- CTF Comms
For 25 years now, in preparation for election campaigns, I’ve quietly disappeared for half a day into the streets of a town indicative of the communities we are trying to reach.
Sitting in my car, or in a pub, café or park, I watch, not listen as pollsters usually do. I watch to gain a sense something no number, no focus group, no regression analysis can give you: the natural rhythm and cadence of voters’ lives.
One of the most important artists of the 20th century, Henri Matisse, said that any artist must identify himself with nature’s rhythm to truly master his art. This ability to feel and live nature’s rhythm is a skill sorely missing in modern political and business analysis.
It is quite disconcerting to go from the madding pace of Twitter’s #auspol and Sky’s Agenda programs to watching a mother and children walk slowly back from school, two pensioners sipping tea at a café or a local shopkeeper deep in conversation with a regular customer.
SYDNEY, Leading Communications Campaign consultancy Crosby|Textor, part of the C|T Group names outgoing NSW Liberal State Director Mark Neeham as Executive Director and forms new Division under Yaron Finkelstein after a series of highly successful advertising based campaigns.
Mr. Neeham who successfully ran the NSW Division of the Liberal Party for a record 5,1/2 years, and delivered some of the biggest electoral wins in its history, will be in charge of managing the Australian company’s day to day business operations, client co-ordination and quality assurance.
Founder of Crosby|Textor, Mark Textor said: "The continuing expansion and complexity of our business requires greater administrative leadership and Mr. Neeham’s unrivalled experience in handling complex headquarters, field operations and tight budgets in the political sphere will prove invaluable to our business."
C|T’s Director of Campaigns and Consulting, Yaron Finkelstein will now become Group Director of Campaigns and Consulting and will lead an expanded Division incorporating all Consulting, Campaigning, Communications Agency Planning and Online Marketing.
A new practice, C|T Creative, will be headed by Yaron and will work with existing and new clients on creating, producing and distributing strategy-based traditional and online content.
The new role follows Yaron’s management of the expansion of CT’s client base across new sectors and the ongoing roll-out of a series of highly successful digital, grassroots and advertising-based campaigns.
Mr Textor also announced that to accommodate the rapid growth of the Group’s International and Corporate Advisory work a new Division to be known as C|T International and Corporate Advisory would be established. Current C|T CEO Remo Nogarotto has been appointed to the position of Managing Director of this Division.
Remo who was appointed CEO of C|T just over two years ago is a former State Director of the NSW Liberal Party and has held senior positions with Macquarie Bank in Europe.
"The growth of C|T 's corporate advisory work, much of it now coming from outside of Australia, demands dedicated focus and management, and Remo and his team will provide that. We are very confident that with a dedicated structure and the appropriate level of resourcing, this part of the C|T Group business can only grow even further", Mr. Textor said.
Before joining Crosby|Textor, Mr. Neeham was a Senior Agent for the UK Conservative Party, was the State Director of the Liberal Party of Western Australia and also the State Director of the New South Wales Liberal Party
Mark served as an Airtrooper in the British Army, only leaving due to a serious injury. In 2002 Mark gave up his War Pension and fought his way back into the Army joining Britain's oldest infantry regiment, The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment), as a reservist.
Mark also served as Chairman of the United Nations International Children's Conference in 2000.
Yaron Finkelstein joined C|T in 2006 and was previously a Cabinet-level senior press secretary and political adviser in the Howard Government.
He has worked on numerous political and corporate campaigns, both in Australia and internationally, and his communications experience includes working in advertising as a copywriter, a public relations professional, and establishing an advertising and marketing bureau.
Crosby|Textor, part of the C|T Group, with offices in Sydney, Canberra, London and Milan, delivers powerful, targeted communications campaigns built on the foundation of market research and insights into the highest levels of business, capital markets, government, bureaucracy and the media.
For further information contact Yaron Finkelstein or Mark Textor on 02 9232 0311.
Halloween horrors happen in Canberra, but not just in the traditional way.
Years ago a Labor Party election campaign director I knew had a courier deliver a handwritten note to his victorious Liberal counterpart on the Monday morning after the win. I was in the room when it was received. It said “Congratulations, and welcome to the nightmare of government – good luck!”
The transition teams were already in place and the staff selection processes were under way, but this note was an accurate omen of the six ghoulish transformations that typically befall new governments on the midnight of their victory.
Transformation One. The Zombie shuffle. The campaign-honed, focused policy advice fed by non-government economists, think tanks and academics is replaced by bureaucratic advice – meaning the clarity and speed of decision-making evident in the campaign slows dramatically from what voters had previously experienced, causing some to question the speed of change. So, government process has slowed to a Zombie-like shuffle....
Over 40 years ago, Herbert A. Simon was formulating the study of attention economics. Every political tragic should read what he had to say. At its centre is this thought: “ . . . in an information-rich world, the wealth of information . . . consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently.”
Why a need to allocate attention efficiently? In the market of politics and business communications, a scarcity of attention leads to potentially costly choices about what issues to pursue. These choices are not a “free lunch”. There is always another issue needing attention that we ignore in part or altogether.
During the election campaign a few Coalition candidates noticed something new – a grassroots, pro-business online campaign.
Their inboxes were flooded with emails extolling the virtues of natural gas, sent by thousands of Australians via the website of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA).
The emails drained the smartphone battery of Angus Taylor, newly elected member for Hume, and clogged the inbox of Ian Macfarlane, energy spokesman.
