There’s a *saying that goes something along the lines of “if there isn’t a photo, then it never happened”.
CAPTION: Lieutenant Gary McHugh and Leading Seaman Ernesto Sanchez interview Able Seaman Matthew Hicks on the ship’s bridge during a Regional Presence Deployment. Story by Lieutenant Gary McHugh. Photo by Leading Seaman Ernesto Sanchez.
This saying is taken almost literally by members of Navy’s Communications and Media Branch, and none more so than deployed public affairs teams.
*The public affairs team in HMAS Ballarat produced 1214 photographs, 18 videos and 36 articles since the ship sailed from her home port of Fleet Base West at the end of April on a Regional Presence Deployment.
**This product is routinely picked up and re-published by mainstream media outlets unable to be there to tell the story**, keeps Navy families informed of what their loved ones do, and ultimately documents Navy’s history and commitment to the nation.
Ballarat’s team, consisting of Lieutenant Gary McHugh and Leading Seaman Imagery Specialist Ernesto Sanchez, has worked around the clock at times in dynamic situations, including the search for the lost submarine KRI Nanggala (*of which there was no coverage seen by CONTACT) and on maritime patrols as part of Operation Argos.
Lieutenant McHugh and Leading Seaman Sanchez also remotely managed imagery product from sister ship HMAS Parramatta during a parallel deployment.
Commanding Officer Ballarat Commander Antony Pisani said the public affairs team had worked hard to ensure the various activities undertaken during the deployment were documented for posterity.
“Ballarat has had an extremely busy deployment, having been tasked with a wide variety of duties over the past three months,” Commander Pisani said.
“It’s important that all these activities, such as regional engagements, are recorded and publicised to show the world that we’re committed to maintaining a presence in the region.
“By doing this, the public affairs team has amplified our strategic messaging of partnership and cooperation by providing high quality stills, vision, social media messaging and articles to showcase Ballarat’s achievements during the deployment.”
Leading Seaman Sanchez said a big part of being a successful imagery specialist was embedding into the ship’s routine immediately upon posting.
“I really enjoy getting around the ship and interacting with the entire ship’s company,” Leading Seaman Sanchez said.
“This also makes it a lot easier for me to approach people when we want to write an article or interview them in their workplace.”
*EDITOR’S NOTES: There’s another, related saying – “a photo can tell a thousand words” – to which CONTACT adds – “99.999% of photos cannot be published unless they have good accompanying words to ‘carry’ them”.
CONTACT knows from long experience that Defence PR puts too little effort into training writers and delivering supporting words.
There’s also a saying (which I’m sort of making up right now) – “what’s the point of producing a tonne of ‘media product’ that doesn’t have the quality or support or plan to get it widely published”.
*Case in point – how many of the 1214 photographs (fewer than 300 of which were actually published on the Defence image library), 18 videos (only 7 on YouTube) and 36 articles produced by the public affairs team on HMAS Ballarat’s recent deployment were published by media outlets (not counting Defence’s own newspapers, web sites etc)?
Answer – CONTACT published 15 photos, 14 articles (including this one) and 2 videos (noting that CONTACT is a content-hungry outlet that will publish just about anything we find – which means we didn’t even find 22 of the articles produced (which reflects badly on Navy PR’s support and plan. It also means 1199 photos and 16 videos didn’t have the supporting words we needed to ‘carry’ them, even if we could find them – i.e. without an accompanying story, all those photos didn’t happen, as far as CONTACT is concerned).
**But what about other outlets?
I know one or two Defence-specialist outlets published the handful of news-worthy articles produced (ignoring the majority, which were PR fluff, ‘hometowners’ and recruiting-focused articles).
Including an unscheduled diversion to look for an Indonesian submarine, HMAS Ballarat’s three-month deployment to the newsworthy South China Sea barely secured a handful of fleeting mentions on Channel 9 or the like – all of which merely reported the fact they were going (future tense), and none of which (in my observation and opinion) “showcased Ballarat’s achievements during the deployment”.
On the subject of videos – the seven (not 18 as claimed) videos on YouTube have a combined total of less than 30,000 views across two channels (Defence and Navy), which, in the grand scheme of things as far as YouTube’s potential is concerned and the potential of good footage to reach a mainstream-media audience, is pretty dismal.
**As recently as two years ago, Defence used to publish raw footage on its web site, which allowed mainstream media like Channel 7, 9, 10, ABC etc to download and edit the footage into their news bulletins. Now Defence has stopped that and started adding music and ‘supers’ to their own YouTube videos, edited to their own style, which can’t be downloaded and, even if they could, can’t be used in news broadcasts because of the music (copyright breach, plus inappropriate to news) and the ‘supers’, which can’t be edited out.
On top of all this, Defence PR (which consists of upwards of 250 full-time professional uniforms and civilians (think of the output potential!)), is all-but hamstrung by a Minister Dutton PR clampdown more draconian that any previous minister.
Did you see HMAS Ballarat’s achievements showcased anywhere other than CONTACT? – Please let us know in comments below or via firstname.lastname@example.org