Archive for the ‘Crisis communications’ Category

Blatter scores an own goal for Fifa

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 by Mark Perry

“Crisis what crisis?” was Fifa President’s reaction to a journalist’s question at a press conference called by the football’s governing body yesterday.

There is little doubt that, to those outside the organisation, it’s in crisis. For years there have been claims of mismanagement and even corruption which has reached new levels in the last week with leading members of FIFA’s governing committees turning on themselves.

Yesterday, appearing to react to the growing press clamour for answers, Blatter called a press conference.

As it turned out the conference should be shown to any CEO who might have to face the media as an example of how to appear out of touch and in denial.

He patronised the journalists, stopping at one point – when a murmur went around  the room as he avoided actually answering the questions – to tell the room to show him more respect.

His whole approach was adversarial and showed contempt for the journalists who dared to ask any difficult questions. He certainly was not trying to show any contrition or win any media battle. The premise was this: he was right; they were wrong.

He had the perfect opportunity to draw a line under the accusations by calling a wide, independent inquiry which would at least have bought him more time. Looking at the media reaction today the whole event has left him, and the organisation, more damaged.

Blatter is going to need a better crisis management plan and attitude towards the media if he is ultimately going to survive this one.

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.

Twitter, the law and the silent fat lady.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 by Rob Brown

It’s all over for privacy and the courts can’t legislate under the weight of social comment.  So scream the headlines in the wake of the latest failure of the injunction process.   It may not however be quite so simple.

The influence of social media on privacy and the law has been evident for some time.  I wrote about it in April shortly before the current media storm blew.   The Trafigura debacle more than 18 months ago highlighted the significant changes brought about by the dynamics of mainstream media access.

One of the central plinths of the current debate is that Twitter, amongst other social networks, is not a publisher and therefore can not be mediated.  That’s true but to to say that Twitter has zero influence on its output is also inaccurate. Look for ‘Giggs’ as a trending topic this morning and it simply wasn’t there.  Twitter presumably throttled the API output using the same technique it used to remove Justin Bieber from the trending lists when most users became bored with his omnipresence.

To say there were too many twitterers to pursue in the Giggs or any other case also ignores the fact that every tweet is time coded so it is a simple job to find the first to breach the court order.  Schillings and Carter Ruck are staffed by some pretty smart people.  The world has changed but it won’t be very long before the courts begin to adapt to the new order.  We have some way to go before the diva warms her vocal chords for the final act.

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

Media bites back with cricket allegations

Friday, September 3rd, 2010 by Mark Perry

The traditional press has shown this week that it still has the ability to ‘break’ big stories.

The News of The World’s (NOTW) exposé of a multi-million pound cricket match-fixing ring involving three Pakistani cricketers and their agent, is the latest ‘sting’ in which the traditional media seems to be fighting back  to regain the news agenda from the web.

It was interesting to see how the story developed. The first I knew about it was on Saturday evening when a Sky News sports reporter tweeted that there was a big story about to break. Less than an hour later they had an editor from the NOTW live on Sky – I’m sure the News International link helped there!

Where the modern ‘sting’ differs is use of video footage to help the story stand, posted on the newspaper’s website, video sharing sites and – for now –  made available to the broadcast media.

The story has been given even more credence with footage from the match in question which clearly shows that what was promised in the video actually happened. In one of the twists in the story the Pakistani High Commissioner even claimed that the video was filmed after the alleged incidents. The response from the NOTW was a hint that there was more to come this weekend.

Contrast this with one of the other major stories of the week and the rumours which forced William Hague to make a personal statement. The rumours had come from the web and the blogosphere and although the media knew about them they had not been published as they possibly feared crossing a legal line.

It seems likely that we will see more of what we have this week. With the NOTW going behind the paywall its ability to offer content will be vital to driving subscriber numbers and what better than seeing further footage of its latest sting.

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.

Ignore social media? Not a cat’s chance…

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 by Jon Clements

Type “woman” into Google search today – in fact, go as far as “w-o-m” and you will be presented with “woman puts cat in bin”; 1.97m searches on this term alone, just a day after a Coventry woman was filmed putting kitty in the litter.

Not only is the story a shocking example of animal cruelty, it’s a salutary lesson to any organisation that hasn’t yet recognised the power of social media. Imagine that the hapless Coventry woman at the centre of the furore was, instead, your company or brand.

Look at the facts: number one in Google search; more than 50,000 views on YouTube; nearly 30,000 fans on Facebook, posting nearly 1,000 comments on the matter; 743-and-counting online news articles and, now, a police guard on the offending woman’s home.

Granted, the ire of the British animal lover should never be underestimated.

But where did this firestorm take hold? Within social media.

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 ''

10 Million Blogs Go Down

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 by Rob Brown

WordPress, the leading blog platform, suffered a major outage at around 21.40 GMT today taking around 10 million blogs with it.  Twitter has been awash with commentary, many quoting the figure of 9.2 million blogs but this is a significant underestimate.  It is the number that appears on Wikipedia but this is almost four months out of date – the true figure is around 10 million based on an extrapolation of the published rate of growth.

