It’s a Wrap – Honner’s quarterly media roundup (Q317)

What’s news?

The big can now get bigger: media law changes pass the Senate

After months of negotiation and delay, the government’s media reforms passed the Senate. The government secured the support of the Nick Xenophon Team and One Nation to pass the bill that scraps restrictions including the “two out of three” rule, which stops companies owning newspaper, radio and TV stations in the same city. The changes also abolish the “reach rule” which prevents a single TV broadcaster from reaching more than 75% of the population.

Essentially, the changes allow for big media companies to get bigger and open the way for a rise in mergers and acquisitions in the industry. The bill will need to pass the House of Representatives to become law, however that’s expected to be a process of rubber stamping given the government’s majority in the lower house.

Changes too late for Murdoch, Gordon: CBS lobs rescue bid for Ten 

The changes come too late for Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon who had hoped the reform would allow them to take over troubled broadcaster Ten Network. Before the parliamentary debate concluded, US broadcasting giant CBS struck a rescue deal to buy Ten, putting paid to the plans of the Australian media moguls.

Gordon owns the WIN television network, while Murdoch, who is News Corp co-chairman, owns radio station Nova. Ten had been placed into voluntary administration in June after Murdoch—the network’s former executive chairman—and fellow creditor James Packer backed away from guaranteeing a new $250 million line of credit.

Gordon went down fighting, but his last-minute legal action to stop CBS was rejected by the Supreme Court of NSW and Ten creditors voted overwhelmingly in favour of the CBS deal days later. Still, it’s not over until it’s over. The CBS deal could face a legal appeal from Gordon and requires approval from the Foreign Investment Board.

Write-downs, losses and cost cuts: just another earnings season

It’s no easy environment that CBS is walking into, as recent financial results from rival local networks attest. During the August earnings season, Seven West Media and Nine Network both reported large losses courtesy of asset write-downs and a continued contraction in the free-to-air advertising market, as viewers continue to abandon broadcast  TV for broadband options such as streaming services or social media.

Over in newspaper land, it’s no better. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp announced it plunged to a US$643 million annual loss due to major write-downs of its U.K. and Australian newspapers. Its stable of Australian mastheads, which includes The Australian, Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph – had their book value slashed by nearly 40% to US$310 million.

The company flagged another round of cuts for the business this financial year, at least equivalent to the US$40 million carved out of the business last year. While the last lot of cuts included layoffs of 70 staff photographers and major cuts to production and sub-editing staff, News Corp’s new chief financial officer Susan Panuccio said the next tranche would predominantly focus on central, non-content related costs.

Fairfax takes drastic measures: reveals details of Domain split

Fairfax Media warned its revenues are down 4-5% on last year’s levels before revealing details of its plan to split off the only growth part of the business, its real estate advertising arm Domain. The separation will see Fairfax emerge with a 60% stake in Domain and reduced debt. The other 40% of Domain will be held by existing Fairfax shareholders.

The plan is driven by Fairfax’s belief that its share price doesn’t fully reflect Domain’s true value and that the stock is being unduly weighed down by concerns over its traditional publishing assets. Fairfax ramped up efforts to spin off Domain after US private equity firms TPG Capital Management and Hellman & Friedman abandoned moves to acquire the company.

Death by Google and Facebook: Senate committee hears the woes of public interest journalism

The Senate committee inquiry into the future of public interest journalism in Australia continued. In a series of heated exchanges, Senator Xenophon accused Google and Facebook of killing Australian journalism, saying they are making millions in advertising revenue at the expense of Australia’s democracy – claims both firms denied.

Launched after Fairfax Media announced its latest round of job cuts in May, the Senate inquiry has discussed the possibility of taxing news aggregators such as Google and Facebook and providing financial incentives in the form of tax breaks to encourage greater investment in journalism.

Appearing before the committee in August, Google unsurprisingly rejected the idea of a levy on aggregators to prop up Australian journalism, arguing it hasn’t worked elsewhere in the world. Google Australia Managing Director Jason Pellegrino told the Committee consumers are to blame for the woes of journalism because they are changing the way they consume news.

