New Zealand’s 20 toughest PR jobs for 2015

Press Release – BlacklandPR

New Zealands two toughest public relations challenges in 2015 were the debate over a new national flag, and a threat to poison baby formula with 1080.New Zealand’s 20 toughest PR jobs for 2015

New Zealand’s two toughest public relations challenges in 2015 were the debate over a new national flag, and a threat to poison baby formula with 1080.

A new ranking issued today by BlacklandPR concludes that the flag debate was the toughest public relations challenge because it combined the highest public profile with the strongest emotional reaction, impact, and complexity.

Second and third on the list were the 1080 poisoning threat and signing of the TPPA trade deal.

BlacklandPR Director Mark Blackham said that the flag referendum would be a hard public relations assignment because it evoked strong opinions in the greatest number of people, had high levels of everyday ‘talkability’, evoked a complex variety of responses, and would affect almost every New Zealander.

“A flag debate has all the ingredients for argumentative chaos because it sparks so many different reactions. While some argued over which flag they liked, others argued the flag shouldn’t change, and others argued that they didn’t even think the issue warranted any discussion at all.

“The toughest task in a PR challenge is to get people talking about the same part of an issue – only then can you persuade them.

“The greatest challenge in human communication is complexity; facts and difficult ideas require astute messages. When emotions run high, and people are worried, complexity is the enemy of clarity,” he said.

BlacklandPR uses a scoring system that ranks issues out of 10 for four factors; Impact (how many people are consciously affected directly or indirectly), Profile (media coverage and ‘talkability’ in everyday life), Emotion (the intensity of emotional reaction), and Complexity (complications and technicality of the issue).

In previous years the PR Challenges list has been headed by events such as Roastbusters, the Fonterra botulism issue, and a carrot and lettuce recall.

Mark Blackham said the 1080 poisoning threat was in the top three because of the profile and fear it instilled in the population. He said it was one of an unusually high number of food threats that occurred this year.

“The public appear to be more alarmed than in the past by food safety issues, which have not changed in frequency. It may be a legacy of the Fonterra botulism blunder. Last year, a carrots and lettuce contamination topped our list. This year’s PR challenges included frozen berry and ham recalls.”

He said the TPPA issue was third on the list because of its persistence in news coverage, tenacity of opposition, its wide spread economic effect, and complexity.

“If you were aiming to alarm or satisfy people about the TPPA, you had a challenge in getting people to understand, or to feel connected to it.”

75% of issues land on Government

Mr Blackham said that yet again Government and its agencies dominated the list. Only 5 organisations in the Top 20 were businesses or non-government organisations.

“It’s a sign of how central government dominates New Zealand life – the buck stops with them.”

Old issues fade

Based on the past explosive nature of the Roastbusters investigation, NZ Police and Child Youth and Family would have expected major controversy over respective reports into their performance.

“Despite previous attention, the return of this issue was on the public agenda for less than 24 hours on both occasions. It’s a reminder of how public interest moves on.”

PR Fails identified

BlacklandPR said there were fewer than usual true “PR fails” this year, but named three situations that arose from self-imposed blunders.

John Key’s ponytail pull, an innocuous trait which should have been noticed and surfaced earlier.

Ministry of Primary Industry management of frozen berry issue, where the story was public for many days before a recall.

Barfoot and Thompson press conference about a Chinese property buyer list, that placed it in the middle of a political story.


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