Friday, 5 December 2003

Newsletter Issue 71, December 2003

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 71, December 2003
Hi guys,
Well, here we are, headed into the divorce end of the year; apparently there are more splits in December-January than at any other time. Makes you wonder why the lawyers close their offices for a month, doesn't it?!
There has been some interesting opinion on divorce of late. Check out Divorced from Reality below.
Feeling buried by the PR weight of your organisation? If a few tips might help, then have a look at Getting the Media On-Side, Part 1
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Divorced from Reality?

In Australia - as in New Zealand - we have unilateral, no-fault divorce legislation. Prior to that, for divorce to take place, one partner had to prove misconduct in a marriage. 
However, Barry Maley, a senior fellow at Australia's Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), now feels that Australian divorce law is eroding the public's confidence in marriage, and in turn, creating opportunities for partners to exploit their spouses. 
Mr Maley feels that how our divorce law is formed is in itself a contributing factor in high divorce rates. He says current divorce law is "ill-formed" and that this poor formation is leading to a decline in the birth rate, and is damaging the wellbeing of both children and adults. 
While he did not provide statistics to support his claims, he does go on to say that "No-fault divorce ignores the continuing reality of serious marital misconduct. Its costs and damages are no longer recognised by family law. It put an end to redress and compensation for the mistreated spouse. It therefore removed a disincentive to irresponsible, selfish, or malicious behaviour within a marriage." 
He proposes, in "Reforming Divorce Law", two avenues for divorce law reform. One proposal makes divorce subject to mutual consent and the other opens up the possibility for serious marital misconduct to influence a divorce settlement. 
That second proposal sounds like a nice idea, doesn't it? We could sue our cheating spouses and get more than 50% in a divorce settlement... providing we prove it, of course; and taking off the legal fees (substantial); and minus the private detective fees to be able to calculatingly prove it; and by tying up our already overloaded courts in petty "He did" "No, she did" rubbish; and adding all the intense bitterness all the court action will promote; stir in a bunch of people who will lie for their friends and be jailed for contempt of court... family courts will be truly bogged down with child care cases as parents will be advised against making agreements until their divorce settlements come through. And "alimony" will become a real term in Godzone. The list goes on. 
As a revenue spinner for lawyers and ancillary services, "Marital Misconduct" is a great idea. But I don't think it will help people get over having made a relationship mistake at all. 
And well gone will be the days of a couple of trips to different lawyers and a $140 divorce.
While Mr Maley's proposals are aimed at once more transforming marriage into a serious commitment, I think he seems to have missed some pretty major social changes from the past century. The "good old days" - and were they ever that for women? - are well gone;
  • Economic dependence: Women once married - and stayed married - because they were forced to be financially and economically dependent on a man. Father's have "given" daughters away in wedding ceremonies for centuries (well, created economic "ties that bind"). There is now no economic incentive for women to stay in marriage to a partner who is not doing their share in the relationship
  • Children as future-proofing: Women having to provide a marriage with a lot of children is no longer necessary as an investment to provide for their parents in old age. A superannuation policy usually costs less than the $250,000+ cost of raising one child today
  • TV and the media expectations: The media have set up hugely high expectations of what family life should be. Couples can simply not afford to have large numbers of children and provide for them in the manner that their consumer-driven children expect
  • Life expectancy: we are all living much longer. In 1900 life expectancy was thirty two years from marriage age of 16; in 2000 life expectancy is likely to be over fifty years from an average marriage age of 28. So where "life" once meant one generation, it is now closer to two. Women live longer out of marriage than in it. Men live longer in marriage than out of it. How's that for dichotomy!
  • Spinsters: Both women and men are marrying much later. There are more choices and they are taking them; gaining more qualifications, travelling, building a career and becoming more economically stable before considering marriage and children 
  • Unilateral divorce: For abused women, a great feature of current legislation has been that one partner can divorce the other without the other's agreement. Mr Maley would like to roll the clock back twenty three years and remove unilateralism and require that all divorce applications must have the consent of both spouses
And the frightening thing? That, according to a recent AC Nielsen survey, Mr Maley's beliefs are supposedly endorsed by nearly three quarters of the Australian population. 
I would venture that, rather than divorce law being the cause of high divorce rates, birth rate decline and poor societal wellbeing, that this is in fact due to lifetime marriage (per se) no longer meeting our changing expectations. Maybe we need to think more widely; perhaps like work, we should expect two or three "career" relationship changes.
Let's accept that people change and times change. Let's not try to change the controls; let's try to change how we work at - and possibly how we look at - relationships.

