Communication Matters

Analysis, critique, and advice on today's hot news topics from the perspective of a Strategic PR Consultant.

Rupert Murdoch, Damaged BRAND?

Posted by mrsmart on July 21, 2011

This piece is written in response to Mr. Steve Forbes’ op/ed on the News Corp phone hacking crisis, titled “Why Rupert Murdoch Will Survive And Thrive Again.”

In his piece, Mr. Forbes compares today’s News Corp’s phone hacking crisis, with Mr. Rupert Murdoch’s company’s excessive debt and almost certain bankruptcy about twenty years ago. In that crisis, Mr. Murdock was said to have successfully applied tools of crisis management, survived, and even thrived.

Where I beg to differ with Mr. Forbes, however, is that this is different. More than finances or money, this “Mother of all CRISES” damages his most important asset, his BRAND.

Comparing the pre-internet, pre blogs and pre-twitter excessive debt and bankruptcy crisis, twenty years ago, to today’s felony phone hacking crisis, is pure apples and oranges. In the bankruptcy case, while it may have been tough, the crisis still had key ingredients for successful crisis management.

It had exigency, a clearly defined crisis brought about by Mr. Murdock’s company’s excessive debt and subsequent potential for bankruptcy. It had a leader of the conglomerate, Mr. Murdock himself, willing to get into the “trenches” and make things right. In addition, there were heads of banks and other financial institutions with whom to communicate, ask forgiveness, and negotiate modified payment terms, and so on. These set of people had just one common interest: to ensure they got paid what was owed to them and not lose their investments. Indeed, according to Mr. Forbes, Mr Murdock met with them, acknowledged the seriousness of the issue and committed to fix what was wrong, and voila!

Unlike in the “bankruptcy” crisis, this one has too many moving parts, too many competing interests, with too many possible outcomes, very few, if any, favorable. The scandal’s reaches are long, wide and deep, and ongoing. To say nothing of feeding frenzy from competitors who would want nothing more than seeing Murdock’s Media Empire fall.

So, while Mr. Murdock may survive and thrive financially; with these endless investigations, however, his most valuable asset, his BRAND, may be irreparably damaged. That’s why Billionaire Warren Buffett is often credited with saying: “If you steal my money, I will forgive you. If you damage my reputation, I’ll never forgive you.”

Emmanuel A. Smart is President of SMART EXPRESSIONS, a Strategic Public Relations and Corporate Communication firm based in Houston, TX; He teaches strategies, tactics and tools of communication, offering onsite and monthly public seminar, consulting and design services. More information, visit


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