My biggest gaffe: predicting a media storm that never came

Polly Kettenacker, acting head of press at the Charity Commission, regrets freeing up the CEO's diary to deal with a crisis that never happened...

The organisation I was working for was about to make an announcement that I was convinced meant reput­ational suicide. I instigated an urgent crisis communications plan  involving, among other things, freeing up an entire day in the CEO’s diary for interviews, an email warning all staff of the impending onslaught, a press team on standby for the most exciting day of our careers so far, and the bulk buying of emergency chocolate.

In the event, the response to our announce­ment was, well, muted. There were no calls for heads to roll, no online petitions, no irate ministerial statements. After rushing around the office like CJ from The West Wing, I was now standing by my phone in a forlorn sort of trance, not quite sure what to do with my limbs.

In the eyes of my colleagues, I had made a huge misjudgement and committed the worst of crimes – wasting their important time. My defence was to insist that we had averted disaster thanks only to my expert media handling. Part of me still thinks that we were just lucky, but I lost precious credibility.

What I learnt from it all was restraint: by all means prepare for the worst, but don’t cry at the top of your voice unless you know you’ve seen a wolf.

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.

News by email...