Hit and Run

Written By: - Date published: 8:58 am, June 18th, 2008 - 33 comments
Categories: Media, national, spin - Tags:

I put a comment on one of Steve’s posts a few days ago and he suggested I put it up as a post so here goes:

National have been playing a hit and run public relations game for a few years now. It’s not a bad strategy for an opposition as the news-cycle moves so fast nowadays that by the time the facts are out the story is old news and there’s a new ‘scandal’ to focus on. This PR tactic usually ends in a loss of credibility but so far the media don’t seem to be fatigued by National.

If I was advising the government I would suggest they put a lot of resource into follow up. Actually contacting the journalist who ran the story and having a bit of a yarn about the story and the hit and run tactic once the dust settles is a good way of inoculating later attempts. It takes a lot of work but over a period of a few months you can render the tactic useless.

I really don’t think Labour have enough PR people who are willing to approach journalists and do this in the way it needs to be done. They are too focused on big picture ‘brand’ work. Call me old fashioned but I don’t think ‘branding’ is any substitute for just wandering down to the gallery and having a yarn every so often and I think a failure to do so can put a party at risk of seeming out of touch and arrogant in the eyes of the people that they rely on to communicate their stories.

I’ll add to this that another part of the hit and run tactic is it works to stop serious and engaged debate on any single issue. And lack of debate means the polly doing the hit and run can avoid the question “And what would you do about it?” That’s a blessed thing indeed for a party that has no policy and seems to have no answer other than “trust us we’ll do better”.

Today’s version of this tactic is the over liquor licensing. You’ll see if you read the story that National has no answer, they are just pillorying the government but the thing is I know someone who has worked on this policy and I can tell you there has been a lot of time and energy put into it. Of course by the time that information comes out the Nats will be onto another scandal and the media will have followed them.

33 comments on “Hit and Run”

  1. higherstandard 1

    IB

    I believe that Nats are indeed supporting the governments Bill on this issue.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10516839

    National leader John Key said his party would support the legislation as it would give communities more choice. His party prefers a wider select committee inquiry to look at law and order taking in the liquor use and licensing issues.

    “Is it the solution to the problems we are seeing in parts of South Auckland and the rest of the country? Absolutely not. Do we think that there needs to be a comprehensive select committee inquiry? Yes. But this is something we can look at.”

    Mr Key said Act’s stance on the bill was disappointing.

    “It’s out of synch with where public opinion would be at this time, which is New Zealanders want answers. Quite frankly they are fed up and want Parliament to do something about it.”

    Mr Key said National was prepared to work constructively with the Government on the issue but he said the Government had failed to act on a promise to review the number of liquor outlets that had come out of its 2006 inquiry into alcohol issues.

    The number of licensed premises had gone from 6295 to 14,970 since the legislation was passed.

    Seems a pretty reasonable and considered position to me

  2. mike 2

    Who playing the hit & run game IB?

    “In November 2006 the government announced a review of restrictions on the sale and supply of liquor to young people”

    Nothing happened. Labours only response these days is a “review” that only kicks the issue to touch so things die down(or get worse)

    Key is right attacking Labour over their constant rhetoric and inaction and judging by the press he’s getting its working.

  3. higherstandard 3

    Mike

    I’d add to that – shame on all those politicians who voted for the lowering of the age of purchasing liquor.

  4. Umm, mike, HS hit and run is a media tactic. Have a stab at your opposition, an initial flurry of bad media for them, and run away when a proper debate starts to develop.. it’s not a policy development thing…

    And the way to combat hit and run is building relatiosn with the media, letting them see the tactic for what it is. So, that next time National tries it, the media don’t get initially sucked in.

  5. James Kearney 5

    Fuck they just don’t get it. IB lays out the big issue and illustrates with an example. You lot try to argue the example. There’s no helping the right.

  6. IrishBill 6

    HS, yes they are supporting the bill but they are also doing hit and run job on the PR. Perhaps I should have called this a “eat your cake and have it” example of the genre. The line you quoted:

    “It’s out of synch with where public opinion would be at this time, which is New Zealanders want answers. Quite frankly they are fed up and want Parliament to do something about it.’

    Contains no answers whatsoever. Perhaps Key has an idea of what these “answers” he talks of are but I doubt it.

    mike, Key attacks Labour on everything and then moves on quickly. I don’t see anything in this that doesn’t show that. There has been a lot of action on this and, as I point out in my post, a lot of time and effort put into it. Labour has failed to point this out and if their track record is anything to go by they’ll let the issue blow over without anyone contacting the journos involved and having a chat about the actual facts in the matter. That just leaves the field open for more of the same tactic next time (probably tomorrow).

  7. Anything other than “Hit and Run” would force them to release detailed policy, something they have pledged not to do until the campaign period – According to Bill English and Chris Auchinvole (actual quotes).

    Actually, then there is one policy – “no detailed policies until the campaign period.”

