Top firms share secrets of PR success at PRWeek crisis comms conference

A host of top firms shared the secrets of their PR success at a PRWeek conference in London yesterday.

Speaker: TUI head of comms, Christian Cull
Speaker: TUI head of comms, Christian Cull

John Neilson, director of international communications at BAE, and Christian Cull, head of comms at travel giant TUI, were among those speaking at the one-day event, Reinventing Crisis Management in a Wired World.

Neilson asserted that PR staff should not make it personal when it comes to criticism.

He told the audience how the firm had worked to improve its image following allegations of corruption regarding deals with Saudi Arabia in the 1980s.

He said: ‘We had employees 20 years ago who didn’t play by the rules and we needed to change the way in which we presented ourselves – to regain trust.You need to have an intimate knowledge of your stakeholders and their opinions.

‘Whether you see the media as friends or enemies, it doesn’t matter – you need to keep in touch with them. You also don’t need to make it personal – criticism is not about you as a communications professional.’

He added that people should never forget to do their own PR.

‘If we don’t demonstrate to other people the strength of proactive communications, then no-one else will.’

The conference also heard from Christian Cull, communications director and Dermot Blastland, managing director of TUI, about handling the ash cloud crisis.

The cloud, which spread across Europe in April, and again in May, followed the eruption of an Icelandic volcano and saw 20,000 flights cancelled.

It cost TUI £110m in lost revenue, including £38m in the UK.

Also at the conference, delegates were also put through their paces in a crisis simulation delivered by media training firm Electric Airwaves.

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