Category Archives: Media

Communicator’s Corner: Sunday Age Political Reporter, Melissa Fyfe

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Melissa Fyfe is the State Political Reporter for The Sunday Age. Her career with Fairfax has seen her take on a varied number of roles including: Sydney correspondent, health editor, section editor and also the state news editor. She has won several awards for her reporting on climate change and water during her time as The Age’s environment reporter.

With a State and Federal election upon us, this will be a feverishly busy year for the political reporter.

1. Tell us about your typical day.

I start the day reading the newspapers and keeping a keen ear on the radio. The rest of the day is spent meeting with contacts, digging through reports, talking to my editors about ideas for the paper, interviewing people and, when parliament is sitting, hanging around the big house on Spring Street. I write my stories on Fridays and Saturdays. Every second Friday I chat to Tony Biggs on RRR about state politics.

2. When did you first know you wanted to be a journalist?

Quite young – when I was in Year 7 at high school.

3. Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

I have had many fantastic mentors at The Age. My journalistic heroes are mostly American writers, particularly those working for The New York Times and The New Yorker.

4. Which tools can’t you live without?

My mobile.

5. What are the biggest challenges in your role?

Managing my time. I have a weekly deadline, so I have to be very disciplined about what I do. Also, dealing with the spin machine of the government and the opposition is very difficult at times. In an election year the stakes are very high.

6. Tell us about the best story/campaign you’ve ever worked on?

In the scheme of other stories in my career this one was quite small but it meant a lot to me: I reported on the plight of a young mother who was in a public housing flat so mouldy it was causing her and her baby significant illness. The housing minister moved her within months. She is now living in a place with no mould and her life has completely changed. Her baby is so healthy and happy now. I am also proud of the story myself and my colleague Jill Stark broke recently on Kevin Rudd’s chief mental health adviser quitting.

7. Which campaign do you most admire?

This is difficult to answer because in my business a campaign means an election campaign. Barack Obama’s tilt for US president is easily the best example of a political campaign for office that we’ve seen in decades. It’s been said many times, but his harnessing of grassroots support through the internet was spectacular and left the Republican campaign totally flat-footed.

8. What’s been the biggest change to communication industry/journalism since you began your career?

Obviously the internet. It has massively reshaped the newspaper industry, eroded the classifieds and changed our business structure. It has opened up many more opportunities for journalism but obviously threatens the fundamental economics of old-school media.

9. What’s your favourite brand?

I don’t really have one.

10. What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?

Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. An oldy (1918) but a goody.

11. What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in your field?

The value of confidence. Backing yourself is important.

12. Finish this sentence: ‘Communication is… keeping the message simple, powerful and accurate’

You can view Melissa Fyfe’s work when kicking back with the papers on Sunday or follow her on Twitter @melfyfe

Threes NOT a crowd: tips on media interviews

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D/A Henry Wade (l) conducts press conf. in line-up room / New York Herald Tribune photo by Bill Sauro

With an increasing number and frequency of media outlets, podcasts, blogs and avenues for exposure, it has never been more important to be media savvy.

Nowadays the average sound bite is approximately seven seconds, a far cry from the 60-second sound bite common 30 years ago. And there’s no longer a 24-hour news cycle, instead we have an every-second news cycle.

Therefore being on message and getting there fast is essential when being interviewed by the media. If you do nothing else to prepare for an interview, you must prepare three key messages to convey during the interview. No more, no less.

If you don’t edit your story down to the three most important points, then an editor, producer or audience member will edit it for you. And often your most important messages will be lost and not remembered.

If you have to speak to the media on a regular basis then you should undertake some media training. In the meantime, here are a few basic tips to help you handle media interviews:

1. Give yourself time to prepare, even if that means calling a reporter back when on deadline. Get your messages ready first.

2. Practice, practice, practice: Like a professional sportsperson, the more you do something, the better you will become at it. It takes time and practice to be comfortable with preparing your three messages, getting your sound bites right and staying on message, so it’s best you practice.

3. Give details and examples to help make your point and flesh out your story. Telling stories helps to deliver your message to an audience.

4. Avoid fact and figures, lists, jargon, catch phrases, acronyms – they’re boring with a capital B.

5. Keep it natural and speak at your normal pace. Steer clear of big unfamiliar words but don’t dumb down your message too much either.

6. For radio interviews, check whether the interview is live or pre-recorded and what it’s being used for. If you’re doing the interview over the phone, make sure you’re in a noise-free environment.

