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12 toughest PR gigs in NZ: 2013

According to a new ranking issued today by BlacklandPR, the toughest public relations challenges in 2013 were for the Police during the ‘roastbusters’ controversy and Fonterra during its product recall.

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

Organisation

Issue

Comment

Profile

Emotion

Complexity

Total

  1. NZ Police

Roastbusters

Centre of a moral panic

10

10

8

28

  1. Fonterra

“Botulism” recall

An own goal

9

8

9

26

  1. John Key

GCSB

Local expression of international privacy issue

8

7

8

23

  1. Min. of Primary Industry

Snapper

Passionate audience got political

7

9

6

22

  1. NZ Treasury

State Asset Sales

Carrying out financial task in a political fight

9

5

7

21

  1. EQC

Privacy Breach

Questions of competency and privacy continue

7

6

8

21

  1. Waikato DHB

Fluoride

Long term fractious debate surfaced into policy

7

7

6

20

  1. NZPost

Service changes

Historic institution changing with social trends

6

6

8

20

  1. Len Brown

Affair

Caught out

9

7

4

20

  1. Banking industry

Loan to value ratios

Implementing government change in hot housing climate

7

5

8

20

  1. NZOG

Pike River payouts

Major tragedy continues to play out

6

8

5

19

  1. AirNZ

Rejected tattoo

Hiring becomes political and cultural act

7

7

5

19

  1. Insurance Industry

Changes to house insurance

Complicated issue requiring audience calculation and decision

4

4

10

18

  1. Anadarko

Oil drilling

Frontline in debate over oil and gas exploitation

6

7

5

18

  1. Chorus

Fair fees

Technical issue crystallizes into beltway campaign

6

3

9

18

  1. Aaron Gilmore

Restaurant fracas

Crisis built on hot air

9

3

3

15

  1. Skycity

Convention Centre

Building surfaces dispute over sin

6

3

5

14

  1. NZ Cricket

ICC Investigation

Issue at heart of sport credibility

4

5

5

14

  1. Water Safety NZ

Life Jackets

Social marketing still not winning battle it chose

4

3

5

12

  1. TourismNZ

100% Pure

Original critique still tarnishes brand standing

4

3

4

11

 

 

 





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