The Prime Minister will hear you now

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard has agreed to be a part of a Google + Hangout in which she will answer questions from the great unwashed as lots of people watch online. 

The great unwashed (that’s you) can pose questions for the PM and vote for other questions that tickle your fancy at You get seven votes – which is six more than the government gives you.

Why not pose a question and use your expansive social medias networks to vote them up the ladder? Don’t let climate change deniers set the agenda.

emcee for hire

Test one, two. Test one, two.

The project is a coming together of Fairfax Media, Deakin University and Google Australia.

Brett (as evidenced by the photo on the left) emceed the physical launch of the online democracy experiment last week.

He self-evaluated himself very highly.

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Good talent can sound so, well, normal

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Brett was on his way to deliver Speak Savvy 101 to the campaigners at Australian Conservation Foundation when he heard this interview with child safety campaigner Katherine Plint of Hannah’s Foundation. If he could, Brett would have taken Katherine with him to the workshop as she is unusually good talent. She sounded so…normal. Normal but passionate – not strident, preachy or precious. Katherine has lots of other good habits too:

Offers multiple varying examples thus creating more liklihood of resonating with audiences which often don’t want to acknowledge that your advice is relevant to them;

“Sadly we see too many kids get through broken gates, broken locks, they stand on the gate, the gate will drop, broken fence panels where they push them, wooden fences deteriorating so the panels can be pushed through.”

media training advice

An unusally savvy speaker.

Strong opinions and messages galore: “This is huge, it’s a massive decision.” “The laws have failed everybody in this case. “This story could be you.”  “I’m still accused of the murder of my daughter and that’s just something that I have to live with every day.” “New South Wales had a horrific year last year for pool, backyard pool drownings.”

She’s down to earth – not someone who doesn’t ‘get’ how things really are:“I mean kids are clever.”

Identifies a specific audience / issue: “Look, at the moment we’re seeing a lot of breaches through rental properties.”

Guess who media is going to call for comment on child safety henceforth? Being good talent is the best publicist you could have. Kudos Katherine.





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Dealing with nasty Facebook comments

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Of all the concerns nonprofits have about Facebook, the challenge of dealing with nasty comments ranks at the very top. Even higher than getting more comments in the first place.

This video shows you how to deal with mean spirited Facebook comments from a technical perspective. (Yes you can block people.)

social media policy advice

Pity the fool who has to reply to these spirited Facebookers.

But above and beyond the technical is the cultural. Interaction is key to being successful on social media – they don’t call it “social” for nothing. The ability to make comments is an attraction to Facebook. You want comments, as one comment makes a second comment more likely and so on. This rings true for comments in the positive or negative.

Hootville promotes the idea of a social media playbook as opposed to social media policy. Policies tend to be heavy on the don’ts and light on the dos. Part of any nonprofit’s social media playbook should be how to deal with unacceptable comments.

How do you define ‘unacceptable’ beyond the blatantly privacy-breaching, malicious, threatening and unsubstantiated? What if someone writes: “I used to use your service but I found Service X and they are so much better. More friendly and half the price. Losers!” 

Will you let that stay visible? Will you reply? We hope so. Some nonprofits are affronted by anything that isn’t blatantly positive but copping critical comments with dignity, grace and humour is a good look. Something like:

“We don’t see ourselves as losers but we are sorry to lose you. Anyhow we are happy you’ve found a new service that pleases you.”

Have a policy to write back to such comments that are close to, but don’t step over the line. Even better, you may find that others who are part of your socal media networks step in to defend and praise you.

And remember – not everyone who reads what you write believes you, even when you are being sincere and helpful. The same goes double for people leaving critical, nasty comments on your Facebook wall. Most often the only people who look bad are the commenters.

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The future of nonprofits in Australia. Secular or dodgey?

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You are probably too busy working for Australian nonprofits to listen to lengthy discussions about the future of Australian nonprofits but it’s OK – we have you covered.

RN’s Life Matters (a great friend of Hootville) recently interviewed Dr Stephen Judd who is the CEO of faith-based Hammond Care who feels that charities have “lost their way”. He has contributed to a new book Driven by Purpose: Charities that Make the Difference (forward by Rev Tim Costello). We won’t be buying it.

faith-based charities in australia

Worth a read?

We found the interview annoying. Dr Judd’s statements are broad in the extreme. He feels that many “charities” have lost their way and have no clear sense of who / what they are. His specifics are few though we certainly sense his agenda: faith-based = good; secular = bad.

The one example he gives of a charity with a clear idea of itself is a faith-based medical outfit in the ACT which refuses to provide vasectomies despite being government funded. This is apparently a positive example.

He also decries religious organisations changing their name to something less Godly.

