Embracing Marketing Mistakes

Crisis Management Secrets: Lessons from Behind the Headlines - Ann Wright

June 18, 2024 Prohibition PR Season 2 Episode 2
Crisis Management Secrets: Lessons from Behind the Headlines - Ann Wright
Embracing Marketing Mistakes
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Embracing Marketing Mistakes
Crisis Management Secrets: Lessons from Behind the Headlines - Ann Wright
Jun 18, 2024 Season 2 Episode 2
Prohibition PR

Can your business survive a crisis? Learn the secrets from Ann Wright, the founder of Roughhouse Media, who shares her wealth of experience from her days as a BBC journalist uncovering major crises. Discover how to prepare effectively for potential disasters and the vital role media training plays in ensuring your team is ready for anything. Ann’s gripping anecdotes from her investigative reporting days make this episode both educational and engaging.

We'll walk you through the steps of creating a solid crisis strategy for your organisation, using a real-world example from a museum. Find out how to identify key risks, assemble an effective crisis team, and respond promptly to various scenarios. With case studies like the Onclusive Media data breach and a hotel fire incident, we'll show you the importance of timely and transparent communication, especially in the age of social media.

In our discussion, we also dive into the realm of crisis communication for charities, with insights from Adila Worley of Charity Comms. Ann emphasises the importance of genuine care, actionable steps, and keeping perspective during a crisis, sharing stories of successful crisis management from companies like Alton Towers and lessons from high-profile missteps. This episode is packed with practical advice and real-world examples to help you navigate through any storm with confidence.

Follow Ann:
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/annwright01
X: @roughhouse01

Would you like to know if your social media and content strategy is perfect for this year? Book a free 15-minute brand discovery call here with Chris, and we will help you grow your brand today. And if you like the show, please leave us a review, or even just a thumbs up. It is very much appreciated - we want your feedback.

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Can your business survive a crisis? Learn the secrets from Ann Wright, the founder of Roughhouse Media, who shares her wealth of experience from her days as a BBC journalist uncovering major crises. Discover how to prepare effectively for potential disasters and the vital role media training plays in ensuring your team is ready for anything. Ann’s gripping anecdotes from her investigative reporting days make this episode both educational and engaging.

We'll walk you through the steps of creating a solid crisis strategy for your organisation, using a real-world example from a museum. Find out how to identify key risks, assemble an effective crisis team, and respond promptly to various scenarios. With case studies like the Onclusive Media data breach and a hotel fire incident, we'll show you the importance of timely and transparent communication, especially in the age of social media.

In our discussion, we also dive into the realm of crisis communication for charities, with insights from Adila Worley of Charity Comms. Ann emphasises the importance of genuine care, actionable steps, and keeping perspective during a crisis, sharing stories of successful crisis management from companies like Alton Towers and lessons from high-profile missteps. This episode is packed with practical advice and real-world examples to help you navigate through any storm with confidence.

Follow Ann:
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/annwright01
X: @roughhouse01

Would you like to know if your social media and content strategy is perfect for this year? Book a free 15-minute brand discovery call here with Chris, and we will help you grow your brand today. And if you like the show, please leave us a review, or even just a thumbs up. It is very much appreciated - we want your feedback.

Follow Chris Norton:
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LinkedIn

Follow Will Ockenden:
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LinkedIn

Follow The Show:
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Anne Wright:

We were causing crises for these businesses, some of which went out of business. Somebody went to prison. I think the tweet said we've all been fired and I've got the keys to the Twitter and nobody knows it's me. I love that. I suppose it was such a kind of high profile occasion, wasn't it? Everyone was speculating about it, and I suppose it's probably a confidentiality issue, isn't it? They didn't want their kind of trade secrets, if you like, revealed to the world. Welcome to Embracing Marketing Mistakes, the only podcast for senior marketing professionals that celebrates the biggest marketing mistakes and fails, helping you learn practical lessons from other people's misfortune. Also, you could double your return on investment and achieve record revenue for your brand. Have you ever experienced a real brand crisis? Do you worry about being properly prepared should the worst occur? Are your social team ready for something to go viral, all for the wrong reasons? Well, in this week's episode, will and I are joined by Ann Wright, who is the founder of Roughhouse Media. Ann specialises in equipping brands with confidence in a crisis. She provides crisis communication, support and strategy, as well as delivering courses in media training and video production. Ann spent a decade working as a newspaper reporter before joining the BBC. She produced high-profile programmes ranging from news, current affairs, documentaries and consumer investigations to huge live events. These included royal weddings, children in need, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Remembrance Sunday and many, many more. I know you're going to enjoy this episode because Anne shares some brilliant crisis management tips and, even better, she talks about two interesting anecdotes or fails, however you want to call them during her career in crisis management. So, as always, sit back, relax and let's hear how you can improve your crisis management strategy without having to spend hours learning how to do it.

Chris Norton:

This week, with Will and I, online, we've got Anne Wright from Ruff House Media. Anne, welcome to the show. I'm glad to be here. Good, good, thank you. Now, anne, you are a bit of an expert in crisis management and media training. We've covered media training before on this podcast quite a bit in terms of questions and strategies. If you've heard that episode before, fine. If you've not, look up. We did an interview with Guy Clapperton. It was about three or four months ago, wasn't it? Will Quite. A few episodes ago, however, we didn't really touch on crisis management and how to avoid or how to manage yourself through a crisis, and I think our listeners will be interested in that. So why don't you give us a bit of a background of what your experience is in that area particularly?

