Archive for the ‘Crisis communications’ Category

Ferguson delivers media masterclass

Friday, March 8th, 2013 by Mark Perry

 

The wily old Sir Alex Ferguson has today shown that he knows how to play the media and at the same time stop the media frenzy of rumour and speculation about the future of striker Wayne Rooney.

Since Rooney’s omission from the team to play Real Madrid this week, the media and twitter has seen this as an indication that Ferguson’s relationship with him is broken and that he would be leaving the club in the summer.

This morning football journalists speculated on twitter about the weekly press conference and who would ask the first question.  Ferguson’s reputation for being taciturn and banning journalists for asking difficult questions is legendary.  Indeed it transpired that he has imposed a ban on two newspapers – the Mail and Independent – because of the speculation this week.

Ferguson has shown how to take back the agenda from the media. He started the press conference by putting his points across before any questions were asked.

“The Wayne Rooney nonsense first? Or do you want to talk sense? The issue you’re all going on about is absolute rubbish. There is absolutely no issue between Wayne and I. Rooney will be here next season you have my word. To suggest we don’t talk to each other on the training ground is absolute nonsense.”

Having done that he was able to put across the positive messages about where the club goes from here.

Some of the sceptical football journalists who have seen it all with Ferguson even acknowledge a solid performance. The Sunday Times’ Jonathan Northcroft tweeted:  “SAF in prime form, all in all. Joking, grabbing back the agenda.”

Ferguson’s performance has shown that in the whirl of a media storm that addressing the issues up front and being prepared to stand by your convictions enables you to put your side of the story across in a much more strident way than responding to questions.

With Rooney however, only time will tell if his omission was the beginning of the end of this time at Manchester United as Ferguson is known for, sometimes, giving the media the wrong steer. But for now for him it is mission accomplished.

About Mark Perry

Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.

Silence isn’t golden: Crisis management through social media

Monday, February 25th, 2013 by David Silverman

Outpost Outsight Report image - credit Eva Rinaldi (640x427)

Social media is now an incredibly important tool for communication both when things are going well and when crisis hits. Twitter and Facebook will often be the first port of call for both the public and the media seeking updates on incidents. If those updates aren’t there, they’ll draw their own conclusions or find them elsewhere.

When things go wrong, a festival can face hundreds of tweets about issues such as over-crowding, a shutdown, or a slow evacuation. On many occasions, however, none comes from the official Twitter feed.

If a festival says nothing, a stream of misunderstandings, unverified updates, and untruths spread through tweets from people both on and offsite. A journalist at the event can became a key source of information, despite only being there as a festivalgoer and having no more access to official updates than anybody else.

Large scale events are also a slave to the weather and knock-on effects such as traffic jams can create havoc.

In these situations, any statements and advice issued via Twitter can be pushed down the feed by regular updates extolling what a great time is being had by all who have managed to get on site. For those still stuck and looking to Twitter for official information, this can serve largely to antagonise them. A situation then develops where those people then tweet themselves and speak about their complaints.

Often, the problem can be that the wrong people are operating events’ social media accounts. In many cases, the ‘social media strategy’ is simply telling interns to go out and keep people updated on how much fun they’re having. But an intern is not qualified to deal with logistical queries or complaints – which may come at any point during an event – nor manage information flow when major problems arise.

All events have plans and systems in place for when the unexpected happens, but social media is not always considered within this. If the public and the press can’t see that something is being done, the fast pace of information online means opinion of an event can quickly turn.

Here are five top tips for crisis management through social media:

1. Designate a social media manager

The moment something goes wrong, someone with the authority to speak for you should be able to take over or direct social media updates.

2. Provide clear information promptly

Make it clear that you know that something is wrong and that you are dealing with it as soon as possible, even if it is not immediately possible to go into details. Removing any content from your website that might no longer be suitable is something to consider.

3. Ensure that important updates aren’t lost

When you need to relay important information, ensure that it’s at the top of your social media feeds for as long as possible. This could mean pinning it to the top of your Facebook feed or ceasing all other updates completely.