    If you want examples of what a National Government would pursue in office, go to http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz, and devine policies from the ‘bog commenters.

  8. andy 8

    How is that power crisis Mr Brownlee??

    That was a hit and run of note! When asked ‘what would he do’ he just attacked Labour.

    IrishBill:

    I use the term ‘seagull’, they turn up make heaps of noise shit everywhere then bugger off, leaving you none the wiser 🙂

  9. Tane 9

    Housing NZ was a classic example. When the facts started coming out around costings it actually didn’t look like much of a scandal at all, apart from the ‘bad look’ that National convinced the media it was.

    But by that stage the story had moved on, and the press gallery had a new scandal to fill their column inches.

  10. Re: the Power “crisis”.

    A lot of development projects have been rightly (or wrongly) thwarted by the RMA on the basis of overwhelming local opposition and feeble cases with high cost/low benefit.

    I wonder how many of the voters labelled as NIMBY’s by pro-development advocates are actually National Party voters concerned with the impact of development on property values?

  11. Joker 11

    So which is better for NZ? The opposition to stop pointing out fcuk up’s with no solution for their remedy or the government to stop fcuking up?

  12. James Kearney 12

    If it were always that it was the government fucking up I’d be happy but it’s not. It’s National beating up on the most cynical line they can, and then running away before they actually have to provide any answers.

    Oppositions are supposed to present an alternative government, especially in election year. All National can do is try to tar the government with its attacks and hope to slide in as the only viable alternative. It’s an entirely negative form of politics.

  13. mike 13

    If you think Labour were never negative while they were in opposition JK I suggest you get sky and tune into channel 94 from around mid November.

  14. Mike. Parliament won’t be sitting in mid-November. Even if the election is mid-October, the final writs won’t be in till mid-November, first sitting date, will be December, if not January.

  15. IrishBill 15

    “So which is better for NZ? The opposition to stop pointing out fcuk up’s with no solution for their remedy or the government to stop fcuking up?”

    Joker, the point is that there is often no “fcuk up” at all but by the time the facts are out the media has moved on to the next “scandal”. National would do this country a better service by properly holding the government to account and providing their view on how to do it better. Sadly, the opposition seems to have little interest in providing a service to the public. Does this mean their salaries are just more “government waste”? Perhaps Bernard Hickey should investigate.

  16. kk 16

    are you going to use some examples Mike, specific to the argument? if you want to get your message accross it would probably help.

  17. Phil 17

    Labour don’t have to be in opposition to be negative – just look at them last election…

  18. Lampie 18

    Yes, think Labour needs to wise up on the marketing front, take this one

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/topic/story.cfm?c_id=273&objectid=10516847

    Go to Research New Zealand and you will see that the main question is do you think the Govt. should lower the taxes on food, petrol and electricity?

    http://www.researchnz.com/press_releases.html

    What is wrong with that?

    It is a misleading question for starters. Also close ended otherwords yes or no

    So what idiot would say no? None really hence 80 odd percent no matter what varibles you add to it or the sample size either (500 iss a bit bugger all too I feel as about 1000 is the magical statistical number to use)

  19. Lampie 19

    The Govt. should be pointing this meaningless research out to the public as it proves nothing (whoever paid for this rubbish should ask for their money back)

    Also possible reseach from this company to govt. depts. could be very inconclusive material that WILL affect strategies been put in place.

    This research about as great as that massey one on polynesians. i see NONE of the key staff have a qualification in STATISTICS or MARKETING or BUSINESS.

    Possible launch into as you said what National’s policies really are (make them up) get them to try and correct them.

  20. Lampie 20

    error have misleading on the brain

    should be leading question

  21. Lew 21

    IrishBill, I think you’re dead right with the prognosis on this one. In many ways Labour are now suffering from years of poor press relations.

    The thing the government seem to’ve missed in all of this is that they don’t have very much power to inform the electorate of anything. The media hold almost all of that power, and it’s the government’s job to give them material they’ll use.

    People commonly think of a commercial media artifact (a TV show, a newspaper, a radio broadcast, etc) as a product and the people who see, hear or read that product as consumers, but in fact it’s the other way around. Ad agencies are the consumers, and the audience is the product. News agencies don’t sell news to people – they give it away. They sell advertising to advertisers, and the rates are dictated by the audience to which those ads will be exposed. This model demands that media outlets publish or broadcast the material which will get them the most (or the best) eyeballs or earholes.

    A great example of this is today’s Dominion Post – a slow news day today, but they bought my eyeballs on the basis of a headline reading `Gang wrecks Treaty vote’ next to a picture of Tame Iti. I knew already that Iti wasn’t involved in the supposed intimidation of folks voting in the Treelord deal, but the placement was intended to give that impression, and it caused me and probably hundreds of others to buy the bedamned paper.

