Category Archives: Reputation Management

Brands in Trauma: Oscars 2022

The Academy Awards are an annual industry awards night – an event on the social calendar of some of the highest mediated human products in the world: Hollywood Actors.

The 2022 Awards ceremony proved a timely reminder of the power of the stories we tell ourselves, each other and the organisation’s role in aligning issues to action as they escalate to crisis.

UNDERSTANDING THE ENVIRONMENT

The Academy Awards are traditionally the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science‘s ‘Night of Nights’.

An industry celebration, that is preceeded by months of lobbying the people, the performances, the music and the final edits as a whole into the hearts and minds of the judges.

In a process reminiscent of the way politicians pitch themselves to the electorate or international governments justify their response to ‘threats’, The Oscars is the culmination of all of those individual and team efforts being celebrated by the community physically (mediated event).

A place in time where peer recognition is a featured objective across all contributions to the art of storytelling in variant forms and public declaration (Winner/ Nominee).

Where categories matter, success is tangible and economically rewarded via a piece of gold (an Oscar’s statue), resulting in heightened levels of social and economic capital bestowed upon the recipient.

THE EVENT

The 2022 event kicked off with no significant departures from recent history in the sense it celebrated all elements of performance – acting, dancing, singing – by the talented and seasoned industry performers.

There were red carpet fashions and commentary, comedian hosts and musical performances.

As always, there were tributes paid to those passed, as well as, those who continue to contribute despite their personal challenges.

Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli providing a timely reminder of the way to respect the process and each other. Legends of the Arts old and new, supporting peers through performance missteps with kindness and grace, in five words.

Then there was the Heckler…

2022 Nominee Will Smith, a professional performer (TV and film) dressed for the event by Dolce & Gabbana (promoted on his social media accounts prior to the event) physically and verbally assaulting a comedian during a live performance in which he promoted himself from audience member to speaking part.

The comedian employed for the night by The Academy to present the award for Best Documentary Feature was Chris Rock.

Rock is a professional performer (stage, TV and film) and given he was ‘at work’ on stage, his response to being heckled was as expected by a seasoned professional… however, the heckle came AFTER the physical assault.

The exchange between Smith and Rock is interesting for what it reveals about the impact of self narratives and environmental triggers on social behaviour and socialised modes of engagement.

THE WORKPLACE ASSAULT

Smith laughed along at the GI Jane comment at first, until he saw his wife’s displeasure.

Then he got physical and verbally abusive – repeatedly.

It is worthwhile to note here, The Academy Awards is the equivalent of a work function for BOTH of these men.

One acting professionally, the other one not.

THE INCIDENT

Additionally, it is highly plausible Rock’s script was cleared by the show’s producers prior.

CRISIS MANAGEMENT

It has been reported that Smith was asked to leave the Dolby Theatre, but apparently refused. All of which is yet to be verified publically.

In the business, this is what we call a Crisis Management failure of epic proportions.

In proceeding with the schedule as planned, and not being agile enough on the ground at the event, the organisation (The Academy) empowered Smith.

Accordingly, Smith ‘set the narrative’ to be adopted by the media reporting on it, rather than the story of how The Academy fulfilled their position as a leader of best practice in the Industry.

Security should have restricted unscripted access to the stage.

Having failed to secure the stage, they should have escorted and detained Smith pending the arrival of the authorities.

The questions to ask of the organisation is: Why didn’t they?

The Academy needed to align their actions with their words on social media.

Their inaction at the time of the incident effectively negated any indignation they showed in social media posts.

Instead, they let a physical assault by one member fall through the cracks rather than one to be handled by security and then the relevant authorities.

By giving Chris Rock’s attacker their highest accolade – the title of winner – The Academy also gave him a global platform in which to celebrate and credit his behaviour – past and present – through a constructed narrative and thus dividing their members.

WHY AGILITY IS THE REAL AWARD WINNER

When caught off guard by unscripted moments, producers have to make split second decisions with the information they are given and the intelligence available to them.

Unfortunately for Will Packer, the producer of the 94th Academy awards, this was his first Academy Awards show and he had two legends of the Arts, members of the Academy, a presenter and soon-to-be award winner, in a physical altercation on stage during a live global (and sponsored) broadcast.

In event production and producing terms, this is a perfect storm, for even the most seasoned professional.

However, THIS moment screamed something more than the insult of a comedic pun.

There was a story, that obviously very few were briefed on.

COMMUNICATIONS IS THE KEY

When ‘the shit hits the fan’ (as we say Down Under) response time contracts to now not later.

As a leader, your ability to ’make sense’ and ‘act in knowledge’ relies on your ability to put yourself, your role and your concerns aside, your ability to access ’the facts’ as best known to all and invariably, the quality of both your counsel and communications.

