Jun 18, 2010

Rudd’s hapless communications strategy

For a government constantly accused of media management and spin, they're pretty useless. The media has gone feral and the Government's media contingent appear clueless about what to do.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

For a government constantly accused of media management and spin, they're pretty bloody ordinary at it. In fact, this could be the worst government for media management for decades. There's a dodgy Stephen King novel, which I think led to a movie with Drew Barrymore -- it's not worth the effort to Google it and check -- called Firestarter. That's Kevin Rudd at the moment. The guy is creating bushfires every way he turns. He comments on a female journalist's clothing, and it makes headlines on the other side of the world. He makes some self-deprecating remarks at the Mid-Winter Ball and he gets zero out of 10 from the critics. Hell, he doesn't even have to do anything to cop a battering. Having said he couldn't attend a Lawrie Lawrence do this week, he was verballed by organisers and then mugged by broadcasters for letting Lawrence down. In an entirely confected story last night, new Nine political reporter, and ex-tabloid hack, Ben Fordham engaged in a savage beat-up over Rudd's alleged failure to visit Hornsby Hospital. Apparently the one thing Australia needs right now is Rudd visiting yet another bloody hospital, given he's only visited dozens of them this year -- and in places with much greater need than suburban Sydney. Oh and oops, as it turned out, he was going to visit the hospital after all, but you didn't find that out unless you were masochistic enough to keep watching til the dying seconds of the story. This is all the flip side of the early months of Rudd's prime ministership, when everything he touched turned to gold, every call was a smart one and he had it on a proverbial string. Now everything he touches turns to ... well, Ben Fordham stories. And out in the real world, the government is being hopelessly outgunned by the mining industry in the battle of the advertising campaigns. The miners have big bucks -- they could afford spots during the State of Origin match the other night -- but more importantly they have better ads which might say that black is white, but do it in a way that is likely to make your average mug punter wonder if they might have a point. Now is the time for the government's media machine to be working at full effectiveness, coordinated across senior ministers' offices, focussed on key messages, anticipating problems. Instead the whole operation looks reactive and hapless before a media turned feral. Like the government itself, there doesn't appear to be any concerted strategy for communication across government. The lack of experienced media advisers -- there has been high turnover in a number of offices over the course of the government, although Wayne Swan and Lindsay Tanner's bunkers have been relatively stable -- now appears especially telling. You earn your keep as a media adviser not when things are smooth sailing but when times are tough. It's bad enough when your minister is in the firing line. But this is worse -- the whole government is under fire and its communications people need to get coordinated and get on the front foot. You can't see it happening any time soon.

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65 thoughts on “Rudd’s hapless communications strategy

  1. Ern Malleys cat

    Ah, so that’s it. The journalists are rubbishing the government, so they’ll have to reassess their media advisors, and sack them, and hire the journalists who are rubbishing them.

  2. Mark Duffett

    Now everything he touches turns to … well, Ben Fordham stories.

    Oooh, internecine press gallery cattiness! I like it.

  3. John

    “Reactive and hapless”, you said.
    You hit the nail on the head, Bernard.
    Kevin Rudd is a reactionary socialist.

  4. Graeme Lewis

    Yes – Rudd certainly qualifies as a “reactionary socialist.”

    Mystery is why our Bernard is so determined to keep leading Rudd’s cheer squad – and at other times he just keeps dreaming up excuses for Kev10’s fall from grace.

    Like “the miners have big bucks.” Maybe they also have a case BK!

    Like “the lack of experienced media advisers.” So what – if the story bears telling just put it out there. The time has long passed for Rudd’s spin. We’ve all woken up to him – thank God.

  5. Socratease

    You earn your keep as a media adviser not when things are smooth sailing but when times are tough.

    That’s very true. As any leader will know, loyalty from the troops never meant more than when facing a very tough battle, especially one of your own making.

    However, loyalty is a two-way deal. I get the strong feeling that Rudd would not listen to, let alone accept, advice that was contrary to his way of thinking. That, for me, is Rudd’s Achilles heel.

  6. Damotron

    I don’t think it matters whether you’re good or bad at what you do, if the head office (the media) don’t like you you’re screwed. Kevin needs to employ the editor of The Australian as his chief PR officer. Remember how softly Howard was treated by The Australian and how they portrayed him as a father figure that only had the interests of Australia (The Australian) at heart. Control the media and you can control the world.

  7. Salamander

    Well I guess there must be something you can do when circled by a pack of ravenous wolves.

  8. shepherdmarilyn

    An interesting comment though by Bob Brown this am. If Rio are losing money here why are they worried about paying tax.

    And what the fuck is wrong with the prats in the media, having a self-induced feeding frenzy over nothing at all.

    It must be the frosts in Canberra.

    As for Ben Fordham, is he a journalist?

    And where is the evidence everyone keeps citing that Rudd doesn’t listen to anyone? All the clowns claim it, no-one has ever proved it.

  9. shepherdmarilyn

    And take that bloody photo shopped photo of Rudd off the damn page, it’s disgusting.

    Anyone would think you morons want Tony Abbott to be PM along with the lazy slugs in the pg.

    Interestingly David Uren and Lenore Taylor are about to launch a book about the meltdown yet they are still trying to slag off Rudd.

  10. shepherdmarilyn

    Actually Damotron the media slag off started when Rudd had a fight with the editor of the Australian and Mitchell is such a small man he let is fester.

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