An important consideration in building your brand is to engage with your audience in varied and creative ways. These days, your brand persona is needed to be replicated across multiple mediums and not just in static formats. Your customers are looking to engage with you in different ways than in the past.
With the power of audio and video, connecting with customers and a broad audience in an informative and intimate manner is possible on a regular basis, inexpensively and from the comfort of your own office or home.
Webcasting has accelerated over the past 12 months with the interruption brought on by the pandemic. With it not being possible to be physically present in many instances, webcasting has proliferated, offering an opportunity for brands to engage with their audience from a digital perspective.
Services such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Teams have proliferated, not just as a means of hosting internal meetings, but as a way of presenting information and insights to audiences.
Webcasting has proven popular with event organisers to live stream events, where the audience can be opened up to many more people than can likely attend in person, and at a greatly reduced cost.
This type of rich content can be used to build loyalty between a brand and its customers. The ability for interaction is also very important, with viewers able to interact during the webcast and also via social media platforms.
The Power of Audio
With low production costs and few barriers to entry, podcasting as a medium is available to nearly everyone. The popularity of portable music players and smartphones has only made accessibility to podcasts easier.
Audio is still a very powerful medium, and smart brands are using it in creative ways as a powerful marketing tool. It is also a good alternative to video. Not everyone is comfortable using video, so an audio recording can be a viable alternative. People often listen to podcasts because they have an affinity to the speaker and are willing through subscribing to receive regular episodes.
Leading Australian podcaster, Mamamia, has recently launched its latest bespoke podcast series in partnership with Westpac to help women navigate the financial side of everyday life.
‘What The Finance’ is an eight-episode podcast co-hosted by ex-accountant and financial educator, Melissa Browne, and actress, author and advocate Pallavi Sharda. From Savings and Debt to Housing, Investing and Relationships, the series will assist young women looking to make more informed decisions about their finances.
There is easy to use software to help you record, create and host your podcast and will help you distribute it to multiple podcast platforms.
RGC Media & Marketing has its own digital studio available for Podcast and Webcast recording. If you would like to talk to us about how these opportunities can help reach new audiences please contact us on 1300 854 502 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Now that the dust is settling somewhat on the Australian Government’s stoush with principally Facebook and Google, what is the state of play of the highly charged News Media Bargaining Code?
In action which was closely watched around the world, the Australian Government’s code has now been brought in as law after passing through both houses of parliament.
Both Google and Facebook have been negotiating, and in many cases signing deals, with Australian publishers with Facebook being later to the party, and after sensationally dropping Australian news from its feed in what was seen as a tough protest and negotiating tactic. Facebook returned news for Australian users after getting some changes from the Australian Government following its dramatic decision to drop news.
Facebook had asserted that the value in the news chain for its platform was strongly in favour of news publishers, saying, “… last year Facebook generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million to the news industry.”
The code allows eligible Australian media organisations to bargain with Google and Facebook to secure fair payment for their news content. The code isn’t mandating how much should be paid, but rather providing a compulsory negotiating process in the absence of direct deals being struck.
A statement from Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the code “provides a framework for good faith negotiations between the parties and a fair and balanced arbitration process to resolve outstanding disputes.
“The Code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia.”
What deals are being done?
On the 15th March 2021, News Corp announced that it “… has reached a multi-year agreement to provide access to trusted news and information to millions of Facebook users in Australia through its Facebook News product.”
The agreement involves News Corp Australia and includes The Australian national newspaper, the news.com.au news site, major metropolitan mastheads like The Daily Telegraph in New South Wales, Herald Sun in Victoria and The Courier-Mail in Queensland and regional and community publications.
News Corp also said Sky News Australia has reached a new agreement with Facebook which extends and significantly builds on an existing arrangement. News Corp also has news payment deals with Google and Apple.
The News Corp agreement follows Facebook deals with Seven West Media, and private publishers Private Media, Schwartz Media and Solstice Media.
It is understood that Nine Entertainment Co also has signed a letter of intent with Facebook with an announcement expected soon.
Google has been far quicker to negotiate deals than Facebook. Google announced a deal worth A$30 million with Seven West Media in February for news content for its Google Showcase product.
Seven West Media managing director and chief executive officer, James Warburton, said: “Both agreements are a significant step forward for Australian news media and are a clear acknowledgement by all parties of the value and importance of original news content.”
Google also has announced deals with Guardian Australia and a $30 million deal with Nine.
Why is Facebook more reluctant to make deals?
Quite simply, competition. Google has more, especially in search, and Facebook as a giant social network has less, argues Peter Martin, visiting fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University.
Facebook has said that only about four percent of posts on the platform are works of journalism. As the pre-eminent social network, it really doesn’t have a significant competitor. Google’s service relies a lot more on news articles, and Microsoft has indicated it supports the legislation and would commit its Bing search service to remain in Australia “and that it is prepared to share revenue with news organizations under the rules that Google and Facebook are rejecting.”
One could also surmise that Google and Facebook could see that by doing the deals now it would save them much money, especially when under the code an independent arbitrator would determine the final value of a deal.
For now, a number of our publishers are getting some much needed additional revenue. It is not known, however, how much of this will be channelled back into journalism and newsrooms. The code does not mandate this.
In 2012 a startup subscription razor service called Dollar Shave Club launched with a quirky and hilarious video filmed in their warehouse. The video quickly went viral, propelling the company to massive growth and 2016 it was acquired by Unilever for $US1 billion. Not a bad ROI from a low-cost piece of video content.