If their social media posts are anything to go by, The Academy was having the right discussions they simply failed to align the words of the organisation to their public facing actions.

THE ABUSER IS GIVEN THE MICROPHONE

Unsurprisingly, Smith rationalised his actions by drawing comparison’s between his actions at the event and those of his character as ‘a fierce defender of his family’.

A narrative swallowed by some of those in the room who cheered but seemingly not, from those present who didn’t need (nor want) anything from him.

AND THE GOLD

As anyone who feels they’ve ‘beaten the system’ Smith basked in the accolades and clung to the gold…

… seemingly tone deaf to the impact of his behaviour on the next generation. His offspring – also a performer – condoning the physical assault and verbal abuse in response to a verbal insult.

Self narratives are important, both internally and externally.

I won’t chastise the Academy award winner for casting himself as the lead antagonist during a mediated performance by a peer, for I am reminded of Ekhardt Tolle’s concept of pain-body.

WHEN PAIN MANIFESTS AS ANGER

Where there is anger there is pain underneath and this is true for EVERYONE – irrespective of the social profile of your job or the size of your bank account.

TRAUMA IS CYCLICAL

Trauma produces trauma – both internally and externally.

Socially we will follow and perpetuate trauma, if we rationalise the narrative and fail to heal from within.

These are the real lessons from the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony for the individual brands.

They also provide a looking glass through which we are able to glimpse the power of the alpha to dominate and lead a mob.

How inaction by the organisation (and peers) in the room at the time enabled the silent mob to remain inactive.

Leaving the target of the assault to weigh the consequences of his reaction at a workplace event while continuing with his presenting duties.

It also provides real insight into how rationalising the narrative has led to larger-scale atrocities being perpetuated throughout history.

Just imagine if we found our voice in the moment, like Denzel.

AND THE OSCAR GOES TO…

Imagine if Will had taken Jada’s lead – visibly displeased but dignified in her seat – we might be talking about the Winner of the Oscar for Best Documentary feature – the award Chris Rock was presenting – Questlove’s Summer of Soul.

NSW and the ‘Let It Rip’ Leadership

When MP Dom Perrottet was appointed NSW Premier on 5 October 2021, his speech was titled:

A new chapter in NSW’s story, one we will write together.

Just over two months later, on 15 December 2021 – mere hours after the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced ‘…vaccines alone will not get any country out of this crisis’- the newly-minted NSW Premier and insolvency tax lawyer, Dominic Perrottet eliminated the mandate on hotel quarantine, reduced the number of contact tracers and health workers at Covid-19 testing sites, removed the mandate on mask wearing, social distancing and other preventative measures against the health advice of the Australian Medical Association, and the NSW Chief Health Officer.

His priority: strong recommendation for everyone to vaccinate. Obediently, Perottet preferred to reinforce the position of the Liberal National Party’s chief spokesperson, Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, under a spin that fell awkwardly onto ‘letting the people of NSW to take responsibility for their own health practices’.

Two days later, Covid-19 cases in NSW were reproducing at the highest rate that year.

It took less than two weeks for NSW to register 25,000 covid infections per day.

For the first time in our state’s history a politician actually did what he said he would do. He wrote a new chapter in NSW’s story – single-handedly taking us from a ‘model state’ for health crisis management, to the pin up state for what not to do in a health crisis.

Perrottet’s maiden speech as Premier positioned him as ‘the family Premier’ – I suspect because he has a house full of children and he and his lawyer wife have demanding jobs, so they understand what it’s like to be a hardworking two income family on a guaranteed government pension.

Let’s firstly just take a moment for some perspective, as these are emotional times…

On 23 February, 2021 MP Dominic Perrottet wrote a piece titled ‘State of confidence is Key: Economic indicators show the pandemic recovery…’

“…Australia is among a select group of countries to have kept the spread of the COVID-19 virus relatively under control. In Europe, the USA and various other hotspots, daily new cases are still being counted in the thousands, while here we fret about one or two.

“In NSW the prowess of our health system – and most importantly, the amazing NSW Health personnel who have kept raising the bar for testing and contact tracing – has undoubtedly boosted confidence, demonstrating a consistent ability to contain outbreaks as they arise such as on the Northern Beaches at Christmas.

“The approach taken by our Government in tackling both the health and economic challenges has been very much geared towards giving the people of our state as much confidence as possible in the most uncertain period in living memory.

“The impact of a snap five-day lockdown in Victoria was a stark reminder of the constant challenges of COVID and how far and wide decisions made by Governments are felt….

“The challenge for every Government remains the need to balance the health response with the social and economic consequences with every decision we make.

“That’s what is driving our approach, and it’s an important factor in ensuring the people of NSW can face the future with optimism, determination and confidence.”

Under Gladys Berejiklian’s leadership, he had something to hang a medal on.

