In my 19 years in the public relations industry I worked out pretty quickly that if you want to be truly effective at making change happen, then tell the truth.
There’s no doubt that public relations has a bad name. Most of the industry is professional, credible and competent. But some give it that bad name by doing what’s called “spin” . And they get the publicity. Of course there’s always grey areas. Because emotions and passionate beliefs often lie behind a campaign and an issue.
Today Matthew Hooton crossed out of a grey area into fabrication and is attempting to position the Labour Party on the issue of mobile termination rates. For those who don’t know, Matthew is a PR practitioner. He’s a commentator on National radio and he runs a company called Exceltium. He’s also strongly linked to the National Party.
What are mobile termination rates? When you call or text someone on a different network – or call them from your landline – their network charges yours a fee for receiving the call or text. It’s called the mobile termination rate (MTR), and it gets included in the price you pay.
Matthew Hooton is the PR guy behind a campaign to pressure the Government into dropping MTRs. It’s a consortium of organisations led by 2 Degrees, the new player in the mobile phone marketplace, which is agressively trying to make its mark. It’s a good campaign (note I used their website for a succinct definition of MTRs).
But what got my goat this morning was reading that Labour was somehow supporting their campaign. We’re not. Despite Hooton’s company Exceltium insistently contacting Labour MPs one by one to “explain” their campaign, we have made two public statements (to my knowledge) about the issue.
In this morning issue of Communications Day (telco industry newsletter) Hooton was reported as saying:
Hooton says the campaign is getting good support from Labour, the Greens and sections of the Maori Party. “We’ve spoken to members of the previous Labour government who feel they were bluffed by the ferocious corporate lobbyists working for the big telcos”.
Labour’s position is quite clear. It’s about principles, not about supporting one company against another. In the only media release we’ve issued on this I said:
Labour believes the conditions must be right to create a fair playing field to encourage new entrants into the mobile phone market.
A more competitive environment is healthy, and it’s got to be fair for the consumer and for businesses coming into the market. At the same time it must be fair for the existing operators.
Our comment after the Commerce Commission’s recommendation a week or so ago reflected this position.
I also made a comment on a post I did last week commenting on Steven Joyce’s attitude to regulation.
So just be careful Matthew Hooton with what you claim. I come from your industry and I know your tactics. I don’t think the companies paying your bill on this campaign will be pleased that you’ve overstated Labour’s position.
PS: Just corrected my spelling mistakes