While the power of video content has been known for many years, it has been brought into new light over the last 12 months. With face-to-face communication either banned or extremely limited, businesses have had no option but to embrace video for a range of communication, both internal and external.
In 2021 RGC launched its own video studio to help clients create high-quality, cost-effective video content.
Video is a versatile and engaging content format that not only gives us a real-life picture of what is going on; it’s also easy to share across multiple platforms. Consumers like it because it’s easy to digest, entertaining and engaging, and marketers like it because it can give a potentially huge return on investment (ROI) through many channels.
Video is also very accessible to anyone with internet access, both to watch and to produce. While there is certainly a trend towards higher quality video on a professional level, anyone can hop onto their laptop and create their own video in under an hour.
Need more evidence of the power of video? Here are a few stats.
Demand for Video Content is Increasing – The preference for video content is not just limited to entertainment purposes. Video extends to brands. Studies show that 54%of consumers want to see more video content from a brand or business they support (HubSpot, 2018).
Videos Are Consumers Favorite Type of Content – Users are seeing videos increasingly on every platform. Whether it’s on blogs, Instagram videosor simply YouTube, they are expecting more video content. Videos are a consumers’ favorite type of content to see from a brand on social media (Animoto, 2018).
Videos Deliver Great ROI – Nearly 90%of video marketers are satisfied with the ROI of their video marketing efforts on social media (Animoto, 2018). The same report shows us that 80% of marketers also claim to be satisfied by the ROI of video ads that they have posted to social media.
Videos Helps Consumers Understand Brands – About 97% of marketers claim that videos help customers understand products (Hubspot). Consumers and businesses don’t’ need to be sold to; instead, they’re doing a quick internet search to find the best product in their neighbourhood or even in the world where they’ll proceed to order it online.
Videos Is Great For SEO – Over 80% of all traffic will consist of video by 2021. (Cisco) Search engines love videos because they see them as high-quality content, so to this end, using videos in various types of content as well as on your main web pages can work wonders for your SEO — as long as the videos themselves are optimized properly as well. This means incorporating the right keywords, a solid meta description, and also a strong title.
Videos Drive Conversion – 90% of consumers claim a video will help them make a purchasing decision. (Social Media Today). Wyzowl claims that 74% of people who get an opportunity to see a product in action via an explainer video will buy it. And landing pages are great places to place videos, too. — supposedly boosting conversion rates by up to 80%(just be sure to keep autoplay off so as not to scare the customer away with loud noises).
Types of Video
There are lots of different types of videos out there and part of creating an effective content marketing strategy is having a solid understanding of your purpose before you sit down and create the video (or any other type of content, for that matter).
You want to make sure the both the type of the video and the channel purpose (if you’re posting on social) fit the purpose of the video itself. Here are some of the different types of videos that your business could use to grow awareness and engagement.
Explainers can help educate people about your product and can be used in conjunction with instructions, customer service activities, and a whole other range of applications.
Interviews can help to encourage conversation between sides, or showcase a special guest or influencer. If you are creating videos featuring guest experts, for instance, you can always re-use the audio and market it as a podcast. Below is a video RGC created for its MBA News site and promotional partner the University of Queensland Business School
Product reviews and demo videos can be created by brand ambassadors in exchange for free products. If you can find people in your industry looking to boost their social following, this can be a great way of essentially getting free advertising.
Live video is the best chance to get up close and personal with your audience, and it works well on social channels in particular.
If you want to make video part of your 2021 please feel free to contact RGC Media & Mktng on 1300 854 502 email us at email@example.com.
One of the defining moments of the 2019 Federal election was Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s heavily publicised showdown with Ten Network journalist Jonathan Lea.
Shorten was riding high at the time and cruising towards victory. Just a month out from the poll, his confidence was on full display as he sparred with Lea over the undisclosed cost of Labor’s emission reduction target to the Australian economy.
It did not go well. After initially berating the journalist about his sources, Shorten jumped into a 90-second monologue about the economic failures of the Morrison government, railed against corporate profits and his gave another forceful rendition of his campaign mantra about the Coalition’s imaginary cuts to service.
He completely ignored the substance of the question and when the Lea demanded he answer, Shorten simply scoffed and demanded another journalist be given the opportunity to ask a question.
Lea was having none of it.
“Answer the question. When can people know? When can people know, Mr Shorten, the cost to the economy? You didn’t answer the question.” Lea demanded.
The exchange led news bulletins for a full 24-hour cycle (an eternity in a campaign) and it did not play well with voters. For many, it was confirmation of the underlying questions they had about Shorten and his lack of substance. It was the first crack in Labor’s armour, which had, to that point, been impenetrable.
History tells us despite the stumble, Shorten still took a lead into polling day. But it was not to be, with Morrison leading the Coalition to victory on May 19. In the wash-up, many pundits rightly pointed to the dust-up, along with Bob Brown’s disastrous convoy of anti-coal activism into the heart of Queensland’s coal mining regions, as the turning point in the election.
Politics and the media
Shorten and Lea’s stoush was a prime example of why managing the media is critical to political success, particularly during a campaign. Despite the focus most major political parties put on raising and spending money during an election, there is a far greater correlation between positive earned media sentiment and success than money spent and success.
If money was the key to political success, we would have Prime Minister Clive Palmer overseeing the nation’s pandemic response strategy.
The ability to joust with a hyper-partisan media, without flinching or stumbling, is the most critical skill of any modern politician. It is why so many clearly incompetent people, with great media management skills, can rise to very high positions in politics. Where is Nick Xenophon these days?
