Building Strategic Relationships and The Role Of Media

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Yesterday was a busy day… in fact the whole week was crazy when I come to think about it.

But yesterday more than most days…

In the morning I attended an event to mark 50 years of friendship between Korea and Australia. (I was there as the proxy for Professor Gordon Wallace from ACES where I work part of the time). And then I had to go to State and Regional Development to look at the venue where we are holding an event later this month to showcase a new facility for prototyping using nanomaterials and additive manufacturing. (You can register here if you are interested in attending). Then I had to get down to the Rocks area in Sydney to give a lecture to a group of masters students from AIM on building strategic relationships.

In some respects one logically let to the other…. but through an extraordinarily convoluted path.

My fundamental message to the students attending the lecture was that building strategic relationships is actually about building relationships. You can’t make them strategic until they are already in place ….

At the “friendship” event I met a few people who may prove to have strategic value to ACES as time goes by. One of them has a small to medium sized construction company and another is a partner in PWC. What on earth do either of these people have to do with the sort of hard core science that goes on at ACES? Answer: Both of them talk to other people.

What we have to do nowadays when we look at building relationships is to view the evolving business ecosystem through the lens of social networking. Facebook has given us a world where our potential for connecting increases massively. That means we have several orders of magnitude increase in the number of conversations that we have to manage. And that can be a huge waste of time unless we make those conversations count.

That is ironically the reason why the pursuit of the strategic is something that needs careful thought…

Earlier in the week I was at a lunch with a number of eminent scientists and a number of foreign science journalists. The journos are in Australia to look at the site of the square kilometer array. The conversation at the lunch table shepherded by NSW‘s Chief Scientist, Mary O’Kane, moved to the way that the climate change debate is being handled in Australia.

The journalists from various European countries expressed amazement at the media time being given to Lord Monckton – the pseudo-science, climate-change denier. A British journalist at the lunch told us that Monckton is not given any column inches or air time in the UK and consequently doesn’t have any influence on policy or community.

Here on the other hand, he has huge coverage. Why is that so?

Its always beneficial to follow the money trail when you want to get an answer. Monckton is in Australia courtesy of Gina Rinehart, one of Australia’s (and the world’s) richest people and a mining magnate. A relatively short while ago she purchased a significant shareholding in Channel 10 and a slightly lesser share in Fairfax.

Since making those purchases she has sough to influence the programing and/or editorial policies of the media outlets. Gina Rinehart’s relationship with these media outlets is perhaps more than “strategic” since she is now a proprietor.

In terms of influence the question is – “in a fully facebooked world does this matter anymore?”

If you follow the writing of Craig Newmark, you may have heard of the phrase, trust is the new black.

Gina Rinehart uses her financial muscle with media to influence public discourse in Australia presumably for financial gain. Nothing wrong with that – it has been happening that way since Gutenberg invented the printing press.

Understanding and strategizing how to develop an approach to finding the people who will help influence decision making without having to purchase a major media outlet is something that requires insight, subtlety, experience, vision and more. Its elusive, hard to quantify and complex. But it can be done. That is what I try to deliver for clients.

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