4. Know when to stop being positive

A continuation of point three, but it’s important to know when positive updates about what’s happening at your event should stop, even if only temporarily.

5. Address rumours quickly

Rumours will spread fast at a festival, especially if people don’t have up to date information from its organisers. Monitor the spread of rumours both on and off site and address them promptly. Without an official message early on, rumours can be picked up by official news sources and become a lot more difficult to address further down the line.

 

This was a guest blog post from David Silverman. Photo courtesy of Eva Rinaldi.

About David Silverman

David Silverman is managing director of Outpost, a PR company based in east London.

Corporate reputation resolutions for 2013

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 by Jon Clements

 

Laurence Oliver and Frank Finlay in Shakespeare’s Othello – a study in the power of reputation.

 

Among the other resolutions that New Year brings, how will business leaders resolve to improve their companies’ corporate reputation in 2013?

And, oh boy, does the business world need to clean up its act.

With the exception of two among Channel 4’s top 10 business stories of 2012, scandal, fraud, bad practice and incompetence appear to reign supreme. In most cases of exposed corporate malfeasance, somebody is made to pay; either in cold, hard cash fines, doing time behind bars, resignation or getting a dressing down in front of politicians.

But, surely, it shouldn’t require a reputation crisis to instigate action that protects the most valuable intangible asset on the balance sheet. Equally, reputation damage should be considered more than just a mere “marketing mishap”.

Among the 2012 examples in Marketing Magazine’s top 10 marketing mishaps round-up, several of them present problems that run far deeper than giving the marketing director sleepless nights. Starbucks’ tax revelations resulted in the company making a larger, one-off payment than the corporation tax it was actually due to pay, such is the shock to the corporate system that attends a major and well-publicised reputation blunder.

The timing of Starbucks’ tax affairs exposure – and that of other companies including Amazon, Facebook and Google – couldn’t have been worse, as the UK deals with on-going economic austerity. As journalist Seamus Milne commented, “Companies that are milking the country at the expense of the majority are especially vulnerable to brand damage. Forcing them to pay up is a matter of both social justice and economic necessity.”

What with HSBC’s money laundering travails, the fiasco and expense of G4S’ Olympic personnel shortfall and the sheer brass neck involved in Barclays Bank’s rigging of the Libor interbank lending rate, what has gone wrong with corporate governance? Is business less about building a long-term reputation and more about  the short term tactic of “what can we get away with”?

Business journalist, Simon Caulkin, blames the Chicago school of economics which, he says, “put at the heart of governance a reductive ‘economic man’ view of human nature needing to be bribed or whipped to do their exclusive job of maximising shareholder returns.” And the net result of this, he claims, has been “downtrodden and outsourced workers, mis-sold-to customers, exploited suppliers and underpowered innovation”.

Caulkin calls upon the eminent Peter Drucker in summing up what he thinks justifies the pursuit of business from his 1954 book, The Practice of Management: “Free enterprise cannot be justified as being good for business. It can be justified only as being good for society”.

In an attempt to reconcile what some companies may see as the unrelated ambitions of philanthropy and making profit, what reputation resolutions should they be making this year?

  • Ask yourself – who or what is the living, breathing conscience of your organisation? The CEO tends to carry the bulk of expectation when it comes to embodying and protecting corporate reputation. But should there be others specified and empowered to monitor your reputation radar, both internally and externally, and given the freedom and licence to call out bad practice or behaviour incompatible with a sound reputation.


  • Keep your friends close and your enemies closer…you don’t have to like your detractors, but it can help to empathise with them and their position about your company. Don’t give them the ability to accuse you of not listening.


  • How well do you know what your staff think and feel about working for your business? When was the last time you asked them? The way they feel – and how that’s transmitted to your customers, suppliers or other stakeholders – puts your company reputation firmly in their hands.


  • What does your market make of you? When did you last take the time to seek out some home truths from your customers and confront the most unpalatable facts about your business?


