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Thursday, 17 June 2010

DISASTER!!! How will you respond?

Imagine this scenario: you’re the managing director of the main contractor building a massive new commercial development in a major city centre. Suddenly, a crane collapses causing carnage on the site below and a number of people are seriously injured. Within minutes, video footage of the crane collapsing is on the internet, reporters from the national media are contacting you for comment. Your company’s reputation is on the line – what are you going to do?

That’s just one example of a public relations crisis situation a construction firm might face, but crises can take many forms. It could be a programme of redundancies attracting negative press attention, allegations of bid-rigging, a vicious blog from a disgruntled employee or an environmental incident.

In the digital age, there’s an even greater risk of unwanted headlines damaging the reputation of your business. Thanks to the advent of social media such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, photos or even a video of a construction site which doesn’t comply with health and safety regulations can be posted on the internet with ease, and immediately, you’ve got a negative story and a reputation problem on your hands.

How will you respond? With a little foresight, preparation and a strategy, you can protect your good name and turn a potential PR crisis into a media opportunity that wins you customers and public support. Here are three points to remember:

1. Preparation is key – If you can step back and make an honest assessment of any potential issues in your organisation and make a plan, you’ll be better prepared when a crisis hits. Assistance from a professional communications firm can establish a framework so you can respond effectively when something does go wrong. A proactive approach is always best: if you have had problems in the past, take the necessary steps to ensure that your professional reputation isn’t compromised in the future.

2. Have a crisis communications strategy in place, and one that also deals with protecting your online reputation – Decide what you need to tell people and who you need to tell before you speak to the media. And, select the right spokesperson for the job. Choose someone who can communicate well and who understands the issues. Media training in advance can help.

3. Get your facts straight – The easiest way to shoot yourself in the foot is tell your side of the story without knowing the facts. Double-check your information with more than one source. Also, remember that journalists work to deadlines and need information quickly. If they don’t get it from you, they’ll get it from someone else!

E=MC2 Public Relations specialises in strategic public relations and reputation management for the construction, architecture, engineering, property and design sectors. Its activities include writing and placing press releases, press office management, crisis communications, media relations and online reputation management.

For further information, contact us on 01747 871752 or visit our website: You can find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Hey, EMI – leave them songs alone!

I was interested to read a few days ago about a court battle between legendary rockers Pink Floyd and the band’s record label of more than 40 years, EMI.

Apparently, the Floyd took legal action after reportedly objecting to the way in which EMI has been selling their music online. To cut a long story short, the judge ruled in favour of David Gilmour and co and said: “Hey, EMI – leave them songs alone.”

As a big music fan – you won’t be surprised to learn that I’m particularly partial to a bit of Bach – I felt heartened to hear of the Floyd’s victory. Well done to them, I say, for standing up for their artistic integrity and refusing to allow their songs to be sold online individually without their permission.

Of course, the Floyd and their contemporaries are all products of a bygone age of music that we’re unlikely to ever see the like of again – and more’s the pity because most of what I hear on the radio these days makes me want to cut my ears off – so I for one was pleased to see them striking a blow for the old guard.

During the aforementioned court case, Pink Floyd’s legal team argued that, under the terms of their contract with EMI, their albums were seamless and should not be split up. They also claimed that they ‘wanted to retain artistic control’ over their material. And I think that’s right. Now I’m not for one moment suggesting that the advent of new technology is a bad thing; on the contrary. I think it’s great that we have iPods and the ability to download songs from wherever we want, but I think the artist has to retain at least some semblance of control. Using Pink Floyd as an example, their seminal album Dark Side of the Moon is more than a collection of songs, it’s an artistic statement. Yes, by all means make it available for download, but in the form that the Floyd wanted people to hear it. Can you imagine that album without ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ or ‘Us and Them’? Those tracks are part of something much bigger which simply wouldn’t be complete if they were missing.

And the record buying public shouldn’t be ignored either. Surely there are still music fans left in the world who like to physically go to a record store on the day an album or single by an artist they like is released and buy it there and then? So what if it costs you a bit more than ordering it on the internet, there’s still something special about having that new piece of plastic in your hands and then getting it home as quickly as you can to listen to it. But maybe that’s just me. Perhaps times have changed so much and the general quality of popular music is now so poor that there simply aren’t any artists worth getting that excited about. I sincerely hope that I’m wrong on that one, but I think it’s a major factor.

Now, we all know that the record business is like every other worldwide industry at the moment – there were even rumours recently that EMI may have to consider selling the iconic Abbey Road studios to ease the group’s financial problems – but that’s irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. Not everyone wants to download singles or albums and those people should be accommodated, alongside those who embrace all of the new ways of accessing music we now have at our disposal.

So come on, music industry, start listening. Music fans come in all forms – it’s your job to give them what they want – what they really, really want …