The spread of fake news and what Google and Facebook are doing about it was another source of contention. Facebook Australia’s head of policy, Mia Garlick, said Facebook is tackling fake news by removing accounts that exhibit suspicious behaviour rather than because of the nature of their content. Senator Xenophon accused Facebook of not acting fast enough to stamp out fake news.

It was dog eat dog among the media with Fairfax Chief Executive Greg Hywood blaming the ABC for using taxpayer dollars to steal the newspaper’s audience, while conservative think-tank Institute for Public Affairs called for the public broadcaster to be privatised.

The Committee is due to present its recommendation in a final report by Dec. 7.


Australians are worried about fake news, but not willing to pay

Deloitte’s sixth annual Media Consumer Survey found Australians remain overwhelmingly reluctant to pay for online news, with only 10% of respondents willing to do so. The reluctance comes despite concerns over the accuracy of news. The survey found 65% of respondents who access news through online sources are concerned about being exposed to “fake news” and 77% believe they have been exposed.

Newspapers still the most trusted for advertising; social media the least

Despite the omnipresent shift in advertising from print to online, a survey by AdTrust found that newspapers are still the most trusted platform for advertising. The study, commissioned by publishing industry body NewsMediaWorks, found that an audience’s trust in ads is greatest in newspapers, followed by cinema, radio, magazines and digital news media. Ads in social media are the least trusted, followed by search engines and any other websites.

Quotable quotes:

“Is the requirement for ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ coverage designed to give voice to white supremacists, holocaust deniers, climate change sceptics and anti-vaxxers?” – Labor communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland after One Nation leader Pauline Hanson called for the ABC to insert the words “fair and balanced” in its charter.

“We’ve built extremely strong and very appropriate laws to govern media. All of them, unfortunately, are completely irrelevant for the era we are about to enter.” – Melbourne Business School adjunct professor Mark Ritson addressing the Senate committee inquiry into the future of public interest journalism.

“The digital disruption that has transformed the media has shaken everything we knew about our industry. There is no certainty.” – the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance in its submission to the Senate committee inquiry into the future of public interest journalism.

“We are in an era where integrity is priceless. Yet digital distributors have long been a platform for the fake, the faux and the fallacious (and) have eroded the integrity of content by undermining its provenance.” – News Corporation Chief Executive Robert Thomson addressing investors after the company announced a US$643 million loss.

Are you maximising the potential of LinkedIn?

Earlier this year, the number of LinkedIn users reached half a billion worldwide. For those yet to take the LinkedIn plunge, there’s a whole world of valuable connections and insightful conversations that you need to be a part of.

Beyond the networking and recruiting attributes of LinkedIn, the social media channel has an increasingly important role to play in PR programs – both at a company and individual level. As an ‘owned’ media channel, it’s an asset for profile raising, building awareness and sharing thought leadership, where you can directly communicate with your connections and broader audience.

In an era driven by social media, and combined with fewer media outlets, it’s important LinkedIn receives the attention needed. Keeping your LinkedIn presence slick and relevant not only benefits you, but also your organisation more broadly.

Here’s three ways to refine your approach:

Do you have: an active and relevant personal profile?

The first step is checking the basics – are your position title, company and education correct? Aim to link these to the relevant organisation’s LinkedIn presence where possible. LinkedIn is one of the first places a journalist will check to verify information, so this is particularly important for key company spokespeople and C-suite executives who have an industry or media profile.

As you move between roles and companies, ensure your profile is updated to include an end date. It’s confusing when someone is seemingly working at four different companies at once! Correct tenure information gives your profile validation, and detail about your achievements and responsibilities provides clout. Social media is one of the few places where self-promotion is expected and accepted, so make the most of it.

It’s worth logging into LinkedIn every day – the more engaged you are with LinkedIn and your connections, the more value the platform offers. Try to find two things to like, share or comment on each day, connect with relevant groups, and give your connections endorsements where suitable. (They will likely return the favour!)

Do you have: worthwhile connections? 

A major turnoff to using LinkedIn can be the quality of your connections. With so many people using the platform incorrectly to spread fake news or gain as many (irrelevant) connections as possible, your feed can easily fill with spam and trash. We’ve all seen those pointless posts that somehow go viral and it’s onerous having to filter through your feed for insightful gems. Read more about the LinkedIn ‘likes’ protocol here.