Although PR Media Blog uses WordPress it is independently hosted so therefore not affected by the current crisis.  No reason has been given for the service interruption but Matt Mullenweg the 26 year old founding developer at WordPress tweeted in the last few minutes “we’re investigating the source & most expedient fix. I hope to have everyone’s blogs back & running as soon as possible”.

It remains unclear as to whether this is the result of a denial of service attack similar to that suffered by twitter last August or perhaps a technical problem caused by the volume of users.  Whatever the explanation 10 million blogs represents a huge volume of information and the pressure on the team at Automattic, Inc. the web development company that runs WordPress must be immense. 

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

PR comes out into the light?

Monday, February 15th, 2010 by Jon Clements

Is it right for the corporate “story makers” – aka PR people – to become the story?

PR Week editor, Danny Rogers’ latest editorial poses the question in the wake of the Toyota furore, in which the company’s UK communications chief, Scott Brownlee, as opposed to the management, did most of the talking.

Add to that a tardy apology from Toyota’s top brass, and you wonder what the company is doing at the most testing moment in its history.

I’ve spent a number of years working on media training with major companies so that people at the head of running operations are capable of communicating effectively, especially in times of trouble. Fielding a PR person to defend the company would seem to defeat the object, and suggest that those at the business end have got something to hide.

But after the worst recession in living memory, in which a lot of PR and communications went the way of all flesh, does the Toyota example illustrate a more interesting point: that PR is being treated as an equal at the boardroom table?

Countries, never mind companies, are reputedly looking to PR advisers to protect their reputations and solvency during the current Eurozone financial meltdown.

But is this approach to PR still resonant of barn gates and bolted horses?

A quick internet search for PR and strategy brings up an interesting study. Before I tell you how old it is, I wonder how close to your experience this extract comes.

“Public relations professionals typically are not involved in strategic management until an issue occurs; they are not called in to help anticipate which publics might create issues and to communicate with those publics before issues occur. Senior managers are preoccupied with the mass media, even though they generally are not the most effective way of communicating with strategic publics-especially at the stage of building relationships rather than responding to issues. And there is a surprising fragmentation of the communication function, especially in corporations. Many departments have responsibility for communication, and many organizations do not integrate the function. As a result, strategic planning for public relations is almost impossible.”

The study, by the IABC Research Foundation, was published 20 years ago. I’d like to think much has changed since then, but the scenario depicted  by the research still seems remarkably familiar.

PR people often cry that the client’s call for help came too late, leaving them to make the best of a bad mess.  But do communicators ever wonder why they were not part of the inner management circle from the beginning (after all, the marketing people are there)?

A more recent (2004) and highly informative study by Chime and Henley Management College into CEOs’ views on reputation management suggests that while bosses value PR very highly – seeing it as part of strategic thinking and providing the “corporate conscience” – they also need PR to make its case very clearly in order to be taken seriously at management level.

But former McKinsey consultant, James Kwak, warns CEOs about the dangers of overconfidence, which can apply to their attitude to PR also.

Some chiefs are natural communicators with an instinctive grasp of PR, but not all. Bringing in the PR team – in-house and agency – early in the strategic planning stages will give the comms plan the discipline it needs. It won’t necessarily make the bad stuff go away, but it will make it a lot easier to chew when it does.


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 ''

Tiger’s In The Rough

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 by Jo Rosenberg


Update: Tiger breaks his silence – is he right in what he says? 

Until now, Tiger Woods, the world’s number one golfer, highest paid sportsman and global icon, has built himself a wholesome, clean-living reputation.

His brand, the success of which is the result of his apparent honesty and integrity, has earned him a massive income from sponsorship deals with the likes of Nike, Gatorade and Gillette.

But unlike the bad boys of sport, whose antics are a regular fixture in the pages of the Sunday tabloids, the actions of a clean cut sporting hero seemingly brought low have far more mileage for the media.

With the recent car-to-hydrant incident, the world is becoming incredibly suspicious and wants answers. Perhaps a little unfair, and some may think his private life should be respected, but there’s a price to pay for being the world’s biggest sportsman.

What’s more, the entire situation has become almost embarrassing with not a trace of crisis management about it.

He appears, to his detriment, to be saying nothing, no explanation whatsoever, despite the rumours of an affair with a New York showclub hostess and his Swedish model wife who allegedly rescued him from his Cadillac SUV by smashing a window with a golf club.

Not only that but the opportunity to clear the air once and for all was laid on a plate at his very own golf tournament in California this week which he declined to attend, with no real explanation.

Tiger needs to be very wary, the Gillette curse is taking its hold. First Thierry Henry handballs in a World Cup play-off, Roger Federer crashes out of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and Tiger’s 2am dalliance with a fire hydrant remains a mystery.

