MARKETING MIX: SOAP BOX; Communication is a deterrent to ugly PR disasters

Over recent months, some of the most sophisticated companies have suffered from high-profile, negative exposure in the national media. Cunard, British Gas and Shell are probably the most obvious examples.

Over recent months, some of the most sophisticated companies have

suffered from high-profile, negative exposure in the national media.

Cunard, British Gas and Shell are probably the most obvious examples.



Commentators within the public relations industry have suggested, with

the benefit of hindsight, that these crises could have been avoided with

better communications. Indeed, blame has been attributed to a lack of PR

awareness among top executives and a lack of corporate communications

specialists at board level.



While it is easy to criticise senior managers for all corporate

blunders, it seems about time managing directors invested more in their

organisation’s reputation, and ensured vital communications plans are in

place.



For instance, in the case of British Gas, the company may have emerged

better from its crisis over executive salaries if its senior managers

had a fuller understanding of the media and its power. To some people,

the company’s performance represented a fundamental misunderstanding of

public attitudes. With greater preparation and understanding, British

Gas may have mitigated the damage from those notorious national

interviews, and especially the Radio Four Today programme.



One of the main problems is that it is easy for executives to get too

close to the logic of their own business to realise the emotional

response they engender to journalists and their audiences.



The elevation of communications to the boardroom is a major factor in

anticipating and tackling crises. Board level communications specialists

are ideally placed to predict and reduce potential threats, although

this requires careful research and on-going contingency planning - plus

the willingness to invest.



Most large organisations already have the financial resources needed to

research possible crises and their solutions. They also have capable

communications personnel. The main weakness of such organisations

appears to be excessive inertia, inhibiting a vigorous response to

potential public relations problems.



Speed is absolutely crucial, as many embryonic crises can be defused

before they become full-blown disasters. For instance, the recent scare

in the tabloids about the dangers of patulin in apple juice was squashed

swiftly by the producers’ PR consultancy by facing the issues head-on

with key journalists at an early stage.



This requires authoritative personnel in a position to respond

effectively: with a proper grasp of the issues, up-to-date information

and, above all, senior management having the trust in their consultancy

so it is receptive to the emotional feelings of critics, and do not

remain focused on the company’s internal perspective.



Much that affects companies is beyond their immediate control and

adverse media fall-out is sometimes inevitable. Ultimately, the degree

to which that adversity can be managed depends on a planned and

proactive approach to crisis communications.



Chris Woodcock is deputy managing director and crisis communications

specialist at Countrywide Communications



Discussion

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now

Latest

Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer
Mumsnet admits users' emails and passwords accessed via Heartbleed bug