Anne Wright:

So my kind of initial experience was I was a journalist for a long time, working first as a print journalist and then I worked for the BBC for 15 years and as part of my time at the BBC, I worked worked in the consumer unit, which meant that I was basically hunting down rogues and businesses which weren't doing the right thing.

Anne Wright:

I did lots of undercover filming to expose people who weren't doing the right thing and learnt quite a lot of lessons about crisis management because we were causing crises for these businesses, some of which went out of business, somebody went to prison who I was investigating. So that side of things has informed a lot of what I now advise people how to do. But then, as part of media training, when I started working with Ruff House full time and running Ruff House and and we developed crisis training and crisis management, you just you know you build on your knowledge essentially and you know I write crisis strategies for clients excuse me, run crisis training courses, we run crisis simulations and all of those you know give me a body of knowledge with which I can help my clients.

Chris Norton:

In your experience, Anne, how do you go about writing a crisis strategy that works?

Anne Wright:

So I'm writing one, literally writing one, at the moment. I spent this week writing one for a museum and they had a basis, and the process that I went through with that, with that was I looked through what they had drafted, realized there were quite a lot of gaps. For example, they hadn't included anything about social media, which nowadays is a huge issue. So I'm now going. I have a kind of my own template that I cross-referenced, so I'm now merging my template with their template. Essentially, what you need to do is you need to know who your team is and so you know set down who is going to do what in your crisis team so people know in advance what their role is going to be in a crisis. You need to have assessed what might go wrong, categorize that, if there are several ways of categorizing it.

Anne Wright:

But you know, looked at internal issues that might be a safeguarding issue, might be an it issue, might be customer service problem, um. Look at external things, which might be a pandemic. It might be that there's a riot outside. You know who knows it could be anything. Um, and then worked out a strategy for dealing with that. So what are you, if that happens? What are you going to say about it, what are you going to do? And obviously there's business continuity issues, but obviously what I concentrate is on the communications. How do you communicate in a way that is going to protect your reputation, because it you know, if you you know, if you say nothing, fundamentally, if you say nothing, people will either think you're going to hide in something or you've done something wrong.

Chris Norton:

Yeah, you create a vacuum don't you if you don't say something.

Anne Wright:

Yeah. Multiple examples.

Will Ockenden:

Yeah, so let's break down some of those components in a bit more detail then. So you mentioned the team first of all. So who are the kind of key components in a bit more detail then?

Chris Norton:

so you mentioned the team first of all. So um, who, who?

Will Ockenden:

are the kind of key components in that team. I mean, presumably it goes beyond just the marketing team, doesn't it? Who else would you typically involve in a in a robust crisis plan?

Anne Wright:

so. So you want you want the team that's managing the crisis, which will be your central kind of senior leadership team effectively. But then you also want to have a crisis communications team. So the senior leadership will. It'll vary depending on what the issue is. So if it's a safeguarding issue, it would have HR. If it's an IT issue, probably wouldn't want HR, but you would want IT, for example.

Anne Wright:

But you're always going to have the CEO, the head of head of communications, the chief operating officer, finance, legal counsel, those kind of people as part of your crisis management team. And then in your crisis comms team you probably want to include social media, the PR, media relations people and the marketing people, digital marketing, because all of those people are going to have roles. So you might need to be quite broad. You know some organisations have one person doing all the PR and that's, you know, really difficult for them fundamentally. But it's more about thinking what roles are people going to fulfil? So you need to have someone who is going to liaise with the crisis management team, which will probably be the head of comms. You need somebody who is going to fulfill. So you need to have someone who is going to liaise with the crisis management team, which will probably be the head of comms.

Anne Wright:

You need somebody who is going to do the writing. You need somebody who's going to answer the phones and manage media relations. You want somebody who's going to do social media. You want to have in place media monitoring, social media monitoring. So you need to know you've got all those components ready so that one and everybody knows right, my role is going to be the writer, so the first thing I'm going to be doing is writing a holding statement, for example. Then I need to be writing a q, a. I might be writing a briefing for um, a briefing for the, for a spokesperson, and so you know, once everybody knows their role in advance, that's the first thing in the plan really is that, is the, is the personnel and, um, presumably one, one or several people will kind of lead the um, you know, the crisis response, and that will they then involve people as and when required on a kind of triage basis.

Will Ockenden:

Is that how it would typically work?

Anne Wright:

yeah, yes, I mean, and you would, you know, you obviously you're going to have, you might have, if it's, you might have, say it's a hack, which is obviously, or some kind of data breach which happens a lot. You know, you've got the head of IT. They're going to be deploying their team to deal with things, but they will need to communicate with the rest of the senior management team what's happening and feedback, so you would have regular meetings of the senior management team to sort of you know update on progress. But they'll be said, you know, deploying their team to do whatever is needed. Yeah, it's interesting you mention a hack because, working in public relations, will and I have been involved in quite a lot of crises, some of which we can mention on here and a lot of which we can't. But talking about, what we've not been mentioned in but we've been affected by is an actual hack, and that was it's just happened. Earlier this year Well, I think it was February this year. It started and it was the Unclusive. I don't know if you're aware of this, A anne, but it was a hack. Unclusive Media they're owned by Kantar Precise. They're all in the same company, aren't they? I think? Allegedly brackets, close brackets, but basically, unclusive is like a media monitoring company and they got hacked and what's happened is somebody hacked, it was like a ransomware issue and it shut down all the computer systems and monitoring actual media monitoring it's a media monitoring company Shut it down and it meant that they then had to go into crisis recovery mode.

