call to action

A Digital Future for Queensland now

Helping our regions harness, employ and engage with new media is the vital key to a sustainable future.

More than a fix

Eternal resilience are the two words the team at TouchPoint Media carries deep in their minds and their hearts.

We do so, not to have yet another catchy byline or tag, but to remind us of the real purpose of communication and its vital role in shaping lives and communities today and for tomorrow.

For many, solutions and communications are jumped at as a means to find fixes or to provide an answer, rather than being, in fact, that which it is – The very core of existence.

It is, after all, where it begins.

It marks the beginning of a solution, the beginning of a direction, command or request. It powers, it provides, it enhances, it loves, it can hate and it can kill.

TouchPoint Media was born when co-founder Laurie Ward and I grew tired of witnessing, first hand, communication stuff ups or interference almost everywhere we looked.

Problems and issues that were created, most often with the best of intentions. And after nearly 40 years each of being called upon to, constantly fix what had become broken we said “Enough!!” and devised the TouchPoint Media Model.

A company dedicated to pure communication.

We decided there are better ways.

Don’t get me wrong….TouchPoint Media is still and excels in being problem solvers. A communications dedicated company with enormous capacity that can devise and harness strategy, develop the tools and generate the momentum to create environments that bring about outcomes, be they cause driven, retail, inspired, community focused, cultural, political or religious.

But our latest venture-Our Town Plus More is a pinnacle project for us. In so far as it began with a real and growing need from within regional communities to unravel decades of communications stuff ups. It had gone past the fix stage.
It was at the desperate stage.

And emerged as the need therefore to undo bright ideas that grew out of technology and eventually began to devour the very fabric of those communities.

This all began with a discussion late one night, after a long day of work and development as we yet again tried to address the issues facing a community that had been done over.

When we looked at it, it appeared like the issues facing so many regional communities-Like the bad communications science fiction movie where the techno robot destroys the town upon which it feeds. Destroying the town, and ultimately itself.

The World Wide Web hit town and took more retail out of town on its information super highway than it delivered.

Local Newspapers got sold to bigger and better groups and with their rationalization went local jobs, local know how and community engagement.

Radio stations were networked to the big smoke and TV gave more channels but a lot less on the ground heart and soul local content.

Communities in regional Australia, suddenly had technology eating at the very core of what has always made them great. Cooperation, local engagement and pride.

TouchPoint Media looked long and hard at it. The fix was to un-do the damage and put into place an eternal system that harnessed technology as the servant not the master.

This is a communications based model to technology engagement across whole communities.

It aims to re-connect community, re-engage business, and provides channels for local product and service export to bigger, wider markets and to capture and keep community buy-in, community spirit and local dollars.

It gives back news and information-in real time.

It allows the local communities to use their cooperative heart and soul to build resilience for the future. An eternal future.

And to contain and community manage and control it all from growth to issues management.

I do mean everything – From service capability to romance, to education, crime prevention,  to medical can be distributed from this platform – In fact  whatever the need now might be can be worked via  the platform.

Now that’s resilience.

That’s why we call it  Our Town ‘Plus More’.

As the these communities grow and swell, ride out booms and busts, the Our Town Plus More platform will be there to give more to add more.

To use and drive communications  ahead of the need for solutions.

Outcomes Plus More…always.

We’ve commenced the project in four areas in association with regional councils, with the support of three government departments, the lead agency being the Department of Science information Technology and the Arts, in association with the Department of Small Business and State Development.

They have provided councils with some seed funding to get the project off the ground, so this is the perfect collaboration between State, Regional Government and private enterprise.

It’s an exciting project that will give the much needed connectivity back to these areas, give back the news and information sources they have lost, allow for local business to compete and now trade in other markets as well as provide service delivery that is unknown at this level anywhere in the world.

So while communications Gurus will preach finding solutions, At TouchPoint Media we’re more about preventing them in the first place and creating lasting realistic communications.