Getting the Media On-Side, Part 1

We all know that TV news is about getting bums on seats to watch prime-time advertising. But, even with that cynical view, we still get to hear about - mostly - the bad and the ugly and a bit of the good.
So how do we make sure that when Mr or Ms Media comes knocking, we get into the "bit of the good" category - or as close to it as we can? 
With twenty-plus fairly common sense guidelines (first half follow);
  1. Plan. Have a PR plan set up for the year. List the organisations that you would like to have a news story with and why. Get contact details for journos within those organisations and woo them
  2. Have media releases professionally prepared well in advance of events. Then if you are contacted there is something ready to go straight away.
  3. The media waits for no one. Brief your staff that when the media calls, they will automatically interrupt you to take the call. You need to give the media your full attention
  4. Have contact information available. Have your staff well-briefed on where you can be contacted; including day, night and weekend. A journalist on a breaking story is likely to want to call you after hours (or may be in a different time zone)
  5. Treat the media well: Don't exaggerate or lie, be considered in your answers, maintain a pleasant tone, be careful about making negative comments and don't disparage others
  6. Be brief & to the point. Keep statements short & interesting
  7. Your point: if you have a certain point of view that you want to get across, lead all your answers back to that point
  8. BUT always try to answer questions directly. If you can't answer the question for any reason, say why you can't, and why. If you are evasive, journalists will dig; if you are too vague, they will edit you out
  9. Complicated Questions: reply that that is really two separate questions, ask yourself two versions of questions that you want to answer and then answer them. Or direct a question back "That's a very good question. But can I just ask you..."
  10. Dealing with aggression; the more aggressive the questions, the calmer and more pleasant you must become. Unless the journalist is both deadly accurate and has caught you unprepared, the audience will be on "your side" if you behave well
  11. Dealing out aggression (NB - use carefully. This is a very tricky double-edged sword): 
    • Attack one word in the sentence "Frequently? What do you mean, frequently?!" 
    • In reply to "A number of people feel.." pounce with "Name six of them" (be VERY careful with this. Some journos will have this info to hand, and then you are scuppered) 
    • Attack the interviewer's knowledge with "You obviously haven't read the report". But again, be very careful. You will need to know your material very well indeed and need to be quite sure that the journalist hasn't read it; take the tack of educating rather than being condescending
Next time in part two, we look at the remaining points, including confidentiality, materials preparation and leadtimes.

Creating Word Autotext Signatures

In addition to eliminating keystrokes, Word's AutoText feature can help standardise organisational communication; eg for creating and using a shortcut menu that lists correct standard signatures for letters or faxes.
To add the appropriate signatures to the Signature style;
  1. Open a blank document
  2. Key the first signature (eg Mary Jones, Manager). Format the text as you want it to appear
  3. Select the signature text
  4. Select Signature from the Style drop-down list in the Formatting toolbar. With the name still selected, press Alt & F3. Click OK in the Create AutoText dialogue box
  5. Repeat these steps for each additional name 
To insert an AutoTextList field code into your document;
  • Click the line where you want the signature to appear in the document, and go to Insert | Field
  • Select AutoTextList from Field Names, and click the Field Codes button
  • In the Field Codes text box, type a signature from the AutoText entries next to AutoTextList ( becomes the default if the user doesn't choose another listed one)
  • Key " /s" followed by the name of the AutoText style. This instructs Word to display all the AutoText entries associated with the Signature style when the user right-clicks the field
  • To complete the command, use " /t" to add a ScreenTip that will display when the user moves the pointer over the field, and click OK. For example, your entry might look like this: AutoTextList "Mary Jones, Manager" /s "Signature" /t "Click the right mouse button for a list of valid signatures." 
Users can now right-click the default signature to reveal a shortcut menu listing all valid signature options.

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs for you;
  • CIO, Chief Information Officer. Usually heads up IT, PR, Accounts etc
  • HPFS, High Performance File System. A file system introduced with IBM's OS/2 Version 1.2, noted for handling large files across multiple hard disc volumes with long file names. Designed to get around MS-DOS limitations, including eight-three character naming

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Short+Hot Keys... and now tips
All the Function keys for you again, but this time we are back-spacing or space-barring as well - all you can do with Shift and backspace or spacebar;
  • Access "To select all records" Ctrl, Shift & Space 
  • Access "To switch between selecting the current record and the first field of the current record, in Navigation mode" Shift & Space  
  • Excel "With an object selected, select all objects on a sheet" Ctrl, Shift & Space  
  • Excel "Select only the active cell when multiple cells are selected" Shift & Backspace 
  • Excel "Select the current row" Shift & Space 
  • FrontPage "Insert a non-bearing space " Ctrl, Shift & Space 
  • FrontPage, Word "Redo or repeat an action " Alt, Shift & Backspace
  • Publisher "Add a non-bearing space" Ctrl, Shift & Space 
Hot Linx
Do you know what homonyms are? If so, check out Alan Cooper's homonym page at If not, read up first at 
Sealord launched their canned products into Australia in late November 2003. Check out the NZ regional site here, check out Oz here.
Want to browse Kiwi legislation on-line? Then go to 
Take a look at the inventions of 2003 with Time's "Coolest Inventions" webpage at 

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here