Chris Norton:

Um, and as a pr agency, our um. You know the thing that one of the key things that a client wants from results is our coverage, and we had no media coverage for over a month. Consequently, that causes a lot of problems. It was interesting to watch how the ceo of that um inclusive dealt with it. We got emails about what they were doing every day, just like we were talking about there with the it hack, the management team. They had to rebuild their entire media monitoring platform from the inside um back back up again because they were being held to ransom and it was just interesting how they were communicating it. I took in my opinion I don't think they handled it brilliantly because they gave you a month, they gave us a month um fees back, but it wasn't handled brilliantly and I think they've lost a lot of clients um off the back of it because people just like they can't rely on it what do you think they didn't do well, then they, they've just given you money back, but what didn't they do well?

Chris Norton:

The whole handling of it was an email and the email was from the CEO, which I thought was quite nice, but it was manifested He'd obviously had it written. The email came from onyourside at onclusivecom, which I felt was not very authentic at all. But also the things that they said they were doing were international things which had no bearing on me in the uk. I don't give a shit what you're doing in the europe and in the us. I care about what my uk clients and what's happening to our coverage.

Chris Norton:

And we were dealt with last and actually I sent a reply to him and he never even replied to us because my team had been contacting their customer services asking why we weren't getting coverage in this area and they just had no response. And they were overwhelmed and we felt sorry for them. You know we really did. But it got to six weeks in and they were still just sending one email a week or whatever, saying we are looking into this situation, we're rebuilding our platform, we're recovering well situation, we're rebuilding our platform, we're recovering well and we're like, well, we've not got any coverage. Nobody's replied to it. So it was just a badly handled. But that was the from being the other side of the crisis. I thought it was quite fascinating and I think they probably could have learned a few things from you on how to deal with it, because they put stories out in the media that made it look like they were handling it, but for a customer it wasn't handled well at all.

Anne Wright:

I didn't think it is a let you stop your rant. Um, what they haven't thought about is who their stakeholders are. So you know you as their customers, their clients. You're a key stakeholder, so you're one of the most important people they need to communicate with. Yes, they need to communicate with the media, but actually you've got to think how am I, how am I going to communicate with my stakeholders, and you know how often do I need to communicate. What do I need to communicate with the media? But actually you've got to think how am I, how am I going to communicate with my stakeholders, and you know how often do I need to communicate. What do I need to say?

Anne Wright:

and the message that you need is different to the message that the media is the media is getting potentially, although anything that they say to you they need to be aware, can, you know, be broadcast anywhere? You know you know everything's a leaky vessel nowadays, but you know you've got to think as well as who's going to be on my team, who are my stakeholders and how am I going to communicate with them. What do they need to know? How often do they need to know?

Anne Wright:

I was working with a law firm recently and they'd had a platform. It wasn't theirs, their, their third party platform had had had a hack and affected something like 100 law firms, so law firms weren't able to complete their conveyancing, they weren't able to communicate with their clients. I mean, it was awful and apparently their this third party's um communications likewise was absolutely awful. They just weren't talking to, they weren't talking to their clients, and you know that that's fundamental because you've got to. You've got to show that you're doing the right thing. I mean, fundamental to crisis communications is to do the right thing and to be seen to be doing the right thing. And if you don't do the right thing by your clients by telling them what's going on and giving them confidence that you're sorting something out, then they're going to go somewhere else yeah, I was going to say I mean it.

Will Ockenden:

It can be pretty catastrophic, aren't it? If, if a company gets this wrong. You know, I think there's um people yeah you know, I mean, a company could go under potentially, couldn't it?

Anne Wright:

Yeah, totally yeah, and there are examples of that and it doesn't have to be. You know it's not all the big P&Os of the world and BPs of the world and BBC, for example. All of them have had really high profile crises. You know it can be really local. I mean where I live. I live in west london and our local paper every year publishes a list of all the, all the restaurants and cafes which has have zero or one stars hygiene ratings. If you're, if you're a local pub, and the local paper says your kitchens are dirty, fundamentally, what's going to happen to your clientele? You know that that's really and that's a really big crisis for a local business. So it doesn't have to be a really huge all over the front page of the daily mail type of thing. It can be hyper local but still hugely impactful I think.

Chris Norton:

I think, though, like we're all talking about the media, but I think the thing that the example that I was using with the Unclusive is because I was a stakeholder, like you said, a customer and I just felt like what they were communicating in the media was completely different as to what we were communicating as a customer. You read in the media, it was like we're dealing with a situation, we're resolving it, and I think that authenticity is what you've got to get right. It's difficult, and I know, and I felt sorry for them, like I said, but you know, six weeks in, it was quite painful.