Keep your connections relevant – it’s not about having the most connections, but about having the right connections. Remove those who aren’t valuable to your profession or industry.

Do you have: regular and interesting insights to share?

Richard Branson is a well-known thought leader who uses LinkedIn well, regularly posting articles on LinkedIn Publishing. While an extreme example, this shows how simply sharing your insights can create a personal brand and mini community.

Different to a regular ‘status-style’ post, the LinkedIn Publishing platform encourages members to post blog-style content and articles about their expertise or interests. Learn more about how to use LinkedIn Publishing here.

A number of our clients have had success in sharing insightful content on LinkedIn Publishing, positioning themselves as a commentator on a number of topics. LinkedIn Publishing pieces have longevity over regular posts, and are one of the first things a viewer of your profile sees. As a starting point, keep it short and relevant to your industry or area of expertise.

When used correctly, LinkedIn has enormous power as a self-promotion and company profiling tool – but you need to be engaged to find the platform valuable! LinkedIn cannot be a set-and-forget approach, so it’s important that you regularly review your profile, engage with your connections and explore ways to share your expertise.

Still unsure? Honner offers social media training for individuals and companies.

Succeeding in PR Down Under – What it takes, from a migrant’s perspective

The public relations industry being a hard nut to crack is a no-brainer. However, if you are an overseas migrant trying to make a mark in the Australian PR landscape, you have a fair share of learning to do before you can dive deep into this developed sector.

I had previously worked with the largest PR agency in India, adfactors pr, which happens to be Honner’s partner agency from the prestigious global communication partners network. That made me think I could easily adopt a ‘plug and play’ model of work – apply my PR knowledge from India, and experience from Adfactors (and another boutique agency) to succeed at my Honner gig.

This was not as easy as it may sound in the first instance. To say the least, I ended up on a roller coaster ride during my first year – which has now landed me a portfolio of Honner’s crème de la crème clients and rich learnings from the Aussie Land.

I often get approached by my fellow Indian mates who have either moved to Australia or plan to move soon, asking me for tips to land a PR job in Australia. In all honesty, surviving and thriving in the role is a bigger landmine than getting placed.

Here are my top five tips on how to nail that PR job Down Under.

  • Get hold of an Australian writing and talking style guide

This is important.

I am from India, which is ‘considered’ a non-English speaking country. Despite being the world’s second-largest English speaking country by population (second only to the U.S.), only 10% of our folks can understand English and speak in everyday situations with limited proficiency. Very few, only 1% can speak English with mastery. The Australian style of English, however, is a completely different ballgame.

Aussies love short, simple sentences in writing so make sure when you write media releases and other pieces of content for your clients, stick to a maximum of 25-30 words per sentence. Less is more in professional writing everywhere, but even more so in Australia than India.

  • Break the ice with coffee

Let’s admit it. Australians love their coffee. It’s always a good idea to approach journalists and/or your colleagues for a coffee catch-up and share your story with them. Once they know of your background and the differences between your world and theirs, they will be able to relate better with you on a professional and personal level.

As part of our media contact program at Honner, I have had ample opportunities to catch up with journalists and know more about them, what they expect from us and how the media works here.


  • Events and conferences for networking 

Get involved. Start by attending a few networking events in your industry when you get a chance. (It gets busier with client work afterwards, so make use of your honeymoon period to tap these events).

An example would be @PRINKSAustralia which encourages professionals in media, PR and advertising, and other communications professionals, to connect, share ideas and a drink or so.

There are a few more events organised by PR organisations like the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) that will allow you to discover new agencies, new people and new opportunities.

  • Go shopping!

This is my favourite part.

PR is essentially a client-facing role. It never was and will never be a boring desk job, which is why we love it so much. That also means you always must be presentable, and adapting to Australian fashion is a bonus. I can’t be too sure of men’s fashion, but the ladies out there can always take a trip to popular local fashion brands for your work wear like Portmans, Forcast and The Iconic online store.

I suggest this because it’s easy to do, within your control and makes you feel less out of place in the crowd.

  • In the end, public relations is all about relationships 

Needless to say, but PR rests on the shoulders of relationship building. After all, we are all dealing with real people who have their own emotions, preferences and life journeys to share. If you have built likeability among clients, journalists and fellow team mates, things may automatically fall in place and you’ll feel more settled in your role than ever before.

