Australian comms agencies perceive diversity as not urgent

Of note. Any views on how this compares with Canada?:

A new study by the Framework for Agency Inclusion and Representation (FAIR) and comms agency Think HQ showed that Australian comms agencies are falling behind on diversity practices. While awareness appeared to be high, qualitative findings showed that there were inconsistencies on knowledge and implementation in the workplace as well as in client work and advisory.

The survey, which used 131 responses from the country’s comms industry, found that while all respondents are quite aware of broader diversity and inclusion principles that initially focused on gender, many have limited understanding, much less a focus on cultural diversity. Most of them were aware of the cultural diversity of the Australian population, but do not see the urgency or importance of integrating it in their business operations enough to equate it with business success.

For example, one respondent suggested that they do not see integrating cultural diversity matters in their business as essential because “people are succeeding without it”. The respondent added: “We still seem to be progressing well adapting and being so people don’t see the urgency of the need.”

Another respondent said that diversity in the workplace is not a priority for them because it isn’t tied to their KPIs. Yet another respondent said that multiculturalism in comms work is ‘niche’ whether communicating to Australian-born audiences or residents with migrant backgrounds. “I don’t think it is so much about making your communication sharper for… culturally diverse audiences because they are too niche,” this person said.

In terms of hiring, the interviewees acknowledged the lack of communication practitioners with culturally diverse backgrounds. A few of them who recruited from England had the propensity to count those hires as part of the ‘culturally diverse’ cohort. A majority of respondents quoted that some 20% of their staff have a culturally diverse background but when further probed, they indicated that the number could have included British, who are not considered culturally and linguistically diverse.

One respondent said: “If I think about my career today, it’s predominantly been in agencies with privileged white people, private school-educated, tertiary education.”

While ‘positive discrimination’ was quoted as a way to recruit more culturally diverse talent, many respondents also mentioned that second- and third-generation Australians do not necessarily want to be identified based on their ethnicity or ancestry. This appears to be a conundrum that many recruiters or leaders still face in Australia.

Here are a few charts that reflect findings from the study:

Source: Australian comms agencies perceive diversity as not urgent

Federal ‘unmuzzling’ has gone beyond government scientists with scrapping of Harper-era system

The real test will come when someone ‘screws-up’.

There will still be need for coordination and heads-up. But most public servants have the sense of what is appropriate and what it not:

The Liberal government has scrapped the elaborate system Conservatives were using to organize central message control within the government, replacing it with… nothing, according to the Privy Council Office.

It’s not just the scientists who’ve been unmuzzled. Anyone in the government who wants to organize a public event, or speak at one — and anyone who wants to talk to journalists — is affected by this change in policy.

The PCO, which acts as a support to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet, confirmed the shift this week.

Under this government, it is no longer using documents called “Message Event Proposals,” which came into practice under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, to vet events and media requests across the federal government. The documents “have not been replaced with something new,” said spokesperson Raymond Rivet.

“The PCO’s new communications process looks like another positive step,” said Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

The union represents about 57,000 government scientists and other professionals, mainly at the federal level of government. It has been one of the most vocal advocates for the government “unmuzzling” its scientists.

Though she said there’s clear support for science from the Liberal government, Daviau warned that policies and directives are always at the whim of the government of the day, noting a “chill” under Harper.

“A lot of work needs to happen so that science is never silenced again by a federal government. What we need now is to safeguard it from future attacks and ensure we are consistent across government departments,” Daviau said.

Despite the shift at PCO, Rivet noted some departments might still use Message Event Proposals or similar products internally.

“Departments and ministers are responsible for their own communications, though co-ordination remains important,” said Olivier Duchesneau, a spokesperson for Trudeau. Some inquiries are still flagged to the PCO when more than one agency or department is involved, Rivet added.

Duchesneau said the government is basing its communications on the concept of “government by cabinet,” though he didn’t comment specifically on the scrapped Harper-era system.

Source: Federal ‘unmuzzling’ has gone beyond government scientists with scrapping of Harper-era system | National Post

PMO ‘central control deepening far more than people know or seem to care about’

Good interview with Alex Marland, author of Brand Command: Canadian Politics and Democracy in the Age of Message Control;

Your book also examines political communications under the Harper Conservatives. Has political communications changed under the Trudeau Liberals? 

“The Trudeau brand is refreshing and engaging. Even those who cringe at the selfies and the blatant photo-ops should acknowledge that the change in tone is a welcome relief after the intense negativity that permeated Canadian politics dating to the early 2000s. Hopefully the showmanship will fall away, because a shameless desire for publicity and public adulation can turn many citizens off politics too. For someone like me, the issue is that the more that the media’s glare is on the prime minister, the more power that individual has. I believe that central control is deepening far more than people know or seem to care about. The creation of delivery units in the centre of the Liberal government are an excellent example of PMO control. It is not lost on me that if the Harper administration had created those we’d be hearing howls that Canada is becoming an authoritarian state. It is the role of academics to see beyond the public personas of political leaders, especially when everyone else is distracted by them.”

Why do you say the pursuit of political power is strategic as never before? What do you mean?

“The competition for power involves a level of strategic manoeuvering and tactical execution in ways that are exceedingly complex. Sure, there’s a lot of gut instinct involved—there just isn’t enough money in Canadian politics to enable the kind of data analytics found in the U.S.A. In any event, you cannot form government on the basis of marketing alone. It was sometimes said that Harper was playing chess while everyone else was playing checkers. I would suggest that everyone is forced to play chess now. Even the smallest political parties have supporter databases, are using social media, are familiar with market segmentation to bundle coalitions, and so on. Everything is quick, quick, quick—not only do you need to be sharp-minded, but you need to operate in a media cycle that churns multiple times per day. This is where branding comes in: if you have a core set of messages and values the brand mantra acts as a guide for spinning a message no matter what the circumstance.”

How has branding influenced democracy?

“Branding’s supporters, including in the government, will tell you that it saves money and makes things more efficient. Navigating webpages with a common look and feel is an example; cutting down on the number of sub-brands and logos throughout government is another. Templates for campaign signs, brochures and websites have done wonders for local campaigns, while simultaneously imprinting a central command ethos. Branding also simplifies things for electors—the same messages are repeated, we see the same visuals over and over. Only the most rabid politicos read campaign platforms, or care about policy discussions at party conventions. Most Canadians are busy with their daily lives and pay surface attention to politics. Branding connects with them. It also limits the potential for a brand ambassador to commit a gaffe or so-called “bozo interruption” that undermines the leadership team. So as a strategy it helps to move an agenda forward. The downside, of course, is that candidates and MPs, and even some ministers, become regional sales reps of a message set by people at the top. It becomes a serious problem when all messages align, bordering on state propaganda.”

Where is Canadian politics headed? 

“I am a cautious optimist. The proliferation of digital media means that traditional elite power structures are under stress to change and evolve. This is generally good. What is not good is that the online sphere has become a powerful interest group for the hyper-sensitive forces of political correctness. A healthy democracy is strongest when open-minded citizens carefully deliberate a variety of opinions. As a society, we need leaders who encourage thoughtful constructive debate, who are willing to challenge the wisdom of crowds, who question attachments to party labels, and who aren’t afraid to sometimes take a public punch from their own brand ambassadors.”

Source: PMO ‘central control deepening far more than people know or seem to care about’ |

Canada’s Conservative government: in picture-storybook form | Toronto Star

Canada’s Conservative government: in picture-storybook form | Toronto Star.