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Telstra’s Talking – but are they listening?


I did have high hopes for NowWeAreTalking (see my bloglet and subsequent comments) Telstra’s attempt to build an online community around it’s services. But. The Age (Helen Westerman and Rebecca Urban) has an article, Telstra makes a discourtesy call.

TELSTRA’S online mouthpiece nowwearetalking.com.au likes to do some plain speaking.
But a recent posting taking a swing at rival Optus regulatory affairs chief Paul Fletcher has caused some internal embarrassment for being a bit too unvarnished.
The blog entry was apparently news to site editor, chief Telstra spokesman Rod Bruem, who has just returned from overseas. And he was not happy about it.
“We’re here for a policy debate, not a personal debate, and I felt that was unacceptably personal,” he said. “We post critical pieces (against Telstra), but one of our rules is that we don’t post anything that’s personal.”
He vowed to find out why the impolite reference was posted.

… it’s still there, but I’ve decided to publish the piece in full in case it gets pulled.

“Fair Go Fletcher” holds monopoly on hyperbole
“Fair Go Fletcher” is Optus’ Director of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs. He has taken it upon himself to teach the Telstra management team “what the rules are in Australia” when it comes to our deeply held convictions regarding fairness or a “fair go”.

It has to be asked: Has he given the same tutorial to his bosses and shareholders in Singapore?

In a press release stunning for both its lack of content and the height of its hyperbole, Fair Go Fletcher (FGF to his friends) implies that Optus is acting in the national interest in challenging wholesale prices in the courts.

What he is actually doing is trying to reduce wholesale prices so his company can make more money – for its investors and shareholders in Singapore!

His central claim is that wholesale line rental is more expensive than some retail rental plans, so this is unfair.

This is one of the biggest red herrings ever hooked on a basic access rental line.

No-one sells line rental on a stand alone basis. It’s like selling Neapolitan ice-cream insisting you make a profit on the strawberry.

You offer line rental at a certain price based on what services you plan to sell over the line.

Looking at Telstra’s range of pricing plans, where we sell a retail plan with a lower monthly line rental the call costs are higher and some cheaper capped rates are not available. In other words, the margin is gained over the package of services offered.

Guess what. Optus does the same thing.

At the other end of the market, Telstra offers a higher line rental price for its HomeLine Part product – because rental and local calls are the only guaranteed income from the line. Customers purchase this service if they want to use another carrier for value-added services like long-distance, international calls and fixed to mobile.

Telstra also offers Homeline Advance where the line rental is higher again, reflecting lower call rates. So we have different plans to meet different customer segment needs (www.telstra.com.au).

The difference between Telstra and Optus is that Telstra actually has the responsibility to operate and maintain a national asset.

If we didn’t set wholesale prices that recovered network costs, Telstra’s shareholders would be footing the bill – directly subsidising investors in Singapore, the US, New Zealand and the other domiciles of Telstra’s competitors. This point was made in a recent article in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald:

Study reveals more than hot air in Trujillo posturing (www.theage.com.au)
The Age, April 18, 2006
FGF may claim Optus is the “champion of competition” but when it comes to bull dust he has a stranglehold on the market.

*sigh* A companies blog or forums are never about the company being able to put the boot into critics. Let your hyper users do that, though they will get plenty of flak and accusations of having hidden agendas. For Telstra to wage a personal attack on Paul Fletcher, well, very uncool. You see, citizen journalism, user generated content, blogs, the whole kaboodle are for companies to determine what is being said about them, not control. How a brand is perceived is no longer in the hands of the marketing manager, it’s back with the consumer. It’s time to start working with that fact, not against it.

Yoohoo! David Havyatt are you around? You hang out on NowWe AreTalking, stirring the pot occasionally. Though I probably shouldn’t say that, as it’s a case of ‘Mrs Pot, Leave Mr. Kettle alone’. Ah well, comments please? Guess I’ll have to wander over to your blog and bug you. (David is entrenched at regulatory affairs at AAPT, so he should have something to say, I hope).

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Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

3 thoughts on “Telstra’s Talking – but are they listening?

  1. Laurel

    Nice to see that Rod took a dim view of the flaming of Paul Fletcher – though if my fading memory serves me right flaming was a newsgroup/chatroom kind of thing wasn’t it.

    Perhaps we need a new word for the behaviour of posting to a blog or similar an unjustified “spray” that is full of “unparliamentary language” – the insidious bit being that the sprayed against doesn’t always know it. I’ve noticed a couple that came after we made comments about Telstra paying for sponsored links for Googling “AAPT” and a line we used that was good for the press about whether we are expected to patrol the borders of cyberspace. The posts were suggesting I was being naive thinking you didn’t need to – when of course we clearly do.

    You might have seen on Rod’s own blog some tooing and froing between me and Rod at times. One of the issues being Rod’s own tendency to “unparliamentary” language – i.e. to label people as liars.

    It is very hard in these circumstances to get debate going – especially as we are all a bit uncompromising. We are also all used to the “theatre” of live speeches where the use of a touch of sarcasm helps get audience response (laughter wakes up those who fell asleep). The written word as we know is so one dimensional – while in a speech you can use inflection to imply “okay, get it, this is a joke” it is very hard to get that in writing.

    One of my posts actually put that at the end following on from some stuff on Crikey about how the Telstra CEO pronounces his name.

    As for Paul Fletcher – I can tell you I alerted him to the post – and his total reply was “Thanks – amusing reading…” I’m guessing from your profile that you might know Paul and can see his wry smile as he would say it.

  2. Unfortunately no, I don’t have the pleasure of knowing Mr. Fletcher. I left Optus in 2000 to head off to Asia.

    ’bout naughty Telstra picking up searches directed at AAPT – that is sooooo against Google’s guidelines. You just aren’t allowed to buy ads (sponsored links by any other name) on a competitor’s trademark. If you want to Telstra removed from Google’s search engine, just drop Google an e-mail. *winks* S’not allowed on Yahoo! anymore either.

  3. We knew how to fix it and did, we just wanted to name and shame. You would be seriously disappointed at Rod’s post to his “Editor’s Desk” blog – I took the liberty of posting a link to your comment.

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