When explaining the proliferation of faith-based Australian nonprofits he fails to mention the issue of religious organisations and their tax-exempt status. In many sectors (education, disability, employment services) private, tax-paying services must tender against tax-protected faith-based organisations.

About 8 minutes in he also claims that donors prefer to give to faith-based charities as opposed to a “dodgey brothers” option. That’s bloody insulting to non faith-based services, the thousands who toil in them and millions who donate to them. 

Dr Judd also favours the word “charity” as opposed to “nonprofit” but frankly we don’t care as much about that as the other stuff though we note that Hammond Care is a $140 million organisation which proudly describes itself as a “Catholic, independent, charity”.

In truth this extremely large nonprofit runs almost exclusively on government funding. Its annual report shows that it is 72% government funded, 18% fee for service funded and only 3% donation funded.

That’s a lot of dodgey secular tax dollars in the form of government contracts and a very small percentage of charity making things possible. Hardly independent.

An an organisation that is only 3% donor driven which calls itself a “charity” could be perceived as being awfully cute with the truth. About 97% cute.

 Your comments welcome.


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Free webinar offer from for you dear Citizen

Icon for Post #2889 is a new online service allowing anyone to establish an online petition. After being established in North America it has now hung its shingle in Oz. 

Feeling angry? Get online, start a petition and then petition your friends to get on board. It’s free, as is a webinar is holding to explain how it works and how you can make it work to your advantage. Wednesday July 18 at 11am eastern time for one hour. More details here. Tony from wants lots of Hootville Citizens to attend so don’t be shy.

online petitions for social marketing

Worth your signature?

If you want to see the petition in action and simultaneously protect one of the nation’s most loved cultural institutions from ‘progress’ at the hands of an elite minority go here and sign up.

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Media training Melbourne reviews are in.

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So on to more about us. Here’s how Brett scored for the recent public Media Savvy 101 training in Melbourne and below for his work as conference emcee for FRSA:

  • Presenter’s knowledge of subject matter: 97.5%
  • Presenter’s ability to explain concepts: 97.5%
  • Degree to which you were kept engaged: 97.5%
  • Degree to which the content matched expectations: 92.5%
  • Practicality and usefulness of advice: 92.5%
  • Quality and usefulness of notes: 95%
  • Value of the PowerPoint presentation: 92.5%
  • Enjoyability: 97.5%
  • Venue and catering: 95%
  • Would recommend? 100%

So have you booked your place at the Sydney Media Savvy 101 yet? We have two Melbourne folk flying up just for the occasion. It’s smarter than waiting for another two years.

Conference emcee reviews:

Here’s how the good folk at Family Relationship Services Australia reviewed his schtick in 2011 at their national conference. If you’re wondering what venue scored so highly – it was the Sofitel in Brisbane and it deserved every plaudit.

emcee for hire
None too shabby.


emcee sydney

Look at all that blue.

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Hootville keeping itself busy, getting some nice reviews

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Many upcoming gigs for Hootville’s Brett de Hoedt:

  • emceeing a function for OurSay at Media House, Melbourne;
  • speaking to a collection of Aged Community Care Victoria communications people on the power of eMarketing;
  • conducting a Speak Savvy 101 media training session in Melbourne with a collection of campaigners from Australian Conservation Foundation; 
  • an Online Savvy 101 session with select members of AUSTAT – Australian Society of Teachers of Alexander Technique;
  • speaking to the National Speakers Association of Australasia about media possibilities;
  • emceeing the Disability Employment Australia national conference in Melbourne;
  • Speak Savvy 101 media training in Sydney for ChildFund and Bowls Australia (not simultaneously) and St Kilda Youth Service in Melbourne;
  • emceeing the Australasian Promotional Products Association awards in Sydney.

There’s more but we know you’re bored already.







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A very, very bad day at the Mango PR Sydney office. Your comments welcome.

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It all started out so well.

In order to further cement Mango PR as an innovating, thoughtleading, cage-rattling communications brand, the head of publicity at Mango’s Sydney office Tina Alldis penned an opinion piece for marketing industry website Mumbrella. The piece, published Thursday June 21 was inspired by the mass lay-offs at Fairfax and News Ltd.


Ill advised in extreme.

The column is painful to read and nearly impossible to fathom. The writing is so corporate, over-written and jargon-laden that is hard to decipher but the upshot is: less journos = exciting opportunity for PR industry. There’s lots of talk about “platforms” and “creative social insights”. Excruciating but hell, we all stuff up sometimes.

The column inspired dozens of negative, angry, hurtful comments appearing all of which you can find hereThey are entirely deserved but really, when will websites stop publishing cowardly anonymous comments? But we digress…

Many of the comments were from journos denying their reliance on PR people and indeed slandering them at large.

