Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Media and Crises

By Toivo Mvula

Sometimes, individuals use the media to create crises for organisations. Other times, the media create create crises to fulfill their agenda.

Social media makes it even much more easier for anyone with an agenda or vendetta against an individual or an organistion to create a crisis by posting false, but damaging and defamatory information which could be picked up by mainstream media and published as truth, even if such information is not verified.

Most often, these sorts of crises happens with celebrities and public figures, but organisations and governments are not immune to them.

New research shows that public relations practitioners blame social media for reputation crisis issues.  A market research consultancy, Dynamic Markets questioned 100 senior figures and 108 in-house bosses. The research showed that 24 percent believed that traditional media ignited crisis situations, 34 percent blamed bloggers, 24 percent blamed social media and 8 percent blamed forums.

The research also found that 'half of all agencies (51 per cent) had a client that had ­exp­erienced a crisis management situation involving social media in the past 12 months. Some 61 per cent said the use of social media had exacerbated the story, while 45 per cent said it gave journalists easy access to disgruntled people.'

There are many examples of the media blowing an issue out of proportion and as a result creating a crisis for an organisation.

A case in point is the Jon Venables case which was turned into a major crisis by the media. When you think of it, you start to wonder exactly what the issue really is and whether it was even a story worth reporting about.

You also start asking exactly who benefited from such a story, except maybe some media outlets that ran the story heavily on their front pages.

Nevertheless, having it been turned into a crisis requires action from the responsible authorities.

Another case that caught my mind was the recent car parts dilemma of Toyota Motor Corporation.

The media and the public relations industry started discussions on how the reputation of Toyota has been badly affected by the recalls and the accidents the car parts malfunctions have caused.

However, they seemed to forget that car parts malfunctions are not uncommon in the car manufacturing industry, nor is it unusual in many technological industries, such as computer manufacturers.

This sort of crisis not only affects the manufacturer, but the specific industry as a whole.

All the same, Toyota had to act to avoid losing the trust of its customers.

The point really is that even if crises are created by revengeful individuals and the media, organisations still need to face the crisis and act accordingly.

Having good media relations helps to avoid your organisation being picked on heavily and negatively by the media.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Toivo,

    You can never predict a crisis, and I think the best way to "avoid" it is always have a proactive strategy. Seymour and Moore used to say that there are two types of crises. A Cobra and a Python.

    All companies, and even celebrities should always be prepared for the worst case scenario. If you have a plan and you're good enough to understand what the media will be asking for, and seeking information for, then atleast you're prepared for it and send out an image of confidence and reassurance.

    So every organisation should have a crisis audit or manual and remember that when they are talking to their 'enemies' (media) they should never neglect key stakeholders and always hsow concern, clarity, control, confidence and competence!