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.” http://blogs.forbes.com/steveforbes/2011/07/18/why-rupert-murdoch-will-survive-and-thrive-again/#respond
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. Murdoch 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 potentially felony phone hacking crisis, is comparing apples and oranges. True, the bankruptcy case may have been tough, managing its fallout, however, was straightforward. It had the key elements necessary for a successful crisis management.
It had exigency, a clearly defined crisis brought about by Mr. Murdoch’s company’s excessive debt and subsequent potential for bankruptcy. It had a leader of the conglomerate, Mr. Murdoch 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. This set of people had just one common interest: to ensure they got paid what was owed to them so they don’t lose their investments. Indeed, according to Mr. Forbes, Mr Murdoch met with them, acknowledged the seriousness of the issue and committed to fix what was wrong, and voila!
Unfortunately, unlike the bankruptcy crisis, this crisis has too many moving parts; too many competing interests, with too many possible outcomes. The scandal’s reaches are too long, too wide and too deep for a quick crisis resolution. Worse, it is ongoing with almost no end in sight. To say nothing of feeding frenzy from competitors who would like nothing than seeing Murdoch’s Media Empire fall.
Can Mr. Murdock survive and thrive financially? Yes. This write-up, however, is about something much more than money. It is about the risk to his BRAND. With these endless investigations, in the end, Rupert Murdoch’s BRAND may be irreparably damaged whether or not he is cleared of any wrongdoing.
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 http://www.smartexpressions.com