While they have been a fixture of politics in most large democracies for many years, the rise of 24-hour news channels has fundamentally changed the way Australian politicians, public servants and other community leaders must deal with the media.
Dealing with the pressure of a live-to-air press conference, sometimes lasting more than an hour, has added a new plank to the required skillset of people seeking high office.
Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, most Australians’ experience of these live press conferences was their post-spill introduction to their new Prime Minister. Gillard, Rudd, Turnbull and Morrison all made their way straight to a podium after their successful party-room ballots. Each of them knew it was critical to define the narrative of the change of leadership. Some were more successful than others.
However, as the coronavirus swept the world and populations were ordered to stay home, live updates from leaders have become compulsory, and fascinating, viewing. We have seen our leaders under pressure like never before.
My office has the benefit of a television that streams news throughout the workday. This gives me an opportunity to see leaders fronting up day after day to live press conferences and a strong sense of the strategies they deploy to keep the media focussed on their leadership qualities, not mundane distractions like their governance and policy failures.
Throughout the crisis, two leaders – Morrison and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews – have been head and shoulders above the rest in managing the narrative and keeping their respective press packs under control.
The Bridge and the Shield
Morrison’s extensive experience dealing with the media from a relatively young age as the Head of Tourism Australia through his elevation into Federal Cabinet, oversight of the ‘turn back’ immigration policy and as Treasurer was great preparation for the cut and thrust of daily briefings.
Most of his media conferences have a fairly predictable ebb and flow to them with a long-winded introduction to the topic of the day followed by some gentle follow-ups to clarify data, government strategies or any inconsistencies. It’s after this initial parry that the real fireworks begin. It is in this environment, being peppered by tough questions on uncomfortable topics, where Morrison comes into his own as a media master.
In recent weeks, the overwhelming majority of questions relate to the perceived shortcomings of the government’s income-support initiatives to deal with the economic fallout of the States’ decision to shutter economies.
The Prime Minister’s go-to tool for handling difficult questions is the primary tactic media trainers have been teaching their clients for many years – bridging.
Bridging is the cornerstone of dealing effectively with the media and an essential tool to control a media interview. It is the linguistic tool that allows the interviewee to move the conversation seamlessly from a negative or unhelpful question on to safe ground.
Done well, bridging provides the ability to transition from uncomfortable territory to safety. Bridging is essentially about reframing an issue and refusing to acknowledge the narrow frame the reporter has built around it. The structure of a linguistic bridge is relatively simple:
A – acknowledge the question
B – bridge to your new narrative
C – concentrate on your preferred content
It can take dozens of forms, but here are just a few bridging statements you might hear if you listen to enough media conferences.
“That is an important question, but what matters in this situation is..”
“We understand the issue well and your concern, but I think the more important thing is…”
“They are great government talking points, but I think it would be more accurate (or correct) to say…”
“This issue has been covered extensively., here’s the real problem…”
“We have looked extensively at this issue, and what it comes down to is this..”
“It is wrong to focus on that, for the benefit of your viewers let me emphasise again..”
The most common, and most serious, mistake when utilising bridging is to not acknowledge the question of the journalist. This acknowledgment of the question requires a good deal of precision, intelligence, practice, and dexterity to get right.
Whether it was arrogance, or a lack of focus, Shorten’s critical mistake in not dealing with Jonathan Lea, was his failure to address or recognise the substance of the question. Nobody, particularly journalists, like to be treated with contempt.
Acknowledgment shows that you take the question seriously and that you admit that the question is legitimate. If you do not acknowledge the question, you risk the journalist making you the focus.
The pandemic’s other greater media performer has been Dan Andrews. While his Government’s policy failures have resulted in dozens of deaths. His tactical approach for placating a hungry media pack comes down creating ‘shields’ and utilising them with extreme discipline.
Anticipating and neutralising media questioning by establishing independent enquiries and the refusing to comment on them, lest you be accused of interfering, is a tried and tested tactic of the modern Labour party and the careerists who have risen to control them in many jurisdictions.
Andrews’ creation of a ‘judicial enquiry’ to investigate the failure of his government’s hotel quarantine program has allowed him to effectively avoid any public scrutiny for one of the greatest failures in Australian political history.
The tactic only works if you put the perspicacity to anticipate the issue and put the shield up, and then have the discipline and control to use it without lowering it, even for one moment.
To watch Andrews stand in front of numerous press conferences and bat away literally hundreds of questions with the same answer is indicative of a man who understands the full ramifications of his failings, and knows any acknowledgment of them will mean the end of his political career.
The ‘shield’ requires a strong understanding of how the media operates and the ability to anticipate weaknesses. Andrews has learned that once the media acknowledges they are not going to get him to admit his failings, they will move on to the next topic.
Both Morrison and Andrews have finely tuned their skills over many years and whether you believe their motivations are benevolent or malicious you can’t but admire their capacity to go into battle for every day for what they believe.
Update – 2nd September, 2020 – Facebook has officially responded to the draft news media bargaining code by saying in an announcement, “…we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram.” Will Easton, managing director, Facebook Australia & New Zealand said that, “Most perplexing, it would force Facebook to pay news organisations for content that the publishers voluntarily place on our platforms and at a price that ignores the financial value we bring publishers.” Easton is referring to Facebook’s figures that in the first five months of 2020, they sent 2.3 billion clicks from their News Feed back to Australian news websites at no charge – additional traffic they worth an estimated $200 million AUD to Australian publishers. He says that the proposed “new regulation misunderstands the dynamics of the internet and will do damage to the very news organisations the government is trying to protect.” Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg was steadfast in his response: “We’re committed to these reforms – we won’t be bullied, no matter how big the international company is, no matter how powerful they are, no matter how valuable they are.”