  • How widely are you listening? Beyond the more obvious places where your company might be mentioned and your reputation affected – such as in the mainstream media – there is a world of online chatter that, though beyond your control, is not beyond your influence.


  • How well-prepared are you for a reputation crisis? Complex planning documents may well end up collecting dust on a shelf, but that doesn’t mean a core group of decision makers and communicators within your organisation, plus an external consultancy if you have one, shouldn’t have a crisis plan in place for when the worst happens. Reputation strategist, Leslie Gaines-Ross emphasises the importance of a CEO in a crisis.


  • How much do you value the power of the apology? After a major mess-up, exhibiting arrogance, disregard or just inaction are reputation Kryptonite whereas eating humble pie early on, along with having a clear, demonstrable plan of action for rectifying your mistakes, are essential.


  • How well are you managing your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts? According to the Reputation InstituteA five point increase in a CSR rating would result in a 9.1% rise in the number of people who would definitely recommend a company. There is real money in improving reputation through CSR, but companies are failing to leverage this. 

 

Leaving the penultimate paragraph to the words of Simon Caulkin:

“The irony is that we know what makes companies prosper in the long term. They manage themselves as whole systems, look after their people, use targets and incentives with extreme caution, keep pay differentials narrow (we really are in this together) and treat profits as the score rather than the game. And it’s a given that in the long term companies can’t thrive unless they have society’s interests at heart along with their own.”

Here’s to a Happy, and reputable, New Year!

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR.

Connect at:
JonClements

Football’s lost reputation

Thursday, October 11th, 2012 by Mark Perry

 

It seems every day that football’s reputation is afflicted by one controversy or other – tweeting, accusations of racism, diving and even the England manager discussing team selection to strangers on the tube.

While, on one hand, the clubs seem to be all-controlling in their dealings with the media by limiting access to players and managers or even banning journalists from press conferences because of something they may have written, there are occasions when it seems that issues are not closed down.

As an industry which is under the media spotlight 24 hours a day, seven days a week I cannot help but feel that the sport is in need of some reputation management.

Liverpool belatedly admitted earlier this year that their handling of the ‘Luis Suarez affair’ was not as effective as it could have been and there has been relative silence from Chelsea in response to last week’s infamous Ashley Cole tweet about his thoughts on the FA.

If a football club was a corporation that was in crisis management mode there would be calls for immediate action. It just seems that in football things are left to fester while there is a chipping away of the hard-won club brand.

It may be time for clubs to see themselves just as any other company would and manage their reputation with their different stakeholders and ensure that any indiscretions of their employees – the players – don’t cause long time damage.

About Mark Perry

Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.

Knox verdict right for the media

Thursday, October 6th, 2011 by Mark Perry

 

It feels as if Amanda Knox’s acquittal this week is the climax of a four year long ‘PR campaign’.

In the build up to the decision by the court in Perugia, the world’s media descended on the town. We also heard from the family of Meredith Kercher who felt justly that their daughter and sister had been forgotten in the media’s focus on Knox.

As events built to Monday’s appeal decision it felt that even the timing of the verdict at almost 9pm was ideal for the American networks’ early evening news programmes.

Within 24 hours Knox was back in her town in Seattle speaking to the gathered news pack. It does however feels as if the ‘PR campaign’ has missed one important thing and something that is a key ingredient to handling a crisis situation.

At no time did she acknowledge her friend Meredith or use the opportunity to reflect on their friendship. Instead it was left to her lawyer to say that “Meredith was Amanda’s friend. Amanda and the family want you to remember Meredith and keep the Kercher family in your prayers.”

Max Clifford has been used as guide as to what she does next. His suggestion was for her to go on a TV show which has international exposure to set the record straight. There is no doubt that when she does decide to come out and tell her story that she will be well rewarded and is no doubt already agreed.

Let us not forget behind the story that Knox has to tell about her experiences in Italy and in an Italian prison that the Kercher family is still looking for closure.

 

About Mark Perry

Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.

Stepping in the wrong direction

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 by Hannah Newbould

Following the news that broke last week regarding Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, and the deaths of five poor people, it likely there will be a long-winded process for getting the hospital’s reputation back to what it was.

