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

Sports PR specialist says clubs must take more responsibility for player behaviour

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March 7, 2016

Media Release

Sports PR specialist says clubs must take more responsibility for player behaviour

A former sports journalist turned public relations specialist says sporting clubs should look at themselves rather than solely blame the players for off-field indiscretions like the recent behaviour of rugby league player Mitchell Pearce and members of the Queensland emerging Origin squad.

Ben Dobson, manager of Mercer PR sports division which specialises in reputation management, media training and crisis PR for sporting organisations, said if smartphones and social media were around when some of our most respected sporting legends were playing, they may not be revered like they are today!

“I started in journalism in the 1980s and the behaviour and antics were no different. The only difference was the lack of scrutiny,” he said.

“In fact I’d go as far as saying that some of the people we look up to today would never have made it in the age of social and digital media, so I think we can be a little too judgmental and self-righteous sometimes when we talk about today’s sportspeople.”

Dobson said that many of the harshest critics are being disingenuous because they probably did the same things when they were younger, but the times were different.

He said while sportspeople clearly must take personal responsibility for their actions, it was the clubs that needed to better understand the new media age and change their training procedures accordingly.

“It’s quite clear that despite what they say publicly, some clubs simply don’t understand the dangers of the 24/7 digital and social media age, where anything can be recorded and shared and where even the smallest issue can be magnified.

“It’s time for clubs to get serious about the ramifications to their reputation and organisation and change the entire way they approach media training and the management of their players.”

He said it starts with a complete reprogramming of their players thinking, so that a zero tolerance attitude was accepted in return for the huge salaries players receive.

“Until there is a crackdown of great magnitude, we will see these issues continue, and the reputation of rugby league in particular will continue to be damaged.”


Sports PR specialist says clubs must take more responsibility for player behaviour

Smartphone video increasing risk to business reputation, warns PR strategist

 Mercer_PR_lcase - high res

February 25, 2016

Media Release

Smartphone video increasing risk to business reputation, warns PR strategist

The reputational risk to companies has dramatically increased due to the use of smartphones to secretly record video and audio, according to a public relations and reputation management specialist.

Lyall Mercer, Managing Director of corporate PR firm Mercer PR, pointed to the recent media stories around rugby league player Mitchell Pearce and advertising agency M&C Saatchi, who both had to make public apologies due to the airing of video taken at private events.

Mr Mercer said while the Pearce incident concerned an individual, it had an effect on the entire club and a situation like this could just as easily be recorded at a corporate function.

“Everyone now has the potential to take damning video or audio, and there is widespread knowledge that the media has an appetite to publish it.

“We live in a new media age where sharing everything and anything has become not only normal but is encouraged.

He said companies now had to be on guard at every event, function, and meeting, and during general interaction with staff and customers.

“If a customer complains you must now assume they are recording the conversation, and if the boss gives a speech he or she must do so knowing it could be on Facebook the next morning.”

Mr Mercer said companies should be aware of the dangers and take steps to reduce the risk of the negative exposure this can bring.

“Small and large businesses must have a good customer complaint procedure and vet every speech and public statement before it is delivered.”

He also recommended a social media policy for staff and suggested that companies may be able to ban employees or guests from recording anything on their premises.

Alistair Macpherson, Director of Corney & Lind Lawyers confirmed that he believes a written policy banning unauthorised recording at a workplace is likely to be “a reasonable and lawful direction.”

“The employer is the occupier of the premises, and in my view has the authority to control any videoing on the premises whether by an employee or any other person entering the premises,” he said.


Smartphone video increasing risk to business reputation, warns PR strategist