I was in my early twenties when I first saw what professionally trying to ‘dodge the bullet’ looked like…
I was attending a meeting of very senior professionals (clients) in London, who following a serious failure in the system, were all in agreement that at the forthcoming public inquiry they would not give any media interviews and would literally stay quiet and disappear out of a side door at the end.
I can still remember not quite believing what I was hearing and willing one person to challenge the decision. You don’t have to be in PR to realise that you have to be accountable for your actions, especially in a position of seniority.
It was left to me, sweaty palms and all, to stand up at one of the largest boardroom tables known to man and explain why they should ditch their plan and instead prepare to do as many interviews as the media asked for.
Avoiding media suicide
After a bit of coughing and shuffling, they reluctantly agreed. I’m still proud of my younger self for that one – it was terrifying at the time, but I knew their plan would be media suicide and more importantly, it was fundamentally wrong not to take responsibility.
They got pretty fair treatment from the media. It was balanced reporting and even though it was critical, they were able to explain their position and comment on the report. They were also able to explain what measures they were introducing to avoid the situation happening again. Without giving a Press Conference they wouldn’t have been able to do that.
It was critically important for anyone affected by the incident, the organisations involved, their community, other stakeholders and tax payers that they were communicating and accessible. It helps to rebuild trust. It shows you appreciate the seriousness of the incident and you care.
Ultimately, we’re all accountable for our actions, or we should be.
The right approach
Not communicating would have been the very worst thing they could have done that day, even though it was difficult to face the media, it was the right thing for them to do.
In the run up the day the inquiry report was published, I made sure they received the right support, help with answering media enquiries, writing statements, arranging interviews for them to take part in, media briefing and training.
I’m pretty easy going but I won’t ever go along with something I feel is the wrong approach just to keep the client happy. After all no one would thank me if I didn’t take pre-emptive steps to limit any possible negative coverage and to ensure both sides of the situation were reported on.
I learned that about myself three decades ago in a board room in London J
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This is Hugo Spowers, client, taking part in an interview after media picked up on the Press Release I wrote and issued.
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Events that shaped me | West Sussex Health PR Blog