Is there hope for a town called York?

I visited the WA country town of York last weekend for the first time in probably 12 or so years.

Not much had changed, except that it probably looked a little more run down than I remembered.

The point is, not much had changed.

I took my wife, who hadn’t been there before. It was a great ride on the motorbike.

She summed it up, saying it looked like a half-deserted wild set town. Apt description. There weren’t any tumbleweeds, though there could have been, as the surrounding country was dry and dusty.

The district’s farmers are obviously doing it tough and this impacts on the economy, notably the town’s businesses. The Imperial Hotel is for sale. It has been for about a year. Another relatively newly-renovated establishment has gone broke.

York was in the news two weeks ago, with local businesses complaining the local council wasn’t helping them to attract tourists. The council said it wanted to see a plan. Fair enough.

One local businesswoman I talked with has been there for 18 months, but she still hasn’t got an online presence. Alarm bells.

If she’s typical of the businesses in York, then what hope?

I pointed out some of the wares she could be selling on line and how she should go about it (Facebook and Twitter for a start). I gave her my card, which shows me as a marketing communications professional with a PhD.

She didn’t get it and didn’t want to know much, saying she’d ask her daughter.

I wasn’t trying to pitch to her, merely offer advice, which she didn’t seem interested in.

God helps those who help themselves, so they say. But I doubt whether she’s going to get much help from above.

Like I said, I hope this isn’t typical of the town. If it is, heaven help York.


Advertised PR jobs rise in September

The number of advertised PR jobs in Australia and New Zealand rose in September.

There were 134 jobs advertised, which was almost double that of August, which recorded only 70.

The worst period for job seekers was November and December last year and July this year, with only 52-54 positions each month.

The increase may indicate that PR reflects what a lot of people are saying about the economy: that it’s picking up.

If you’re in PR and looking for work, the best places to be are Sydney (38 per cent share), Melbourne (21%) and Brisbane (16%). The worst places are Perth and Adelaide, with only three per cent of advertised positions. New Zealand, with eight per cent is a better choice.

The survey has been running for the past 11 months and looks at fulltime jobs advertised nationally on line by Seek, Career One and Randstad.


Banana wars

The people who manufacture Mars Bars have reduced the size of the product by 11 per cent (while increasing the price) … all in the name of combating obesity.

They reckon they’re helping combat Australia’s growing obesity problem. The Australian Banana Industry has hit back, saying a banana is far healthier, and cheaper.

It’s brilliant PR by the sweets company.

Brilliant. They reduce their costs and increase the profit margin. Oh yes, they also get the free publicity to sell more of the price-inflated product.

And I keep noticing that Australia’s favourite biscuits and chocolates are getting smaller, and that cordial keeps getting more watery, and jam gets less fruity.


Media hoodwinked

Matt Hayden does “sit down comedy” (he writes a blog). His irreverent swipes, however,  became national news this week when he said the leader of the WA Opposition may have mishandled a quokka (a small marsupial found on Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth.

While it has nothing to do with PR, it has everything to do with journalism (our close neighbour) and how easily the media is fooled (and how slack they are).

After apologising to Buswell, Matt said: “Now it has become news in the mainstream meeja.  Which I’d say makes the meeja the bloody joke, wouldn’t you?”

The incident highlights how easy it is to pass non-news as news, simply because journalists are too lazy to check their sources.

In a roundabout way, it’s encouraging for (ethical) PR practitioners, as it highlights another trend in the media: that they are becoming so short-staffed there is little time to check stories.

See also

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.

Sunday, silly Sunday

Weekends are reserved in government PR circles for announcing those issues that would not usually rate highly, or which are controversial. Part of the logic is that if they are announced on weekends, they won’t get noticed in news bulletins, amid the fires and sport.

And so it was this weekend (the Easter long weekend) when Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon struck with an announcement on Sunday that we need more women in uniform, and in higher positions. Hardly news.

FItzgibbon must be kidding if he thinks a few hundred women in more operational positions will solves the military’s recruitments problems.

Sure, elements of macho culture exist within Defence. But let’s be honest; the sharp end of the military is no place for the feint-hearted. If that fosters a macho culture, then so be it.

I have served in the army for 20 years and have worked for he air force. There are Rambos out there, but you get this in any walk of life. Having fewer women on the front line will certainly skew the options for them reaching higher rank. Maybe that’s not fair. But then, there’s nothing fair about war.

Because this was announced on a weekend, I’m assuming the government PR boffins took the view this was something that should best escape under the radar.

Rather than playing the populist, I’d suggest the Minister start getting tough with the people who have been responsible for major blunders with Defence equipment contracts (Abrahams tanks, helicopters, jet fighters, destroyers), which have cost us billions.

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TV campaign not the answer to alcohol problem

The government’s simplistic approach to teenage binge drinking will not assist to solve the problem.

For a start, the Prime Minister admits he doesn’t have much data to back claims there is a problem (which there is, if the number of media reports are any guide. And just talking to my teenage children is enough to alarm me).

But what does the government propose? A TV campaign. In this modern day and age of communications, this is hardly inspiring, as any first-year PR student could tell you.

Teenagers do not use television as their medium. 

All an advertising campaign will do is boost the agency’s and TV stations’ profits.

What’s needed is a well-crafted IMC campaign. However, this will have to be an extremely long-haul program which goes beyond the standard education program. It should even extend beyond the target audience.

As nation, we have to overcome a decades-old alcohol-abuse culture. This will require a massive shift in thinking across several generations. 

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