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The Week in Detail: Crisis comms, Covid-19, and forfeiting feta

every weekday,the detailsmakes sense of the big news stories.

This week, we looked at PR nightmares and what happens behind the scenes when the crisis experts get brought in, the vitriol behind transgender women’s exclusion from competitive sport, where we’re at with the Covid-19 outbreak as we come into the thick of winter, the group tackling food waste at an industrial scale, and find out how the EU trade deal got over the line – sans feta.

Whakarongo mai to any episodes you might have missed.

Crisis communications 101: How to deal with a PR disaster

What happens when a high-profile person, or a big company, or a politician really screws up? They have to think fast: an apology, sometimes a non-apology, or the rare doubling-down.

Even when people call in the experts to help them deal with a media storm, sometimes they don’t take their advice. Photo: Getty Images

But the best course of action might be to call in the experts: public relations professionals, experts in crisis management whose job it is to help you get through it.

Draper Cormack PR company co-owner and former Green Party staffer David Cormack gives Emile Donovan a peek behind the crisis curtain.

Cormack says at a basic level, the job of PR people is to understand how people will emotionally react to things.

“We will provide that information to you: if you do X, a journalist is going to do this line of questioning and the public is going to respond in this way,” he says.

Competing in elite sport as a transgender woman

Mountainbike rider and transwoman Kate Weatherly doesn’t shy away from media interviews about transgender athletes – even when she gets death threats.

Mountain bike rider Kate Weatherly on a forest trail, leaning on her bike and smiling.
Mountain bike rider Kate Weatherly. Photo: Supplied/Savanna Guet

But she says the latest discussion about swimming world governing body FINA’s decision to ban transgender athletes from the elite levels of women’s competition – and the domino effect with other sporting bodies that followed its lead – has triggered the worst response she’s experienced.

“People are particularly concerned about the impact that people like me have on other women,” says Weatherly.

“They perceive transwomen as this group of people who have an unfair advantage over other women.”

Sharon Brettkelly also speaks to sport sociologist Professor Holly Thorpe, who says the science behind sporting bodies’ decisions to exclude transwomen is not settled, and much of the debate is being driven by fear and ignorance.

Covid-19 isn’t done with us yet

There’s some cognitive dissonance with how we’re treating Covid-19 as a nation. We’ve had steadily increasing daily case numbers – up to the 13,000 mark on Friday – for the past month, over 1500 total deaths, and yet we tend to talk about the pandemic as if it’s already in the rearview mirror.

Photo: Pixabay

Newsroom senior political reporter Marc Daalder tells the details says there’s been a curious downturn in the urgency of the Covid-19 response from health authorities.

Daily deaths are averaging about 14, but Daalder says we know about 20 to 25 percent are later found to be unrelated to Covid-19.

Despite that, 10 or 11 deaths a day gets you to 3500 deaths a year – that’s about 10 times the annual road toll.

New Zealand’s food waste problem

We produce a lot of food. Too much – up to 150,000 of surplus food is produced in Aotearoa annually, much of it destined for landfill.

New Zealand Food Network CEO Gavin Findlay points out the imperfection on a donated apple that would have led to it being graded out of supermarket supply.
New Zealand Food Network CEO Gavin Findlay points out the imperfection on a donated apple that would have led to it being graded out of supermarket supply. Photo: Bonnie Harrison

All this alongside a cost of living crisis, where families are struggling to put food on the table.

Enter the New Zealand Food Network. They take on surplus food in bulk from big producers like Fonterra and Sanitarium and distribute it to local hubs – food banks and community charities that serve it up to those in need.

the details visits the Food Network’s South Auckland warehouse, where CEO Gavin Findlay takes us along the floor-to-ceiling shelving and explains how the surplus food they receive is often a surprise, rejected because the packaging is damaged, the product is sample-only, the fruit and vegetables are not perfect, or the wrong ingredients have been added.

Getting the EU trade deal across the line

“We are worth nothing to them.”

That’s what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade deputy secretary Vangelis Vitalis told a room of several hundred farmers and other primary industry leaders this week after New Zealand brought home a free trade deal with the European Union.

How did it finally get across the line, after years of negotiations?

Veteran trade negotiator turned government relations adviser Charles Finney tells the details about the significance of the deal, the tensions behind the scenes, and why feta was forfeited.

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