THE draft news media bargaining code has been released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in an attempt to force Facebook and Google to pay for the news content they publish on their platforms.
It’s a world first as far as legislating for the powerful tech platforms to compensate news publishers for their journalism.
The draft code, if adopted, will allow eligible Australian media organisations to bargain with Google and Facebook to secure fair payment for their news content. The code isn’t mandating how much should be paid, but rather providing a compulsory negotiating process.
If the news businesses and the digital platforms cannot strike a deal through a formal three-month negotiation and mediation process, then an independent arbitrator would choose which of the two parties’ final offer is the most reasonable within 45 business days.
This would ensure disagreements about payment for content are resolved quickly. Deals on payment could be reached within six months of the code coming into effect if arbitration is required.
The draft code would also allow groups of media businesses to collectively negotiate with the platforms. This could include, for example, regional and community mastheads.
“There is a fundamental bargaining power imbalance between news media businesses and the major digital platforms, partly because news businesses have no option but to deal with the platforms, and have had little ability to negotiate over payment for their content or other issues,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“In developing our draft code, we observed and learned from the approaches of regulators and policymakers internationally that have sought to secure payment for news.”
“We wanted a model that would address this bargaining power imbalance and result in fair payment for content, which avoided unproductive and drawn-out negotiations, and wouldn’t reduce the availability of Australian news on Google and Facebook.”
“Nothing less than the future of the Australian media landscape is at stake with these changes.” Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg
Regulators and governments have become increasingly concerned at the digital platforms’ market power and the slashing of revenues by legacy news outlets in the wake of this dominance.
In May, Nine chairman and former federal treasurer Peter Costello said that a code of conduct should force the companies to pay about $600 million a year to Australian media companies.
This estimate seems extremely optimistic for an expected payday, however, with expected blow-back from Google and Facebook.
Melanie Silva, managing director and VP, Google Australia & New Zealand said, “We’re concerned that the draft Code does not create incentives for both publishers and digital platforms to negotiate and innovate for a better future.
“The Code also discounts the already significant value Google provides to news publishers across the board – including sending billions of clicks to Australian news publishers for free every year worth $218 million.”
Facebook Australia said it was examining the proposed legislation before it would publicly comment.
“We are reviewing the government’s proposal to understand the impact it will have on the industry, our services and our investment in the news ecosystem in Australia,” Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director Will Easton said.
In its response to the code concepts paper in June, Facebook outlined some of the benefits it says it provides to news publishers in Australia:
“Facebook’s commitment to sensible regulatory frameworks for digital news is in line with the significant support we provide to the Australian news ecosystem. Our support for publishers comprises: free organic distribution of news on our platforms that grows the audience for news publishers; customised tools and products to help news publishers monetise their content; initiatives to assist publishers to innovate with online news content; direct investments by commissioning Australian news content that can appear on online services, including Facebook; and the indirect value to publishers such as brand awareness and community-building.”
Australian News Media Rejoice
Michael Miller, News Corp Australia executive chairman said, “While other countries are talking about the tech giants’ unfair and damaging behaviour, the Australian Government and the ACCC are taking world-first action. I congratulate them for their leadership.
“The tech platforms’ days of free-riding on other peoples’ content are ending. They derive immense benefit from using news content created by others and it is time for them to stop denying this fundamental truth.
“The ACCC’s draft Code of Conduct is a watershed moment; it can force the platforms to play by the same rules other companies willingly follow and it ultimately means they will no longer be able to use their power to walk away from negotiations with news creators.
“This code has the potential to benefit all Australians by securing the future for the people and companies who serve real communities with real news.
“I look forward to entering into negotiations with the platforms as soon as possible.”
The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance has welcomed the draft bargaining code. It claims it is an overdue step to force Google and Facebook to compensate media organisations for content they have been using for free.
“For nearly two decades Google and Facebook have built enormous fortunes off the back of aggregating content that others have made and others have paid for,” said MEAA Media president Marcus Strom.
“It is a business model that has literally destroyed newsrooms around the world.
“It is time that free lunch comes to an end.”
Some other outcomes in the draft code include:
Minimum standards on non-payment related issues – for example, digital platforms would be required to give news media businesses 28 days’ notice of algorithm changes likely to materially affect referral traffic to news, algorithm changes designed to affect ranking of news behind paywalls, and substantial changes to the display and presentation of news, and advertising directly associated with news.
Clear information must be given to publishers about what sort of data is being collected including how long users spend on an article, number of articles consumed, and other engagement information.
The platforms would also be required to publish proposals for how they would recognise original news content on their services.
The ability for any news media business to prevent their news content being included on any individual digital platform.
The ABC and SBS are excluded from the remuneration process, as the government has said that advertising revenue is not the principal source of funding for public broadcasters. Anti-discrimination provisions are expected to prevent Google and Facebook from prioritising publicly-funded news to take advantage of this.
Google has previously firmly resisted paying for news, though it has said it will launch a licensing program to pay publishers for high-quality content for a new news experience launching later this year, with signed partnerships with local and national publications in Germany, Australia and Brazil.
The eyes of the publishing world will be on Australia as this mandatory code unfolds and is implemented, especially how Facebook and Google react, and if other platforms are subsequently included by the Australian government.
