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Boardshorts, Thongs and Memes

Jan 29, 2019

Fifty Acres founder and managing director Jo Scard explains the method in the madness behind the prime minister’s Australia Day dress code talk.

As most of the country heads back to work after the long weekend (for the record Fifty Acres worked Monday and has joined the http://www.changeitourselves.com.au/ movement) there has been a heck of a lot of talk from the prime minister about board shorts, thongs and Australia Day dress code. The chatter is a wee bit superfluous but there is a method in the madness. Let me explain.

The Coalition is speaking in memes, in hashtags and the prime minister is good at it – whether it’s Australia Day or policy announcements, it’s all in shorthand. Bite-size rather than polemic.

The thongs and boardshorts and Australia day dress codes and courtside tennis appearances are smokescreens and a clever magicians trick.

These short, clickable, instant, iconic words are relatable and clever. They, generally, don’t offend. They, by and large, are endearing. The media pick them up, every time, and the government gets positive media coverage. Bingo. Easy as that.

But how does that play out for the social sector and your narrative between now and the election?

This is my take:

  • You need to have a two-tiered media strategy – one driven by popular ideas and themes and the other a more complex, narrative and policy/outcome driven narrative.
  • When you want to communicate your campaign or call-to-action, not for profits need to give the media what it wants. Make sure, like Mr Morrison, you provide hashtags, memes, images and settle on one or two big ideas that have that kryptonite factor. You need clever stunts that speak to the brand. Make sure they are respectful, not rude or offensive (obviously), but funny is cool, if that works for your cause. The campaign will thank you in spades.
  • Not everyone responds to memes and hashtags so at the same time you need to have a far more complex, multi-channel communications strategy to speak and move all your stakeholders. How can you get various groups to do what you want? What media will speak to them? What will get them to take action?


And, as a critical aside, my bet is for a May election as the government is throwing around a lot of money at the moment.

If you have commenced discussions with various federal ministers now is the time to consolidate them and go for it. You have a few months up your sleeve and the money will continue to flow. At the same time make sure you are speaking to the Opposition, in case they win, making friends now will pay big dividends.

To help not for profits do just that, Fifty Acres is offering free Government Engagement Workshops on 26, 27 and 28 February in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

With an early federal election possibly just around the corner, organisations, not for profits and companies need to take action now to put their organisation in a strong position whatever the outcome.

In this free workshop, led by myself, you will learn the practical tips, and actions your organisation should consider in the lead up to the election.

Our workshop will cover the things you can do right now, as well as some medium- to long-term plans your organisation should adopt to boost your government engagement in 2019 and beyond.

There will be a free goody bag, tea, coffee and refreshments.

We hope to see you there!

Register now for free to book your seat, select your city below:


If you want help to navigate the political landscape, or a winning engagement strategy, get in touch with us on 02 6281 7350.

Looking for collaborators who deliver? Drop us a line.