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Giant guide dog tours Sydney for access rights…and a new name!

When the opportunity came to launch the biggest guide dog model anyone had ever seen, Palin Communications and Guide Dogs NSW/ACT took the challenge by the collar and created a unique story opportunity for Sydney media.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's unveiled their latest graduate – a 4.3 metre high model guide dog that is identical to their distinctive collection boxes. It was launched in Sydney on 3 March 2010 to emphasise the point that guide dogs can indeed go anywhere. Research still shows that one in four Australian adults are still not aware that guide dogs are allowed into restaurants and other hospitality venues, and there are still reports of guide dog users being refused entry into certain establishments.

Like all newly graduated guide dogs, the giant model dog set off from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's Training Centre in Glossodia, before touring through Sydney visiting Penrith, Parramatta, the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Chatswood and Bondi Beach.

While the model will serve as a prominent reminder about access, it will now go on to form the centrepiece of a major fundraising drive to help raise much needed funds for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's free services.

Suburban media took the opportunity to prepare stories and photos of the giant model dog visiting their local areas, while the Sydney Morning Herald prepared an online story about guide dog access rights.

Media is still being generated well after the launch and we look forward to seeing the giant guide dog on the road in the near future.

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What does silence say?

Martin Palin - Tuesday, September 16, 2014
There is a nice little research project for some Communications Masters student who is interested in the question of how Australians respond to a “declined to be interviewed” or “was not available to comment” in investigative media reports.

Media trainers and PR types are prone to speculate that it implies the organisation or the person has something to hide. It is signal of evasion or negativity. But they don’t really know. Maybe listeners are so sceptical of some media outlets these days that they forgive people for not offering themselves up to be hammered.

Personally I’m always left with a negative impression of organisations that decline to give their side of the story. Professionally I encourage all my clients to look at interview requests as an opportunity to tell their side of a yarn. 

For me it’s hard to ignore the correlation between negativity and evasiveness on the one hand versus positivity and openness on the other.
Richard Branson has built a remarkable global profile by being clever and open with the media. Not everyone needs to do stunts with models and dress up in crazy outfits but he does frame an interesting comparison to media shy Australian business figures. 

The considered decision of people like Nathan Tinkler and Gina Rinehart to avoid the media and consistently decline media interviews clearly influences our perception of them. It’s only via the media that we can shape any kind of perception of them at all. 

Let’s say you are driving home from work on a normal Monday listening to the radio. When James Hardie is criticised for inadequate provisions in the compensation fund for asbestos victims and “no-one was available” to explain the challenges associated with maintaining such a fund, what do you make of that? (James Hardie plans to alter victim payouts, PM, 15/9/14)

You have dinner and settle in front of Four Corners with a cup of tea. When James Packer’s Crown is investigated in a media expose on the regulation of Australian casinos and no-one from Crown is “available for comment”, what impression does that leave on you? (High Rollers – High Risk; Four Corners 15/9/14)

I know the lawyers and regulatory people are always banging on about the risks of doing interviews you “can’t control” and journalists who have “made up their mind”. The reality is that talented spokespeople can always exert a level of control. And good journalists are trained not to have made up their mind before investigating all sides.

So consider the risks of NOT doing the interview. That is, the risk of being portrayed negatively. The risk of people making up their mind about you and your business based on your reluctance to tell your side of the story. Consider the impact you have had on the journalist's initial intention to portray you fairly. You have made their job to provide a balanced report harder.

Of course there are times when it does make sense to decline an interview. I’d decline if you do not have a talented spokesperson who can deal with the situation with which you are faced or where you’ve been given too little notice to confirm the context for the story or the interest of the journalist.
And yes there are always risks associated with doing interviews no matter what the context.

But you know what? There are sometimes even bigger risks associated with not doing them – and that is certainly worth reflecting on the next time you are faced with the dilemma.

© 2012 Palin Communications


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