The Secret Marketer: Dealing with a media crisis

I had not long been in the office last Monday when my phone rang. It was someone from our PR agency who had taken a call from a national newspaper enquiring about a potential story they had come across. I spoke with my chief executive, hastily arranged a conference call with our legal director, and we agreed that the best course of action was one of “no comment”. While the story made a number of incorrect conclusions, we knew that any attempt to deny it would only prolong the public debate, and our best approach was to dismiss it.

Secret Marketer

I was woken up at 5am on Tuesday with news that the newspaper had run the story. Damn. Calls then followed to the chief executive, our PR and internal comms teams and then to our parent company overseas.

Needless to say, other media (especially the trade) picked up on the story and, in the absence of anything to fuel the fire, made assumptions throughout Tuesday and Wednesday that made the original embers even more fanciful.

There is certainly a lot of truth in the “guilty until proven innocent” maxim.

I was woken up at 5am on Tuesday with news that the newspaper had run the story. Damn

As an international business, I was surprised by how trusting my colleagues in other territories are. They could not understand how a newspaper could print something that was not true, nor could they comprehend why we wouldn’t issue an instant denial, which would result in them issuing a grovelling retraction. One even asked why we hadn’t asked the Queen to get involved!

Fortunately by Thursday, the mainstream media had moved on to more topical stories, and the trade – having now had time to consider the original accusations – started to question what had been printed and exposed it for it what it was. By Friday, the media had moved on to a different target, relegating our crisis to mere fish and chip wrappings.

As the weekend dawned, I realised that I had not done any of the jobs I had intended to complete at the start of the week but one thing that is certainly true – a media crisis really does get the adrenaline flowing.

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