MPs must work to stop – not promote – outrage culture

Australian politicians are contributing to the culture of outrage and online bullying that has destroyed businesses and has likely caused personal harm to innocent people, according to a public relations and crisis communications specialist.

Managing director of Mercer PR, Lyall Mercer, pointed to last week’s public confrontation between Senators Penny Wong and Mathias Cormann which resulted in Senator Wong linking her Asian heritage to a claim that she was “channelling Pauline Hanson” about tax cuts.

“She chose race-based outrage when she could have instead argued from a political and policy perspective.

“Comments of MPs, like those from other high-profile people, carry weight and prompt further abuse on social media.”

He said politicians from all political sides and all levels of government should be using their influence to reduce the vitriol and outrage within public dialogue.

“The continued abuse that is spread by social media, and often even by mainstream media, has far reaching ramifications for everyday Australians and in particular small business operators.

“I regularly see the impact this has on business people who are targeted on social media and are the subject of media articles through nothing more than faux outrage that builds momentum.

He cited restaurants that have closed because of names that some deem offensive, people who have been targeted due to their religious beliefs and employers who lose business because of actions of their staff.

“This culture of outrage and offense, which is only driven by a minority, is causing great distress, and is directly linked to public comments by people of influence,” Mr Mercer explained.

“It has to stop. While it might increase my business and that of law firms because companies are running scared and are preparing for reputational crises, it doesn’t help society.

“Unfortunately, many politicians don’t understand the ramifications, or maybe they just don’t care because they have never taken the risk of investing their own money into a business, as they are so used to living off the public purse.

“They need to act responsibly and put the greater good ahead of political point-scoring.”

MPs must work to stop – not promote – outrage culture

Media course should be taught to Australian law students

A new university course that teaches Canadian law students how to better interact with the media should be introduced in Australia, according to a leading crisis communications practitioner.

The subject, ‘Crisis Communications for Lawyers’, is an initiative of the University of Calgary to better educate law students to understand the connection between the law and public relations.

Managing Director of Mercer PR, Lyall Mercer says it’s long overdue in Australia because there are still far too many lawyers who provide advice that ignores the changing media world, and this advice often adversely affects their clients.

“During a crisis a company or organisation usually engages with two key outside consultants, being lawyers and public relations companies,” he explained.

“The ideal situation is for both to be working together to assist their mutual client to achieve the best possible outcome from both legal and reputational perspectives.

However he said that too often lawyers are only focused on legal outcomes, ignoring the damage that ongoing negative publicity is doing to the client’s reputation.

“It’s very frustrating for me to deal with lawyers who don’t understand this, and I have had some clients instruct me to completely ignore the legal advice because they also realise it’s not meeting their needs.

“When lawyers understand the world of PR – and I have worked with some who do – the benefit to the client is significant,” Mr Mercer said.

The Canadian course teaches students to “speak effectively to the media in order to serve your client’s best interest” and includes simulations based on real world events.

Students learn how to be proactive about media while still ensuring legal obligations are met.

“What’s the point of achieving a favourable legal outcome but losing in the court of public opinion and damaging your overall reputation, which can cost far more?” Mr Mercer asked.

“Issues and crises are best resolved when lawyers and PR practitioners work together and understand the importance of the other’s role.”


About the University of Calgary’s course:

Media course should be taught to Australian law students

Israel Folau criticism may start a war of biblical proportions

The furore surrounding Wallabies star Israel Folau may spark a renewed battle over the freedom of religious beliefs, according to a leading public relations and crisis communications strategist.

Managing Director of Mercer PR, Lyall Mercer, who deals with many faith-based organisations and churches across Australia and internationally, says Christian leaders are very concerned about the social activism of major companies and the wider ramifications this may have.

“Christian organisations feel the goalposts have moved since the same sex marriage (SSM) vote and that the right of Christians to express their faith and take a position they believe to be biblical, is under threat.”

Mr Mercer said that while Folau’s response to a question on social media was “unwise” and offensive to some, it reflected a core doctrine that is taught by churches across the world.

“What Israel said is not remarkable given almost all sexual acts outside of marriage between a man and a woman are considered a sin based on the interpretation of scripture by many churches, notwithstanding that some Christians today have a different view of homosexuality.”

He said many Christians and church leaders, if asked the same question that was put to Folau, would have given the same answer, and therein lies the challenge.

“Churches, ministries and faith-based organisations are watching corporate Australia starting to aggressively rally behind causes and issues and threatening to withhold funding, and they see this as an unacceptable attack on religious freedom and the beliefs Christians have held for thousands of years.

Mercer PR has seen a significant increase in Christian organisations wanting crisis communications planning advice since the start of the SSM debate.

“They are fearful that there will soon be pressure on churches to stop teaching some of their traditional doctrines, or threats of funding cuts to Christian schools and charities because they adhere to traditional and mainstream Christian beliefs.”

Companies should also be careful, according to Mr Mercer, because of the polarising effect of social activism.

Israel Folau criticism may start a war of biblical proportions

Are Australians fed up with social media outrage?

The growing support for Canberra company Seears Workwear may indicate that Australians are starting to reject social media outrage targeting businesses, according to a leading public relations and reputation management strategist.

Seears’ Facebook page has been inundated with positive reviews and comments after they refused to back down following media reports quoting a mother who accused them of telling her daughter to “get lost” when she phoned them to request they change a lyric in their ad from “boys” to “folks”, to be more gender inclusive.

Managing Director of Mercer PR, Lyall Mercer, said the “new normal” was for people to threaten companies with negative media exposure when they are unhappy or don’t agree with something about the business.