Will Ockenden:

So on that, actually that's quite an interesting point, anne, you know you mentioned, you know crises aren't necessarily things that just happen to BP or Virgin Media or somebody like that. So would you say every company needs a crisis plan of some description, whether you're you know, you know a cafe, a restaurant with one branch or a restaurant with 150 branches.

Anne Wright:

I mean, it seems massively over the top to have a full crisis plan if you're a kind of a local tea shop or something. But I think you do need to think how. If something happens, you need to think how am I going to deal with, think how am I going to deal with it and how am I going to communicate, and who do I need to communicate with and what do I need to say. And probably the higher the stakes are, the more planning needs to go into it.

Anne Wright:

The more complex your organization, the more you need a plan, but everybody should be aware of it. It's like an insurance policy. Anne, how should companies balance being responsive and getting a statement out quickly versus taking the time to understand the situation fully? You know what are the risks of being rushed Just to get a statement out. The vacuum, the vacuum. Everyone's talking. What can we say? What can we say?

Anne Wright:

Ann your initial statement doesn't have to say very much. Really, your initial statement has to say we know this has happened, we're concerned about it, we're on it. Essentially it doesn't have to go into details. But if you don't say anything, then that just leaves. It just leaves a vacuum.

Anne Wright:

There was an example that I always cite in my crisis training, another local example there was a fire at a hotel here locally I live in. I live in, I'm about half an hour from Heathrow, and there was a fire. There were 17 fire engines, so it's a pretty big fire, 17 pumps, big, really big fire. And it happened about five o'clock one evening and um they, I was watching. So you know, I was aware of this, I was watching social media.

Anne Wright:

The company didn't put out a statement until nine o'clock the next night, so more than 24 hours later. In the meantime, customers were going, just turned up at my hotel and it's on fire. On social media, I mean it was extraordinary that they didn't say anything at all. All they needed to say initially was you know, we're really sorry, there's been a fire. At the moment we're closed. This is what you need to do to customers, but if you don't say anything, it just makes you look like you don't care, makes you look like you know you're hiding something. The statement when they did put a statement out. The statement also libelled somebody, which wasn't very good.

Will Ockenden:

Perfect, potentially libelled somebody, somebody which wasn't very good um perfect potentially so social media, you know, I think it's fair to say has really kind of dramatically changed the way um crises unfold, hasn't? It so how important now is is kind of incorporating social media from your perspective in a crisis plan, and do you see a lot of companies failing to do that?

Anne Wright:

well, the one I'm writing at the moment. They didn't. They hadn't covered social media, and they you know you need a social media policy, but social media is a tool so you can use social media in a crisis for your own means, because if you've got a statement that you're putting out or you're communicating your q? A or whatever it might be about what's happened, you're not reliant on the media publishing it anymore. You can publish it yourself and you can get it out to a limitless audience.

Anne Wright:

There was one example of it's years ago now, but the Associated Board for the Royal Schools of Music, who set music exams all over the country. There was snow and for them that was a crisis, because it meant that they had to cancel lots of exams. So, instead of individually contacting music teachers and music exam locations, what they did was email all of them and say we will be putting updates on which exams are going ahead and when and which ones are cancelled, on Twitter, and so all they had to do was put things on Twitter and everybody could access it. So it's a really useful tool. But you also need to be aware, as we all know, that trolling takes place and people can put things on inadvertently. There was the example of hmv was hmv when they were making their staff redundant and they were live tweeting the redundancy meeting. You know I mean it I think.

Chris Norton:

I think you can't, you can't, ignore it. I think the tweet said uh, we've all been fired and I've got the keys to the twitter and nobody knows it's me. I love that. Let me just stop there tweeting. We're the Twitter and nobody knows it's me. I love that.

Will Ockenden:

They were just sat there tweeting.

Chris Norton:

We're hidden somewhere and nobody and people were.

Will Ockenden:

frantic directors were apparently allegedly Locked in the social media office. Yeah, like tweeting away as they'd all been made redundant.

Anne Wright:

So you need to have the logins on your crisis plan. One of the things that I always say you have to include is know what the logins are, so you know. Not necessarily because of that, but if you've got the head of social media is off on a holiday somewhere with no reception and you need to get into social media, you need to be able to you know. Yeah, I mean.

Will Ockenden:

I think something we do you know, from our perspective at Prohibition when we're dealing with issues or crises is kind of use social media listening tools to kind of check the temperature of a particular issue. And that can be quite a useful way to understand how big an issue something is. You can, kind of of you can, watch it evolve, can't you? In real time, and then take action yeah, absolutely.

Anne Wright:

The other thing to be aware of is that journalists use social media as a tool, as a source. So nowadays they don't have to ring everybody up to get quotes, they just go on social media and they've got instant quotes about every issue and they'll be look, they're looking, they'll be using social social media to look for interviewees, to look for victims of an issue you know. So they can, they, they, they will. You know, it's not just the social media, it's the media.

Will Ockenden:

Use it as well is there anything a brand can do to to kind of mitigate against that? You know, because I think we've. You know we've had clients where, around key gifting occasions for example, said delivery arrives late, it arrives broken, whatever it might be, and straight away the media are in touch with those disgruntled customers and it becomes a news story. From your experience, is there anything brands can do to prevent that or minimize the potential for that to happen?