Communication that brings communities together, that brings a public alive that focuses a constituency and brings the world local, rather than trying to make local -global.

It’s just, well common sense…

A Digital Plan for Queensland gets real

By Mark Miller

The recently launched Queensland Digital Economy Strategy makes an extensive amount of noise about A Digital Plan for Queensland regions, but of significance, has been the talk of “Communities that are well planned, well connected and engender community spirit”.

The Summit listed it as number two priority, followed by point four, “Regions that are attractive to study work and live in”. And point five “Delivery of economic, social and community benefits through infrastructure”.

It appears that the three of the top five priorities from the think-fest aimed at setting a future for the State have been squarely aimed at seeing regions such as this develop in an unprecedented fashion.

Add to this Minister Ian Walker’s calls for concepts concerning Queensland digital future and it’s impact into areas such as this and it becomes clear that on-line is set to become a way forward for many communities.

The questions that raises is how and who pays? When in fact what we should be saying as part of regional Queensland is how and what do we now need to do to encourage and facilitate the growth.

One of the big issues facing communities into the future is the perception across the larger eastern seaboard communities that rural Australia whinges and simply looks for handouts.

We have, somewhere along the line lost our cred. Our city cousins now see us as whingers rather than the backbone as we were rightly identified 60 years ago. We have to win that status back.

The old adage build and they will come has never rung more true.

Sure that’s the mind set with infrastructure but it also needs to become the community mind set. We need to ensure that we are using all of the advantages of the 21 st century to position us as vital and vibrant places.

We need now to ice the cake and we need to start doing that today. Plan’s and offers from State or Federal Governments rise and fall on what we as a community do with them. It is now up to us.

We tend to focus on what is to come and forget what is already on offer locally. Gradually and over time, that local message is replaced with a louder and stronger message external to the community. It then becomes more about down the road or around the world.

There does no doubt the web and social media’s ability to open doors and establish links at every level and those advantages that can bring.

By establishing clear parameters and working collaboratively with what is at hand creates an organic growth pattern that will see communities not only encourage local engagement but can also lure and broaden markets.

There is now a small window for communities in regional areas to begin to prepare for the onslaught of policy approaches which will aim to set their agenda.

Community needs to be about a united approach and a unified approach. It is what has the appeal and what makes it work.

Communities should remember that what makes them unique is their appeal. Their USP- (unique selling point). Those communities and their businesses and organisations are in fact their own flavour.

It’s about beginning today, to enjoy the policy and financial benefits that may flow from this prioritizing in the future.”

The Use of Digital Media – Getting the thinking right

By Laurie Ward

Having worked with digital media in rural communities for many years we agree with Minister for Science and Information Technology, Ian Walker who has identified the need to bring regional Queensland into the frame with its Queensland Digital Economy Strategy.

But communities need to ensure they don’t lose sight of the fact that an on-line system is simply a tool, not a magic wand.

It’s how people harness it, employ it and engage with it that holds the key.

The Minister’s approach, to see the internet move towards playing a vital link in the development of business across the four pillars of the economy, (tourism, agriculture, resources and construction), is a solid one.

What communities must now do is reverse the way they normally go about technology. In the past the focus has been on the IT, not the people the benefit or the profit.

Queensland rural communities need to ensure they don’t get bogged down in creating a system that is wildly expensive or beyond the capacity of its community.

The interesting thing about information technology and especially new media technology is that the easiest part of systems development is the actual technology. There are thousands of brilliant programmers who can design technically clever ways to use the internet but how workable that becomes at the shop front level, in the home, at the coal face can be a very different story.

The real challenge is designing and marketing the technology in a way that ensures it gets taken up by the very people it is supposed to help.

This is even more so in rural and regional areas, due to the slow take up of new technology generally. There are countless examples of good ideas such as business directories, online support services and online education services that have been built with good intentions, but end up being at best under-utilized and in many cases disappearing from sight.

The ‘Build it and they will come’ philosophy will only work if the thinking is right.