A new digital portal dedicated to providing personal investors and advisors with news, education and insights about Australia’s $1.5 trillion fixed income sector will include the country’s first free, independent database of fixed income ETFs and managed funds.
Fixed Income News Australia (fixedincomenews.com.au) is a joint venture between RGC Media & Mktng and Australia’s leading fixed income commentator Elizabeth Moran. It is the second major news portal published by RGC following the launch of the wholly-owned MBA News Australia platform in 2015.
The FINA portal will combine daily news, expert insights and educational articles with a database of 30 fixed income focussed Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and more than 110 fixed income managed funds.
Despite the size of the market, Australian private investors – including individuals, SMSFs and high net worth investors – hold less than 1% of all corporate bonds on issue, compared to almost 20% in the United States. The Federal Government is currently holding an enquiry into taxation and other impediments to the development of a retail corporate bond market.
RGC Media & Mktng Managing Director Ben Ready said FINA would fill the gap for an independent, content-driven, portal that speaks directly to the needs of personal investors.
“Fixed income investing has been the domain of professionals for too long,” he said. “Fixed income investing shouldn’t be scary or difficult and the more we educate people about their options the more people we can help to live a secure, sustainable retirement.”
FINA co-founder and Editorial Director Elizabeth Moran said despite the continued growth of self-managed superannuation and the number of high net worth individuals, Australians still lack a basic understanding of the value and importance of fixed income in a diversified portfolio.
“We are committed to providing the tools and confidence to allow more Australians to invest in fixed income,” Ms Moran said.
“We want to unravel the complexity of fixed income by using language that investors can understand. FINA is all about facilitating greater awareness of fixed income and giving investors the confidence to invest widely.”
“The recent volatility in the share market should be a wake up call to many investors who are over exposed to equities and want to invest in an asset class that provides much greater stability.”
FINA will take a particular focus on covering news and issues about the $10 billion fixed income Exchange Trade Fund (ETF) sector which has grown nearly 500% since 2015 and provides investors with a flexible, transparent and low cost way to increase their exposure to bonds.
Nearly 30 bond ETFs from more than 15 different providers are profiled as part of FINA’s FI ETF Finder.
Ms Moran teamed up with Brisbane-based digital communications, content and creative agency RGC Media & Mktng to create Fixed Income News Australia. RGC is also the publisher of Australia’s leading portals for MBA students, mbanews.com.au and online-mba.com.au.
About Elizabeth Moran
Liz Moran is a nationally-recognised expert in the fixed income asset class with more than 25 years in banking and financial institutions in Australia and the UK.
Prior to becoming an independent commentator in 2019 she spent more than 10 years as the Director of Education and Research at fixed income broker FIIG Securities, helping it grow from 15 staff in 2007 to a recognised brand name with over 6,000 clients and more than 130 staff in 2018. Prior to joining FIIG, Elizabeth worked as an Editor/Analyst for Rapid Ratings a quantitative credit rating agency, writing daily press releases for Bloomberg.
Elizabeth spent five years in London, three working as a credit rating analyst for NatWest Markets. She was part of a team of 30 analysts responsible for rating the Bank’s top 500 corporate clients. Her portfolios included general retailers and alcoholic beverages.
Elizabeth is a Director of the Australian Investors Association (AIA), a contributor to The Australian and the Income Strategist for InvestSmart’s Eureka Report.
RGC was founded in 2015 by Ben Ready and Brenton Gibbs. The company provides a range of digital and communication services including media and public relations, content, SEO, creative, lead generation, and digital marketing. RGC’s clients include some of Australia’s leading brands.
If the GFC, SARS, Swine Flu and Zika were condensed into a single movie, it would be akin to The Terminator – a film dwarfed by it’s successor in every way. The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, or Judgement Day in this metaphor, is already laying waste to the global economy in a spectacular fashion as we all grapple with our ‘new normal’.
Long-lasting economic impacts of the pandemic pale in comparison to the immediate, public health disaster that we are faced with as we all battle to flatten the curve and collectively grieve for the fallen. If you feel extremely uncertain about the future, you’re not alone – 39% of people feel the same way, plus another 52% of people feel somewhat uncertain. You’ll also be forgiven if you feel anxious, as nearly half the population share your existential dread, with only a quarter feeling somewhat optimistic according to a report by McCrindle this month (April 2020).
As most of us stay home for the greater good, we look toward online delivery of essential items like groceries and food. Our thirst for online retail is now more significant and necessary than ever, and we’re now seeing significant spikes in search traffic to terms that reflect grocery store shortages instead.
As I’ve written about previously, the first to disappear from grocery stores was toilet paper, followed swiftly by hand sanitiser and pasta. A surprising item to sell out nationwide was flour, which I later discovered was predominately being used by housebound Australians to make banana bread. I know one of the first symptoms of Coronavirus is losing your taste; but banana bread, seriously?
The Pandemic Pyramid
eCommerce analytics firm Profitero have crafted a Maslowian pyramid based on prolific search terms on Amazon. Comprised of 7 need states arranged into 3 groups, this is a great insight into consumer behaviour thus far.
As you can see, the Survival tier, responsible for consumers emptying supermarket shelves of essentials is predictably responsible for the largest increases in consumer spending.
Marketplace Pulse have been tracking the popularity of items that we’d consider Coronavirus essentials (face masks, wipes, gloves, soap, hand sanitisers, toilet paper and emergency food) since December 2019. Their findings are represented as the Amazon Coronavirus Index:
Hot on it’s heels is the Embracing Quarantine tier, where those of us lucky enough to work from home begin to splash out on improving the home office, kitchen and investing in puzzles which haven’t seen this kind of demand since the information era began.