Anne Wright:

Well, don't get things wrong in the first first instance is probably the first first piece of advice, but that's not really realistic, um, I think, I think actually sometimes just being honest, you know, an honest apology yes, things have gone wrong and not trying to.

Anne Wright:

You know, if you try and dissemble, people see through it but, if you, if you admit things have gone wrong and apologise and then try to do something to fix it, then that can go a long way. Just hold your hands up. People are really scared of being honest about mistakes, but actually most of the time if you do the right thing, people accept it. When I worked at the BBC's consumer unit, I worked on a series called UK's Worst and the BBC had part of the watchdog stable of programmes and the BBC had a huge database of complainants people who had contacted BBC because their hairdo had been bad or whatever it might be, or they'd had a rotten holiday or something. Um, and almost always when we rang them up they said well, they didn't apologize and they didn't accept there was anything wrong. And if they hadn't, you know if they'd done the right thing in the first instance and said right, you can have a free hairdo.

Anne Wright:

I worked on a program called uk's worst head. After, um, they said you can have a free hairdo or you can. You know, we'll give you a, a free weekend, holiday or whatever it might be. They wouldn't, they wouldn't have complained, they'd be quite happy. And then they people go away as an advocate saying, oh, they were great. When I complained they did xyz. And you know, you know, I think just that can go a long way to maintaining a good reputation.

Chris Norton:

That was one of your fails as well, wasn't it? One of the mistakes you shared with the show, working on that show for the BBC.

Anne Wright:

So I worked on a programme called UK's Worst Hair Disasters, and the thing about working on a program with the title UK's Worst is you have to be really, really legally sure that the place, the thing, is pretty bad Basically. You can't, possibly, you can't say something that you something's the UK's worst without being, you know, legal to the hilt. So we had to go and experience everything. We had to have evidence for everything. We had to have evidence for everything, we, everything, we said so, for example, with uk's worst hair disasters, there was a hairdressers in norfolk which did braids and there'd been multiple complaints about it. So I went undercover to have braids put in my hair and um, how was it?

Anne Wright:

it was. I was there for eight hours with it was unbelievable um I had so that. So they didn't, so my hair is brown. They put ginger braids in.

Will Ockenden:

They didn't have enough hair.

Anne Wright:

They were scrabbling around on the floor for stray bits of hair to add on. They had to send out their their work experience person to another hairdresser's to get their get more hair. They were smoking pot and drinking whiskey and they were sealing the ends. I don't know if you know when they. They were sealing the ends with a lighted, a lighter, literally. I mean, it was extraordinary the whole.

Anne Wright:

We filmed the whole thing because I was wearing a secret camera and we had a bag with a secret camera, so that was you know. They went out of business afterwards, basically, and I think they kind of deserved it, but that was quite an experience eight hours sitting in a chair, pretending, to did your hair look terrible afterwards as well after eight hours, or was it all right?

Chris Norton:

my hair?

Anne Wright:

looked absolutely awful.

Anne Wright:

No, it looked terrible afterwards as well, right after eight hours, or was it all right? My hair looked absolutely awful. No, it looked terrible and I had to. I had to go home. It was in Norfolk and we had a hairdressing expert who was in in Swindon who was then most meant to assess my hair, and so we didn't have time to do it all in one day because it had taken eight hours. So I had to go home, put a towel on my head and sleep with it in and then go to Swindon the next day to cut my hair, have it all taken out, and I was already getting blisters around the back from where it had been attached.

Chris Norton:

Oh, my God.

Anne Wright:

So yeah, it was not great.

Chris Norton:

I can't imagine that was cheap either to have that done, was it?

Anne Wright:

Oh, I don't remember, but I don't think it was that this wasn't a classy joint. Come on Smoking a spliff and drinking whiskey.

Will Ockenden:

It wasn't Tony and Guy then. No, well, that's a dedication to the craft. It wasn't Tony and Guy. We've also got another story, haven't we, regarding the Huffington Post. Do you want to explain what happened there, Ann?

Anne Wright:

When I was at the BBC, I worked at the Consume Unit. Then I went and worked in BBC's live events department, which produces major state occasions, basically, and I did that for five years and after I left the BBC I continued to work for them on a freelance basis and each time I did a an event, I would just post some pictures on my blog. You, you know, just do a nice little piece about having worked on Kate and William's wedding, for example. And when Meghan and Harry got married, the Huffington Post found my blog and rang me and said can you be interviewed about being a producer on, about producing a big major stage occasion? And I was was ignored, all the advice that I would ever give anybody in media training was just really flat and just said oh yeah, that's great.

Anne Wright:

Didn't do the due diligence of thinking about thinking it through, didn't think about what the um, what questions might be, didn't think about what my key messages should be all the things that I would tell everybody you have to do before an interview. And what I did do was ring the editor of events on the day of the interview and say just to let you know I'm doing this interview with the Huffington Post about, about um being the, about Harry and Meghan's wedding and just what I thought I'd let you know. I did the interview and I came off the phone and my phone literally exploded with anger. The editor had rung me straight back and she went bananas and I was a traitor to events, I was breaching my contract, I was, you know, just awful and basically I've never worked for the BBC again and I never will. That's why I can tell the story.

Chris Norton:

Surely, what you blink and said about the, if you were absolutely complimentary about the experience and the brilliant work that the bbc do behind the scenes of a royal wedding I like they hadn't seen it by then surely no, they hadn't seen it.