Politicians are used to getting emails opposing something business wants – live exports, fracking, the Howard government’s Work Choices Act.
But it was unusual to get emails pushing a business cause – the right to extract gas from farming regions such as the Northern Rivers and Southern Highlands of NSW.
APPEA’s pro-gas campaign is an overdue riposte from a sector that’s been pounded by GetUp!, farmers’ group Lock the Gate, Greens and conservative shock jock Alan Jones.
It grew out of frustration that traditional business lobbying wasn’t working and the industry hadn’t explained the benefits of gas in people’s daily lives.
STOOD TO BENEFIT
“We needed to get other people who stood to benefit from the industry to express how they felt very strongly in favour of the industry,” David Byers, APPEA’s chief executive, said.
APPEA says the campaign helped tip out Labor’s Janelle Saffin in Richmond in northern NSW and amplified swings against other anti-CSG candidates like Bob Katter in north Queensland’s Kennedy and several Greens candidates.
That’s disputed. “APPEA are having themselves on,” says Saffin.
Still, the campaign may show a better way for business to return fire on a range of issues, such as reform of the workplace, tax, red tape and foreign ownership concerns.
“In the past the grassroots campaigning was coming from GetUp! and other anti-business campaigns. For the first time you are seeing this grassroots campaigning coming from business,” Taylor told The Australian Financial Review.
“I think the business community has learned that if they want to drive reform they have got to do more than just say to politicians ‘you have got to have bigger balls’ – they have got to provide them with some cover.”
Business has been slow to engage activist groups on the social media battleground. The Coalition felt it was left to fight battles on its own, as business suffered one setback after another.
The reforms of the 1980s and 1990s petered out in the later Howard government years, and productivity growth slowed to a walk. The Rudd and Gillard governments re-regulated the workplace, fumbled tax reform, and temporarily banned live cattle exports to Indonesia. The NSW Coalition government declared the state a no-go zone for coal seam gas.
“The gas issue has been in some ways a bit of a wake-up call for business, because logic is on business’s side and the imperative is on business’s side,” said Innes Willox, chief executive of the Australian Industry group. “But you are not going to get the results unless you get community support.”
Traditional “stand and deliver” lobbying isn’t building that support.
“Business cannot just rely on the traditional advocacy of getting on a plane and going to Canberra and presenting the case to the decision makers and leaving it at that,” said Mark Triffitt, a lecturer in public policy at Melbourne University and former lobbyist.
“They need to be much more innovative and pro-active in engaging those communities that can exert a lot of pressure on decision-makers.”
The gas industry faced a perfect storm of green activism and resistance from local farmers backed by Jones, a powerful figure in media.
Gaslands – a film documenting alleged environmental problems in US shale – fuelled the fire, and the Coalition split.
The industry knew it had to change tactics in July when the Gillard government enacted the so-called “water trigger”, duplicating state regulation and further delaying approvals.
It felt the decision, and a two kilometre buffer imposed in residential areas in NSW, were driven by emotion not science, Byers told the Financial Review.
APPEA a took a leaf out of its American counterpart’s book and launched a national TV advertising campaign. But the key step was to provide a link on the website for supporters of the industry to send emails to Coalition and Labor candidates – a tactic used widely by GetUp!
Saying “no” to natural gas risked Australia’s competitive advantage – jobs, cheap, cleaner energy, tax revenues and “the next $150 billion worth of gas projects”, the emails said.
APPEA felt there was a silent majority of “mainstream” Australians who backed the gas industry for the jobs – 30,000 in Queensland – investment and energy security.
It claimed credit in a press release for large swings against Katter, Saffin, a few Greens and Justine Elliott, the re-elected Labor member for Richmond in northern NSW.
It said exit polling showed gas played “zero” role in voters’ minds.
Byers is more cautious. “I think what it does show is that the level of support that the anti-CSG people claimed was really not reflected in the vote,” he told the Financial Review.
The candidates say that in seats such as Page all the candidates opposed CSG, including the Nationals’ Kevin Hogan, making the idea of an anti-CSG swing moot. APPEA was trying to “walk both sides of the street,” GetUp!’s director Sam McLean said, but it couldn’t match the grass roots campaign of Lock the Gate.
Examples of successful business grassroots campaigns are rare. Mining billionaires Twiggy Forrest and Gina Rinehart flopped when they took the stage in the fight against the mining tax three years ago. BHP Billiton chairman Jac Nasser’s letter to the company’s 600,000 shareholders probably had more sting. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says its “Small business –Too Big to Ignore” campaign has attracted 113,700 supporters, but it isn’t linked to a specific policy fight. There are risks for business in taking up the challenge up to the activists. Reputations are hard-won, and standard emails attract standard responses. But they have no choice if they want change.
“You cannot override local communities,” Willox said, describing APPEA’s efforts as “a start”.
Big battles – over workplace rules, taxes, red tape and green tape, foreign ownership of agricultural land and mining, the carbon tax and energy policy – lie ahead.
Business needs to keep up with the activists, Willox adds, “without losing sight of policy depth”.
Taylor, one of a new wave of reform-oriented Coalition MPs, said social media made it much cheaper to run campaigns than 20 years ago.
“We are now learning to do this and it’s cheap as chips. The anti-business reform lobby has worked this out and the pro-business lobby is catching up,” he said.
“If we can get the business community to do not just good policy work grassroots campaigning as well, I reckon we can get much more reform done.”