Logan City comms boss criticises ‘ignorant’ journalists who perpetuate ‘lazy stereotypes’

Deanna Nott

Nott at the PRIA national conference

The communications boss for one of poorer socio-economic council areas in Queensland has told a forum about her frustrations with “ignorant” journalists who perpetuate negative stereotypes of the area by writing “whatever they wanted and not feel the consequences of their action.”

In a frank presentation to the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) national conference in Brisbane yesterday, media and communication manager for Logan City Council Deanna Nott told how her team won PRIA Queensland’s award for in-house team of the year award, by reversing much of the negative media coverage the area received and helping shift the area’s “bogan” reputation

“Of course Logan rhymes with bogan. How can you change that? It’s very very difficult,” Nott told the forum. “But that is what we are doing with a dedicated seven member media team at Logan City are firmly focused on our mission to honestly and fairly reflect the Logan that more and more people are calling home every year.

“What’s our goal? A fair, balanced, frank relationship with an unbalanced media. I know it’s a simple goal but let’s face it that’s the holy grail of PR and it’s not an easy goal to achieve.

“It’s where we saw a major power shift needed to occur. More influence from us, a positive government organisation working for the people of our city and less power with the media, who are in a position to write whatever they wanted and not feel consequences of their action.

“Many of them happy to remain ignorant of what the city of Logan is really like and holding on to past stereotypes.”

Nott told the audience that with the 24 hour news cycle and financial pressures on newsrooms there were constant pressures on journalists which created new opportunities for communications professionals needing to get their message out on traditional media “verbatim”.

“In 2014, journalists are time poor and resource poor,” she said. “They are more stretched than ever and they require information rich, timely, well written content that is instantly usable.

“The situation while challenging for journalists, has provide our team with an opportunity to convey our messages and increasing the chances of reaching print, the screen or the airwaves. In general journalists don’t have time to do extensive research or rewrite a story with many points of view.

“As long as they trust us and appreciate that we are genuinely being honest they are more likely to take what we write for them and use it verbatim. We are seeing that everyday.”

The Council communications boss, who prior to her current role was director of communication for the Department of Defence’s cadet and reserve division, also spoke openly about the 2013 Logan race riots which she described as “good television” but which had a negative impact on changing the stereotype of the council area which extends beyond the suburb of Logan housing 293,000 people.

“There was a major event that occurred last year that really did change things. You may have heard of the Logan race riots. We prefer to call them a ‘neighbourhood disturbance’,” she quipped. “I’m referring to an incident involving two families – one aboriginal and the other pacific islander feuding in the streets over four very, very long days.

“What happens when you have families ripping off fence palings and going for each other in the street? It makes for very, very good entertainment, very good television. It got us negative media coverage nationwide and even got us on CNN. Awesome.

“That footage still haunts us today. I’m always in fear that if something goes wrong in Logan then they are going to drag out that old nasty vision.”

Nott told the forum that much of the change in media coverage came about through building better relationships with the media and having processes in place to help address negative coverage, for example how they reversed negative comments by Today show host Karl Stefanovic by inviting him to the area.

“We build relationships with the media and respond promptly to media inquiries and we pitch them really great yarns, thanks to the people in our community,” she said. “Most importantly when bad news does strike we have processes in place to deal with it.

“(We had) a world where every story about statewide youth crime was set in Logan. That is not happening anymore and the media are not relying on lazy stereotypes, they are giving us much broader coverage which is sensational.

“How are we changing the media landscape? With the tools, the staff and the community at our disposal to get our messages heard. It’s not rocket science but we are throwing what we can at the problem.

“We do it through a planned strategic approach. We communicate through internal and external publications – we have developed solid processes and procedures but are willing to adapt and change those if they don’t work.”

Nic Christensen 


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