PR in Australia: Big country, small world

Rupert MurdochFor a start, it’s the epicentre of Murdochracy, that is, the all out domination of the media by mogul Rupert Murdoch. The man was born here and, even though he’s annulled his citizenship to become American, he still wields power. The tabloid paper in most cities is a News Corp paper, plus a host of regional papers and the national broadsheet ‘The Australian’, which runs at a loss but keeps going, presumably for the influence. In all, the company accounts for about 60 per cent of all newspaper sales, with Fairfax, publishers of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (Melbourne) a long way behind on 25 per cent.

Then add the influence of television. Foxtel is the only Pay-TV network (ignoring emerging over the top internet providers) and it’s 50 per cent owned by News Corp.

So, does that mean any publicity in this part of the world has to have the nod of approval from the Murdoch empire? Well, it certainly helps when it comes to mainstream media, but other alternatives do exist. News Corp, for example, is exerting less influence online than Fairfax – the Herald in Sydney has an audience almost on a par with News Corp nationally. The Age in Melbourne isn’t far behind.

Fairfax also has most of the country’s commercial talk stations, although the top rating 2GB, home of right wing shock-jocks who push the boundaries of ethics on a daily basis, is largely owned by advertising man John Singleton and breakfast announcer Alan Jones.

I’ve been navigating the Australian media scene for 15 years, a lot of that time focused on the tech sector. Most of the journalists I deal with have been plying their trade for considerably longer – there’s very little turnover. That means it’s an industry where relationships count. In fact, given the concentration of media, coverage without some form of personal bond is hard to come by.

Before you pitch a story you need to know each journo’s  pet hates and loves, what subjects they like to cover - even where their career aspirations lie.  If you do the research most are happy to spend half an hour on a catch-up over coffee.

That’s the other important thing to remember about Australia, it is driven by caffeine. Aussies might appear yobbish to many, but when it comes to coffee they are the biggest snobs you’ll find anywhere.

So, in this part of the world, get the order in for the soy macchiato with an extra shot and one sugar. And don’t forget to tell them how much you love their work.

Dana Dobbie is TopLine's Australian media consultant.

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