7. Drink plenty of water and keep a bottle handy. Avoid caffeine or dairy before the interview as it can affect your speech (dry mouth, licking lips eek). Also don’t interview on an empty stomach. Your tummy grumblings will only distract you and perhaps the listeners. Grrrrrr

8. After each interview, review your performance. Figure out what worked well and what could be improved. Ask a friend or colleague to give you some feedback too. (If you can’t find a friend to be brutally honest, my mother is always willing to provide some frank feedback.)

9. Again, develop three key messages for the interview and make sure you know them off by heart and get them out early.

10. Finally have fun – it’s not the Spanish Inquisition ☺

There are plenty more handy hints and tips however if you prepare your messages and keep it simple, you’ll be an old hand in no time.

Call Jack or Maryann on 03 9676 9040 or email info@thecword.com.au if you want to learn more about how our crew can help you with media training or publicity campaigns to get you the interviews.

Or you can simply ignore us and take tips from Sarah Palin 😛

Celebrate hump day. Yay!

the c word

Can someone bring the mop, please?

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Did you know what a spill was before last week? I have to spill the beans (pardon the pun) and admit until I saw it pop up on Twitter I didn’t. But that is the power of Twitter and like they say: “you learn something new every day”.

Australian politics has been littered with spills over the years. In fact this isn’t Malcolm Turnbull’s first nor second, it’s his third after winning his leadership in a spill vote against Brendan Nelson.

In June 1977, a parliamentary Labor Party leadership spill saw Gough Whitlam defeat Bill Hayden (32-30). Other famous spills include Beazley v Rudd and how can one forget Latham taking over the Labor leadership in 2003 from Simon Crean. Or his downfall in 2005 against Kim Beazley.

How times have changed from the mixture of radio, print and a little television coverage of earlier Australian political spills to the continuous coverage of the regular Labor party and Liberal party spills earlier this decade on television and websites. Twitter now brings us real-time coverage and commentary of Turnbull v Andrews v Hockey v Abbott in the latest #spill.

With no 24-hour free-to-air news channel in Australia (come on ABC, 7, 9, 10 & SBS), most of my information about the Liberal Party leadership spills came via Twitter. Of course we did manage to tween some information from Lateline and other current affairs shows.

However political journalist such as @sandraom, @smurray38, @annabelcrabb, @latikambourke, @Colvinius, and @David_Speers gave up to the minute accounts for their followers. It felt like you were walking the halls of Parliament House yourself. Watching the #spill feed on Twitter was far more entertaining and lively than any of the debates seen on television. I guess this fly-on-the-wall coverage is what makes Twitter such a useful news broadcasting tool.

Back to the #spill and for those of you out of the loop, Turnbull’s leadership was challenged for the first time last week after backing the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) with a motion to spill held at 1pm Wednesday. Opposition MPs opposed to the bill said there were many among their ranks to support them. However Malcolm Turnbull retained his leadership after the secret ballot with a result of 48-35.

Climate sceptic Kevin Andrew (of Mohamed Haneef fame) led the challenge with Wilson Tuckey putting forward the motion to spill. Most opposing this scheme believe the economic costs to individuals and businesses are far too costly to take on.

Tony Abbott was quoted as saying the leadership fight was not an issue of leadership but of policy, and said that had now been resolved.

“We forced the Government to effectively admit that its ETS was going to badly damage Australia’s industries, badly damage jobs,” he said.

“We think that the amendments that we forced out for the Government will save 25,000 jobs that otherwise would have been lost.”

As the weekend rolled around, rumours were flying left, right and centre that Hockey and Abbott would challenge. There were resignations, offers of support, wheeling and dealing.

Tuesday morning, another motion to spill was passed and Malcolm Turnbull lost the leadership to climate sceptic Tony Abbott following yet another secret ballot vote with a result of 42-41. Hockey was ousted from the race early on. We watched the Twitter stream and the live stream from ABC (Thank you ABC).

Twitter is used as an information source by journalists and is an effective place for communal note-taking which adds plenty of background colour to what’s happening on a particular story. Although journalists tend to be serious and professional in their tweets, when House of Representative chambers allowed the use of mobile devices in the chamber this year, a new Twitter superstar was born – the political journalist. Suddenly, Question Time or #qt became a trending topic on Twitter.

Journalists such as Sydney Morning Herald’s Annabel Crabb, Crikey’s Bernard Keane and 2UE’s Latika Bourke began to “..provide up-to-the-minute fashion comment, online heckling and an undercurrent of political analysis…these Australian journalists present a unique larrikin voice in the twitterverse – unedited and informal for the twitter public

In a recent survey of editors and senior editorial staff by The Alliance, they encountered a mixed response, especially due to economic constraints putting added pressure on staff and quality. However not all respondents were quite so grim with some outlining the added engagement of audiences through online channels.