Building technology is only one part of the process. Getting buy in, understanding, trust and acceptance for new media is where the real work needs to take place. This is where the real thinking needs to happen.

Here are  three very relevant points of  the Queensland government Digital Futures strategy:

“Communities that are well planned, well connected and engender community spirit”.

“Regions that are attractive to study, work and live in”.

“Delivery of economic, social and community benefits through infrastructure”.

Before we build any digital media systems to support these goals, we need to know how to sell it; we need to know that it truly fulfils the need; we need to’ localise’ it for each rural community; we need it to be adaptable, so it grows as each community grows.

The key to success is to know local markets.

What is needed are systems that encourage community buy in, that the community feels is theirs – a known and embraced place for them in the digital domain. There needs to be an ‘aha’ moment when they see what it can do it for them and their communities.

Once we are sure that it will be the digital media “go to” place to fully support, strengthen and enhance Queensland rural towns, their businesses and their communities, only then can we build it.

That’s not to say each town or centre needs to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars developing their own platform. Rather, it is saying that each community needs to establish flexibility and connectivity across their platforms to engage at every level. That is about system design, community need, buy in and marketing.

Sharks in the shallows of the world wide web

By Laurie Ward

A cull is about to begin in the murky and turbulent seas of the world wide web, where sharks prowl waiting to pounce on unsuspecting  paddlers with a hunger unknown to mankind until about a decade ago.

It is long-overdue and set to save Australia’s SME sector millions.

After more than a decade of being told that we all must embrace the internet or lose our businesses, small business owners are wising up.

In 2014 the smart business operator will be placing more faith in the intelligence of their customers as the starting point and less faith in buzziods and sharks that claim to have a magic cure to lure customer’s dollars with the click of a mouse.

These sharks have been active in 2013 and have buzz worded their way into the shallows.

If marketing buzz for small to medium business could be categorised, 2013 we’d see SEO and social media top the charts. Unfortunately, the buzz has left more businesses out of pocket and out of hum

Australian small business owners are being bombarded with offers from so called “SEO experts” Emails offering promises of first page placement on Google, Yahoo, Bing and so on were more plentiful than weeds in the wet season. They are just as ineffective and just as annoying.

The fact is, search engine page ranking is a like greasy pole with everyone competing to be at the top.

There is no magic SEO fix.

The Magic bullet for Search Engine Optimisation begins with having an overall marketing plan and brand building. SEO is part of the overall internet approach, not some add on or specialist silo that can magically make people choose you.

In fact these companies can’t do it for themselves. If you type ‘SEO services’ into Google search, you get over 1 million results. I drilled 25 pages in and I was still finding website companies who claimed they would get you to page one of major search engines.

The reality is that there are only ten search results on page 1 of Google, so it’s not physically possible for everyone in your industry to be listed in the top ten, let alone #1

We need to remember that it’s not the number of visitors that matter; it’s the quality of the search results. And the mind set they bring with them to your site.

Most firms offering SEO services operate in a silo approach. They feel that getting visitors to your site is the main goal.

Getting them there is only a part of the process. It’s capturing them, keeping them there and calling in some consumer action that gets sales. That is the combined job of your total marketing mix. It is not about a site in isolation.

A good on line presence in 2014 must be about one thing

 – Building Trust.

The internet has become the source of more mis-information and fly by nighters than any other single media source before it and we are all now very aware of it. Trust, therefore is king in 2014.

Trust is built, not manufactured. It’s dangerous to think that web based technology and SEO is the answer. It’s only one tool and just as a good tradesman will use the ‘full set of tools’, good marketers will too.

Today’s successful brands make sure that they are part of the conversation that clients and prospects are having.

They lead, engage and follow the conversation that their clients are having. They use PR, main stream media, blogs, social media, audio/visual, email, direct mail and unique and meaningful content to engage their customers in this conversation. They get to top of mind with a clever mix of mediums and smart new ways of engaging.