    The government, if they want to be treated better by the media, have to give the media what they want. As long as they produce less-saleable matter than National and everyone else who wants media space, they’ll lose the battle for the airwaves. The government is admittedly up against a number of structural problems, which are well-covered in various comment threads here, but as IB points out they’re also not doing themselves any favours.

    In a nice crisp bit o’ corporate bullshit bingo, the government needs to take first-mover advantage on core mindshare issues by leveraging private-sector message dispersal agents, providing them with best-in-class source material and access to premium internal knowledge networks.

    L

  22. expat 22

    When you’ve got an incumbent gummint leaving sweet, easy, juicy lollies every week or so what else do you do?

    Yep, just wait and smack them for six.

  23. expat 23

    The gummint are suffering after Helens PR manager quit a couple of years ago.

  24. IrishBill 24

    Normally I wouldn’t indulge someone who used the term “gummint” as if it were a witticism but expat’s “lollies” comment shows exactly how well this tactic works on the public.

    The recent lollies expat talks of include:

    A power “crisis” that everyone in the industry say is in no way a crisis.

    A housing NZ conference “rort” that was actually a cheap deal and in no way different to hundreds of other conferences that have occurred under governments for decades (except for the infamous WINZ conference in which more than $60k went missing.

    The outing of a senior public servant who was employed under the last government as having faked her qualifications.

    There is a repeat pattern here: National takes a non-issue, pretty much lies about it in the most hyperbolic manner it can and then moves on before they are caught out.

    A telling example of this is Tony Ryall’s failed attempt to portray bowel cancer screening as a election bribe. Fortunately that attempt at hit and run was too clearly cynical to get traction but it works quite well as a blatant example of the tactic.

  25. Lampie 25

    People commonly think of a commercial media artifact (a TV show, a newspaper, a radio broadcast, etc) as a product and the people who see, hear or read that product as consumers, but in fact it’s the other way around. Ad agencies are the consumers, and the audience is the product.

    As a marketer i would say tend to disagree but agree with overall point

  26. expat 26

    Easy tiger. If you want a debate you need to chill a bit yes.

    Gummint is a reference to Ken Douglas’ patois from days or yore. Think of it how you wish.

    The lollies were real in the eyes of the consumer/voters. Thats what counts, not the opinion of vested interests and policy wonks.

    Its not about national v labour – its about a gummint who has lost tuch with the people.

    I voted helen in years ago because the sountry needed a change and I’ll vote labour out this year for the same reason.

    And its a bit petty to ‘ban/torch’ my posts because you dont agree with them.

    But hey, if thats how you want to play it, it speaks volumes.

  27. T-rex 27

    expat – it might need a change, but it’s pretty retarded just to vote for “change” without considering what you’re voting to change to.

    Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

  28. Phil 28

    “The outing of a senior public servant who was employed under the last government as having faked her qualifications.”

    Lets be clear about something here IB… the fake credentials is one matter. The favouritism shown toward family members, and the fact two successive Labour ministers sat on their hands when they knew about it, is an entirely separate matter.

  29. Swampy 29

    OK, liquor licensing. Why not admit Labour created the problem in the first place, Helen was the deputy PM at the time.

  30. Swampy 30

    Hey Tane, if Housing NZ wasn’t a big deal, why did Helen drop her minister in the dogpoo in Parliament?

    Maori Affairs or whatever they call themselves is the next one.

  31. expat 31

    t-rex, change, innovation and evolution is what drives the human race forward. stagnation and naval gazing dont.

  32. ants 32

    How about these lollies? (You can argue against them till you’re blue in the face, but THIS is the perception that most Kiwis have of the current government, as the polls have indicated):

    – highest interest rates in the developed world due to inflationary government spending
    – violent crime on the increase, P labs spreading at an exponential rate
    – inept police force and justice system where the victims end up being punished
    – destroying overseas investors confidence in NZ – re: Telecom, AIA
    – thousands of patients being struck off surgery waiting lists
    – over a million New Zealanders needing health insurance to make up for the public health system
    – real wages are poor
    – same shopping trolley of groceries going up 28% in the last year

    This is why Labour can do no right at the moment – and hence National don’t need to release policy at the moment.

  33. ants. yeah that’s exactly the kind of stuff National’s uses for hit and run. on the surface it all works fine but if you actually say ‘ok how do we make this better’ you find National’s policies will actually make things worse.

    – inflationary tax cuts and borrowing for operational spending would put up both 1 and 8
    -opposing 1000 extra police and extra funding won’t help 2 and 3
    – less money for troubled kids and boot camps won’t help 2
    – wanting to take money out of the public system and into the private won’t help 5 and 6
    – opposing minimum wage increases and having a 90 day fire at will law won’t help 7
    – the question with 4 was do we want our economy to be hostage to foreign interests, the answer is no. National’s policy on telecom would mean there would be no cabinetisation happening right now. And profits from AIA would be paying Canadian pensioners as we speak.

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