#AustraliansforCoal : A win (say industry sources)

35 000 emails for #AustraliansforCoal. “It was set up to entice the clicktivists to give it lift off and they did. It couldn’t have played out any better,” a source told Australian Mining. (April 23, 2014)


A week later after one of the most epic PR industry fails is that really the best you can do? People from Adam Bandt’s office and Friends of the Earth, just two of the ‘anti coal extremists’ targeted said they received less than 30. So given the excellent grasp of maths already demonstrated by industry, perhaps they just did a lazy round up and multiplied the numbers by 1000. Give or take.

Since when has the mining industry needed mythical ‘industry sources’ a la New Idea journalism, to make comment on issues of import to them? Doesn’t Stephen Galilee, of the Minerals Council, just hop on the phone to the editor of the Australian and say “Mate – I’m sending a letter through – make sure you publish it, and also on the same day can you pop a couple of pieces in there about our awesome hip grassroots campaign where we use this new fangled email thingy? Oh, and let’s open a bottle of Grange next week while we chillax together.”

Australians for coal was an ill thought out astroturf effort, a poorly designed website which gave personal details to opposition groups, with accompanying lame social media launched in an attempt to bolster an industry that is drowning in ignorance, denial and watching it’s social license float away on a cloud of polluted hot air.

If I was running a campaign and I got headlines like those below, I generally wouldn’t be patting myself on the back… but hey, I’m just an underpaid activist clicktivist with no idea about social media so I guess I don’t have to justify.

How Twitter obliterated the mining industries latest lobbying campaign and Big Coal buries itself on Twitter and The Minerals Council Launched Australians for Coal, But the Social Media campaign has gone horribly wrong… this from the business sector.

Others contend that it represents an industry in values freefall, it fired up protestors instead of supporters and the thousands of ordinary folk who joined in the fun just found the whole thing hilarious.  It spawned an ‘Americans for coal‘, some kind of German offshoot and the hashtag is still going strong more than a week later.

If this is how their sophisticated social media strategy is going I’m looking forward to their TV spots. They could take some tips from this video made recently, or this vintage edition of real mining stories.

The Guardian also featured the issues and spoke directly to Joel Fitzgibbon, mining champion and MP representing the coal heartland of the Hunter Valley, who admitted to getting all of a dozen or so emails. He also said,  “I’d congratulate the mining industry for fighting back, it’s an important industry in my electorate. If anything, this fightback has come a bit late.”australiansforcoal

Gosh, those poor little coal battlers. With their $10 billion in subsidies. And the counter terrorism squad, helicopters and dog squad on hand. Setting up road blocks to stop terrorists from blowing up going to church.  It is almost like they have their own little mercenary army on hand. Oh hang on. It is exactly like that. (You guys could think about a social media campaign for the police to remedy this impression though.)

However, the hashtag wasn’t ‘hijacked’, it was pre-empted. I was the first person to use the #australiansforcoal hashtag. I’m not saying that for credit. The internet, and twitter in particular, doesn’t work that way. It was a pretty obvious target that someone would have got to. Once you put something out there it belongs to everyone. But there is a small note of interest to share.

The hashtag was never used by “Australians for coal”. Other people got to it first. So the lovely irony is they will never get to use it because it has been so badly tainted and it made them look utterly foolish when they hadn’t ever even used it. Oh and it made us all laugh quite a bit. The PR spin that this was all part of their cunning plan and they ensnared us in their brilliant trap in order to be mercilessly pilloried, and lambasted in even the business media, makes almost as much sense as their arrogant assertions that this industry will continue to grow and expand for hundreds of years to come. They know the writing is on the wall. They just can’t admit it publicly so are resorting to these desperate tactics.


This is what they said when trumpeting their campaign representing ‘the silent majority’ of people who apparently want to roast alive in the coming years “The campaign to end coal production and exports will fail.”

I’m afraid not. It is going to be a huge battle, but the thousands of Australians who are putting themselves on the line won’t let it. Because we can’t afford to fail. But the launch of your campaign, well yeah, happy to call that a big, fat ‘coal in your christmas stocking’ kinda #FAIL.


By Nicola Paris