#BackInTheGoodOleDays

#LetItRip Leadership has spawned #Domicron #PairOfTits and #LetItRip memes

Can’t wait to see what awaits us on 15 February 2022 …

It’s time to re-think your approach to Social.

I spent a day with some of the brightest young minds in advertising last week.

The similarities

All were fabulous, capable, intelligent, hard-working ‘go-getters’. All were running some of the better social media campaigns in Australia.

Some were from boutique agencies doing really cool stuff, others had evolved to freelancers, some were in-house marketers, while others were clinging lovingly to the structural ropes at some of Australia’s biggest agencies.

All were social coordinators, social leaders, the agencies’ ‘social experts’.

Yet, throughout the course of the day, I felt myself go through all the stages of grief.

I took the next day off to get my head back into production mode and (as luck would have it) I was surrounded by social marketing and social media practitioners who also shattered my new media soul into a thousand pieces when they started telling me How2 Social through buzz phrases, which included (but painfully was not limited to) ‘personal brand’ in the same breath as ‘authenticity’ and ‘social measurement’ as Facebook metrics.

Over two separate days in two completely different environments, my grief was confounded.

Why?

In the short space of two days, it became abundantly clear that current practice is merely a hybrid of the platform ‘certified’ sales pitches. A regurgitation and adaption of the papers we were writing and the presentations we were giving back in 2012…

OVER FIVE YEARS AGO!

(and yes, I know I’m screaming, but seriously…?!)

Discussions around social media have traditionally been driven by the available technology, or social community management issues that have arisen through the event of participation.

Traditionally, advertising and media agencies have worked behind a thin veil of creative agency presenting ‘the solution’ as the requisite bridge between product/ sterile company and desired consumer.

Sadly however, a large percentage of Advertising, PR, Communications and Media Agencies are entrenched in outdated business practice when it comes to production for and distribution on social.

If these company representatives are anything to go by, even the agencies who have re-badged their Art Director to Creative Lead are missing the point somewhat entirely!

This only compounds my grief as Australian agencies should be leading the global creative charge in this space (and no don’t point me to the self-congratulatory industry statues corporations spend millions to win each year).

Creatives have the opportunity to lead, rather than dwell.

Directors have the opportunity to integrate and showcase, rather than merely direct traffic.

Oh.. and to the Preditors (the hybrid being that is both producer and editor) let’s make a concerted effort to lose the jargon.

It’s not about what you call yourself, it’s what you say and do that drives impact.

When Discourse doesn’t match the Social Drapery: Expectations of the Modern Australian Woman.

As an educated, professional, Australian woman – considered by some to be well past marrying age at the ripe old age of 39 and by others as just entering my prime;

Ironically, I find this Open Letter to the Editor of the The Princetonian a revelation.

Titled, ‘Advice for the young women of Princeton: the daughters I never had’, Princeton alumna and mother of two (Princeton-educated) sons, Susan A Patton, set the US media and gender debate alight back in March 2013, with what some have deemed a ’70s view’ of what a woman should hope to achieve from attending a University: A husband.

Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate.

Many have been outraged that a woman, known for her feminist perspective on campus during the 70s would recommend Princeton’s female population look for a husband on campus…

On close reading of the article, that is EXACTLY what Patton is saying, but not necessarily how she is being interpreted.

This article prompted me to ruminate the perceived role of women in modern Australian society.

Women are hardest on other Women
Not surprisingly, I started this post on 29 March 2013 in direct response to the barrage of abuse directed towards its author.

The minefield that is the gender debate has ensured I’ve tiptoed through my own ruminations for nearly four months in search of ‘acceptable’ prose to place here.

However, the fact remains, I am a feminist in practice, not theory.

I’m a woman who has been raised to believe that a good education is the requisite foundation for the freedom of choice.

A choice for me to be and do whatever it is that drives me.

A choice to choose my life professionally and personally.

To me, that is feminism.

So much of what is expected of women today is proportedly housed in a dialogue of equality for women in all things.

If that’s the case, shouldn’t it be a woman’s right to choose what she pursues and when?

Let alone express the views out loud without recourse from anyone, let alone those of her own gender?

After all, the most ferocious opposition a woman will ever face, is more often than not at the hand of a murder of other women.

I use the term for crows, for these women, as I’ve seen first hand the ferocity of these swarms of women, who are usually the ones screeching the loudest as the proponents of opportunity creation for women to thrive beyond expectations, in order to enhance their own career options.

But back to Susan A. Patton and her open letter… and the power of context.

The Power of Context
The danger of being published ‘out of context’ (read: outside of intended audience), may play a large role in exposing the debate to a broader audience, horrorfied at its existence, but isn’t that the point of educational institutions, to push the boundaries intellectually. To fly in the face of social censorship, in search of a higher (and hopefully more robust) truth?