“Our audience is bigger than at any time in my career and there are more ways to deliver the news than ever before,” wrote one, while another wrote: “I think that journalists are in a great position to gather, harness, interpret, deliver great quality journalism, and now there are a plethora of opportunities in the way that content can be delivered.”

This is certainly the case with the recent coverage of #spill 1.0 & #spill 2.0 with some even prophesising #split as a demise of the Liberal Party. Yesterday during this battle of leadership, policy and whether or not the Liberal Party want to be a throwback to the 1950s or a party with foresight, there were 10,000 #spill tweets in three hours (statistic courtesy of @wolfcat). This doesn’t include all the tweets without the #spill hashtag. Those interested in politics were stuck to their screens and an organic political discussion about the Liberal party, its leadership and climate change policy has taken place over the last week. Coupled with traditional media, there has been a serious amount of coverage for Australians.

The most disappointing part about this whole fiasco is that it has pushed aside important dialogue about the ETS. If economic costs are such a big concern for Liberal Party members – how are they not disturbed at what the economic impact will be when the natural resources we rely on disappear?

If you’re interested in positive solutions and actions to curb climate change, please support our client Run for a Safe Climate. They are raising funds to develop and implement a Safe Climate Transition Plan.

Hope you had a happy hump day! 🙂

the c word

A private conversation about social media

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Cone of silence from Get Smart

Cone of silence from 'Get Smart'

We have been up to our eyeballs with social media at the c word office; tweet this, upload pic here, accept friend request, retweet there. Our fingertips are suffering from exhaustion. 😛

Last week we hit the road with leading privacy and social media expert Mozelle Thompson in Australia for the International Association of Privacy Professionals conference. As we ferried him from interview to meeting to interview, we got the chance to chat about social media.

Along the way we asked for his top four social media issues and although he laughed at our penchant for even numbers, he was happy to oblige.

According to Mozelle the top four issues for social media are:

  1. how advertising will work?
  2. the lack of discussion around the limits of transparency
  3. legal responsibility for user-generated content, and
  4. the desire to ‘switch off’.

To start with Mozelle said: “People are looking at behavioural advertising … but I don’t think people understand what that means”.

“If you ask them: ‘Do you want ads targeted to you based on your profile?’ they might say ‘no’. But then you say: ‘Is the problem that you don’t want ads … because if you want it for free you’re going to have to have ads and if you’re going to get ads then would you want ads targeted to you?’ they would say ‘yes’.”

Mozelle believes (and we concur) the dialogue hasn’t progressed enough in the public eye. Let’s not keep this conversation private.

We wondered how this applies to online newspapers without established social networks and Mozelle believes we’ll see more partnerships with websites who want to target ads to you based on your demographic – so it will seem more seamless.

“The question is are you willing to give permission for targeted ads as opposed to general ads?”

On the issue of transparency, Mozelle said while we want governments to let us know about what they’re doing and what our neighbours are doing, it gives the public a lot of information about you.

He said: “It’s a global issue but especially in western societies where we’ve made this big push towards government transparency but haven’t defined what that means yet”.

The third issue Mozelle brought up was around who is ultimately legally responsible for user generated content.

“There’s this continuing war, just because it’s on YouTube, is YouTube responsible for someone putting on content that you find offensive or objectionable? You don’t hold newspapers responsible if somebody puts a crappy ad in.”

The fourth issue which made us hide our Blackberries and iPhones was that at some point, not right away, there may be a reaction to this real time availability of information.

“You may have a backlash from some people who decide they don’t want to be reachable. Are we going to start creating digital technologies that allow you to disconnect?”

And in between all of that we’ve kicked off a social media campaign for Run for a Safe Climate. We started with a training session for the runners and volunteers involved with Run for a Safe Climate – the question now is “how will they tweet while running?”

Have a great week,

the c word

Fluoro invasion sequence commenced… 5,4,3,2,1

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aliensLast night a new design bible was launched in Melbourne. And what a party it was! Font geeks and design freaks came out in full force to support the new generation of Fluoro.

Fluoro is a biannual design magazine that explores Melbourne’s world of design and creativity, and challenges the boundaries of print while maintaining an environmentally sustainable approach. To sum it up… it’s just so hot! Best you get onto it.

We straightened our hair and slapped on some smokey eye make up (well not all of us, obviously) to air kiss with the best of them. The large crowd in attendance were clients, friends, sponsors, artists, DJs, photographers and supporters of design and the arts. The sea of cool Melbourne black was filled with new and old friends and colleagues, with Creative Director Miguel Valenzuela donning his DJ cap to pump out some beats for the cool crowd.