The column and comments reveal a couple of broad truths. 1. There are a lot of inexperienced, over-confident, minimally-qualified people in surprisingly senior PR positions. Generally speaking, the industry deserves its poor reputation with journalists. I say that as a person who has made a living as a PR person and employing others to do the same. Also; as a radio and print journalist (albeit tabloid) I had hundreds of interactions with publicists, many good, many not good.

2. Journalists are a proud lot. Many are also hypocrites. Journos endlessly bitch about PR people and claim never to utilise story ideas inspired by flacks. What bollocks. They should peruse the content they produce and analyse where the stories originate.

Real estate, food, entertainment, fashion, IT and consumer electronics stories are all majority PR-inspired. So too the celebrity stuff and the fluff about upcoming movies, video games, music releases. (That’s a lot of coverage right there.)

Equally PR-driven are many of the interviews and profile pieces with business magnates, Hollywood types and people of the moment. The lighter health and wellbeing stuff generally falls into the PR-driven category as well.

What does that leave? Oh yeah – many of the (relatively few) serious political exclusives are based on deliberate leaks in which stories are handed to selected journos by flacks. Standard interviews are doled out via media officers to individuals or to groups at doorstops.

Business journos spend a fair slice of their working lives creating stories from suppplied financial statements, projections and sales figures from businesses. How many stories are created from one Reserve Bank media release or strategic Gerry Harvey utterance?

Journalists spend their day reading releases and taking calls from PR folk. Those allowed to leave their desks often do so to attend PR-inspired events such as press conferences and photo opps. Outside match day, sports journalism is utterly PR-beholdent.

pr training

The hack-flack relationship symbolically portrayed.

What does that leave…beyond cartoons and recipes?

This applies similarly to many serious, social-issues-based stories which Citizens of Hootville promote. Of the 1000 or so stories Hootville scored for our clients over 12 years about exactly none of them would have happened without our work.

That doesn’t mean that journos did our bidding but it does mean that we conceived, packaged, pitched and facilitated the stories. Journalists are rarely seen walking the streets with notepad, trenchcoat and hat snooping for scoops. Hacks need flacks and vice versa, though the hacks are in denial. Maybe not all the time, just…most.

Media produced without control by PR flacks would be utterly undigestible. However without the flacks, the journalistic hacks would have a harder time filling their space than they readily admit. That goes for the serious content as well as the shallow.

The PR industry should not be condemned because of one ill-judged and insensitive column. Nor should journalists be judged by the work of some nightly current affairs shows, morning shock jocks or fluffy weekend magazine.

Note: Just as I criticised PR folk as a PR person, I make my comments on journalists as a former proud journalist and broadcaster who was unceremoniously sacked from both Truth and 3AK when dollars ran out and corporate strategies changed.

As the late Rodney King said; “Can we all get along?”

Comments and sharing most welcome.


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Twitter responses matter so get thy tweet on.

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twitter example for government

If people Tweet to you...

If you would like to lead an army of Twitter followers (like those who follow @Hootville) you will need to do more than just tweet messages out. You will have to show that you really give a damn about communicating via Twitter by respond to incoming tweets. 

Of course this means you will have to monitor Twitter closely. Well you already check reception, the phone, emails and the mailbox so monitoring Twitter should not be a great burden. Should it? Imagine getting this tweet above. Best advice:

  • Respond and respond quickly, preferably via a direct message. Or…
  • Suggest immediately via twitter that the tweeter telephones you. better tweet back. Quicksticks.




Do something – and do it fast. And if this seems new or strange, get used to it as more and more people will be tweeting you. There will be lots more advice like this as part of our upcoming Social Media Savvy 101 webinar.

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Amnesty International Australia direct mail piece

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When it comes to writing direct mail, less is usually more. You need sufficient words to deliver your message and spark emotions but beyond that, each additional word dilutes the essence of what you want to say. 

direct mail example and advice

The front. A strong start.

We recently received this piece of direct mail on the left from Amnesty International Australia.  These are the three key panels.

The first panel the reader sees is strong: a well known line, entirely appropriate to the cause, cleverly reappropriated.



amnesty international direct mail
Could we lose some words? Yes.


On the left is the second panel the reader sees. It’s obviously leading to a third panel. A three-part format is a standard for movies, jokes or direct mail. However it would benefit from a trim.




Copywriting advice for charities
Cut, cut, cut.


This is our recommended edit for the second panel: shorter, sharper.




direct mail copywriting advice
The third panel.

The third panel, here on the left, aims to create a response in the reader. Perhaps this line would have sufficed; Use your right to speak out.


copywriting tips for charities
The shortest panel yet.

This is even shorter and more pointed.

 So much for our unsolicited advice – use the comments section to make yours.

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