With gyms shut down and fitness equipment now being worth it’s weight in gold (literally, rusty weight sets are now $300+ on Gumtree if you’re lucky) – the urge to improve our health, is nearly 5 times as popular as improving our homes in the top tier.
Marketers in the fitness sphere have capitalised on this trend, Pattern89 have reported that headlines and body copy featuring sport and fitness topics increasing four times from 5.7% to 21% of all digital ads – talk about those gains.
Aside from fitness bulking up, we’re also seeing a shift in imagery in general being used, with a substantial 27.4% decrease in ad creatives that feature human contact, and a six-fold increase in cleaning/hygiene practices. I know I’m not alone when I feel the urge to shout at the TV screen to tell characters to social distance.
As my colleagues have written about this month (links below) the importance of your tone of voice when it comes to marketing your business in a time of crisis is paramount. You shouldn’t feel afraid to continue to do business, but you should feel compelled to shy away from opportunistic and predatory messaging.
Now is not the time to prey upon the less fortunate or the digitally naive, particularly with the elderly being one of the largest cohorts being forced to utilise eCommerce and likely lacking the digital cynicism that most of us (hopefully) possess.
Dropshipping stores that rely on wholesale marketplaces like Alibaba/Aliexpress are opportunistic models at the best of times, and Shopify have recorded registrations of over 500 Coronavirus-related digital storefronts since the outbreak. Not only are they seeking to profit off a global public health crisis and are offering a sub-standard (potentially lethal) product, they will likely be unable to fulfil orders in a timely fashion anyway.
More worrying still, I’ve noticed an increase in ‘successful entrepreneurs’ marketing their own dropshipping training courses to potentially vulnerable people on social media. These (surprisingly expensive) ‘courses’ offer extravagant promises of outrageous success through creating your own dropshipping eCommerce store by leveraging ‘winning products’ and somehow equating revenue to gross profit. Stranger still, they all seem to pose next to the exact same AMG G-Wagon in the exact same location (a used luxury car dealership).
eCommerce is a fruitful endeavour when you can offer a genuine product, delivered in a timely manner which creates actual value for the customer. Self-isolation is a wonderful time to consider forging yourself a sustainable and scalable digital income, but be wary enough to do it in a way that benefits your customers as much as it benefits you financially.
Keep your wits about you, keep your messaging clean, and spread hope – not Coronavirus.
We’re officially living in the midst of a pandemic and almost everyone has been materially affected. Industries have been turned on their head and in some cases virtually collapsing overnight. Jobs have been lost and businesses shut. And, sadly, lives have been lost, too.
The impact on business and our daily lives has been immense and will continue for the foreseeable future.
Business and marketing plans have been up-ended or scrapped altogether. Whilst marketing budgets mostly have been pared back in line with operating revenues, it’s imperative now more than ever that you don’t lose your voice, manage your reputation and provide clear information and solutions.
Don’t stop communicating
Your customers need to still hear from you, now’s not the time to disappear from view, no matter how tough things are.
Stay visible and engaged, it will help when we come out the other side. Everyone will need to rebuild and those that have maintained their profile and been as positive as possible will be better placed in this regard. Your customers will maintain their trust in you and appreciate hearing about your journey.
People are feeling vulnerable right now and an empathetic approach is critical. Choose your tone carefully and impart your own lessons learned with simple advice. Keep up your regular content marketing program and engage with your customers across your platforms – your owned channels will be even more important to you.
Consumers now more than ever will recognise authenticity and true purpose. Feel-good content that alleviates anxiety and promotes positive messaging will go a long way to enhancing your brand. But a word of warning, you need to show that your contributions are material and not solely for commercial benefit. No one expects you to have all the answers, but ensure you can back-up what you say you will do. Being able to deliver on your promises is crucial. Examine your brand voice to see if it’s still appropriate or should be tweaked for the times.
You are more likely to be remembered for your kindness and generous acts.
Be agile and adapt
Many people are engaging and interacting online for the first time and for others, their online habits are being reinforced and deepened.
You should consider what content people need and pivot with your creative messages accordingly. Listening and talking with your customers will give you immediate feedback about their needs and what they’re looking for from you.
Online marketing spend will increase naturally and take priority over many traditional forms of advertising spend.
Social advertising spend will increase as people turn to their most trusted brands online for reassurance and reliable useful information.
Importantly, track trends, measure sentiment and behaviour and adapt to the new way of working. Devise your plans for life beyond this pandemic and understand the impact on your industry and business and be prepared to lead in new ways.
The speed and reach of the Coronavirus crisis will be felt for decades. While we are all struggling to assess the impact on us personally, we also have organisations that have obligations and responsibilities to staff, customers and other stakeholders.
Establishing and maintaining clear lines of communication with these stakeholders is one of the most important roles of leadership and management during this crisis. Conveying a sense of calm and control will position your business to return to normal as quickly as possible when (not if) the crisis ends.
Here are some simple things to remember while communicating.
Health & Wellbeing Is Your First Priority
While the long-term economic impact of the crisis is occupying a great deal of people’s thoughts, we are still in the middle of a major, global health emergency. Your first obligation is to create a safe workplace. The number of cases of COVID-19 in Australia is still rising and we must do everything possible to reduce the spread to save lives. ‘Flattening the curve’ is our collective responsibility.
Until we have the virus under control, all your actions and communications with stakeholders MUST put health and wellbeing first. Always provide the information and resources your stakeholders need to meet their social obligations to stopping Coronavirus.
