As a totally neutral and non-partisan lobby group, not at all affiliated with any right-leaning parties that have blue in their logos, it’s important for us to get our message across.
If there’s an issue that remotely involves the use of taxpayer or ratepayer money, you can bet that we’ll be across it.
The trick in any election year, with all sorts of lobby groups vying for media attention, is to saturate the environment. That’s why we have been carpet-bombing news organisations with press releases.
If Len Brown goes to the toilet while he’s at work, we’ll be there to ask the hard questions. What brand of toilet roll is he using? Why isn’t two-ply good enough? Did he really need more than one piece? How long was he in there when he could have been doing something productive instead? Did he really have to waste all that water, or could he have got away with not flushing the toilet at all? Couldn’t he have held on and gone to the loo at his own house? Was he with anyone in the toilet? And so on.
The key is to get media time, and that means publishing press releases, dozens of press releases, hundreds of press releases. It also means being available to be interviewed on any subject whatsoever, unless it has anything to do with that Nicky Hager book. Don’t even ask me about that. It must have been a different guy with the same name as me. No, you can trust me. Cameron Slater? No, I hardly know the guy.
Some organisations make the mistake of only commenting on things they know something about, but that’s where we are different. We don’t know much about anything, except that we and our financial backers don’t like paying tax. But that need not stop us from issuing press releases regarding subjects we haven’t bothered to research. We’re lobbyists, and if we’re right about what we talk about some of the time instead of all of the time, well we’ll live with that.
For those of you who might be thinking about setting up your own lobby group to help our team stay in government and stick the boot into those thieving socialists, let me give you a few words of advice.
The most important thing when any issue arises is speed. Don’t make the mistake of trying to be informed or accurate. Just type out the first thing that enters into your head. Quickly check that you have used the words “waste” and “outrageous” somewhere in your press release, and then push the send button.
If you are criticising a report, don’t bother to read it. Reading takes time, and you have a dozen other press releases to send out. Don’t try to do any sort of research, beyond typing three or four words into Google and referring to the first thing that pops up that seems to suit your argument. How are you going to provide opinion on every issue under the sun if you engage in actual research?
Accuracy is for pedants. You don’t have time to proofread what you have written. Those monetary amounts you stuck in your release may turn out to be correct, or they may not. Why worry? If you’re wrong someone will probably point it out for you later. Let other people do the work for you.
If you get it wrong, don’t feel the need to apologise. Continue to attack, but if that doesn’t work out for you, become defensive and blame others. The media are always an easy target. Blame them for misquoting or misleading you.
Continually insist that you are non-partisan, even though your links with various right wing parties and partisan groups will be well known to those engaged in politics. It doesn’t matter what those people think, because it’s the uninformed punter you’re trying to convince. Make sure they stay uninformed!
Pretending to be impartial will occasionally mean making some tough calls. Sometimes you will have to attack a minister, or say something that will make someone on your side look bad. But you can still go easy on them. Keep the criticism to a minimum. You could even give their office a courtesy call so they know you’re about to comment. But if the person you’re attacking is some official who is expendable, go to town and demand their resignation. Better still, focus most of your attacks on left-leaning local bodies. You may not know a single thing about Auckland politics or the Auckland region, but that’s no reason not to continually attack the mayor of the city.
If you manage all of that, then there really is no reason why you can’t get at least ten press releases out the door before morning tea. That will leave the rest of the day free for interviews, photo-ops and other assorted publicity gimmicks. You may even find time to read that new Nicky Hager book.
Editor’s note: I don’t recall where I first heard the name “Taxpayers’ Onion”, but well done to whoever came up with it. Update: Lyndon Hood has claimed the Onion crown.