In this instance, the hospital’s reputation will be damaged on many levels. From credibility to competitive position to the fact that a hospital – not everyone’s idea of a attractive place to spend their time – has now become more unattractive.

PR agency, Bell Pottinger North, has the mammoth task of handling the hospital’s crisis communication.  Associate Director, Richard Clein said: “The reality is that in this situation the police will take the lead on comms – our job is to ensure our messaging is consistent and to ensure we are reiterating the statement that the hospital is a safe place. It’s about reassuring patients and staff as well.”

Exploring the classic procedures of crisis management, there will be a process of being readily accessible to the media, showing empathy for all involved, delivering an appropriate level of communications that reinforces what the hospital does well, and laying down clear preventative processes for the future. In this instance, sending out a chain of press releases about the hospital’s goals and achievements is not the answer. People will not forget this easily, therefore a broad ranging, strategic plan is necessary to rebuild reputation.

But in the situation of a hospital crisis, how will a damaged reputation affect the “customer”?  If a person is picked up by a paramedic, there is no choice about the hospital destination. Are patients at the hospital now feeling nervous about being there? Reassuring these people is a key task for every hospital employee in the wake of what has happened.

How do staff feel about working there at the moment? A medical student or nurse who has studied hard to get a job at a previously good hospital must could well be feeling tainted right now by association with Stepping Hill.

It will be interesting to see how they recover from this. The work of dedicated and trustworthy staff at the hospital needs to be highlighted so the public doesn’t judge a whole hospital by the actions of one person.

*Quote as from PRWeek, July 2011

Edelman grasps the Murdoch PR nettle

Thursday, July 14th, 2011 by Jon Clements

 

Update: @tim_weber, BBC business and technology editor, sees a PR presence in the “dramatic change of tone” from News Corp.

As PR people, surely we should feel vindicated that News International’s reputation implosion has prompted the hiring of PR company Edelman for “general comms support and public affairs counsel” following the phone hacking scandal.

After all, doesn’t everyone – as in David Cameron’s oft-repeated words about Andy Coulson – deserve a second chance?

There will be some that say there is no coming back from a reputation disaster such as a newspaper hacking the phone of a murder victim and deleting voicemail messages, so giving the family false hope she was still alive.

Neverthless, reputation rehabilitation is not impossible, Edelman has got the gig and good luck to it.  But what will the PR planning agenda look like?

Rebuilding News International’s reputation is key to the Murdochs’ long game – gaining total control of BSkyB. Though it has ditched the bid now, News Corporation, News International’s parent company, needs to regain the trust of the public, politicians and regulators to stand a chance of being deemed “fit and proper” to own not just all but any of the broadcasting giant.

In terms of reputation management, closing the News of the World has been the Murdochs’ symbolic gesture that rogue companies within their organisation will pay the ultimate price, despite the inconvenient fact that the wrongdoing was done on someone else’s watch.

But for any PR provider tasked with restoring corporate reputation, having access to the “warts and all” truth of what goes on behind closed doors is essential; otherwise, life will become a continual fire-fighting exercise rather than a strategic campaign to not only talk about how the company is effecting positive change, but prove it.

And this is where I think Edelman’s biggest challenge lies: how does an outside organisation negotiate a corporate culture where the most senior executives have been willing to cover up grossly bad practices with denials,  selective amnesia or claims of complete ignorance? As Steve Richards comments in The Independent today, “Here was a company that evidently thought it was powerful enough to get away with it, able to block police enquiries and to pay off victims of crime”. Demonstrating a fundamental overhaul of corporate behaviour will need more than cosmetic communications based on half-truths to prove that change has genuinely taken root in News International.

Good PR has to be founded on truth, and Edelman needs to be confident that what News Corp is telling them – at any point – is true. As the Burson Marsteller/Facebook debacle showed, the agency has a reputation problem just as big as its client’s when forced to base a campaign on spin.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR.