I can attest that despite being stationed in the “quiet corner” at the Honner office (due to my own preferences), I have built some great friendships and everyone has warmly accepted me despite the cultural differences. In fact, Honner is a melting pot for PR pros from different cultures and backgrounds. In the last year alone, I’ve seen overseas recruits from partner agencies in France, London and India – giving us the opportunity to bring our local experiences on board.

I would conclude by saying all-in-all it has been a worthwhile move — a bit overwhelming at the start, but that is part and parcel of every relocation process. The key is to embrace that you belong here now and be confident that you’ll be offered a raft of benefits from working in the Australian PR industry, if you invest enough time and emotion into it.

Honner finalist in The Holmes Report 2017 Asia-Pacific Corporate PR Consultancies of the Year

2017 Asia-Pacific Corporate PR Consultancies of the Year

The 2017 Asia-Pacific PR Consultancies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 100 submissions and meetings with the best PR firms across the region. Consultancy of the Year winners are announced and honoured at the 2017 Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards, taking place on 14 September in Hong Kong.

Honner (Australia/Independent)

A veteran of respected UK communications agency Fishburn, of Australian institutional investment journal Super Review, and of the banking sector in both the UK and Australia, Philippa Honner launched her own communications firm in 1997 and has built it into the leader in the financial services sector in Australia, with a team of close to 20 in Sydney (there are plans for an additional office in New York) serving a client portfolio that includes big-four bank NAB, $55 billion superannuation fund UniSuper, and the world’s largest listed hedge fund manager Man Group. A wealth of new business from clients such as Franklin Templeton, MoneyTree, Plato, Antipodes, Quantifeed, Bell Direct, PM Capital, bfinance, and Antipodes helped fuel healthy growth last year.

Honner was recognized at the Financial Standard MAX Awards as PR Agency of the Year in 2016, having earlier been voted Australia’s best agency by financial journalists, and it has built a reputation for thought leadership in the sector—and the media environment in particular—and partnering with international specialists to bring a global perspective to clients. In terms of expanding capabilities, Honner forged a strategic partnership with digital agency Spark Green to build websites and digital platforms to assist in content-led campaigns.

Last year, the firm provided Australian communications activity for the global announcement of the proposed merger between Henderson Global Investors and Janus Capital; was engaged by fund manager Antipodes Partners to manage the launch communications for its first listed investment company; and worked with Australian Ethical, the oldest and most successful ethical investment manager in Australia, to support its next phase of growth.

Other finalists include Allison+Partners (MDC Partners), APCO Worldwide (Independent), Citadel-Magnus (Australia/Independent) and SPRG (Independent).

Make marriage equality a reality in 2017

We see ourselves as partners with our clients and with the other PR agencies we work with globally—collaborating to achieve outcomes that deliver real benefits to an organisation.

We also believe that this equality should extend to every individual; not just those in our team, or our industry, but to every Australian.

September represents an important month for equality and how we in Australia want to be perceived in the world.

On recognising the rights of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) colleagues we are already well behind. The United States, France, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, South Africa and New Zealand are some of the 23 countries who have already legalised marriage between same sex couples.  The Netherlands was the first country to recognise this right way back in 2001.

It is now our turn to make equality a reality.

Everyone is entitled to their view and opinion. But history repeatedly shows excluding people on the basis of race, religion or sexual preference is not the way forward for a modern, inclusive society. As communication professionals, we understand well that open and respectful dialogue is critical to bringing people together.

Superfriend, Honner’s long term pro-bono client representing some of Australia’s largest superannuation funds and more than 7.5 million individual Australian super members, knows the negative mental health outcomes that are associated with such exclusion.

Studies show that people who identify as LGBTQI are at increased risk of exposure to institutionalised and interpersonal discrimination, which can lead to poorer mental health outcomes and higher rates of anxiety disorders and suicidality, compared to the broader population.

Over 1,600 organisations have already pledged their support for marriage equality. This includes major financial services brands such as the Big Four banks, Mastercard, Visa, Citi, ASX and State Street to name a few.

We are proud to add Honner to this list. After all, equality for all should not be too much to ask in 2017.