

4. Public relations as a fundamental management function.

5. Professional skills in public relations; analysis of the industry’s need for education.

6. Research into standards of performance among PR professionals; the licensing of practitioners.

7. Management of corporate reputation; management of reputation.

8. Ethics.

9. ) Integration of public relations with other communication functions; the scope of public relations practice; discipline boundaries.

10. Management of relationships.

Then came: Client/employer understanding of public relations, The impact of technology on public relations practice and theory, The role of public relations in community/social responsibility programmes, International issues in public relations.

More PR at

2020 summit

Kevin Rudd’s 2020 ideas summit has been and gone. One weekend to brainstorm the direction for a nation. Well, it was, after all, only about producing some ideas.

It will be in the next year that action has to be taken.

Some people have labelled it as a PR stunt. However, I’m not that sceptical. Rudd has shown an open approach. Sure, there will be people who say certain groups weren’t represented. But it would be impossible to be totally inclusive.

Give ’em a go. Give ’em a year.

Olympic sponsors set for a hiding

Predictably, hot on the heels of the Olympic Torch Relay protests by Reporters Without Borders at Olympia came the PR follow-up from sponsors (“Sponsors Feel Heat from protests”, 27/3). 


As expected from companies who are likely to be affected (tarnished) by their association with the Games, Lenovo and Samsung produced some mealy-mouthed words from a PR textbook, saying they had no role to advise governments on political policy, and that the aim of the Olympics was to bring sponsors together. Bullshit.


The aim of the Olympics these days is to sell product. And what better place than in the world’s fast-growing market, China.


It got worse, with Samsung’s Australian Director of Marketing (not the CEO) saying his company was a “responsible corporate citizen” (which can bring) “positive change by offering what we can as a worldwide leading technology company”. Yes, that’s right, product.


Good to know these companies have their priorities right. Then again, business is business, right? Not so sure Tibetans would go for that one.


This comment can also be found at the pr LAB 

Olympic Torch Relay ignites protestors

And so it begins. The Olympic Torch Relay (and PR battle) has begun amid protest at China’s human rights record.

Some representatives from Reporters Without Borders broke through security at the torch-lighting ceremony at Olympia, Greece.

Activists are angered that the torch’s 136,000-km (85,000-mile) route will take it through the Himalayan region and Mount Everest, which straddles the border between Nepal and Tibet.

Associated Press reports that Narisa Chakrabongse — one of Thailand’s six torchbearers — said in an open letter that she decided against taking part in the relay to “send a strong message to China that the world community could not accept its actions.”

Score: Protestors 1, China 0.