Each year BlacklandPR names the dozen public issues that they assess to have involved the most complex, emotional and sizable public relations challenges.
BlacklandPR Director Mark Blackham says that this year the emotions sparked by the ‘roastbusters’ scandal made it the toughest PR challenge for anyone involved.
“Sex and morality made this the most talked about and most highly charged issue.
“We call these ‘black hole’ issues. They draw in and consume everything near them, including the light of reason; in this case the Police and other individuals.
“Fonterra’s product recall came a close second due to the international danger posed by potentially lethal bacteria, and the risk to New Zealand’s reputation.
“What made the challenge remarkable was that it was completely Fonterra’s own doing. It sounded the alarm on something that did not exist,” Mr Blackham said.
Eight of the toughest issues were faced by the Government or organisations related to it.
The National Government endured public pressure over issues related to GCSB, and to the selling of shares in state assets. The Ministry of Primary Industries challenged the pastime of a fifth of the population when it lowered snapper catch limits.
Others included EQC over privacy concerns, NZPost over business changes, AirNZ over hiring practices, and Waikato DHB/Hamilton City Council over fluoride in water.
“Government is the place where society fights its economic, social and cultural battles, so many public relation challenges end up in its lap,” Mr Blackham said.
Blackham said many PR challenges arise from “lightning rod” issues, where they attract attention because of broader social implications. Examples this year included Anadarko’s oil drilling and Air New Zealand’s ban on employee tattoos.
“Organisations can be surprised to find themselves at the centre of a social storm. It’s not necessarily their fault, but once you’re a target, it’s tough to avoid being shot,” he said.
The list is intended to have captured the most significant public affairs issues that occurred over the year. Each is scored on the public profile of the matter, the emotional components, and the complexity. It is not an exhaustive list of every issue requiring public relations.
Toughest PR gigs 2013: Ranking
Centre of a moral panic
An own goal
Local expression of international privacy issue
Passionate audience got political
State Asset Sales
Carrying out financial task in a political fight
Questions of competency and privacy continue
Long term fractious debate surfaced into policy
Historic institution changing with social trends
Loan to value ratios
Implementing government change in hot housing climate
Pike River payouts
Major tragedy continues to play out
Hiring becomes political and cultural act
Changes to house insurance
Complicated issue requiring audience calculation and decision
Frontline in debate over oil and gas exploitation
Technical issue crystallizes into beltway campaign
Crisis built on hot air
Building surfaces dispute over sin
Issue at heart of sport credibility
Social marketing still not winning battle it chose
Original critique still tarnishes brand standing