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Crisis handling at the speed of light

11 May

A new Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism paper (free pdf) by BBC newsreader Nik Gowing discusses the challenges of information control in the era of news 24 and citizen journalism.

He's right. 'In a crisis there is a relentless and unforgiving trend towards an ever greater information transparency.' He characterises the dilemmas facing institutions in the F3 formula:
  • Should they be first to enter the information space?
  • How fast should they do it?
  • How flawed might their remarks and first positions turn out to be?

This formula leads to some sound recommendations on crisis communications and Gowing addresses the waves of attention on issues triggered traditional news outlets and the 'civilian surge' of real-time information.

His discussion is based on major international news stories that make headlines on BBC News 24. But everyone can learn from these lessons and he's clearly writing with public relations and corporate communications people in mind.

Among those who have much to learn are those dismissing the so-called mainstream media and talking up social media phenomena such as YouTube and Twitter. They will learn that the era of 'ambient news' is as old as the radio, but accelerated with rolling television news from the 1980s onwards. The relationship between mainstream and social media is clearly symbiotic rather than exclusive (either-or).

The Domino’s effect

16 Apr

The video that caused the storm is no longer available at YouTube, but the New York Times reports the maelstrom the company now finds itself in. 'As Domino’s is realizing, social media has the reach and speed to turn tiny incidents into marketing crises.'

More links and analysis, as usual, from Neville Hobson.

When social media costs business

18 Feb

In a perfect – but negative – example of Tom Murphy’s PR hype cycle, a firm has lost a multi-million pound long-term contract thanks to social media.

First came the videos posted on YouTube (see links from story in The Sun below) showing building contractors larking around on a construction site.

Then came the mass media exposure: The Sun ran the story (and showed the videos in its online version) and connected the workers to NG Bailey. Then the BBC picked it up. Next word of mouth (I’ve also heard details of this from a non-media source.)

The third act followed. Trade title Building reports that the Morrisons supermarket chain (the construction site was thought to be one of theirs) has as a result ended a 30-year, multi-million pound relationship with Bailey.

Bailey (no relation to this blog’s author) appears unwilling to comment though the company is aware that ‘communication is the key to the success of any business.’ Presumably the contractual details are still with the lawyers.

UPDATE: The company published this statement on 21 February.

No publicity, mind

1 Dec

It started here as another exercise in word of mouth on behalf of a South African winemaker. Now it’s gathering major news headlines and is threatening to become a ‘brilliant-marketing-but-bad-for-business’ case study. Let’s hope for Thresher’s sake it’s not Hoover all over again.

Be candid, contrite, compassionate and committed

16 Aug

These are the four Cs of product recall management identified by Nirmalya Kumar and Nader Tavassoli, two marketing academics from London Business School. They are writing today in the Financial Times on lessons from Dell’s notebook battery recall and previous well-known cases.

Their book on Brand Turnarounds is forthcoming.

Nuclear or environmental?

21 Feb

So, AEA Technology plc has been fined for a potentially fatal radioactive leak in 2002. At least it shows that health and safety regulators have teeth, even if the wheels of justice move slowly.

But here’s the mystery. The business was privatised as long ago as 1996 (when its prospectus declared it to have ‘no significant nuclear liabilities’ so as not to frighten investors); in 2000 it announced its strategy to exit the nuclear industry. Yet the newspaper cutting above still describes it as ‘an atomic energy company’. There are many more examples.

There’s been no news posted in 2006 on the corporate news page, so the company has nothing to say on this confusion. Yet it now wants to be seen as an environmental and rail technology business. In this case, silence is not so golden (though Rob Thomas was a very good advocate for the business on the TV yesterday). Declaration: I worked in corporate communications for AEA Technology for a period in the late 1990s.

PR efforts unpicked

16 Sep

Jim Horton describes the high stakes being played for when a PR team has to respond to an issue proliferating on the net. This time it’s lock manufacturer Kryptonite. gives the background to this story, links to the incriminating evidence and cites the corporate response (it wasn’t quick, complete or compelling).

The Kryptonite website was unavailable this morning.