TECHNOLOGY SPECTATOR: In defence of NBN marketing

Simon Hackett's toxic talk about the futility of NBN Co's marketing efforts misses crucial statistics which show the company is making a dent on public opinion.

Technology Spectator

Simon Hackett must be really peeved that his house is not in the three year roll out plan for the NBN.

Why else would he continue to attack NBN Co after successfully selling out to iiNet last year, in a deal worth $105 million, and millions to him personally. To be clear, Hackett argues Internode’s inability to gain sufficient scale to compete in a national broadband network world was the main reason for his decision to sell.

Hackett reportedly told the audience at the Commsday Summit he did not know why 90 per cent of NBN Co’s staff were needed.

He has a specific gripe about NBN Co’s marketing efforts, questioning newspaper advertising and why NBN Co needs 30 marketing staff despite the fact it is not a retail provider.

Government-funded organisations should always be forced to face up to this type of questioning – it’s the largesse of the NBN that makes it such an easy target for those politically opposed to it – but let’s not forget the ‘marketing’ role NBN Co has been forced to play doesn’t really resemble traditional product marketing efforts.

It would be interesting to see how much of NBN Co’s marketing budget and staff time is spent correcting the frequent factual errors and blatantly misleading claims made by those who want to see the entire project killed off.

When NBN Co chief technology officer Gary McLaren admitted there was a "big vacuum” when it comes to selling the benefits of the NBN, I argued NBN Co had an image problem.

Six months later, the marketing team’s efforts appear to be paying off with an Essential Research poll this week showing opposition to the NBN has declined since February, with 57 per cent now supporting the NBN and 22 per cent ( a reduction of 3 per cent) opposing it.

Nearly half (46 per cent) said they would sign up when the NBN becomes available in their area.

There is overwhelming majority support from Labor and Greens voters and despite the Coalition’s continued campaign against it, 42 per cent of Liberal voters now support the NBN, according to the poll.

But in case Hackett was tempted to use this to argue the case that NBN Co’s marketing team can now pack up tools and go home, the poll also reveals there’s work to be done on awareness of the network’s availability.

The majority of those polled (52 per cent) said they didn’t know whether the area they live in will be connected, while 29 per cent think their area will be connected in the next three years, and 19 per cent think it will not be connected.

Interestingly, it was older respondents that appeared better informed about the NBN than younger respondents, with 59 per cent of those aged under 35 saying they don’t know, compared to 45 per cent of those aged 55 .

One way NBN Co has sought to raise awareness of its roll out plans has been via social media, turning to Twitter and blogs to respond to questions and correct the record where necessary.

It’s a strategy that’s also popular with Telstra, with David Thodey this week acknowledging complaints travel fast and far online and admitting the telco has a team of 60 people whose job it is to monitor all social media sites and reach out to complainers before the news spreads.

Now that’s largesse Hackett could be envious of.

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