Steve MichelsonAuthor, Steve Michelson
Before you close your laptop and throw yourself into festive celebrations, we take a moment to reflect on another massive year at Michelson Alexander. 

2022 was lockdown-free, and we didn’t waste any time helping our clients to capitalise on this fact to make a difference across Australia. 

From helping to navigate high-profile cyber-attacks and breaking down stigma, to complex stakeholder engagement and media management, Michelson Alexander is proud to have spent the year partnering with fantastic organisations to achieve lasting social impact.  

Here’s a recap of some of our achievements in 2022. 

Rethinking Addiction 

Michelson Alexander at the RTA conThe addiction research and education centre Turning Point launched its Rethink Addiction campaign to help transform Australia’s attitudes and approaches to addiction. 

The importance of a health-based approach to addiction cannot be understated, given one in four Australians will struggle with alcohol, other drugs, or gambling in their lifetime. Many wait years, even decades, to get the help they need because of the stigma and shame surrounding addiction. 

Working alongside Turning Point, Michelson Alexander helped to create a self-sustaining campaign capable of changing the conversation, establishing addiction as a political priority, and gaining widespread support. Then, we helped Turning Point to liaise with government to help increase their funding and exert greater policy influence.  

Finally, we helped to organise the Rethink Addiction National Convention in Canberra, which brought people from across Australia and all parts of the sector together, including the key decision makers, opinion leaders, researchers, treatment, care and support providers, and of course, people with lived experience. 

Using considered strategic communications support, we were table to enhance the brand and reputation of Turning Point and Eastern Health, and to start to shift public and political discourse surrounding addiction in Australia to help improve health outcomes. 

 

Opening Australia’s first Hydrogen Centre of Excellence 

When Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Premier of Queensland, opened a new Hydrogen Centre of Excellence, it marked the culmination of years of effort by industry to advance the renewable hydrogen transition.  

Annastacia Palaszczuk visiting the Hydrogen Centre of Excellence at BeenleighBut most importantly, it started the journey to upskill Australian tradies to be ready for the clean energy future. 

Michelson Alexander leads strategic communications projects and stakeholder engagement strategies for the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre (PICAC) – a national not-for-profit network of industry-owned and operated training hubs. 

This new and world-class $20 million Hydrogen Centre of Excellence, situated on PICAC’s Beenleigh campus, includes specialised gas training equipment, lower carbon technology upgrades, roof-access work platforms, special hazards fire systems and state-of-the-art training rooms. The facility will ensure energy transition, especially involving renewable hydrogen, isn’t delayed by a shortage of skilled workers.  

The Centre of Excellence shows the benefits of employer groups, unions and industry working together, and Michelson Alexander is thrilled to have supported PICAC to frame its mission and to help secure the required funding for the facility. 

 

Helping a high-profile company navigate a cyber attack 

Our client, a high-profile global company that provides critical services to the private and public sector, was the victim of a cyber-attack. 

It became immediately aware that the hackers had exfiltrated its network and stolen a large amount of data.  All business systems nationwide had to be shut down immediately and indefinitely.

Cyber attack

As a provider of critical public infrastructure services our client held highly sensitive information, the release of which could have led to significant harm to both individuals and third-party organisations. 

Michelson Alexander was called in to provide expert counsel on all aspects of strategic communications and stakeholder engagement, and to provide a view on reputation risk and mitigation. 

While our client had a business continuity plan, it did not have a crisis communications plan that was fit for purpose for an event of this nature.  We immediately joined the Australian and global management team’s crisis response, providing advice to help identify the priority stakeholders, how best to engage them, and what they needed to know.  

We also helped the company to navigate intense media, public and stakeholder scrutiny. The fact we kept our client’s name largely out of the media and parliamentary question time is a measure of our collective success!

When a second cyber-attack was experienced, we utilised the goodwill that our client had fostered by being proactive with strategic communications and with stakeholders, including staff, regulators, unions, the media, government and clients. We are now working with federal regulators to consider the remaining legal issues and to help ensure that the company is well prepared for when, not if, another cyber-attack occurs in the future. 

Working with, and for, the community 

Collingwood Children’s Farm (CCF) is well-known and picturesque, the ideal spot for a weekend stroll with the kids near Melbourne’s Yarra River. 

But when an external report deemed the community garden plots on the farm unsafe for use by gardeners, the wider community and farm staff, CCF had no choice but to temporarily close them in order to implement the report’s recommendations.

CCF StaffPublic sentiment quickly turned against CCF. With community gardeners approaching the media to voice their concerns, the decision to close plots indefinitely was misconstrued as a plan to demolish them altogether. 

Michelson Alexander stepped in to help the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and CCF’s Committee of Management tailor their communications, and to engage with an increasingly complex network of stakeholders including gardeners and locals, political parties, Yarra Council, schools, First Nations representatives and the government.  

We were able to shift the narrative to focus on the proactive work being done by CCF, partly by facilitating street stalls to better inform the public. As sentiment shifted, dissenting community gardeners continued to attract media attention, so we prepped the CEO and other CCF members to confidently tell their positive stories and act as the farm’s voice. 

In May 2022, we ran community consultations on the redesign and redevelopment of the community gardens site, aiming to engage a wide range of CCF community members to gather ideas, to understand the needs of the community, and to contribute to the design of a rejuvenated, productive community garden to benefit all, including people with disability.  

With a final report delivered to CCF in September, and work on the new gardens on schedule to commence in 2023, we’re looking forward to a stroll around the rejuvenated community gardens once work is complete! 

 

Partnering for progress in Ballarat 

Homes To Help LaunchHomes to Help is a Ballarat-based initiative working to help vulnerable women and their children find a secure home by engaging construction students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Driven by a partnership between Platinum Institute, Women’s Property Initiatives (WPI) and Michelson Alexander, the program enables young construction trainees from disadvantaged backgrounds to receive mentorship to help them build high-quality, energy efficient, modular homes as part of their coursework.

WPI will then purchase these homes to provide long-term, affordable housing for women and children escaping family violence. 

By working on real builds, the Platinum Institute students will enhance their skills, their confidence and their employability while delivering urgently needed housing for women and children in a cost-effective way. 

Two out of three people approaching homelessness services in Victoria are women, with half escaping family violence. And as it stands, there is not enough affordable housing to go around. This project will mean that some of the 45,000 women in Victoria who will be without safe and secure housing this Christmas have a place to call home. 

We are excited to see how well the story behind this project has been received so far and to have secured initial sponsors, but we urge the construction industry – manufacturers, suppliers, and professionals – to get involved and sponsor Homes to Help.  

To find out how you can offer support, and join us on this life changing project, please visit HomesToHelp.com.au 

 

Here’s to an even bigger 2023

Michelson Alexander is proud to have worked on these projects, and so many others, throughout 2022, and we can’t wait to continue to make a social impact with our corporate, government and not-for-profit clients when we return to work in 2023.  

If you’d like help with your strategic communications or social impact vision from the stakeholder engagement experts, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team!