“Years ago people threatened to go to their lawyer; now they openly say they’ll go to the media or post on social media, with the intent to defame and hurt a business based purely on their opinion or experience.

“They hope others will jump on the outrage bandwagon without knowing the facts, and that if enough noise can be made, mainstream media will pick up the story.”

He said Seears’ response was different to many other companies in similar situations, which apologise for fear of further backlash.

“We live in a social media age so companies have to accept that, and there are times when a company has made a mistake and the best response is to apologise.

“But we’ve assisted many clients who have been attacked based on one person’s accusations, and people must remember that there is always another side to the story.”

Mr Mercer said businesses have closed down due to social media abuse, and many have received threats of physical violence.

“Most people who are supposedly outraged have no idea what it’s like to run a business and the financial risks involved,” he said.

“But the Seears response does show that public reaction may end up defending a company when targeted.”

Are Australians fed up with social media outrage?

Universities should be embarrassed at teaching standard

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Media Release

According to some of Australia’s future journalists and public relations practitioners, “Australian Post” is a major newspaper group, Alan Jones is the CEO of QANTAS and the National Australia Bank sets the country’s interest rate.

These are just some of the bizarre answers to a questionnaire completed by 17 journalism and PR graduates who were shortlisted from around 100 applicants for a graduate PR role.

Lyall Mercer, managing director of Mercer PR which advertised the role, said the lack of both basic media and public relations knowledge, added to the overall disinterest in news and current affairs, should call into question what students are being taught at university.

He revealed that of the 17 – who were the best of the applicants – less than half could name the two major newspaper media groups, and less than a quarter knew two Sydney newspapers.

Despite all graduates attending Queensland universities, not one knew the state leader of One Nation and only 12 per cent could name Queensland’s opposition leader. Only one of the 17 could identify the high-profile CEO of QANTAS and less than a quarter knew Australia’s deputy prime minister.

Answers to the question of which bank sets interest rates – of which only five answered correctly – included Bank of Australia, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia.

“I did not speak to one graduate who in three years had attended a real press conference or stepped out of the classroom, which really makes you wonder what they are learning,” Mr Mercer said.

“While I understand that tertiary institutions represent the foundation of learning across many professions, in the area of journalism and PR, these results are embarrassing.”

Mr Mercer said recent reports of universities controversially spending money on traffic plans and expansion could indicate that they have some of their priorities wrong.

“Certainly in this field, graduates are paying for a piece of paper but they are not learning the skills and knowledge they need for employment.

“And they know it; almost every applicant admitted they didn’t learn much at university!”

Universities should be embarrassed at teaching standard

PR firm backs Toowoomba for growth

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May 4, 2017

 Media Release

A Brisbane based corporate public relations and crisis communications firm with clients across Australia, the Pacific, New Zealand and the USA has chosen Toowoomba as its first regional Australian office.

Mercer PR has offices in Brisbane and Sydney and had not considered the Toowoomba region for expansion until late last year, but has now joined Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE) and established a local office.

Managing director Lyall Mercer says Toowoomba was a second home for him growing up, with his parents loving the region so much they purchased an investment property in North Street.

“We’d stay here regularly at the Toowoomba Motel on the range, and I have vivid memories of early morning walks in the cold that my mother forced me to endure,” he laughed.

But the company’s investment in its first regional office is no laughing matter, with Mr Mercer targeting local corporates and those moving to the area.

“We don’t typically deal in the retail or lifestyle sectors, but specialise in the corporate market, working with industry groups, companies and non-profit organisations, so a regional centre wouldn’t normally be our market.

“But with Toowoomba becoming a major transport and business hub thanks to the airport and the work TSBE and the Council are doing, we believe that we can gain clients here and provide a service that maybe is not currently being offered locally.”

Mercer PR has past and current Toowoomba-based clients but due to confidentiality does not publicise them.

“Confidentiality and trust are important to us, because while we do general corporate communications, we also work a lot in the area of issues and reputation management and crisis communications.”

Mr Mercer said he is amazed at how far the city had come and confirmed he was already becoming a regular at many of the local restaurants.

“I’m a dining aficionado and I’m pleased to report that Toowoomba earns good marks in this area, which probably means I’ll be here more!”

The company has launched a Toowoomba office website at

PR firm backs Toowoomba for growth

New York Times seeks out Mercer PR for comment on ‘Brand America’

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November 7, 2016

 Media Release

Managing Director of Mercer PR Lyall Mercer was one of several international voices quoted in a New York Times article that focused on the damage America’s election campaign is doing to the nation’s image across the globe.

Mr Mercer, who lived and worked in the US for almost seven years, had previously written that he believed “the American ‘brand’ – which once was seen as the pinnacle of leadership, freedom and prosperity – has taken a battering over the past eight years, ceding the international leadership role to Europe and Asia.”

He attributed the USA’s loss of reputation to “a combination of the Obama Administration’s foreign policies, the current presidential election race, continual gun violence and the increase in racial tensions.”

The New York Times piece, headlined “Forget the Cost to the Candidates. This Campaign’s Cost America More”, quoted the Aussie PR strategist as saying, “Much of the world is no longer in awe of you”.

The article continued:

Mr. Mercer noted that state lawmakers in Sydney had recently adopted a resolution by unanimous accord that described Mr. Trump as a “revolting slug.”

“Of course I understand this is about the candidate and not the country,” Mr. Mercer said. “But the very fact that they were willing to do this, with not one M.P. speaking against it — despite knowing they were ridiculing someone who could be the next president of our most important ally — I think speaks to the diminishing awe, or even respect.”

Read the full article here –

New York Times seeks out Mercer PR for comment on ‘Brand America’