Damage Control

Australian audiences have fallen in love with real life-inspired television dramas over the last couple of years. It started with the Packer story. Then came the journey to televise Aussie cricket. Next, focused shifted to a couple of wars between Australia’s celebrity gossip magazines. And as if the networks haven’t dug themselves into a deep enough hole going after these famously powerful people, this time they are digging real holes focussing on the story of mining magnate Gina Rinehart.

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However, the most recent development follows a significantly different pattern. Whereas most of the key influencers for the previous series are long gone from their controversial and news-worthy business interests, Gina Rinehart is very much still in the prime of her own. It isn’t really a surprise that she might have an issue with this drama when it could negatively affect her brand.

So what do you do? How do you tackle a brand problem like this?

The audience is hungry for the episode having raved about the previous one. Stopping it going to air will only cause major problems for the Gina Rinehart brand as hype builds and even more people tune in to see what all the fuss was about. Underbelly experienced the same phenomenon when Victorian Police banned the episode from going to air. All of a sudden it became hot property. If you are told you cannot have something, what is the only thing you can focus on getting?

So that was off the table.

What if you don’t say anything? This is probably the best result in terms of media coverage. Like when we were all children and wanted to annoy someone who wouldn’t have a bar of it, it gets old very quickly when nothing happens. But at the same time, this would have done massive damage to the Gina Rinehart brand because the television show would be taken as truth.

That leaves Option #3.

Wield your brand power without denying the ever-thirsty audiences. And this is exactly what Gina Rinehart did!

Having taken Channel 9 to court on Friday afternoon (a notoriously difficult time for news coverage as audiences have better things to do on their Friday nights), Gina Rinehart received the special privilege of watching the ‘House of Hancock’ episode before the public. She forced Channel 9 to make minor adjustments to four minutes of the original episode and instructed a title card to be placed at the beginning of the episode, reading:

This program is a drama, not a documentary.

Some events in this program have been fictionalised for dramatic purposes..

Gina Rinehard was not interviewed for this program.

And that was it. The episode went ahead as scheduled and the public saw the second instalment of ‘House of Hancock’. Minimum disruption for maximum impact. Many fewer news stories were generated than could possibly have surfaced had she gone in with guns blazing and the audience numbers actually dipped from last week’s premiere.

The rumour mill is still running fast and thick with the suggestion that Gina Rinehart will sue Channel 9 for slanderous material. She may, but I don’t think that she should. It is already yesterday’s news with new controversies popping up daily (read: Julie Goodwin going into the ‘I’m A Celebrity’ camp) and following up on this lawsuit would only bring her back into the headlines. God knows, she certainly doesn’t need the money!

Protecting a brand is a difficult job and requires split-second timing and a number of lucky decisions. But ultimately the goal is what Gina Rinehart’s team achieved – minimum disruption with maximum impact.

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