Refining NZ pipeline rupture – lessons, observations and affirmations

Pipeline damage image 2

Widely held as one of the toughest PR gigs in 2017, the September rupture of Refining New Zealand’s 170km pipeline linking Auckland with its refinery at Marsden Point in Northland threw up some superb affirmations, lessons and observations about crisis and incident communication.

We at Due North were fortunate to be in the thick of it. On that September afternoon, as engineers in the refinery’s control room started hitting the kill switches to halt the flow of hydrocarbons through the pipe, we got the call on which we had based any number of Refining NZ training and readiness scenarios over previous years:

“Drop everything and get in here. There’s been a leak and the RAP’s been shut down”.


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Crisis communication shapes reputations in Hawke’s Bay water calamity

Lawrence Yule, Hawke's Bay campylobacter

Image courtesy of TVNZ

District and Regional Councils at the eye of the storm around the recent contamination of a New Zealand town’s water supply have come under fire for the timeliness and effectiveness of their communication around this issue – now widely acknowledged to be New Zealand’s largest public health crisis to date.

Thousands of people in Hawke’s Bay were made seriously ill last month by a nasty tummy bug, campylobacter, making its way into their underground water supply from what is now thought to be animal faecal matter (cow, pig and sheep poo, and the like). More…

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Supermarket beats sick elderly gent. Then patronises the hell out of him

SPAR1A case study in how not to manage an issue, enhance your reputation or communicate effectively in a crisis unfolded in Harare, Zimbabwe, this week.

Details have gone viral and the story is sparking interest around the world thanks largely to the wholly inadequate and rather more than slightly sleazy response by the organisation involved. More…

Posted in apologies, brands, business, corporate communication, crisis communication, doing the right thing, issues management, PRos and PRats, reputation, spin | | 2 Comments

Could balance of NZ political power hang on a single word?

Image: TVNZ

It’s always risky to call an election result in advance. So I’m going to resist the temptation.

But, barring an extraordinary infusion of yet more pork, I find it hard to imagine how National are going to win Northland at the by-election in two weeks’ time.

Because they can’t / won’t / don’t know to say “sorry”. More…

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Carbon paper, filing cabinets, couriers and telex

In just over 111 years mankind has progressed from putting the first powered aircraft into flight to landing a machine on a comet. This astounding rate of evolution in the aviation and aerospace industry comforts me slightly when I look at how PR has changed in the 26 short years since my first job.

Because it means I’m not necessarily an old fart. Just that ours is yet another area of endeavour which has seen huge change over a very short time.

In a tweet this week one May Wildman (@maywildman) asked what the world of PR was like before email. The more I thought about it, the more I realised how things have changed in the weird and whacky world of PR. More…

Posted in journalism, media, PRos and PRats, trends | | 6 Comments

Facebook: for when things go ‘glug’

Just three weeks ago this country’s only oil refinery, Refining NZ, accepted our long-standing recommendations around establishing a presence on social media. The rationale; to engage more effectively with the local community and to give the company a channel through which to communicate with the wider world in the unfortunate event that something goes bang.

Then yesterday, with uncanny timing, something did go bang. Well, not really bang. More like glug. More…

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PR best practice in local government? Yes!

You don’t often expect examples of best practice to jump out at you from local government but hats are off in our office to both the Far North District Council and Auckland Council for their use of social media.

The Far North District Council gets that social media is about engagement, community and information-sharing. More…

Posted in brands, business, community, corporate communication, Northland, PRos and PRats, social media, spokesmen, the human element, trends | | Leave a comment

Showdown in the Basin

Who knew? Be warned: if you want to photograph anyone in front of Heritage New Zealand’s Kemp House you must first seek the permission of the property manager.

This despite the fact that the building sits front and centre of Kerikeri’s picturesque Stone Store Basin, right alongside the eponymous trading site.

And despite the fact that Heritage New Zealand, other organisations responsible for the Basin and the various bodies responsible for promoting tourism in Kerikeri and the Bay of Islands profess to be doing everything they can to encourage people to visit the place. More…

Posted in brands, doing the right thing, moral high ground, Northland, PRos and PRats, reputation, the human element | | Leave a comment

Just say “no”

Jeepers, Radio New Zealand’s ‘Morning Report’ was a tough listen on Monday this week!

It was the first week-day after Labour had polled so badly in the New Zealand 2014 General Election and ‘Morning Report’ presenters Guyon Espiner and Susie Ferguson desperately wanted the headline that a Labour personality – any Labour personality would do – was not prepared to support the party’s leader at the time, David Cunliffe.

By 9am I had lost count of the number of times the words ‘knife’ or ‘knives’ had been used.

There were ‘knives out’ for the man who had led the party to such an electoral drubbing. Or a knife that was being readied for metaphorical plunging between his shoulder-blades. Knives here, knives there, knives blimmin’ everywhere. More…

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#Election2014: Of twitter, bad publicity and the north

It’s been an eye-poppingly strange election campaign.

It’s had huge implications for public relations in New Zealand, mainly because of the cash for coverage and dirty politics scandals which engulfed the blogging landscape. Things aren’t ever going to be the same in that department – and that’s a good thing.

Put that aside for a moment and three things stand out for me from this weekend’s election result:

1. Twitter’s an alternative universe
2. There’s new hope for Northland
3. There is such a thing as bad publicity


Posted in economy, government, Northland, politics, social media | | Leave a comment