US celebrity PR crisis expert, Gene Grabowski, recommends that those who find themselves in the eye of a media storm should take a leaf out of talk show host, David Letterman’s book and come clean early in a supposed scandal and take control of the information flow.

As the American’s would say; “Tiger, take a Mulligan.”

Meteorite hoax sizzles out in Latvia

Thursday, November 5th, 2009 by Marita Upeniece

I usually don’t hear much news from my home country, Latvia, in the UK media, apart from the occasional stag do embarrassment. So it was quite exciting to see recent headlines about a meteorite crash in the Latvian countryside.

There was a shaky, eye-witness video clip, a big burning crater cordoned off by police and guarded by military; scientists were brought in to investigate – the whole shebang. Therefore, it was all the more disappointing to see an even bigger avalanche of news that followed shortly, revealing that it was a hoax staged by Tele2, one of Europe’s largest telecoms operators.

It has created a lot of discussion about the value of PR stunts, especially after Linda Murniece, Latvia’s Interior Minister threatened to cancel contracts with the company and ordered it to reimburse all costs incurred by emergency services.

The main problem with the hoax was the message (or more correctly, the lack of it). What was Tele2 trying to say to its customers by staging a hoax meteorite crash? It tried to explain itself in an emergency press conference the next day, claiming that their goal was “to draw attention away from Latvia’s economic crisis and toward something else more interesting”.

A strange and naive objective, considering that Latvia is suffering gravely from the crisis, with the highest unemployment in the EU and public sector salaries cut left, right and centre, and it doesn’t even explain what Tele2 stands for and what its values are. Also, everyone who worked at the site (including journalists) ended up looking rather silly and as a result Tele2 will probably be on the receiving end of insults for quite a while.

A hoax is a tricky thing at any time, but seeing the Tele2 stunt backfire so spectacularly, this seems like particularly bad timing. Even if creative and daring, deception is not very funny when you have to deal with serious problems such as unemployment. General deterioration of trust in brands and the rise of citizen journalism online are likely to make it more difficult to stage a brilliant hoax in the future and most PR people already seem to stay clear of the idea.

Of course that is if you don’t believe that the recession itself is one big hoax!

About Marita Upeniece

Account Manager at Staniforth

Asda employees’ authentic crisis response

Thursday, September 17th, 2009 by Jon Clements

What do you do when a peeved employee or – in this case – former employee goes haywire on your premises and makes it public?

And how can your employees offer a meaningful voice at a time of crisis?

These were the questions facing Asda yesterday, when an ex-staff member at its Fulwood, Preston store went on a clandestine, night-time rampage – and then shared his antics via video film.

Adeel Ayub certainly succeeded in making himself look moronic with a trail of random destruction at his former place of work. But grabbing media attention presented a different challenge to Asda’s communications team.

Dominic Burch, head of corporate comms and new media, was clear about the risks this unfortunate incident posed:

“There was a chance people would think this was still happening in that store or that we’d turned a blind eye at the time it happened.

“But once we’d seen it, we were quick to say how disgusted we were and then worked fast to find out who the person was and whether he was still part of the business. Colleagues at the store, aware of the vandalism from the first incident, were glad the perpetrator was now out in the open.”

And it was the wish of the store manager to express her and her colleagues’ feelings about Ayub’s actions that prompted the comms team to come up with the idea of filming a personal video message, later to be uploaded to YouTube (see top of post).

Burch adds: “The manager simply asked a few colleagues on the night shift to respond to the video in their own words. The resulting clips were posted on YouTube unedited.”

In the video, the shared bemusement and dismay among the staff about why a former colleague would behave like that has an authenticity and real, unembellished quality; something that says more about the impact on them and their loyalty to the store than any official, corporate statement could.

As they are the people who work in the store and live in the area, who better to reassure the local Asda customer that unpleasant things have happened, but it’s business as usual now?

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 ''

Pigeon coup gives World Cup warning

Friday, September 11th, 2009 by Mark Perry


It seems the power of the PR ‘stunt’ to gain coverage is still well and truly with us – as the story of Winston the pigeon is anything to go by.

Winston was challenged to get a  4gb data stick from the offices of Unlimited IT in the town of Howick to Durban quicker – one hour and eight minutes –  than a transfer by an internet connection from the country’s biggest ISP Telkom.

Unsurprisingly, Winston’s pigeon post won delivering the data stick whilst just 4% of the data had arrived electronically.

The object of the exercise was to demonstrate just how slow broadband connections are in South Africa and give some profile to the IT company.

However perhaps this ‘stunt’, which gained global coverage, was timely as qualification games were taking place across the world and people were thinking about South Africa.

Today’s tournaments are so heavily reliant on the internet that the’ stunt’ offers a wake up call to the authorities and tournament organisers that its communication  network needs to be able to cope with the demands of the modern World Cup.

The last thing you want is a meltdown while the world’s media is in your back yard. Now where is that crisis management plan……

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.