Don’t be an Expert
The Federal Government, State Government and health authorities are moving quickly to provide detailed, authorative information about Coronavirus to the public. Do not rely on your own experts, your ‘sister’s brother who is a GP’ is not an expert. When advising staff and customers about how to respond to the crisis utilise the range of free information available.
Don’t be afraid to remind your stakeholders that there are still positives. The virus is under control in many countries and Australia has a strong, resilient economy with the capacity to absorb even the biggest shock.
The current health crisis is TEMPORARY, and we are days or weeks from getting on top of it. People need reminding that there are reasons to be optimistic so don’t be afraid to talk up your recent successes or the underlying strength of your industry.
The situation is changing on a daily basis. The last thing your stakeholders need is an information vacuum, which they will fill with information from unreliable sources and their imagination.
Create the systems, processes and disciplines to communicate on a daily (or twice daily) basis. Send an email to staff at the same time each day, either first thing in the morning or at 5.00pm each evening. Assign responsibility and make sure this communication comes from a trusted, senior executive who has the primary responsibility for managing the crisis.
Create a Dedicated Blog or Webpage
This crisis could go on for weeks or months. Creating a dedicated ‘warehouse’ where you can host and share information is one way to bring some order to the chaos. In a quickly moving situation, having a centralised location where updates and the latest information can be compiled is key to avoiding confusion. Many organisations have already created landing pages dedicated to providing information about the coronavirus and their mitigation efforts.
We recommend that clients place a link to this dedicated page on the homepage of their website. Key information to include on the page:
Information about whether or not any of your employees or locations have been exposed to the virus. While you should not identify employees, it is important to communicate whether there are any active or monitored cases tied to your organisation or facilities.
Details about your contingency plans. If you serve clients in-person, include information about whether your locations are open or not and how you will or will not serve clients if you close.
Preventative measures that are underway. If your organisation is encouraging employees to work from home, reduce nonessential travel, implement additional cleaning procedures or take any other precautions to minimise the risk of exposure, share these details.
Links to external resources like those listed above.
A statement that the webpage reflects the situation as it currently stands and as this is a rapidly evolving situation, your organisation will continue to evaluate the best course of action and update the page with the latest information as it is available.
Contact information for your primary media spokesperson and leadership team member overseeing Coronavirus preparedness.
Equip Your Staff
Successful communication starts with employees and internal stakeholders. They are always your best public relations people, and public relations people always do best with a good briefing.
Now is the time for CEOs and top executives to communicate with employees and stakeholders and reassure them by stating the steps the organisation is taking. He/she should record an organic (not highly produced) 60-second video—on a current model smart phone—describing the current state of affairs, steps being taken (to disinfect surfaces and protect people), what is planned next and why.
This video can supplement such written communications as direct mail pieces, emails, texts, and social posts.
Assign People to Create Content
You should quickly appoint a dedicated person or team to take charge of creating and updating your response content, including fact sheets, media statements, Q&As and EDMs
In a rapidly changing environment, it is vitally important all your communication is time stamped. What is true now, may not be tomorrow, so treat all communication as a ‘point in time’ exercise.
Don’t fuss too much about style guides or templates. Your stakeholders will forgive you if your documents are not up to your usual high standards of design and presentation. It is the substance that matters. It is OK to compromise on these to ensure timely and consistent communication.
Prepare for Media Enquiries
Consider the immediate development of media statements for key events/risks that you may be faced with. These statements can be provided to media who make an enquiry, be posted on your website and social media channels. They are important too for your employees and other stakeholders.
Consider the communications needed for the closure of an office or facility, staff member(s) contracting the illness, or unavailability of a key product or service.
Clear communication is necessary, as is the provision of updates as required. Ensure consistency in the nominated spokesperson and tone of voice.
Be Reactive and Engaged on Social Media
In the confusion of managing a business during a crisis, some of the simple things often get forgotten. Monitoring and responding to social media enquiries is sometimes the first victim of threat assessment.
It’s vital that your team are focused on social monitoring during a time of crisis. Any negative social media mentions should be dealt with immediately and with consistency. Any questions should be answered quickly and respectfully. There should be sections of your plan dedicated solely to social media crisis management.
We are all entering a new world, but many of the old rules for effective communication remain. Be open, honest and proactive. Your stakeholders will reward you for it.
Australia’s lack of toilet paper has made headlines this week thanks to the COVID-19 Coronavirus, with frenzied shoppers fighting (literally) for the last remaining packs of dunny rolls in some sort of feverish, dystopian battle royale.
Coronavirus refers to a family of virus that contain the common cold, bronchitis and other respiratory infections including SARS. What makes COVID-19 hazardous is it’s ability to transfer from animals to humans, it’s ability to mutate rapidly, and that no vaccine exists for it at present.
What COVID-19 doesn’t do is cause spectacular, prolonged bouts of diarrhoea that would necessitate the need for the entire country to go out and buy their bodyweight in toilet paper.
Why are people stocking up on toilet paper?
Due to our reliance on overseas production of literally everything, pandemic lockdowns have had significant impacts on supply chains worldwide. Uninformed masses picked up on a Hong Kong based political journalist that reported that toilet paper supply would be affected. Now we all get to experience the absolute depths of human depravity in an aisle designed to clean up our undesirable actions.
Should you stock up on toilet paper too?
No. Obviously if you’ve run out at home, you’re probably 💩 out of luck now, but there is no point in committing to a selfish bulk buy. Only 40% of our toilet paper is imported from overseas, but for those of us who care about what we wipe our bums with, Kimberly-Clark (Kleenex) has Australian manufacturing facility with ample supply and 24-hour manufacturing.