A launch party is nothing without a great crowd. You can have the best champers, yummiest canapés or coolest venue but none of that matters if you don’t have the right mix of people. the c word worked closely with the Fluoro team to ensure that the right crowd was invited and willing to party. We scoured galleries, boutiques and laneways in search of people with a passion for design, fonts and paper.

Fluoro Editor Nancy Bugeja enjoying her champers

Fluoro Editor Nancy Bugeja enjoying her champers

Skye giving her date @ScottKilmartin the cold shoulder :P

Skye giving her date @ScottKilmartin the cold shoulder 😛

Fluoro’s editor Nancy Bugeja was thrilled with the night’s turn out especially all the positive feedback she and her team received, having poured countless hours of creativity and passion into the publication.

“It’s AMAZING to celebrate Fluoro with all these people who are passionate about Melbourne, art and design as much as we are. It’s turned out so well and everyone seems to be loving the textures, colours, and the look of Fluoro,” Nancy Bugeja said.

The design packed issue includes an interview with Melbourne DJ and Kiss FM regular DJ Cherokee, a look into the mind of a rising star of the Melbourne fashion scene Nadia Pearse, 60 seconds with Rock Wiz host Julia Zemiro, and a visitor’s experience of Federation Square’s Volume exhibition.

Fluoro6_ 5Fluoro6_ 3

Fluoro6_ 6Fluoro6_ 9

Fluoro taps into Melbourne’s creative energy and provides design lovers with pages to play and get inspired. The larger format, cotton binding and three different types of paper stock: Nordset, Novatech and Look! prove print is still innovative, surprising and in demand. The crowd last night certain agreed. Read the rest of this entry

Glee Marketing Class 101

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There’s no denying the c word is a fan of Fox’s hit new show Glee. Like millions of other fans, we got caught up in the online hysteria generated by this new show and have been anxiously waiting for each new episode. You have to be seriously impressed with the marketing onslaught by the people behind Glee.

We discovered the show online…not sure where as it was a while ago but probably popped up in our Google Reader. The show developed a cult following even before going to air through its use of MySpace, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. The first episode was the number one downloaded television show on iTunes with Fox offering the show for free.

We regularly check the YouTube for snippets of performances and behind-the-scenes footage and chats with Glee cast. From a social media perspective they’ve gone all out.

Not only that, across all platforms that have targeted the campaigns. They’ve developed links with American Idol and Australian Idol to piggyback off their audiences. Both Channel Ten and Fox have been inundated with Glee ads during Idol and other high rating television shows with a strong 16-35 audience base (my favourite is the Gleek one… yes I’m a Gleek too).

Old and new marketing angles have been utilised. Social media… check. Promotions… check. Advertising… check. Publicity… check. The cast are even doing shopping mall visits… How old school? We are half tempted to head down to Highpoint Shopping Centre this Saturday to meet the cast. Wonder if Kurt will be there?? *squuueeeeaaaals*

No stone has been left unturned. With 24,000+ Twitter followers, 250,000+ Facebook fans, let’s hope this buzz translates to TV ratings. In Australia, the pilot attracted 1.2million viewers following the insanely popular Masterchef. However, last night the director’s cut of the pilot kicked off the season’s regular airing, but only rated 871,000. Let’s see how it goes next week when episode two airs?

We’ve got our finger crossed this show does well. Snarky high school shows with spirit fingers, late 80s/early 90s music are just what the doctor ordered in the c word office.

Anyway, off to do a phoner (that’s an interview with a major network), probably on my iPhone.

Have a fab weekend.

the c word

Remembering our ABCs thanks to the ‘King of Pop’

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After a super crazy week with no time to post, Friday ended on such a sad note with the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett.

Iconic Farrah

Iconic Farrah

They will definitely be missed by family, friends and fans around the world. Neither will ever be forgotten. Jackson for his music and Farrah for her film and television work.

Twitter has been a flutter with posts about Michael Jackson’s death. Not since the US inauguration have we seen so many updates on a topic. Literally thousands in the blink of an eye. The media circus following his death can only be described as ‘nutz!!!’  Even Triple M football got in on the act with Michael Jackson tunes playing during the coverage. How strange!!

Our fave Michael

Our fave Michael

Sad to hear channel 9 couldn’t pull together a decent tribute … we didn’t get to see it but from TV Tonight’s post … A a-p-p-a-l-l-i-n-g … we don’t think we need to see it. Come on guys!

Tributes to Farrah and Michael have been flooding the media and internet for the last few days. Our favourite tribute has got to be the Dancing Inmates from the Philippines. Here is one to the Charlie’s Angels starlet.

Here is a clip of Michael with the Jackson 5 singing ABC.

RIP Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett.