CCC Award 2011

Okay, it’s time for me to announce the winner of the 2011 Corporate Communications Clown of the Year Award. This award is given to the person, department or corporation I believe is most responsible for the worst (best?) example of corporate-speak or the worst (best?) attempt at corporate spin.

Throughout the year I have provided a few nominations but some late entries have come to my attention. First, let’s recap some of the earlier ‘achievements’.

First up was Geoff Parker, Chief Executive of the Australasian Bottled Water Institute. He was reacting to the decision by the University of Canberra to ban the sale of bottled water on its campus, a move that is estimated to reduce the amount of bottled water by 140,000 a year. According to Mr Parker, the ‘jury is out’ on whether refillable bottles are better for the environment than the production of plastic bottles. Say what? I emailed him to ‘please explain’ but got no response.

Telcos are always candidates for this type of award, given their love of jargon and corporate-speak. This year it was Optus Chief Executive, Paul O’Sullivan, who excelled when he sent an internal email announcing a round of redundancies. Did he mention the redundancies in the first sentence of the email? No, instead he said, ‘Today we are taking another step in our transformation journey.’ How about the second sentence? No, that was where he mentioned the need for Optus to be ‘efficient and streamlined’. Then it must have been the third sentence. No! That was all about reviewing ‘our structure, our capability, our systems and processes, and our cost base.’ Finally he got around to mentioning the redundancies – sort of. ‘As a result of our review we have made some hard decisions – to consolidate roles, reduce headcount and reduce operating expenditure.’ Does that mean people are going to lose their jobs? Finally, he spat it out – ‘Today we are announcing the removal of 250 roles from across all areas of the business. This will result in around 180 people leaving the company.’ There, that wasn’t too hard, was it?

For the marketing disaster of the year, we go overseas, and the US clothing company, backcountry.com. As Americans watched disastrous winds wreak havoc across Tornado Alley, backcountry.com sent out a marketing email that read: 

MOTHER NATURE HATES YOU.

DEAL WITH IT!

UP TO 40% OFF OUTERWEAR AND RAINWEAR.

So sensitive!

Back home for the next two nominations – and away from private enterprise to the world of government. First comes this priceless example of corporate-speak from the Department of Defence. In response to suggestions that the Department did not respond in a timely and appropriate manner to media requests, they admitted that there was an ‘indifferent organisational responsiveness to ministerial requests associated with media inquiries and media activities’. That explains it then, doesn’t it?

Politicians mangling the English language is nothing new. My all time favourite would have to be William McMahon’s priceless contribution during the 1972 election campaign, ‘There comes a time in the flood of time in the affairs of men that, taken at the flood of the tide, leads on to fortune.’ Now fledging Senator John Madigan of the DLP might not be quite in that class yet but he’s on the way if he continues to mix his metaphors like he did earlier in the year, ‘A lot of people feel like they are a mouse in a Ferris wheel in a big pond of water and if they so much as stop and smell the roses, they are going to bloody drown.’ Have you got that image in your mind: a mouse, sitting on a Ferris wheel, that has been erected in the middle of a pond, and somehow the mouse is able to reach out and grab some roses … forget it.

But the winner of the Corporate Communications Clown Award of the Year goes to those members of the Victoria Police based in Gippsland who directed local businesses to stop selling alcohol to Aboriginal people in East Bairnsdale. When complaints started rolling in, they backtracked by explaining that what they meant to say was that local businesses should stop selling alcohol to possible troublemakers. I have looked up both the Macquarie Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus but cannot find where ‘possible troublemakers’ is n official synonym for ‘Aboriginal Australians’.  This isn’t Alabama in the early 60s, this is Victoria 2011.

Let’s see what 2012 brings.

Nicolas Brasch
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Two great events

In the past few weeks it has been my pleasure to attend two fantastic events for children’s writers and illustrators. Apart from being fantastic network opportunities, they stood out largely because of the obvious dedication and passion of those who organised them.

First, there was the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards held at The Wine Centre in Adelaide. I attended this event for the first time and came away full of admiration for the Committee Members and the Judges. Apart from their extraordinary knowledge of the world of children’s book writing, their organisational skills left far better financed organisations for dead. Most importantly, I realised for the first time just how important these awards are. Congratulations to all the winners.

The second event I attended was the Ballarat Writers Festival which specialises in children’s writing and illustrating. This event is now a must-attend for anyone interested in children’s books (or should I say ‘content’ given the enormous changes occurring in our industry). I was fortunate enough to attend the pre-festival dinner where I met some very interesting people and bumped into a few acquaintances. The panels and workshops held the following day were informative and fascinating (even the one I was on). I’ve already got next year’s Festival in my diary.

Nicolas Brasch
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Corporate Clown (3)

Optus has just announced a round of redundancies. The Chief Executive, Paul O’Sullivan, emailed all staff with the announcement, though you have to go to very last line of opening paragraph (after numerous euphemisms) before finding out how many people will lose their jobs. Paul O’Suillivan is nomination number three for Corporate Clown of the Year in regard to use of management speak and/or trying to pull the wool over the eyes of consumers and public (or in his case, his own staff).

Thanks to Crikey.com.au for the following extract from the email: 

Hi teamToday we are taking another step in our transformation journey. In a highly competitive industry it’s important we are efficient and streamlined. Over the past few months we have reviewed our structure, our capability, our systems and processes, and our cost base. As a result of our review we have made some hard decisions — to consolidate roles, reduce headcount and reduce operating expenditure. Today we are announcing the removal of 250 roles from across all areas of the business. This will result in around 180 people leaving the company.

Nicolas Brasch
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Book shop closures

It occurred to me recently that the closures of numerous Angus & Robertson and Borders stores will have an unintended and potentially socially disastrous consequence.

Consider that many A&R stores (Borders to a much lesser extent) were in shopping centres in areas where book buying and reading are perhaps not as valued as in areas where smaller bookshops proliferate. The absence of such stores means that people who bought books only because it was convenient are unlikely to go out of their way to continue this practice.

For me, the closures are not such a big deal. I will happily go out of my way to source a particular book or to buy books as presents. But for many people books were only bought as presents because of the convenience factor. Children who might have received books may now just be given yet more plastic toys or video games. The result will be the widening of the gap between those who read for pleasure and those who do not read for pleasure (or are not given the opportunity). And in areas where literacy levels are already low, this could be disastrous.

Nicolas Brasch
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Law and Order – The Business of Writing

Law and Order – The Business of Writing

Wednesday 8 June 2011, 6:30PM – 8:00PM

Presented by: With Robyn Ayres, Nic Pullen, Colin Golvan & Nicolas Brasch
Free!

Join Arts Law Centre Executive Director, Robyn Ayres, industry experts Nic Pullen and Colin Golvan, and author Nicolas Brasch as they guide you through aspects of writing and the law. If you are earning a living through writing there is a maze of legal issues to navigate. The panel will discuss the necessary steps to set yourself up as a freelancer and avoid the pitfalls of operating your writing business.

Nic Pullen is part of the HWL Ebsworth Lawyers team and acts for a range of media and publishing organisations, especially in the television, radio, print and book publishing, on-line publishing and advertising industries.

Colin Golvan SC is a Senior Counsel at the Victorian Bar specialising in copyright and related areas of law. He has written extensively on writing, publishing and the law and is the author of Copyright Law and Practice (Federation Press 2007). He was also the founding chairperson of the VWC.

Nicolas Brasch has written more than 350 books for both the educational and trade markets, several of which have won major awards. He regularly conducts writing workshops at various institutions and literary festivals.

As places are limited and to allow for confirmation of VWC events, prior bookings are required for all events. We strongly advise all bookings be made at least one week prior to event start. Bookings are not confirmed until payment is made. Refunds will only be given where a cancellation is made three working days prior to an event. The VWC reserves the right to cancel any event up to two days prior. Due to the nature of a 12-month program, event line-up may be subject to change.

Pricing

Free

Venue

Victorian Writers Centre
The Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

Nicolas Brasch
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