Posts tagged: crisis management

Where does the line fall for PR people?

BM thrived on the 'crisis' attention

By Claire Thompson, freelance PR and social media consultant, Waves PR

PR company Bell Pottinger is again under the spotlight, along with lobbying, and will probably remain so for a while. (For anyone who hasn’t seen the story, Stuart Bruce pulled together a great Storify timeline yesterday.)

Like Burson Marsteller before it with its Facebook/Google story scandal, Bell Pottinger will be squirming uncomfortably, but, like Burson Marsteller, Bell Pottinger is already taking on difficult, often unethical clients, and this kind of publicity will encourage more of the same kinds of clients.

And like Burson Marsteller, it will probably revel in the publicity for what it’s doing, and even use it to build it’s crisis management practise as its name becomes associated with the word crisis, and all those linking to it inadvertently help push it up the search engine rankings. And it’s certainly flushed out that the company has friends in high places within the establishment, making it attractive to more of the same.

Bell Pottinger’s latest ‘sin’ has been to use Wikipedia (Article in Independent, Thursday December 8, 2011), and some of the things it’s ‘accused’ of doing online leave me uncomfortable. I’m hoping that it might spark a sensible debate here around what is, and what isn’t acceptable. Now I’ll stick my hand up and say I’ve done some cackhanded things online before now, and I’ve been called on them, and I’ve apologised. The spotlight was uncomfortable, and hand on heart I’ve always tried to remain ethical whilst serving my clients the best way I can.

But ethics are a tough subject (see the open v copyright debate), and the Independent’s Wikipedia editing article highlights just that. Bell Pottinger tried to put a comment from a client  The Prostate Centre on a cancer related page. Without seeing the comment, my initial thought was that if I had prostate cancer, I might be pleased to see that information. Adding Professor Roger Kirby as an expert? If he’s a professor and has genuine credentials in his field, I would have thought that was fair.

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News of the World Apology

BREAK Copy of Rupert Murdoch's newspaper ad: "We Ar... on Twitpic

Well, that’s some great PR advice. News of the World is contrite. Apologising.

Brooks has fallen on her sword, And the rumours about it coming out tomorrow are true, using its own vehicle to ensure that its story is told in its own words.

Attention is now pointing at politicians and police officers.

Whether this particular public opinion  juggernaut can be turned around, who knows? A lot will depend on what comes out from here on in.  The company doesn’t appear to have a good deal of banked goodwill or social capital to help it sway the tide of public opinion, and the powerful alliances it boasted are now going to be avoiding public association.

It will be interesting to see just what News International does from here. Money talks. But actions still speak louder than words, and nothing much will remove the stain of  Millie Dowler’s deleted phone calls. Apologies are great, but when the apology seems to come only when you’ve been caught, rather than when you found out what had happened, something more is needed. Something that Murdoch seems to have understood and be seeking to make amends for.

On the Burson Marsteller and Facebook Debacle

Claire Thompson, Freelance PR Consultant, Waves PR

I can see it now: the conversation between client and PR consultancy. Facebook has been getting a good public kicking over privacy. And others are getting away with it. And they want some help turning the tide of public opinion. (From the queues at its stand at Internet World, it’s not affecting even savvy users’ clamour to know more about this Internet success.)

So the first, and most simple. rule of good PR is: if you don’t like what people are saying, put your house in order. And in fairness, Facebook has been trying to do just that. It’s just not getting heard terribly well. (Possibly because as a company it doesn’t seem terribly ‘social’, at least with my UK eyes? Whilst Google’s teams are out and advocating, getting hold of someone to speak on Facebook is a lot harder and a lot less friendly. I digress.)

Now Facebook is a GIFT of a client. It’s a name everyone’s heard of. It’s even had a film made about it. As a PR person, people *want* to talk to you rather than get you off the phone. Having put your remedy package together, it’s easy enough to brief the changes out. Imagine the headlines if Faceboook said sorry, for example! Overnight heroes.

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Cleaning Up Communications

Champers, sweetie?
Image by OwenBlacker via Flickr

On the thupr event, Cleaning up Communications

Despite the fact that the World Cup and various PR conferences were on, despite the fact that it was a hot and sunny Friday afternoon, and despite the fact that I hadn’t been able to put in the normal amount of effort around the thupr event on June 25, there was a committed core of people who cared enough to come and talk around the subject of ‘Cleaning Up Communications’.

It was anything but a normal thupr event – although each event has been so very different that what ‘normal’ is remains a moot issue. Each has taken on its own personality and this one was all discussion.

So how do we ‘Clean Up Communications?’

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