Telecom: Selling beyond telephony
Donovan, Maria Merzenaida
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Following privatisation, promoting positive corporate image through powerful branding has driven the corporate business philosophy of the biggest telecommunications company in New Zealand. Telecom restated the value of its intangible assets in 1998 to incorporate the NZ$3 billion valuation for the Telecom master brand and sub-brands, representing almost 40 percent of the total assets of the company. Furthermore, the company topped the AC Nielsen list of Top 20 biggest advertising spenders in New Zealand for 2001 with a total rate card expenditure of NZ$39.7 million covering all media and sponsorship spending of NZ$16 million. Telecom: Selling Beyond Telephony is a critical narrative examining the post-privatisation performance of Telecom. More specifically, the thesis addresses the contrast between corporate, shareholder objectives and public interest principles. It will also determine how corporate branding and advertising obscure the shortcomings of the company in meeting the needs of its customers and the public. Combining the research approaches of political economy, historical narrative, and critical discourse analysis, the study outlines the development of New Zealand telecommunications during the NZ Post era. It then looks at the fourth Labour government, the institutionalisation of Rogernomics and the corporatisation of state trading enterprises leading to the birth of Telecom as an SOE. This study next details the privatisation story including the sale process, the restructuring (including the staff retrenchment and subcontracting) and the reorganisation of the company. Against this background, the post privatisation performance of the company is examined according to the contrasting corporate, shareholder and public interest perspectives. The thesis analyses how this contrasting gap is obscured through corporate public relations and strategies of obfuscation. Additionally, public relations tools like the annual reports, corporate advertisements and logos are utilised as case illustrations of the foregoing arguments.