THIS WEEK’S BIG QUESTION: Should a chief executive always face the cameras in a crisis? - Richard Branson was absent from TV last week after the emergency landing of a Virgin Airbus

Geoffrey Hyde

Geoffrey Hyde


’You have to assess the programme and decide if it is likely to give you

a fair hearing. It can be more damaging to be taken to pieces on-air

than to have an empty chair. Secondly, you have to make an assessment of

your client. If they have nothing to hide and know what they want to

say, then they should appear. But if you can’t be honest, don’t do it,

and if honesty means saying, ’we got it wrong’ then that is what you

must say.’

John Stonborough

John Stonborough and Co

’If the press pack is outside your door, scurrying to your car is

undignified, so saying something is sensible. What is more difficult to

manage are the hundreds of requests for interviews that you get in a


You have to understand the news cascade in order to be able to choose

who to talk to.’

Will Whitehorn

Virgin Group

’In any crisis there is a duty to inform. That was a responsibility that

we took very seriously. We scrambled a team immediately to look after

passengers, to deal with the media and to inform the public. We issued a

statement within 20 minutes and I was on the scene to do interviews

within 40 minutes. Richard Branson sent statements from Boston and was

fully informed at all times. The media was able to interview the pilot

as soon as he had finished reporting to the Air Accident Investigations


Hilary Meacham

Focus PR

’Ask yourself, ’will this still be a crisis by lunchtime?’ and if not,

the best thing may be to do nothing, as the story may evaporate.

In a real crisis - loss of life or endangered life - I think you should

always be responsible and that means facing the camera. You must be

factual and you must not be drawn into an emotional confrontation. You

must have a clear grasp of the facts and the messages you want to


Fran Morrison

Shell UK

’Yes and ideally with senior line managers, not PR communicators.

We train our managers to have a crisis communication policy to provide

timely, factual, accurate information to the media and other


During the Brent Spar crisis our managers gave over 100 radio and TV


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