I find it hard to believe that the ‘no news is good news’ method of managing public relations – particularly when
pertaining to issue or crisis management – is still being employed these days.
This practice seems more than somewhat outdated in today’s fast moving communications sphere. We live in a world where an earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan leads every international news bulletins only minutes after it happens, or when bad-boy actor Charlie Sheen’s latest narcissistic rant can be instantly picked up by a couple of million followers on Twitter, and the removal of a North African dictator from his four decade reign is played out in the living rooms of viewers in Paris, London, Wellington and New York.
Therefore the old ‘little comment as possible’ technique seems highly passé and totally ineffective in the world we now live in. However, it seems some organisations still subscribe to the ‘less is more’ pr ethos.
Fonterra springs to mind as a major user of this mode of public communication. Despite been a highly successful farmer co-operative and international food company the diary giant seems to prefer to take a far more passive stance than front-footing potential controversial issues.
One only has to look at the current debate over milk prices http://tinyurl.com/5sqsehm ; controversy over the imports of palm kernel stock feed http://tinyurl.com/4r93df5 or even the long-running dirty dairying claims http://tinyurl.com/4grwknz to see Fonterra has taken a ‘quietly-quietly’ approach to these issues or anything that may cause it a bit of hullabaloo.
I think Fonterra is a great New Zealand company and it has a wonderful story to tell. However, you get the feeling by the way it keeps its head buried in the sand that Fonterra is either embarrassed by its success, afraid to confront issues head on or is hiding something.
Fonterra needs to lose its fear of engaging in controversy and to fill the vacuum this creates for its opponents and critics. I am confident it has well-reasoned arguments and points to make about milk prices, imports of palm kernel extract and so-called dirty dairying. It would be good to hear them.