24th February 2016

We the people…

I chaired a superb panel of communication professionals this morning, discussing the subject of crisis management and how it has changed and must constantly change to keep pace with today’s fast moving media and social media landscape.

The event was run by MOL* and my fellow panellists were:

Liz Riding, head of media and engagement, Lancashire Constabulary

Paul Newman, director of communications, The Peel Group

Charles Tattersall, chief executive, Citypress

Sukhjit Singh Grewal, director of professional development & membership, CIPR

Kathy Stacey, head of corporate communications, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service

One of the most interesting discussion points, in my opinion, was the question of ‘the public’s understanding of what’s real and what’s not’ – roundly and immediately backed up by a discussion I had with a member of said ‘public’ – my lovely taxi driver – on the way back to the office.

On him asking what I’d been doing that morning, and me responding I’d been at an event discussing how to handle the media when things go wrong, he immediately gave me an excellent example. He talked about a news item he’d read on a Subway sandwich killing someone – his key (unprompted) point was that the whole piece was about what a terrible thing it was and only in the last paragraph did it mention that it might not actually have been the sandwich that killed the poor lady!

I thought this really backed up the point made in the room – the fact that this guy had read and remembered this piece of – in his view – ‘tricksy’ journalism was so interesting.  Anyone who read my recent rant (cough) blog on being careful about gratuitously spreading gossip, will know that I find it difficult when people literally take anything they read (be it in the media or – even worse – on social media) at face value and jump in with both feet, without any pause for thought.

The feeling in the room was that people are getting far more savvy about what they read in the media and, dependent upon the media in question, calling into question the validity of the story and the journalism.

It’s equally interesting, as we discussed, that more and more often, the way a story is reported and/or the people creating/writing the story can become the story.  Back in my day it was the holy grail of PR and journalism that this was never the case.

The area of crisis management has always fascinated me and never has it been more fast moving, critical (in both senses) and constantly changing than in today’s world.

But, as we agreed this morning, the only thing that hasn’t changed is that one staple of sound crisis management…common sense. Long may it reign.



By Sandy Lindsay MBE, Tangerine Group Chair

*MOL (website descriptor): provides the best accredited professional development programmes from AAT, CIPD, CMI, City & Guilds and NFoPP through a combination of workshops and online distance learning methods. We partner with individuals and organisations to allow them to Learn, Develop and Excel.