On-line presence and internet web usage therefore becomes just one more tool.  You entertain marketing peril to shut down one successful marketing approach in search of another without a lot of homework first. All tools need to be working in sync, as part of an overall structured and planned mix. Your on-line presence then becomes the icing on the cake.

In 2014 it is going to be about savvy and much smarter customers and consumers. The overall mix, the corporate credentials and how your internet presence respects that and builds onto that will be what closes the sale for you in 2014.

SEO, and so called SEO specialists are not like the fairy God mother in Cinderella who can get you to # 1 on Google or nail the handsome prince. The slipper that fits best and wins the consumer kiss is a combined approach with a mix of mediums, including a meaningful and valuable internet presence.

The Digital Future – A Boon or a Bandit

By Mark Miller

Recent calls from State Information and Technology Minister Ian Walker for submissions on digital solutions for Queensland should be sending alarm bells ringing in communities in regional Queensland about whether the Digital Future is A Boon or a Bandit.

A state focus to on-line dependence, the on again-off again NBN, or the advent of superfast broadband and all that it offers to regional communities and towns could in fact become an enemy of the town if local communities don’t move quickly to harness and harvest the advantages.

Local communities may not being doing enough to prepare themselves for the onslaught of an information super highway.

If some of these communities aren’t careful the digital focus and NBN could become the major one way highway, heading out of town. And taking with it more intellectual property, dollars and commercial opportunities than it returns.”

Having worked extensively with regional communities across Queensland, ir seems that there’s a long-held myth that technology is always a friend to more isolated and regional communities.

That is not always the case. If we look at history, traditional media for example, where networking, aggregation, press affiliations delivered multiple channels and more access to the world to these communities we can overlook what was lost. The local flavor and in some cases, access to local communication channels.

We tend to focus on what is to come and forget what is already on offer locally. As such and gradually that local message is replaced with a louder and stronger message external to the community. It then becomes more about down the road or around the world.

Mr Miller says there’s no doubting the web and social media’s ability to open doors and establish links at every level and those advantages that can bring.

But the towns and communities themselves however have to embrace the technology and begin to move in synch with it. That’s a big ask  for a small community of say five to twenty thousand people who are now battling with a marketplace  five times the size or worse,  hundreds of times their size. It’s hardly what you can call a level playing field

A failure of some communities not to more actively engage in new media utilization has also been a key cause of what he describes as the sucking drain for regional communities.

An almost universal example exists in those communities that battle with FIFO/DIDO issues. The workers arrive in town, are bused to  communal  hubs that provide a subsistence existence for them while they are there and then, they are bused back to an airport or drive straight past town as they leave. They usually do not even venture into the township itself.

It’s because locally the community isn’t engaging and capturing them. There is in each of these towns much on offer. More than just a daily 12 hour slog and shared hot bed. It is just that the workers don’t know what is there nor do we make it easy for them.

While many local communities have looked to the internet as a way forward, they may have missed the boat.

We have seen a plethora of regional directories, web sites, information all floating around the cyber space cosmos. What is missing is a unified approach from communities to capture their local feel and present it in a cohesive and appealing fashion.

And yet the answer again lies in history.

The old formula of co-op approaches is probably a way forward with the use of new technology. Targeting the appeal and the offer collectively and then individually. It is very easy for a community to see the web or new media as a panacea to its identity or as commercial nirvana but unless it is harnessed it simply fills the clouds.

By establishing clear parameters and working collaboratively with what is at hand creates an organic growth pattern that will see communities not only encourage local engagement but can lure and broaden markets.

There’s now a small window for communities in regional areas to begin to prepare for the onslaught of superfast broadband and new media and to capitalise on it.

Communities should remember that what makes them unique is their appeal. Their USP- (unique selling point). Those communities and their businesses and oprganisations are in fact their own flavour.

We just have to be sure we don’t let globalization eat that up with a rush to out of town to discover the world. We need them to stop and taste the flavour. Otherwise we could all end up broken down on the side of the information super highway waving for help as it rushes by us.