Monday, June 23, 2008

Telstra: the spin isn't working

Copy of Australian blog entry

Who knows how much cash Telstra has spent attacking its critics and competitors, promoting itself as the champion of the national interest, and even using its financial muscle to prevent Bleeding Edge talking to a seniors' conference on computers. While we don't rely on its opposition site, TellTheTruthTelstra, for a completely unbiased point of view, reading through some of the posts indicates how Telstra is prepared to use the shabbiest sophistry to justify its self-serving tactics.

Right now, for instance, NowWeAreTalking - that expensive spin machine that it shamelessly promotes as a "blog" aimed at "setting the record straight" - is accusing former shadow Communications Minister Senator Kate Lundy of breaching parliamentary ethics in not disclosing that her husband, David Forman, is "on the payroll of the anti-Telstra cartel".

The fact that Forman is executive director of the Competitive Carriers Coalition is scarcely a secret, and to use the word "cartel" to describe Telstra's competitors is, in our view, bordering on defamation. A cartel is a group of companies which colludes to use its market power to set prices and output. It's not only totally untrue in the context of Australian telecommunications, it's a priceless irony: Telstra has all the market power in this country, and under its regime, consumers pay a heavy price. And if Rod Bruem's cynical, paid-for opinion isn't revolting enough, read the comments.

Apparently however, people are waking up to Telstra's tactics. According to a survey in Reader's Digest, Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo is one of the least trusted of Australia's most important or celebrated individuals. At No. 95 on a list of the most trusted people, headed by burns specialist Dr Fiona Wood and cancer researcher Professor Ian Frazer, Sol is equal with the faithless Shane Warne, and is rated as more trustworthy than only four notorious individuals: confessed terrorism supporter David Hicks, disgraced footballers Ben Cousins and Wayne Carey, and jailbird businessman Rodney Adler.

Reader's Digest offers some great advice to Sol and his senior management team. When it comes to being trusted, celebrity and being important doesn't count. Maligning and silencing your opponents doesn't work. Hiring mouthpieces like the too-clever-by-half Rod Bruem gets you nowhere. What works, according to Reader's Digest, is "humility, honesty and helping others". The public seems to have decided that Sol and his mates are interested "Sol-ely" in helping themselves.

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