The real benefit of such prose, is in its global context and the University’s intent to take an Op ed piece from a student-run newsletter and as the below RT by @WomensColl says, importantly continue the debate.

The Debate is also an interesting concept in this context. Is there a Man’s debate to counter the so called Women’s debate? Or is it the inherent nature of a patriarchal society that is modern social democracies that shapes the need for a counter debate?

As a woman who has had the privilege of growing up and working in a predominately testosterone-filled environment for most of my career, I am not only comfortable with the differences of men and women and more importantly the variant expectations on women in our society to find a man, get married, settle down and have children. Not forgetting for a moment, that the same expectation also lies heavily on the men as well.

I know many a young man, who having started hitting his corporate straps has hastily chosen the cardboard-cut-out ‘perfect wife’ that is neither his physical or intellectual equal, only to wonder in his approach to 40, where it all went wrong.

The pressures to settle in modern Australian society are vast. But is the debate about the roles of men and women, the inherent inconsistencies within the framing of the debate about a woman’s role in various parts of our thriving modern, commercial, democratic society, or is the real bugbear, that our grandparents might have been right all along?

I think Patton’s point about an intellectual equal is spot on. Afterall, marriage (heterosexual or GLBT) is a long term committent and there are many silences to plug with discussion.

Men Dialogue, Women Pass Comment
There’s something else us women could learn from our opposite sex and it has the potential to turn this debate on it’s head.

Men discuss things with other men. Women discuss some things with other women and then pass comment.

The nature of men’s discussions is conducive to dialogue. The way women ‘talk’, in my experience, is not neceassarily so thanks to the ever present punch of emotion.

Now before I am accussed of generalising women as emotional beasts void of the ability to reason, I will place my stake in the ground by acknowledging the biological as well as social anomalies that differentiate responses of the sexes.

I’ll leave it up to you to prove me wrong …

Media misuse and abuse = The New Media Sandwich

Athletes and Management behaving badly. It’s nothing new.
Recent developments in Australian sport make you wonder, why? when? and how?

Why are athletes calling press conferences to ‘state’ their position, prior to official discussions with their employer?

Why are professional sporting bodies calling press conferences, prior to the completion of official investigations?

When did these ‘scare them into submission’, ‘air our dirty laundry’ tactics become an appropriate form of professional issues management?

And how, did the power base of Australian sport shift so significantly that the CCA calls the major Australian sporting codes, yet fails to produce representatives of Olympic sports like swimming to discuss failures in team and drug management.

I’m a proud Australian, a keen observer of sport both here and abroad and a professional communicator. I suspect, I am also not the only person who finds the emergent ‘trial by media’ practice of sports management, abhorrent.

The Business of Australian Sport will suffer. And it really doesn’t need to.

Athletes and management excited about being in sports management, will always stumble. The trick is to put supports in place that provide the requisite guidance to ensure professional development both on and off the pitch.

This is not always easy in our new world of instagram, twitter and all things social media.

So as we evolve our understanding of dialogic interaction, thanks to the prevelance of mobile and social media communications, let’s not forget the art of conversation and business best practice.

Cybermedicine Symposia

Following an invitation from Clinical director and obstetrician to the rugby stars, Dr Vijay Roach, I recently presented a lecture on social media and medicine at the Northern Clinical School, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney Australia.

Here are a copy of the slides presented


As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me, should you have any questions.

PR & Web 2.0

Running through the electronic archive of my public corporate life at various stages it’s easy to overlook the successes and key lessons learnt.

I recently found this while googling and giggled out loud. Yes, I google’d myself and no it’s not narcissistic (maybe a little), but it’s also Step #1 in proactive reputation management.  

Not surprisingly, I recommend it to everyone who is working, posting, socialising, engaging or remotely interested in finding out what’s out there on the world wide web.

As it stands, a snapshot or digital newspaper archive like the NZ hearld article that you can show-off to those around you, is frankly, irrelevant beyond providing a good giggle and a Delorian-style cruise back to the future.

Why is this?

Someone recently tried to tell me there’s no such thing as a bad experience, only a learning opportunity… I told said person I thought this was an interesting perspective and looked forward to reviewing the discussion after they’d started their internship – their first ever job.

Now the blank, incredulous stare was a given, as was the accompanying, ‘If I don’t like it, I’ll just leave. It’ll be their loss’…

And I daresay, it would have been too… the loss of time wasted navigating the HR necessities of dealing with the uninitiated, highly competent and astute ‘trophy generation’ egos hovering on the bottom rung of the ladder.

Don’t get me wrong, I love generation next. I think they are fabulous assets to a crazed world of societal plaster-cast mouldings of the various castes of prior generations. And they are real contributors to business, if you’re open-minded enough to listen and learn.

After all, mentoring works best both ways #FoodForThought

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