Anne Wright:

I had. I had to ring the huffington post up. She demanded that it never run. So I had to ring up the huffington post and beg them not to run it. Um, and I don't think I'd said anything. I mean, I would never. I loved working in events so I would never have been horrible about it never in a million years but there was, that didn't matter.

Chris Norton:

Quite a strange reaction really a bit. I think that's a bit of an overreaction, to be honest, for them to be so angry well, depends what you said, though, I suppose she doesn't know what I said, so no one ever does now.

Anne Wright:

Yes, it's on, no, no nobody does and I was, and I said I've never worked for them since. So that was the end of my freelance BBC career well, it's their loss, isn't it?

Will Ockenden:

I suppose it was such a kind of um high profile um occasion, wasn't it? Everyone was speculating about it, and I suppose it's their loss, isn't it? I suppose it was such a kind of um high profile um occasion, wasn't it? Everyone was speculating about it, and I suppose it's a probably a confidentiality issue, isn't it? They didn't want their kind of uh, trade secrets, if you like, revealed to the world well, I think it's trade secrets, probably about about every event.

Anne Wright:

You know you've got funerals and weddings and coronations and goodness knows what.

Chris Norton:

So, if you're working in marketing now or in comms, what advice would you give to somebody to avoid a social media or a PR crisis in 2024? What are the three things that they can do to avoid it?

Anne Wright:

To avoid a crisis, or a social media To prevent a crisis? Yeah, or just getting.

Chris Norton:

Well, just three things to prevent or avoid a potential crisis. What can you do to avoid it and prepare it? Because the worst thing is that they have to call you, me, all of us together, and we have to get in a room and work with the CEO and the C-suite and guide them through the crisis. What can they do to avoid that?

Anne Wright:

So you know, I don't think you can avoid a crisis, because it can come at you from anything. You could have a bomb go off outside your building that's a crisis. You can have a pandemic that's a crisis. You can have a, you know, a hack. As we said, that's not necessarily something that you can. You can't prevent a crisis happening.

Anne Wright:

And I did a crisis plan for a charity and we were going through the risks and auditing the risks and she said oh, you know, we must have staff being arrested. I was like what she said? I've had two staff arrested in the last year and you know, I don't think you can stop those things happening. But what you have to do is have the plan so that when they do happen, you can stop them becoming a crisis. So you might have a situation and if you respond in the right way, it doesn't turn into a crisis.

Anne Wright:

Or you might have something which is always going to be a crisis, but if you respond in the right way, it doesn't turn into a crisis. Or you might have something which is always going to be a crisis, but if you respond in the right way, it's not going to, it's not going to damage your reputation long term. But you have got you know fundamentally you will not have fewer crisis if, as a company, you do the right thing. Not have fewer crises if, as a company, you do the right thing. So you look at P&O, for example, and when they sacked all of their staff by Zoom, you know if they'd done the right thing as a company and gone through the proper employment procedures, they wouldn't have had the crisis that they went through. They chose to not do the right thing by their staff.

Will Ockenden:

Yeah, that was shocking and totally self-inflicted, and you see that a lot actually, don't you these kind of self-inflicted crises that could easily, you know, as you say, if the company had done the right thing, um, it could have been avoided, um, something else to ask you, actually, which I'm quite interested in, so you mentioned the kind of the second stage or part of the process, is kind of scenario testing, where you kind of you know, you've assembled your team, your crisis team, but then you start to think what kind of crises or issues could affect us as a business. Now, you know, I get it.

Will Ockenden:

You can have, you know, a customer complaint staff getting arrested, you can have things like a hack, but how on earth do you plan for things like a pandemic? I mean, how creative should you be in your list when you're coming up with these things, because I mean, I wonder how many companies had planned for a global pandemic.

Chris Norton:

The government hadn't planned for a global pandemic.

Will Ockenden:

No, exactly so how do we actually plan for these scenarios? Should we just think about anything that could possibly affect us?

Anne Wright:

I think you can think, I think you know, I think you need to have a session where you pull in everybody not everybody, but you pull in people from across the organisation. So there's somebody who works you know, I work with lots of charities and you know they're quite exposed because they've got often. They've got charity shops, they've got loads of volunteers, you know, so that they have particular risks. Get somebody who's a volunteer to sit around that table and talk about the things that might go wrong. Get the reception to talk receptionist to talk about what might go wrong. Don't just have the people who are in ivory towers, because they're. Everybody will have a completely different perspective. But but I think you need to. You're better to have a really big pool of everything and then what you do is you think right, which are the ones we're going to make a plan for?

Anne Wright:

Specifically, the ones that are either highly likely to happen or going to be very damaging. So, for example, a hack could be very, very damaging and it's highly likely. So you want to plan for a hack, a pandemic? A hack could be very, very damaging and it's highly likely. So you want to plan for a hack, a pandemic. Well before the pandemic. We never, ever, talked about pandemics as being a risk. Now, you probably would have it as a risk and you'd have a bit of a plan, but realistically, the likelihood of it happening again, is you know, is probably low, of it happening again, is you know, is probably low. So the ones which are most likely to be damaging and most likely to happen. You then you have a specific plan. For the rest, you just have, you know, generic. If we, if we, have a staffing issue, you know it, this is the kind of response we might. This is the kind of process we might go through. If we have a customer complaint about X, this is the kind of thing that we might have.

