Know your audience

Comment from Peter Saxon.

 Ita oughta know better.

“Karen of Bunnings” hasn’t got a clue.

Craig “Huggy” Huggins knows what he’s talking about and who he’s talking to.


When I was starting out as a young jock at 2XL Cooma in 1972, there were a lot of things you weren’t allowed to mention on air – your name, for a start. Probably because there was such a high turnover of staff that the owner didn’t want the listeners to get too close and personal with you, in case they’d miss you after you’d left. 

Perhaps it hadn’t dawned on said owner that suppressing a young announcer’s natural instinct for self-promotion was one of the reasons they didn’t stay for long. More importantly, it’s pretty hard to develop a personal relationship with your listeners if they don’t even know your name.

You also weren’t allowed to talk about what was on television or in the papers because he didn’t want to give the station’s competitors a free kick.

Today, of course, content directors understand that radio presenters must engage with everything their listeners are interested in which includes a bewildering array of online, on-demand and interactive media.

Social media, as many are finding out to their chagrin, is a two way street. Use your msm megaphone to criticise someone or some group and be prepared for a torrent of tweets right back at you

Ita Buttrose

ABC Chair, Ita Buttrose, was seen by many as an astute ‘captains pick” made by Scott Morrison, early in his Prime Ministership. It would be difficult to find someone with more experience in media as an author, radio and television presenter, publisher and business owner – yet with less political baggage than Ms Buttrose. She would know a thing or two about targeting an audience.

The other week, Ms Buttrose addressed the Australia-British Chamber of Commerce and spoke of the changes she sees in the attitude of management and staff.

“What does change is the expectations of staff, that’s where the change occurs,” Buttrose said. “The younger workers like more transparency”… which was in stark contrast to when she was a journalist, when she said that not hearing from proprietors such as Sir Frank Packer and bosses was a good thing because “no news means good news”.

“But it seems to me that today’s younger workers, they need much more reassurance and they need to be thanked, which is something many companies don’t do. They’re very keen on being thanked and they almost need hugging – that’s before COVID of course, we can’t hug any more – but they almost need hugging.”

Not quite Monty Python’s classic, “We lived in a shoebox” sketch – and probably not what she might have said to a meeting of young staff at ABC HQ – but her sentiments were bound to find fertile ground within the confines of a roomful of captains of Anglo-Antipodean industry. 

Of course, you can’t keep such talk corralled in your echo chamber of like minded folk, as Alan Jones found out when he addressed a private Liberal Party function and quipped that ‘Julia Gillard’s father had died of shame over his daughter telling lies’.

I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty of millennials that are much like Ms Buttrose describes but in my experience, few work at the ABC. Most of the young people who work in content making are just as ambitious and hard-working as their commercial counter-parts.

It was wrong of Ms Buttrose to make such a sweeping generalisation about millennials. And the millennials who work at Aunty were quick to let their Chair know how they felt via socials.

When you’re a public figure, what you say in a closed venue is bound to leak out. And once it’s picked up by social and mainstream media, the broader community (not to mention the affected party) is unlikely to get the “joke.”

Karen of Bunnings

The problem with living in an echo chamber is that it can give one a false sense of security in the belief that the majority of people (at least the ones you know) share your world view. 

If ‘Karen of Bunnings’ thought that filming her own performance at the hardware store would bring adulation from a vast audience, she surely came to earth with a thud when the backlash from her over-entitled rant hit her social accounts.

This particular Karen – real name Kerry Nash – walked into Bunnings with a smartphone crew to record her as she berated the hapless staff at a suburban Bunnings in Victoria where facemasks had been mandated the day before.

Of course, Ms Nash could have taken her case to Bunnings’ owner Westfarmers’ corporate HQ in Perth and dazzled their legal team with her “interesting” version of Australian law based on American conspiracy sites. 

But, no, it’s much more fun to threaten to sue staff for $60,000 each, when their expertise lies in DIY hardware, not legal debate.  It’s hard to believe that Ms Nash could be so ignorant of the law that she could make her threats with so much conviction as staff politely asked her to leave.

It might come as news to Ms Nash but Bunnings is not a public place as she alleges but a business entity on private land that is open to the public. As such they have a legal right to refuse entry to those who don’t follow their conditions as set out on a notice at the entrance of the store.

As for her allegation that they were acting in contravention of a UN Human Rights declaration of 1948, good luck with that.

In order to make that stick, Ms Nash would need to travel to Geneva, stand in a queue behind millions of Uyghur, Tibetans, Hong Kong residents, Eritreans and Kurds along with human slaves and women living in theocracies that afford them virtually no rights. And let’s not forget our own black marks at the UNCHR in regards to indigenous deaths in custody and the poor devils stuck in refugee camps for years, ostensibly to deter people smugglers.

I would love to be there on the day when all the persecution, oppression and fear in the world has been solved and finally, Kerry Nash has reached the front of the queue to present her grievance to some minor clerk at the UNCHR, that Bunnings won’t let her shop at their stores because she doesn’t wish to wear a face mask in the middle of a pandemic. I hope they laugh her out of the building.

Nonetheless, Ms Nash got her 15 minutes of fame and a week of ridicule. Live by social media, die by social media.

Craig “Huggy” Huggins

Huggy, who mostly plays music between 9am and noon on GOLD104.3 in Melbourne knows his audience better than most. He should do, he’s been on air with the station for 29 years. In that time he’s shared with listeners the births of his children, his wife’s cancer scare and his dad’s passing five years ago. 

“I’ve always felt that you and I have the sort of relationship where we can tell each other anything,”  he tells them as he delivers the latest tragic event of his life.

Last week, Huggy’s mother passed away. She had COVID-19. 

In an announcement that took just over a minute, Huggy said more than most talk announcers could say in 10.

After imploring his listeners to wear a mask and observe social distancing, he makes one simple, powerful point:

“Many people don’t know anyone who’s had the virus, but now you do – Huggy’s mum.” 

Well, Mr Huggins, I’m sure your mum, may she rest in peace, would be proud of the public service you have performed in her name.

You are a credit to the industry you serve as a broadcast professional.

That 68 secs of air time should be taught to students as to how a radio presenter connects with an audience. 

Peter Saxon.


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