From Donald Trump’s post-election tantrums to the Wallabies proudly singing an indigenous version of the national anthem, the year has seen remarkable reputational highs and lows. We name our 2020 hits and misses.
Misses of the year
The contest for leadership of the free world or satirical sitcom? A president struck down by a disease he maintained was a media beat up, then attempting to overturn the election result with caps lock and a Twitter feed (I WON BY A LOT). The most telling “optics” came from a call to book a press conference at the Four Seasons (Total Landscaping), leading Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani to rant against the outcome next to Fantasy Island Adult Books and opposite the Delaware Valley Cremation Center.
Unthinking pursuit of profit and paying lip service to indigenous communities caught up with the miner when it blew up a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal sacred site in Western Australia to mine more iron ore. Attempts to paper over the issue prompted even more outrage at the resignation of Rio’s key leaders. Running the company from London, 14,000km away from most of its operations, not looking like such a great call.
Lorna Jane anti-virus activewear
The brand miss of the year goes to Lorna Jane for promoting its new activewear line as “anti-virus”, including a helpful graphic showing “COVID-19 clots” on other gym gear. “Any bacteria that comes in contact with the fabric is terminated when it comes in touch with the LJ Shield particles,” the company’s website said in a “what were they thinking” moment.
The decision to promote senior executive Boe Pahari despite a sexual harassment finding demonstrated a tin ear towards new expectations of governance and accountability. Shareholders mobilised, investment giants criticised and the chair, and others, departed. Now the once-grand institution is likely to be broken up and sold off.
How not to handle a crisis. Attack the media with demonstrably false statements and deny the evidence of money laundering, only to make a begrudging concession to a NSW inquiry into their licence to operate the new Barangaroo casino, which is no longer looking a sure bet.
Hits of the year
Black Lives Matter
Outpourings of anger at the shocking death of George Floyd on a Minneapolis street became a global force for change and focused attention on racism and violence towards people of colour, as well as the broader issue of disadvantage experienced by indigenous peoples around the world.
Australian rugby team
Sports stars were energised by the Black Lives Matter movement, with many choosing to “take a knee” during anthems. The Wallabies took their own step towards reconciliation by belting out a moving, indigenous version of Advance Australia Fair before their match with Argentina. It is worth considering whether it becomes the official version.
Facing up to the media for 111 consecutive days of lockdown saw the Victorian Premier stare down the federal government, every major business lobby and nasty social media campaigns. Despite hotel quarantine bungles, his popularity rose to new highs, a testament to leadership, clarity, accountability and stamina.
Chief of Defence Force
When crisis comes, it’s your response that counts. Faced with allegations of horrific crimes committed by the Army’s crack SAS squadron in Afghanistan, General Angus Campbell brought in outside experts and insisted on a full investigation, transparency and accountability. Despite quarrels over medals and China’s outrageous tweet, Campbell has made a principled and correct call.