ANALYSIS: BIG QUESTION; How should one deal with media hysteria?

Nicholas Walters GCI Group

Nicholas Walters GCI Group

‘Option one is to maintain a calm, and consistent response and adapt as

events unfold. Option two is to pour out a large whisky and unplug the

phone. I can’t tell you how tempting the second option is.’

Michael Bland Crisis management consultant

‘I love MAFF’s baby milk message: ‘Trust us we know best.’ With their

crisis track record it is truly the triumph of hope over experience.

Lack of information is oxygen for the fire of speculation - and

speculation is oxygen for the flames of hysteria. So, the more you tell

and the sooner you tell it, the quicker those flames go out. ’

Ruth Grigg Family Planning Association

‘The FPA deals with matters that are central to our lives - sex,

contraception and fertility - and so it is not surprising that people

become passionate about them. If an issue comes under the spotlight it

gives us the chance to get information to the public. I aim to get

accurate facts across and to ensure journalists really understand the

issue. I can’t stop reporters writing the stories their newspapers want

but I can put them into context and mitigate the scare factor.’

Elon Newton Cow and Gate Nutricia

‘The critical thing is to identify the key concerns of consumers and the

media and to quickly pull together a team of people qualified to respond

to those concerns. During the recent baby milk scare, we knew that Cow

and Gate products were, and are, completely safe. I think our

information reassured all of the parents who contacted us but only time

will reveal the impact on formula milk sales in the UK, if any.’

Sally Sykes Manchester Airport

‘If the hysteria is over an industry-wide issue then it should be

tackled by a trade association. They come into their own in such

situations and can present a much more co-ordinated approach than

individual businesses can. However, if the concern is solely with one

firm, rather than a whole industry, it should take the earliest

opportunity to be as straightforward as it can.’

James O’Donoghue Serious Fraud Office

‘Any organisation which is in the public eye needs to work on the basis

that media hysteria can break out at any time. Prevention is better than

cure. In-house PROs need to be widely seen as open, responsive and

useful long before any crisis erupts. They’ve lost the battle when a

journalist only calls for a terse quote to complete a damaging article.’

The Big Question is edited by Lexie Goddard

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