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4.8.06

Back to crisis management

Back to crisis management again (see previous about Run Away! Run Away!).
Linda at Passionate Blog sent the following message.

I think these are excellent pointers, especially the tell the truth, say sorry and be human bits! Apologies if I am stating the obvious. What I would say though is that I don't agree you can 'get the media on your side' - yes you can be as transparent and as professional as you can in dealing with journalists but you should never assume they are on anyone's 'side' - especially when something has gone wrong.

Don't you agree? I once stood up in front of a room of charity volunteers who were concerned about how journalists behaved and I was attempting to put their minds at rest. "Don't worry, they'll be on your side," I said. Someone put me right. At the time I was frustrated that I wasn't getting my point - that there was nothing to fear from forging contacts wilt journalists - across properly but I have reflected on this a lot and they were right, of course.


Linda, I think you can get the press on side - and there are two ways of doing so coercion or co-operation. Two examples:

ONE - COERCION: A manufacturer of yoghurt with a great brand, who had a side line in catering packs of butter which were blamed for a Listeria outbreak which caused several deaths.
The butter was mainly used by sandwich shops - the butter was left in the shops all day, nice and warm and a fantastic breading ground for bacteria. At night they went back into the fridge, but the core remained at the optimum temprature for bacteria. This would happen ad infanitum and it was not our client's fault.
The Food Standards Agency got involved and issued a press release naming our client and several newspapers published articles linkg the client to the problem. Disaster? No!
We simply phoned each newspaper and pointed out they were on dodgy ground legally. Journalists hate this. Quite rightly - I've been there myself as a hack and it costs a lot of money in the courts.
Result? Next day they all qualified or retracted their stories. At the end of the day there was no prosecution and the brand's integrity was safe.

TWO - COOPERATION:A school branded with the worst Ofsted report in the UK, yes - another one.
I didn't work on this but my partner Andy Green did. The first thing he told the client was: "You need to put out you're ten point plan for turning the school around."
They said: "We don't have a ten point plan." Andy's reply was simple: "You do now!" The next day we acknowledged the problems at the school and laid out the ten issues that would be addressed over the next 12 months. The Press understood this and reacted accordingly.
Result? The resulting press coverage focused on the failings of the Government's education policy and funding rather than the school its self.
Hope this helps.

3 comments:

Linda said...

Of course again these are excellent examples of expertly carried out crisis management - but I still don't think it means the press are on anyone's "side" - they are reporting the facts objectively as you are helping them to see them! I know it's a tiny distinction but one I considered worthwhile making - perhaps it's just me placing too much emphasis on the word 'side'. Anyway congratulations on a great blog (like you I'm fairly new to this blogging lark and am not a techie) and I'll be buying Andy's book. :-)

Linda said...

Of course again these are excellent examples of expertly carried out crisis management - but I still don't think it means the press are on anyone's "side" - they are reporting the facts objectively as you are helping them to see them! I know it's a tiny distinction but one I considered worthwhile making - perhaps it's just me placing too much emphasis on the word 'side'. Anyway congratulations on a great blog (like you I'm fairly new to this blogging lark and am not a techie) and I'll be buying Andy's book. :-)

Sam said...

Hi Ian,

I've been following this thread since reeding stephen's article (and incidentally, thanks for the link in the original piece) and the 10 point plan is a brilliant example of how an understanding of the media really helps in a crisis. It is both honest and open but presented in away that is news - friendly. (I too will be buying andy's book)