The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is Australia’s state-owned and funded national public broadcaster. The ABC plays a leading role in the history of broadcasting in Australia. ABC International Development is the international development branch of Australia’s national public broadcaster. I have great pleasure to talk to Aaron Kearney, prominent broadcaster, journalist and sports commentator at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He shares with us about his work and his insights on the changing Australian media landscape
Background of Australian Broadcasting Corporation International Development
ABC International Development works in remote, often sparsely-populated developing nations and yet communicating effectively in an ever-changing media environment is at the forefront of everything we do. Digital disruption, the pressure on traditional media models and the capacity for social media to democratise communications are as real in Nuku’alofa, Kokopo and Honiara as they are in Sydney, London or Dubai.
Can you tell us more your work?
As a reporter, content producer and trainer for ABC International Development, I am currently designing and delivering Media and Communications courses across seven Pacific nations. I am deeply engaged in these issues and have spent a lot of time forming strategies to navigate this unfamiliar and ever-changing landscape. Everyone wants the same magic formula. How do I make people engage with my content? How do I get noticed amid the noise? How do I handle traditional versus new media?
I am learning as much as I am teaching because I am amazed how even in completely different cultural and economic contexts, the issues mirror those I have faced as a working journalist on radio, television, newspapers and online over more than two decades in the highly-competitive and developed media markets in Australia.
One of the things we discuss in our workshops is how the new media environment has brought with it a great many more options for exposure, but also far greater complexity. Strategic communications have never been more critical. There are so many more ways to be heard and so many more ways to be misunderstood. Anyone who says there is no such thing as bad publicity has never tweeted something controversial.
What can you tell us about the changing media landscape in Australia?
Speaking from the perspective of someone who, until six months ago, was deciding what would make it into news broadcasts, I’d noticed that the dynamic media landscape was changing my news and content priorities.
Once upon a time, and it wasn’t so long ago, the model was that we, as a traditional mass media outlet, held the audience and there was fierce competition to reach that audience with a good story pitch. With the audience at the forefront of my mind, I would demand first access to the information, exclusivity and I wanted the hardest news angle possible. This was true even if I had approached them with the story idea, angle or rumour.
These days I am aware that many organisations have curated their own loyal audiences, some of whom pay for privileged access. Accordingly, exclusive breaking news is often reserved for them, in the form of a tweet, breaking news on Facebook or via some distribution list. Such a strategy also allows the organisation to retain control of the message, of course. So in that context, my approach to what made news changed. Suddenly, I was looking for a deeper dive, a progression of the story, or sometimes a counter-reaction.
Now, in my new role in the development space, I’m working with people trying to generate stories for both the mainstream media and their own curated audiences. Done poorly, this can be a disaster. Done well, the new media environment opens infinite opportunities. Just because it is easier to get noticed, doesn’t mean you are creating a good impression.
What advice can you offer to the PR people in view of this changing environment?
The key to effective communications in the modern landscape appears to me to be the same key to success in most areas of life – effective relationships. There are just a lot more relationships to manage now. Your followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your client distribution list, fan club members, the local newspaper editor, the industry blogger, TV reporters, and the syndicated radio host, to name but a few. It is easy to become overwhelmed and so here is how we simplify it on our workshops.
The old saying was “information is power”. Information is now ubiquitous and varies wildly in quality so its currency has been devalued. But time remains as precious as ever. Everyone is competing for someone else’s time and attention. The President is competing with a dog on a skateboard, health warnings are competing with cats playing pianos.
The good news is; we are all welcome to join the new media party. The bad news? We are not guaranteed anyone will chat to us once we are there. It doesn’t matter if you are a sportswear company, an environmental lobbyist, a radio show or a blogger, you need to have a relationship with you audience that allows you to be a preferred source of information. You need to be good company. If you want someone to spend the precious currency of time with you, then you’d better be worth it.
And that is as true in Ngerulmud as is it in New York.
Aaron Kearney is a multi- award winning journalist, broadcaster and commentator at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Please visit http ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Kearney for more information
Charmaine Chow is the Media Research Manager at PR Newswire. For more media related news, follow us at @PRNA4media.