MHP Media Panel: Crisis Communications

by Richard Mayne

How an organisation acts in a moment of crisis is often seen as a reflection of the quality of its management and the soundness of its values. Crises can thus make or break brand reputation for years to come, something that the downfall of FIFA’s Sepp Blatter and Volkswagen’s plummeting share prices demonstrate only too well.

The latest MHP Media Panel was held this week with this idea in mind, bringing together a panel of communications experts to address a question fundamental to any organisation operating today – how can firms manage crises in a climate of media fragmentation and growing corporate scepticism?

The panel, chaired by MHP Managing Director Siobhan Shea-Simonds, included a cross-section of media and communications specialists including Pete Clifton, Editor-in-Chief at Press Association, Sally Sykes, National Director of PR and Marketing at BMI, and MHP’s own Head of Media Ian Kirby, formerly Political Editor of the News of the World.

The conversation centred on key issues concerning crisis communications and how organisations can best manage their media relations in an increasingly fragmented media environment. For instance, the role of leadership was agreed by the panel to be fundamental to any crisis management. The absence of a leader, who may be understandably distracted by trying to solve the issue itself, sends out the message that a crisis is not being taken seriously. This damages both brand reputation and employee morale, and the panel agreed should be avoided at all costs.

Social media was also a significant topic of discussion, its growth being the defining change in the media landscape over the last ten years. Some concerns were raised that, done badly, the interactive nature of social media may exacerbate a crisis, but there was a general consensus that a professional social media strategy can supplement ‘traditional’ crisis PR by reaching a broader audience in a faster time.

But what is the most important thing that any organisation can do when confronted with a crisis? Be honest, be open and move forward. Through a truthful assessment of what went wrong, as well as a frank dialogue with media, customers and corporate stakeholders, a firm can begin to establish control over the story in order to mitigate the damage caused and start the process of renewal.

The MHP Media Panel is one of many events held by MHP throughout the year, providing clients with access to some of the UK’s key influencers as well as insight into some of the most pressing issues affecting politics, business and the media. If you would like to hear about or sign up to any of our future events, please email CAEvents@mphc.com.