On Friday of last week, Defence published video and photos of HMAS Adelaide in Dili Harbour – all dated 20 September – Wednesday.
CAPTION: HMAS Adelaide on her ‘overnight’ transit to East Timor – 19 September 2017. Photo by Leading Seaman Peter Thompson.
CONTACT processed that video and published it, plus one photo on Friday.
Then, on Saturday afternoon, CONTACT received a Press Release from Defence saying HMAS Adelaide “arrived in Timor-Leste today”.
“So what”, you might think – it’s just human error.
Bullshit I say – when you consider that six or more pairs of eyes read, cleared and approved that press release for distribution to all of Australia’s media.
And bullshit I say too when Defence and un-suspecting media outlets publish that ‘fact’ on the World Wide Web, as a permanent record.
CONTACT wrote to Defence immediately after receiving that press release (because the error, in the first paragraph, was immediately visible to anyone who knew anything of the subject) to seek clarification and a correction (if only for historical accuracy) – but they did not respond [and still haven’t as of 4 October].
So, what’s the real problem here (aside from the blatant error, factual faux pas, distortion of history and failure to correspond with the media or correct the record when the error is brought to their attention)?
The real problem I have with Defence PR generally, which is only highlighted by this example, is that while an expert source may well have written this press release (correctly) on the day of the action, the onerous, ridiculously lengthy clearance processes that press releases have to go through not only hamstrings Defence in its efforts to publish (even benign) information about itself, but, as in this case, actually introduces errors and embarrassment for the organisation in the process.
The clearance processes are supposed to prevent institutional embarrassment, not introduce and nurture it.
But worse than that – there are obviously different processes and procedures for clearing photos and video as opposed to written materiel, that sees the photos and videos from the same event published days before the written report (even though the photos and videos are a lot more laborious, technical and time consuming to handle than written materiel).
And, all these intimately-related PR products are handled, processed and cleared by different teams of people and published in different places on different days.
Defence employs well over 150 PR ‘professionals’.
But they are obviously not talking to each other, obviously not all on the same wavelengths, and obviously not capable of preventing errors such as Blind Freddie could instantly pick up if he was even half awake to the issues of the day.
OK, so that was a significant rant from someone who also makes mistakes.
But the big difference is, CONTACT is a one-man band, publishing far more error-free PR products than Defence’s 150+ ‘army’ of PR professionals.
Here’s a related claim I have stood by for years and am happy to be challenged on – you will find fewer errors (including spellings) in an entire 84-page issue of CONTACT magazine than you will find in most one-page Defence media releases.
Another comment from resident crankyman Sir Jeffrey Armiger, a retired Public Servant with a pet hate for BE – bovine excrement. Follow Sir Jeffrey on Facebook here.
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