Selfie from a Kimberly-Clark worker in their warehouse.
Why all the hype?
We are social creatures, and a crisis like this (perpetuated by the media and the government’s insistence on multiple daily press conferences) is prompting the most anti-social behaviour in recent memory. Fear of missing out (FOMO) due to a supply:demand imbalance is a key motivator for any kind of hype. After all, nobody wants to resort to using a sock or ice-cold bidet.
It goes without saying that we have a herd mentality when it comes to objects or concepts that we as a community deem desirable, from necessities like toilet paper, to novelty or luxury items like handbags or shiny precious metals, even intangible things like intellectual property or cryptocurrency (or fiat currency for that matter).
Hype doesn’t stop – or start – with toilet paper, the earliest noteworthy instance of baseless stock shortfall triggering this kind of panic was “Tulip Mania”. Tulip Mania was a dark time in 17th Century Holland where the humble tulip flower was the must-have item to prove your social status – or what the kids nowadays call clout.
Tulip bulbs fetched nearly 10 times a person’s annual salary at their peak, and due to scarcity the resale market was the primary cause of skyrocketing prices. Tulips take nearly a decade to flower from a seed, so bulbs naturally fetched a premium.
The tulip bubble lasted less than half a year, with Dutch investors wallowing in a pit of worthless tulip bulbs they paid so much for.
A Satire of Tulip Mania (Jan Brueghel the Younger (1640)) depicts tulip maniacs as brainless monkeys.
Sick Shoes, Bro
In more recent times, Bitcoin was proclaimed by many to be the modern equivalent of Tulip Mania, which has been covered ad nauseam by nearly every blog on the internet.
I’m a big sneaker fan, so I am at the coalface of the sneaker hype ecosystem in my spare time. The sneaker resale game is a US$2 billion dollar market that is projected to reach US$6 billion by 2025.
Jeff Staple’s Nike SB Dunk “Pigeon” release sparked riots in New York in 2005.
Jeff Staple made headlines in 2005 when he released his Nike SB Dunk “Pigeon” with sneakerheads lining up around the block for a chance to buy a pair of these limited edition shoes. Riots were reported over these pigeon-emblazoned kicks which now sell for over AU$20,000 on sneaker resale marketplaces like StockX.
In the 15 years since, the demand for limited edition shoes has only increased, with heavyweight collaborators like Michael Jordan (Basketball the legendary Nike Air Jordan), Virgil Abloh (Off-White and Louis Vuitton Creative Director), Kanye West (Rapper turned reality TV husband), Travis Scott (Rapper and owner of giant inflatable version of his own head) and the late Kobe Bryant all carving out a significant chunk of the industry with their own signature shoe lines.
A very sick Michael Jordan during the legendary Game 5 comeback victory in 1997. His Airness wears a pair of “Flu Game” Jordan 12’s which maintain a cult following. Sick shoes indeed.
Stop, Collaborate and Listen
Hype transcends the shoe and personal hygiene industries, retailers worldwide have taken the collaborative bull by the horns and successfully leveraged it for products as mundane as homewares. Flat-pack furniture and sales maze juggernaught IKEA frequently collaborate with creatives worldwide. Most recently was a collaboration with Off-White’s Virgil Abloh in November.
IKEA x Virgil Abloh MARKERAD collection featuring a wet grass rug, giant IKEA receipt, paper bags and a broken mirror.
IKEA’s foodcourt was packed, and it wasn’t for $1 hot dogs.
The turnout was huge, I got there half an hour before the launch was due to start and IKEA had already allocated all of the tickets they had allocated for the products an hour before I got there. More than 20 people had camped out overnight to get their hands on furniture, which featured a backlit Mona Lisa, a chair with a doorstop on one leg, and a green shag pile rug with “WET GRASS” written on it.
Gordon, a hype reseller who does this full time.
I met up with Gordon, a reseller who quit his day job to attend releases like this as his primary source of income. Gordon has a contract with a sneaker resale store in Brisbane and has been lining up for things professionally for over 18 months.
Before the first half of the allocated numbers had been called, the Mona Lisa had already sold out. By the end of the day, the only items remaining were a small IKEA toolkit with a “HOMEWORK” embellishment on the lid. Clearly hypebeasts aren’t the DIY type.
You’ll be pleased to know that Gordon got me my clock, which I’m not too proud to admit that I paid a premium on over RRP – but that’s par for the course when it comes to the resale market.
My MARKERAD clock, featuring Virgil Abloh’s trademark quotation marks which are both fashionable and incredibly difficult to use as an actual clock.
Befriend The Bar Keeper
Switching back to grocery store wars for a quick final case study, Bar Keepers’ Friend is a canned abrasive cleaning powder that has been produced since 1882. It had a humble single facing allocation in the cleaning aisle in your local supermarket, but then something strange happened earlier this year.
Bar Keepers’ Friend, still relevant in 2020 after nearly 140 years.
Social media discovered that this humble little can could do the unthinkable: it could obliterate the calcified buildup on your shower screens and brighten the kitchen sink with minimal effort. Consequently, the $8 can has been sold out for months despite assurances from Coles and Woolworths that they will meet demand.
Will Barkeeper’s Friend attract a 4-pack-per-customer limit or will it go the way of the tulip? Either way, retailers are cleaning up on the hype.
If the COVID-19 panic is getting you down, here is an incredible Simpsons mashup to lighten the mood: