Integrity: Better than Money or Power

What happens when one half of one of the world’s greatest rivalry’s has the chance to bring its competitor to its knees?

I recently read an article where Pepsi was offered private documents and trade secrets belonging to Coke as well as a vial of their secret formula.

It all started when a disgruntled Coke employee wanting to get back at Coke for what she believed was poor treatment met an ex-con who needed a job who knew an embezzler. It sounds like the makings of a highly anticipated motion picture, doesn’t it? 

A senior executive at Pepsi was contacted by the embezzler stating that he had top secret documents from Coke and he would be willing to hand them over to Pepsi for a large sum of money that would presumably set the three con artists up for life.

What these three didn’t know, was that while in their minds Pepsi would have been crazy not to pay up for the secrets, Pepsi had actually contacted Coke to tell them what was happening. Coke promptly called the FBI and the trio had unknowingly been dealing with an FBI agent from then on. Needless to say the three were arrested and charged with various crimes. 

While this is a really interesting story and it has a bit more to it than what I outlined, it brings up the topic of integrity, whether within your own company or when dealing with competitors and the broader business world.

It would have been really easy for the Pepsi exec to take the trade secrets and build an empire to equal that of Coke’s but would it be real? While we are talking about two business power houses, if you apply this scenario to any local small business, I think you’ll find that the outcome is the same. Very little satisfaction can be found riding on someone else’s shirt tales.

As a small business owner would you be able to work in your business everyday knowing you didn’t get where you are on your own merit? Or would it be fair to engage in underhanded business dealings just to have an edge over your competitor? Would you feel the same satisfaction gained when you work hard for something?

I think its more important to be known as a fair operator with a great product or service rather than the business owner whose known as a shady character. Reputation stays with a person for life and while we all want to succeed in business it’s important that we treat our competitors, clients, suppliers and anyone we deal with, with integrity. That integrity may be the thing that will have others helping you out of a bind one day and prove to be more important than money or power. It's something to think about.


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What's It Worth?

Not long ago I received a phone call from a consultant doing some work for another company wanting to know if I provided my services on a pay per performance basis. She went on to tell me that she wanted to get publicity for her client and while she was happy with any type of publicity she really wanted to get them a spot on one of the morning shows.

She essentially wanted me to create a media release, submit it to the press and do enough follow up to get a spot on TV. If they didn’t get any publicity, especially on TV, I wouldn’t get paid. I was really surprised by this request.

Most people know that generally consultants get paid quite well for their services and any consultant worth their title should know that the work I was asked to do was time consuming. I believe everyone’s time is valuable and that no one should be expected to work for nothing. I was further taken aback by her surprise when I told her that no one would probably take her up on her offer to be paid solely on performance. I don’t know if it was arrogance on her part or she truly felt her request wasn’t unreasonable.

In all professions, there is so much work that goes on behind the scenes that may not seem significant to outsiders but is important and time consuming. I just hope there aren’t professionals, especially those just starting out that feel they have to comply with such a request just to get work. No one should be asked to work for nothing. I’m sure that consultant would not have considered being paid per performance for the work she was doing!

Sponsorship: Show Respect

In the lead up to the Olympic Games there has been much talk in the media about Telstra’s clever advertising that implies they are an official sponsor when in fact they are not. 

If you’re not familiar with the campaign, Telstra launched a ‘Go To Rio’ marketing campaign which promotes the ‘Olympics on Seven’ app and features the famous Peter Allen song ‘I Go To Rio’ playing throughout. 

The AOC commenced legal action against Telstra wanting them to pull the ads because they felt the ads mislead the public into believing they were an official sponsor of the Olympics when they are not. They have made it clear that Telstra is in no way associated with the Olympics, the Olympic athletes or the Olympic Committees. Unfortunately the AOC lost its federal court case against Telstra so Telstra is now free to run the ads with the AOC having to pay their legal costs. Telstra has since amended their ads to stipulate they are not an official Olympic sponsor.

So why is Telstra trying to jump on the Olympics bandwagon? The story goes that Telstra was the one to sever ties with the AOC last year. Is it a way of gaining favourable exposure without the financial outlay? Is this clever advertising or a slap in the face to the actual sponsors of the event. As it happens, Optus is an official sponsor. Is this fair to Optus? 

In the public eye its probably a case of ‘they’re two big companies, they'll sort it out’ and ‘who cares about the sponsors any way, we just want to watch the Olympics.’ What a lot of people don’t realise is in a lot of cases the sponsors make things happen. They may play a part in getting the athletes to Rio, for providing uniforms, funds for accommodation and the list goes on. If this were a tale of two small businesses battling it out would we be more sympathetic to the business that was in Optus’ shoes? I think regardless of whether you are a small business or a large corporation, the same rules apply. 

I mentioned in a previous post that sponsorship dollars are extremely hard to come by and as such the terms of the sponsorship should be respected. This is no different. If Telstra wanted to be seen as affiliated with the Olympics then they should have continued they’re relationship with the AOC. The Olympics is a time of setting aside differences and all nations coming together to compete for their countries so shouldn’t businesses take a leaf out of this book and show each other respect when it comes to fair business practice?

Is it Ok to Turn Away Customers to Save Your Reputation?

I recently heard a story from a mother that was at her wits end because her 1 yr old child wasn’t sleeping at all. After trying everything, she enrolled in a very well known sleep school. Unfortunately her child wasn’t receptive to the sleep school’s methods so she was advised to wait six months to see if his sleep patterns changed, if not then she should try another stint in this sleep school. 

Six months passed and still sleep deprived this poor mother called the sleep school to re-enrol. The sleep school remembered her child, which could be considered good customer service but then they told her they would call her back and never did. You see this sleep school has a very high success rate and if they let this child attend again and they still can’t get him sleeping then their success rate drops. 

Is this fair? I don’t think so. While it’s important for a company to have a good reputation and to be able to boast a high success rate, is it not more important to offer the services you advertise? What’s the point in being the best in your field if you’re turning customers away because they may harm your reputation. If you persevere maybe you and the customer will have the desired outcome. Wouldn’t it be great to boast that you had to try a few times but in the end you achieved the impossible?

I guess my point is, don’t look at the black and white of the situation, look at the grey area. A not so perfect customer or situation maybe a real boon for your business or reputation.

To Social Network or Not To Social Network?

Social Media is such an integral part of everyday life and business. Most businesses now have a social media presence whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram or a combination of any of these. But its not uncommon for a lot of business owners, in particular small business owners to shy away from promoting their business on social media. The main reason for this is they fear that they are open to negative feedback and for a small business negative feedback can have a big impact.

Businesses survived many years without the internet and social media but we now live in an age where people rely heavily on websites and social media to make decisions when it comes to purchasing goods and services. It’s safe to say that if a business doesn't have an internet presence then it needs to rely on its reputation and word of mouth but unfortunately it doesn't always have the desired results. 

So how can small business have a social media presence and minimise negative feedback where its not warranted? By exploring the options of your desired social media you can tailor your page to ensure you are able to monitor any content that is made public. 

In the case of Facebook, you can set up your page to not display posts on your time line unless they have been approved by you. This allows you to police what is made public. If you do this bear in mind its not an excuse to bury your head in the sand if you don’t like a comment that has been made. 

One of the golden rules of social media is to address all comments whether they are positive or negative. Someone may comment that they left you a voicemail message but you didn’t reply to the message in what they believed was a timely many. Rather than ignore the comment, offer an explanation. You may have been in a meeting with a client or some other legitimate excuse. People need to understand that you are running a business so there may be times when you can’t answer the phone. Of course if you feel that a comment is detrimental to your business and unfounded you are within your rights to not publish it but I would still reply to the person directly.

Social media is such an effective marketing tool that I believe it’s important to have a presence. Consider it a passive form of word of mouth.

If you would like assistance in setting up your social media profile you can email Absolute Marketing Communications at


The Customer is Always Right. Or Are They?

When working for different clients there are times you don’t like their ideas or don’t think their ideas will work for a particular campaign. It can be hard to determine whether you should be honest and tell them you don’t think their idea will work or go along with it because you’re being paid to work for them.

I believe that you are working for your client so you owe them honesty and the benefit of your expertise. They have hired you to perform a function and they expect desirable results. We all take on clients with the hope they will offer repeat business so if you are working on a project and it doesn’t have the results they expected then they are within their rights not to hire you again. Not to mention their perception that hiring you was a waste of resources. 

It’s understandable that you want to keep your client happy but it shouldn’t be at the expense of your reputation and expertise. If you don’t agree with a client’s idea or viewpoint tell them in a diplomatic manner. Don’t shoot down their idea instead explain why their idea may not work and perhaps give examples of where ideas similar to theirs havn’t yielded results.

The relationship with your client will fare much better if you can be honest with them and provide the results they are after.

Timing is Everything

It’s so easy to get caught up in the momentum of being ahead of schedule on a project that we don’t often consider the impact that rolling ahead on a project will have on other parties involved.

Last week I spoke with a client who wanted to submit a press release on Friday afternoon. Now I can understand that we were ready to proceed and that it meant we would start Monday morning with a clean slate but I didn’t think it was the best idea. It may have been of benefit to our work schedule but I believe it would have affected the outcome of potential press coverage.

My belief is that most people have shut down for the weekend by lunchtime on a Friday. Unless someone is expecting something specific from me I don’t email anything of importance on a Friday afternoon. It’s my opinion that if we sent a press release to 50+ press outlets late Friday afternoon some of them might of read it and think ‘I’ll deal with it Monday’ and then totally forgot about it when Monday comes around or they may have just skimmed over it and filed it. Unless you have breaking news it’s safe to say you are not going to appear in the press last minute on a Friday.

The same goes for when you are calling journalists. A general rule especially on newspapers is 9am every morning is staff meeting time. No one is answering their phones and in my experience some journalists don’t return calls so if you want to talk to them you have to just keep trying.

Whether you are submitting a press release or if you do need to send important information to someone think about the timing. Think about what you like to deal with at any given time and this will give you some indication of what others are likely to do.


Training - Make it Count!

As with any company managing staff, training is an integral part of the business. Most companies believe that organising training is the responsibility of the HR department and this is correct to a degree. But what happens when your highly skilled staff are enrolled in training that really should be offered to entry level employees? This is not only a waste of money, its also a waste of time that your already experienced staff could be using to actually do their job.

Some of you are aware that prior to starting Absolute Marketing Communications I was employed by a high end consumer electronics brand. As part of my various marketing and PR roles within the company I organised divisional and company events. These included press launches, company and dealer conferences, corporate lunches, Christmas parties and other related events. 

I got an email from the HR manager one day advising that I had been enrolled to attend a one day course in event co-ordination along with some of my colleagues. I attended because I thought perhaps it was an advanced course and I might take something away from it that would help in the planning of future events and because I assumed that my manager was involved in this decision and thus thought it would be relevant to me.

Everyone was wrong on all counts. I attended this course with colleagues that had never organised a corporate event at any time in their careers let alone for the company we were working for.

I spent a day listening to a facilitator educate us on the basics of event planning. Don’t get me wrong she knew what she was talking about and while it was worthwhile for the other attendees, I had put this all into practice before. Her practical task was to pretend we were organising a children’s birthday party. Not to sound arrogant but I have organised events that require delegates to fly either domestically or internationally and ensure they make it in time for our event's proceedings. I could organise a children’s party with my eyes closed! Meanwhile my work was piling up because I’ve had to sit through this. When my manager asked me how the training went, I told him honestly it was a waste of time. When I told him why, he agreed with me.

My point is if you’re going to organise training, make it worthwhile. Don’t leave all the decisions to the HR manager. They need to be involved in the decision especially if their department is footing the bill but you need to tell them what your staff are capable of. If the training’s not right not only is the fee for the course wasted but it’s a days work your staff are being paid for to sit and be told something they already know. Think about involving your staff in the decisions regarding their training. They may feel that a particular course may be of value to them and enhance their value to your company. You want your staff to embrace the opportunity to learn new things not cringe every time they’re told they have to attend training.

Not Just a Pair of Shoes!

The Melbourne Cup took place a few weeks ago and everyone is still talking about Jessica Mauboy not singing the national anthem prior to the race as planned. 

There has been much speculation about the reason why she didn’t take to the stage. It has since been confirmed that Jess’s styling team dressed her in a Myer sanctioned dress and head piece but completed her outfit with David Jones shoes. The VRC and Myer took exception to this, resulting in Mauboy not performing.

Everyone loves Jess Mauboy, she’s Australia’s sweetheart and can do no wrong in the eyes of the Australian public. For that reason a lot of the comments made allude to the fact that it was just a pair of shoes so what was the big deal? 

The big deal is that Myer sponsored the event and as such would have stipulated that all personalities on the official running sheet of the Melbourne Cup would have to abide by their sponsorship agreement guidelines as agreed with the VRC. Any company sponsoring an event has the right to make such stipulations. This would all have been negotiated between Myer and the VRC or any other company and event. 

Sponsorship is never black and white and to a lay person the intricacies of sponsorship agreements can seem excessive or even ridiculous. There was an instance quite a few years ago in Cairns when a $250,000 Steinway piano was purchased by the Innisfail council to replace the one damaged by Cyclone Larry. There was such an uproar that much needed relief money had been spent on such a large and unnecessary purchase. Residents sent letters to the editor of the local papers, some suggesting that since Elton John was touring that year and passing through Cairns that he should play that very expensive piano. He would never have played that piano. Had he been asked to play it he would have said no and then been considered rude or a snob. No one would have considered that he is sponsored by Yamaha and as such can not play another brand without violating his sponsorship agreement.

Sponsors pay a large sum of money to sponsor events or personalities and in turn have the right to expect their terms are met. Gaining sponsors for an event is hard work and is often met with plenty of rejection. When you do manage to land a sponsor you need to nurture that relationship. I’m not saying you have to rollover and do everything the sponsor wants, you negotiate terms that are beneficial to both parties and you need to respect those terms. I’m sure David Jones would have had something to say had they sponsored the event and Jess planned to wear Myer shoes on stage!


Publicity Is Free, Isn't It?

I often have clients ask me to develop press releases with the sole objective of getting free publicity for their product or service. While generally that is the purpose of a press release, it’s not always the result. Often my clients are left disappointed because they haven’t been mentioned in the latest industry magazine or website. After all, there are countless posts on social media proclaiming that journalists want your story and its up to you to provide the media with news. There is a little truth to this but the bigger truth is: nothing is free and you’re not the only one with a news story out there.

Up until a few years ago I was employed by a high end consumer electronics brand. Every time I sent out a press release, whether it was to announce the release of a new product or to announce changes within our organisation I always got some form of media exposure. This sounds contradictory to what I mentioned earlier but it’s not. What I didn’t mention previously is that my team and I had formed strong relationships with editors, journalists and reviewers in our field for years. We supported their publications and websites with advertising so there was no question that we would get some form of support from them when we needed it. There were publications that we didn’t advertise with but still managed to get publicity out of. Again, it comes back to relationships and that we had a product they wanted to talk about. 

Publications have now dramatically downsized since the evolution of digital content. The information usually sought out in magazines can now be found in a publication's online version. This being the case, magazines are smaller. To make a magazine smaller they have to cut back on editorial content. What editorial space there is available is reserved for clients that support the publication with advertising. You can’t argue with the logic.

Now I’m not saying that press releases are a waste of time. They’re not. They play an important role in a business’ media strategy. They serve the purpose of informing relevant media that you’re out there and that you have a great product or service. If your product or service is innovative, fills a gap in the market or is just a great product you will get exposure.

If you truly believe that your product or service deserves to be exposed to the public there are some ways you can assist in the process.

  • Call publications and have a chat to the relevant journalist or reviewer to talk about your product. You may not get anything on the first call but keep in contact with them, build the relationship.
  • If you are approaching local newspapers, they want the product or service to be relevant to their readers. Make mention of how your product or service is available to the people of a particular suburb.
  • Consider doing some small scale advertising in a publication you want to be featured in. While advertising can be expensive, most publications will have an online presence, you may be able to advertise online for a fraction of the print price. You can then negotiate some added value such as guaranteed editorial.

These are just a few things you can do to assist in gaining media exposure, there is so much you can do for your business, product or service to get the publicity and exposure you need.

If you would like help in putting together a press release or a media strategy you can email me on