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Power is nothing without Control

...according to the tire manufacturer Pirelli. And so it is with public relations. Gone are the days when an organization can fully control their corporate message to the media.

In days gone by, it was normal for an organization’s employee handbook to strictly dictate that no employee could speak to the media without prior approval and spokesperson media training. No problem.

Then a few years ago social media popped up. According to a recent piece of research by Altimeter, companies average an overwhelming number of corporate owned accounts – about 178. That is a bunch of people from different departments and around the globe that are speaking on social media platforms, that the media are seeing. And that’s before we count the personal SM accounts of employees who happen to mention their job. So what’s to be done?

NettResults recommends three levels of corporate communication development:

1 - Relinquish a mindset of control - instead ‘enable’. In business school we were taught to foster message control and encourage all corporate representatives to stay on message. Yet today, as multiple business units from support, sales, HR and beyond participate in social technologies, communication is spread to the edges of the company – not just from the PR department. As a result, PR groups have changed their mindset to safely enabling business units to communicate, based on pre-set parameters they put in place through governance, coordination, and workflow.

2 - Roll out enterprise workflows - education programs at four levels. We’ve found that savvy corporations have detailed workflows, including sample language in which employees should respond. Beyond creating these workflows, they must be distributed throughout the enterprise through education programs, and drilled. We’ve found savvy corporations have up to four types of education programs spanning: Executive team, social media team, business stakeholder teams, and finally all associates. Even if the mandate is for rank and file employees to not respond in social on behalf of the company, reinforcing education is still required.

3 - Run mock crises. Lastly, we’ve found a closer relationship with media relations, social media and crisis communications. Savvy corporations are working with agency partners such as NettResults to setup mock crisis drills where they approach a week-long crises in a number of hours in private. Not only does this test the mettle of the organization it provides useful training so companies can respond faster, in a more coordinated approach. We have already witnessed health organizations receiving ‘social-crises-ready’ compliance notices and we expect compliance programs to spread into other industries.

Get ready – take control.

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Ultimate Power to Shaving-Foam Pies – the good, the bad and the ugly…

Rupert Murdoch
- listed three times in the Time 100 as among the most influential people in the world
- ranked 13th most powerful person in the world in the 2010 Forbes' The World's Most Powerful People list.
- net worth of US$7.6 billion,
- ranked 117th wealthiest person in the world in March 2011

- ohh, and now part of a media crisis situation and getting shaving-foam pies thrown in his face.

And just incase you missed the news, the news you should be reading, is probably owned by Rup. From the recently closed News of the World and other ‘salubrious’ UK media such as The Sun, to the Wall Street Journal and into broadcasting - Fox Broadcasting Company to DirecTV.

In July of 2011 Murdoch became a prominent figure in the media after widespread allegations that the now defunct tabloid News of the World, owned by Murdoch's NewsCorps, had been regularly hacking the phones of private citizens.

Here’s the warning – even if you own a majority of the media, you can find yourself in a crisis communication situation.

What should be done?

We know the most effective cause of action in a crisis situation is:
Concern – Relief – Reassurance

Well, Rup did show concern & reassurance - On the 15 July Rupert Murdoch attended a private meeting in London with the family of Milly Dowler, where he personally apologized for the hacking of their murdered daughter's voicemail by a company he owns. On the 16 and 17 July, News International published two full-page apologies in many of Britain's national newspapers. The first apology took the form of a letter, signed by Rupert Murdoch, in which he said sorry for the "serious wrongdoing" that occurred. The second was titled "Putting right what's gone wrong", and gave more detail about the steps News International was taking to address the public's concerns.

What did he do wrong?

Another basic lesson in crisis communications is:
Tell it all – tell it soon – tell it truthfully

Well Rup doesn’t get full points on this scale – in fact it took a summons (after a polite request) to get him to appear before parliament in the UK.

But the biggest sin is credibility. Rup just doesn’t have any:
1 – Rups response to a Member of Parliament’s question: “Do you accept that ultimately, you are responsible for this whole fiasco?” Without equivocation, Murdoch replied “No.” He, instead, pointed a finger at subordinates.
2 – He argued that since he ran a global business of 53,000 employees and that the News of the World was "just 1%" of this, he was not ultimately responsible for what went on at the tabloid.
3 – news already out that the phone hacking scandal is the subject of a new book by Guardian reporter Nick Davies and publishers Faber and Faber.
4 – his son is the CEO...

Oh, you interrupt, but wasn’t it great how he expressed it was his most humbling day of his life?

But it takes the HuffPost to really put this in context:

Following several days of coaching by lawyers and PR experts, it must have been really rattling for Rupert and James Murdoch when showtime arrived to learn that the parliamentary committee questioning them would not permit opening statements. Framing, after all, is the name of the game.

To control the package that the narrative comes in is to control the meaning of the story.

No wonder Rupert Murdoch felt compelled to interrupt his son at the top of his first answer to say, "This is the most humble day of my life." That was the frame his team had planned, not some "what did you know, and when did you know it?" storyline that the committee wanted to pursue.

So today we learn to take one of the best examples of ‘framing’ to our next crisis communication scenario.

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