Analysis shows 2019 a ‘contentious year’

New Zealand had more challenging events and issues than it has experienced in a decade, according to an annual analysis by Blackland, a Wellington-based public relations company.

The company, which reports every year on the toughest communication challenges, says it had been an extraordinary year for the sheer volume and scale of events and issues.

“Since starting our annual analysis, we’ve not seen a year more fraught with contentious and emotional debate, nor with a higher number of errors and tragic incidents,” says director Mark Blackham.

More than 140 individual events and issues made it over the company’s initial threshold for inclusion in the analysis, based on profile and impact – almost double the amount from previous years.

Of those 140, the three most challenging matters were the Government cancelling a capital gains tax and passing the Zero Carbon Bill and the Ministry of Health managing an outbreak of measles.

Blackland’s team concluded that the plans for a capital gain tax was the hardest issue to manage because it affected the largest number of New Zealanders economically and involved complexity and political commitments.

“Changing your mind or reneging on a promise is the hardest thing for any of us to do and politicians are no different. When hundreds of thousands of people are affected by your decision, and you staked your reputation on different course of action, it’s difficult to know the right thing to say."

BlacklandPR uses a scoring system that ranks issues out of 10 for four factors – Profile (media coverage and ‘talkability’ in everyday life), Impact (how many people are consciously affected directly or indirectly), Emotion (the intensity of emotional reaction), and Complexity (complications and technicalities of the issue).

In previous years BlacklandPR’s PR Challenges ranking has been headed by issues such as Metiria Turei’s benefit fraud confession, petrol price rises, food contamination, the Fonterra botulism issue, and the Flag Referendum.

Mark says political challenges dominated the rankings. Fourteen of the Top 20 challenges were faced mainly by political organisations. “The predominant role of government in New Zealand’s daily life is again reflected in this year’s rankings,” he says.

Top 10 most challenging PR challenges in 2019:

Capital Gains Tax Policy proposal
Zero Carbon bill
Measles outbreak
Emergency Services/Defense Force response to White Island eruption
Spark's rugby world cup streaming service
Teacher strikes
Whit Island Tours deaths and injury to customers
Auckland City rail link
Gun laws
Fonterra business performance

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