Will Ockenden:

You can plan for most things, but inevitably you can't plan for everything. It always ends up being and at the end of the show. There's a few examples I can think of over the years of crisis scenarios that nobody could have planned for.

Chris Norton:

Oh no, I mean I was just while we were just talking there, I was just thinking about the Boeing situation with, I mean, you're only supposed to blow the bloody door. That's what's been happening at.

Will Ockenden:

Boeing hasn't it. Like with their airliners the doors have been blown off. That's pretty much the worst thing that can happen on a plane, isn't?

Chris Norton:

it when you think about airlines safety and security.

Anne Wright:

Then one of the windows just pulls out it's and it's not just happened once, has it? So it happened on a few, a few, a few times and it's all about you know the. How safe is that airline? Yeah, I was gonna say airlines are great fodder for crisis comms, examples, actually, you've got united. Who to remember the guy being dragged out of the plane because they'd overbooked the seats on?

Chris Norton:

I mean, that was just and united breaks guitars was a good one that I used to use in my crisis training.

Anne Wright:

Yeah, I still use that. It's a great. I use that great song. It's great. I could sing it right now we'll play.

Chris Norton:

We'll play a little clip now we'll play it in the pod. We'll put a clip from it in the pod so people can hear it the song, because the song was brilliant it's had 22 million views and their share price dropped I can't remember how much, but huge amounts after that. And they sold two albums off the back of it.

Anne Wright:

I think. Fair enough. Well, there you are Off one broken guitar. So who's getting this right, anne? We've talked a lot about what can go wrong and a few companies that have got it wrong. Is there anybody out there that's really good at this, particularly with regards to taking ownership, apologising properly that side of things.

Anne Wright:

So less on that front. ann thinking about the royal family at the moment with Prince Andrew they probably got that wrong with the king's illness. They have got that pretty textbook right because they've communicated clearly. They he's been seen fairly regularly doing sort of small things and people feel like they know what's happening.

Anne Wright:

Um, with the princess of wales, literally I was literally about to write a blog on the vacuum and then they published that photo of them which was doctored. I mean, that's um, that was a massive pr fail, to be honest. But then when she came, she came out and she made that statement and it's a real example of how if you come out and you say something, it stops things dead. If you get your statement right, then that can absolutely stop speculation and stop. So I think they've having done badly, they've now pulled it back and they're doing it.

Chris Norton:

They're doing it really well, really well I think I think kate got the balance right as well, because she was talking directly to to the, to the people, and also she had like a. She said you're not alone and she was talking, as it was a lot of message of hope about, even though it's the conditions affected her and she honestly some of the coverage and some of the online vitriol that you see about it all. It's just it was just completely out of control, so I was glad that she did something to stop it. Like you say, it did stop it dead, but it was authentic.

Anne Wright:

Again, she communicated authentically and that's that's what was brilliant about that, rather than a press release yeah, I think they, absolutely yeah, I think they, they just, they just yeah, they did, did a good.

Will Ockenden:

What business leaders are out there who are authentic. And you know, obviously we've talked about the royals, but is there anybody in the world of business that kind of has the common touch and can kind of connect with people in a similar way. Mark Zuckerberg.

Chris Norton:

Yeah, mark Zuckerberg, the multi-billionaire Mark Zuckerberg.

Anne Wright:

So this is going back a little while, but do you remember when Alton Towers had that crash and there was a crash on the roller coaster and somebody lost their legs? And the boss of McVarney if you watch his interviews, he just did an absolutely sterling job. Did an absolutely sterling job because they had made mistakes and there was, you know they that they hadn't done. You know they, they. They weren't squeaky clean, but because he came out right from the beginning and led from the front and he showed empathy and and concern and did all the right things and kind of kept the high moral ground when he was getting a really hard time in interviews. There was one interview with Kay burley where she was absolutely awful, um, but because of the way he carried himself, they, their reputation didn't wasn't damaged at all. Actually they did really well um yeah, so he was a.

Anne Wright:

He's a good. He's a good example. If you look back. There was also not that long ago. Do you remember OVO Energy? They sent out a press release or some kind of statement, tweet or something saying if you get cold, cuddle your cat and wrap up warm. Do you remember that?

Anne Wright:

I think it was last year when the energy crisis and the chief exec literally went on to breakfast the next day and said I'm really glad you're asking me about this because I want to hold up my hands and say we did it wrong, it was really crass and we're really sorry and we've retracted it. And he just came out and he did. He absolutely said and did the right thing yeah and just did it very fast yeah, he did.

Chris Norton:

I saw that interview. Yeah, he did it right because they did get it wrong. It was ridiculous. Someone had done 10 top tips on how to stay warm this winter during the cost of living crisis, and it was clearly a PR person that had done it and they'd not thought it through and it just landed so badly at the time.

Will Ockenden:

So can you teach that kind of response? You know this idea that you've got to kind of connect with people, you've got to take accountability, or does that just kind of come naturally to you as a you know, to a business leader? Do you ever teach people how to kind of project themselves more authentically on camera?

