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’

Law needs to better deal with social media abuse and defamation

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October 25, 2016

 Media Release

Defamation and harassment laws should be changed to make legal action and criminal charges easier in the age of social and digital media, according to a public relations and reputation management specialist.

Managing Director of Mercer PR Lyall Mercer is writing to all state and federal attorneys-general and shadow attorneys-general requesting a review of the current laws and an inquiry into how they can be better enforced

He said the trend of attacking people on social media is “out of control”.

“We are not talking about robust debate or freedom of speech, but about reputations being damaged and people getting hurt,” he said.

“We have defined the word ‘social’ as meaning anything goes, when in any other forum this abuse would be dealt with by the law.

Mr Mercer said while the debate rages around Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, the abuse in the social media space is far more widespread and harmful.

“There are too many who freely spread lies about people and companies, abuse those they know nothing about, comment on legal cases before the court – potentially jeopardising fair trials – and cause a great deal of anguish for others.”

He said it is time for authorities get tough on people who harass, abuse and defame others on social media, and that current laws make it too hard to investigate, prosecute and take defamation action.

To those who think he is over-reacting, the public relations strategist explained, “I’ve heard first-hand from many people who have spent years building a company or personal reputation, only to have gutless people who have never achieved anything themselves, destroy what they’ve worked for.”

“Everyone makes mistakes, but no one deserves to be attacked publicly in this way.”

He said that if the law is not tight enough, legislators should fix this.

“Police should take abuse and harassment seriously, and defamation laws should be made easier to uphold in the social media space.”



Law needs to better deal with social media abuse and defamation

Educators and employers letting PR graduates down

Graduates in the areas of communications and public relations (PR) can’t find jobs, are poorly trained and some are exploited by employers, according to the head of an Australian PR firm.

Managing Director of Mercer PR, Lyall Mercer, said he agreed with recent comments by the chief executive of Group of Eight, representing eight major universities, that the system is letting students down and pumping out graduates with “broken dreams and a large student debt”.

“Many graduates are forced into other industries, work in less qualified roles or move interstate or overseas because there are so few PR jobs available.

“Maybe it’s time for the universities to be honest with students about the chances of landing a job in this industry.”

He also believes universities are failing to properly train graduates.

“Students are graduating with very little knowledge about the world of PR and no interest in news and current affairs, which affects their employment chances particularly in the corporate PR field.”

Mr Mercer said graduates he employs openly admit they learned very little about their industry at university.

“They are given a degree yet most can’t write a media release, many have poor grammar and communications skills, and they have no idea about even the basics of public relations.

“Several graduates I spoke to recently had never heard of organisations like Associated Press or other major news agencies which is unbelievable. You have to question what they are learning.”

He also said the negative experiences of graduates are made worse by some employers within the industry which can exploit them with unpaid internships that provide little or no value.

“I’m sure some internships are valid and worthwhile, but others are nothing more than illegal, unpaid work. I know of one person who worked as an unpaid intern over a nine month period doing the same work as paid staff.

“Other interns get put in a corner and told to file papers, which provides no benefit whatsoever.”

Mr Mercer said universities could consider working more closely with PR companies to provide better real world education, and those employers who offer unpaid internships should make them very short term and structured.


Link to referred article – comments by Group of Eight –

Educators and employers letting PR graduates down

Companies can take some lessons from Donald Trump’s PR strategy

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April 14, 2016 

Media Release

Despite some recent setbacks and his controversial statements, companies and organisations should take note of how Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has captured America’s attention and been granted widespread free media coverage.

This is the view of Lyall Mercer, Australian corporate public relations strategist and Managing Director of Mercer PR, who says that behind Trump’s public profile is someone who understands how to use the media and relate to people.

“The unprecedented amount of mainstream media coverage he has garnered is no accident, and it would behove corporate leaders to take note of some of the key points of his public and media relations strategy.

“Trump is fearless, engages the media proactively and controls the message. 

He said the real estate magnate and reality TV star also understands that if he is not speaking, the void will be filled by his opponents.”

“Trump is highlighting that proactively engaging with stakeholders and the public ensures that competitors have a lesser voice. I would say to leaders that equally, you want to be on the media’s radar when comments and opinion is needed about issues relating to your industry.”

Mercer said that Trump knows the power of the media grab, and what to say to capture the headlines, although he acknowledges that some of his comments create too much negative reaction.

“He seems to thrive on controversy that would destroy most people and brands, but fortunately controversy is not the only way to get attention. The underlying principle is that people will listen if your message is newsworthy, relevant, current and beneficial to them.

The PR specialist said Trump understands the people he is talking to and is aware of his objective, which is to win the Republican nomination.

“Many criticise and mock him, but whether he ends up winning the race or not, it cannot be denied that he has brilliantly exploited core PR principles to be currently in pole position.” 

Companies can take some lessons from Donald Trump’s PR strategy