Connect at:
JonClements

Beautifulpeople.com – The Shrek Effect

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 by Hannah Newbould

This week saw the notorious website, beautifulpeople.com accidently let 30,000 ‘ugly’ people onto its web dating social networking site.

The website, known for brutally only accepting people it thinks are beautiful contracted a virus allowing 30,000 not-so-beautiful people to use the site. But not to fear….They have now been booted off at a financial cost of $100,000 to the site operators.

The Virus that the site contracted was named ‘Shrek’- after the well-known film that has a key message that ‘looks should not matter’.

People who were axed from the site have now been offered counselling in the hope that they are not permanently distressed with the decision that they are not pretty enough for the website. Hopefully the site’s actions will not leave too much permanent damage.

In saying this, who actually agrees with this website anyway? It only seems fair that it should contract a virus that gives equal opportunities to all people.  In a report by the Guardian it was stated the website claims that Irish people are the ugliest in the world and Swedes the most beautiful with only 20% of Irish women and 70% of Swedish women being accepted. And, who says that people who have been accepted to the website haven’t enhanced their photographs via Photoshop or even further, if the image they upload is even of them?

It appears that the virus was installed by a former employee at the company.

Greg Hodge, Managing Director of the website said: “it was like planting an evil Easter egg – It was a very embarrassing day.” Well Greg, think how you make people feel when you reject them on a daily basis.

 

 

TV war coverage battles image boundaries

Friday, June 17th, 2011 by Mark Perry

 

This week’s thought-provoking Channel 4 documentary ‘Killing Fields’ investigating war crimes during the 2009 Sri Lankan civil war, has opened up a debate about how far news organisations should push the boundaries.

The programme, shown after the watershed and attracting 800,000 viewers,  contained footage of atrocities previously deemed too graphic to show on news programmes at the time, but told far more of the story what actually happened.

Much of the ‘never seen before’ footage shown in this week’s programme was already available on the web for those wishing to search it out as it had originally been filmed on mobile phones.

During the Arab Spring news organisations have been unable to witness many of the marches and demonstrations which have led to bloodshed. They have regularly used unattributed footage, some of which is fairly graphic, taken from sites such as You Tube to report the latest events. Some of this footage has been shown with warnings about its content.

I can remember attending a lecture in the 1980s about news organisations responsibilities towards the victims and the viewers. Examples were given from the Vietnam war comparing broadcast and raw footage. It was pretty shocking and gave pause to thought about the editorial decisions taken. How times have changed. I have seen that raw footage appearing on pre-watershed programmes.

Times have moved on and we have all become a great deal more desensitised to events we see unfolding on our TV screens. While news organisations still have serious editorial decisions to make about the suitability of footage with the competition to break news stories how far will they push the boundaries? Next time, it might not take two years to see disturbing images from the next Killing Fields.

About Mark Perry

Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.

Coe shows Blatter secrets of crisis management

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 by Mark Perry

A post on PR Media blog last week looked at the shenanigans at FIFA and the own goal scored by Sepp Blatter in handling the media storm surrounding world football’s governing body.

There was an interesting comparison today when Lord Coe appeared on a number of television and radio programmes to answer the growing discontent about the allocation of tickets for London 2012.

A consummate politician, Coe comes across as being at ease in front of the camera and microphone and puts across his position in a clear concise way. He  appears to be open, honest and transparent in talking about his subject.  He even managed to get away without giving precise numbers of tickets available in the second ballot.

He could quiet easily have ‘ducked’ the whole issue and the 2012 organisers put up someone from the communications team. Instead, he came to the studios to answer the questions while showing that he is still very much the face of the event. He has helped to try and get the 2012 ‘brand’ through the storm untarnished unlike the impact of last week’s events on FIFA.

Coe, 54, has grown up in the media age and, as a sportsman and politician, has seen how the media can either make or break you.  Blatter, 75, comes from another age.

Blatter is attending the 2012 Games in his position as a member of the International Olympic Committee. While he is here maybe he should take time out to discuss with Coe the secrets of  handling the media in a crisis.

About Mark Perry

Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.