Anne Wright:

You want to. I mean, really you need to train people. You know we do crisis interview training. You need to teach them how to deal with what we call we call them ambush questions. We need to teach them how to deal with things that are chucked at them from from a great height or whatever, from left field. Some, some people are never going to be able to be natural and you're in a high stress situation. But what you want to do is give them the tools and give them some practice in advance. You want to give them, make sure they've had a chance to practice, make sure they know how to frame their answers, because that's actually quite important you need to think about.

Anne Wright:

There's endless acronyms out there about how to, how to respond in a crisis. The one I like is cap, which is care, action, perspective. So it's show that you're bothered, show that you're doing something about it and then, if you can put, put some perspective on it. So, if, if you know, if it's hack, as one of many, many companies that have been hacked in the last year, or something like that um, so, if you can, if you can can frame your answers, that gives you confidence when you go in. You know how to, how to, how to give an answer and get your key message across, and that helps.

Anne Wright:

And you need to think about how. You know know, my absolutely bugbear can't bear phrase is our thoughts are with our thoughts with the victims. It just sounds like somebody's just told me to say that I've got to sound bothered. You need to sound natural and you need to therefore incorporate that into your answer. You need to incorporate your care into your answer. You need to incorporate your care into your answer somehow so it sounds natural. In a lot of cases, we do crisis training for a big chain of shops where there is a lot of scope for accidents because of the nature of this chain and what they sell, and we know that in real life, if something happened and somebody injured they would absolutely they're lovely, they would absolutely be devastated, and so that would come across naturally. But that's about their personality actually, more than. Yeah, it's easier to train good humans more than they have to teach it. Yeah, it's easier to train good humans is what you're saying there, anne if they're a good, authentic person and they can communicate that authenticity rather than hiding behind ministerial-like responses, because you could watch an MP and how they answer questions and think, oh, they deal with the media quite well, but do they Because the media interview. They go particularly hard at a minister and if you're in a crisis, that's pretty much how the media could treat you if you're not dealing with it properly. I always think the best examples of people that deal with the media. You've given some good examples there, like the CEO of Alton Towers.

Chris Norton:

And there was another airline. Actually, actually, when the airline ran across ann , it ran off the runway at the bottom of the runway at East Midlands Airport and I can't remember I think it was Midland, was the airline years and years and years ago and he only lived five miles away and he came to the. We used this when I used to teach at Leeds University on the PR degree and as an example, because he lived five miles away, he just drove to where the accident was. Nobody I don't think anybody was particularly hurt, but he he was there, stood there, did all the interviews on site right and it was all completely authentic yeah exactly, and that that really really can come across it's a nice thing.

Anne Wright:

It gives that sort of sense of authenticity there's another clip that we we used to you. There's another clip that we used to use of, uh, richard branson, when there was a crash, when he was with virgin trains.

Chris Norton:

There was a crash and he went up and, you know, interrupted his holiday and went to the site and you know, and that you know, what he's like, he's a he's a really good communicator, yeah we, I actually met somebody who worked, who'd been head of pr that worked with richard branson, who shall remain nameless, but she was telling me that, um, they I don't know if I've talked about this on the pod of I will and um, they had a big press conference and they were launching something massive and richard branson she'd never met him, she'd been working for him for about three months and they had this big launch and it was at the royal albert hall and they had to come out onto this stage and he was going to do a two minute, the.

Chris Norton:

You know, the world's media were going to interview him about this big launch. Anyway, they went and she had to do this. You've got two minutes left. And she went uh, sir richard, uh, you've got two minutes. And he went right, okay, see ya. And walked out the room and she was like oh my god, oh my god. And then he put his head back around the door and went, just kidding, which I thought was brilliant she said, and she said she actually swore.

Chris Norton:

She said she called him a fucker, you fucker, and it was the first time she met him. He probably loved that. Yeah, he did he's. That was brilliant, brilliant anyway um, yeah and you've been on the show. Now you understand that we do talk about big fuck-ups. We asked you a couple of your mistakes. If, if you were us, who would you interview next on the next podcast? Who do you think would make a good guest for the show for this?

Anne Wright:

so I I I've listened to the show a few times, so I I knew you're going to ask this question, and this isn't really about fuck-ups, actually, but this is just something that I think it would be interesting because they do have huge issues and it's somebody from Charity Comms. I work with lots of charities and the head of Charity Comms they advise charities on communications and if you think about Oxfam and some of the other issues that charities have had, they would be. She's called Adila Worley, but she's the CEO of Charity Comms and I think she would be a good guest.

Chris Norton:

Oh, great, okay, I'll look out for her. And Ann, do you want to let people know where they can find out more about you if they want to reach out to you or connect?

Anne Wright:

Yeah, so we are Rough House Media, so our email address is roughhousemediacouk. And. Um, we do, as well as crisis comm stuff, we do media training and presentation training and various other communications kind of training courses, and we'll do. We'll write your crisis plan for you and we'll advise you in a short term and if you've got a crisis, we'll help with messaging. Um, yeah, okay great.

Chris Norton:

Yeah, thanks for coming on the show and that was really great.

Crisis Management and Media Training
Creating an Effective Crisis Strategy
Social Media's Role in Crisis Planning
Social Media and Crisis Prevention
Ann's f*ck up
Effective Crisis Communication Planning
Effective Crisis Communication Strategies
Charity Communication and Media Training