E-scooters at a crossroads
E-scooters at a crossroads

Posts Tagged ‘corporate communications’

How not to do crisis comms: a Beeb masterclass

‘No-one mishandles a crisis quite like the BBC’ – so said one anonymous source in yesterday’s Sunday Times. This comes as a Tweet from the W1’s best-paid presenter, denouncing Government immigration policy, left the Corporation floundering amid its biggest communications crisis of the year so far.

The BBC has been suffering from a well-documented ‘brain drain’ for several months, losing top billers Emily Maitliss, Jon Sopel and Louise Minchin to private rivals – leaving an unsettled company culture it its wake. This perhaps explains why a scandal of this magnitude was a long time coming, playing as it did, into both the culture wars, and the BBC’s own wavering sense of identity.

The first mistake made by the corporation was to overlook the core pillar of any crisis communication plan – preparation. The BBC Comms team should have recognised that with an employee base made up of high-profile, prolific Twitter users, a social media storm was always at the top of the risk register. As Lineker’s Tweet started to send shockwaves through the media, a pre-agreed protocol and dedicated crisis team should have leapt into action, rolling-out a well-rehearsed damage limitation exercise. As it happened, the BBC’s response was both agonisingly slow, and lacking any real clarity. With the Tweet published on Tuesday afternoon, it took until Friday for an official BBC decision on Lineker’s position to be communicated. At this point the statement released was that Lineker had ‘decided he would step back,’ teeing up the inevitable: Lineker himself making it clear the decision was not mutual.

Far from defusing the situation, this confused response further exacerbated it, detonating the long-ticking time bomb of dissatisfaction at Broadcasting House.

If the BBC’s failure to act quickly and decisively was its first failing, its second was underestimating the mutiny brewing amid its own staff. As Lineker’s colleagues fell behind him, refusing to appear on-air out of solidarity with the former striker, the story inevitably snowballed – rapidly becoming an internal comms issue as much as an external one. An apologetic email to staff from Director General Tim Davie seemed to do little to extinguish the revolutionary flames, with ‘senior reporters’ briefing against the Corporation and staff chats leaked to the Sunday papers.

All of this points to the importance of including internal comms as well as external in any crisis plan. The two are often inextricably intertwined, and disgruntled employees – if not effectively communicated with – can quickly become the story more than the original incident.

The mishandling throughout the week resulted in the inevitable – a painful climbdown from the BBC after days of standoff. Lineker is back on air and the BBC is attempting to maintain a ‘business as usual’ façade – but the damage has been done.  In the end, with the BBC long hailed as a bastion of British journalism, the surprise was not the crisis itself, but its handling, given the 2,000 professional communicators in its ranks. In an organisation brimming with journalistic talent, a single Tweet was enough to bring it to its knees.

To find out more about how WA can help advise in a crisis, contact

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WA Communications bolsters corporate comms function with new hire

WA Communications has hired seasoned government communicator Rachel Ford as an Associate Director in their Strategic Communications practice.

Rachel is a media relations specialist with extensive experience working at the heart of government to promote policy, manage reputation and influence public opinion.

She joins WA after over seven years working on some of the most sensitive and high-profile issues in Whitehall, most recently running the press office at the Ministry of Defence. Rachel also spent several years at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and before joining government worked in PR where she brought health, charity and travel campaigns to life.

Rachel will now bring her in-depth knowledge of policy development, crisis comms and reputation management to bolster the corporate comms function within WA’s Strategic Communications team, which continues to go from strength to strength, with WA having seen 45% year on year growth across the agency.

Lee Findell, Partner and Head of Corporate Communications, WA Communications, said:

“Rachel brings a wealth of government, policy and media relations experience to WA and is a fantastic addition to our Strategic Communications team as we continue to grow our integrated, insight-led comms offer.

“Rachel will be invaluable in helping clients navigate the political and media landscape to make sure their messages are heard by the right people, at the right time.”

Rachel Ford, Associate Director, Strategic Communications, said:

“From energy and the housing market to health and the cost of living, WA helps clients navigate some of the biggest issues facing businesses and society today.

“I look forward to working with clients on these knotty issues to make sure messaging is relevant, targeted and can bring about real and lasting change.”

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Top 10 tips for communicating business restructuring and change

Is this the new normal?

With a 20% drop in GDP, the end of the furlough scheme in sight and economic storm clouds ahead, business leaders are assessing the impact of the pandemic on their organisations and planning the changes they will need to make for what will be a new normal for corporate Britain.

While every business is unique and the plans made particular to each situation, they will all need to be communicated consistently, empathetically and to all audiences.


The top 10 elements of a business change and restructuring communications plan

There are 10 essential elements you need to consider and prepare when planning the communications strategy for any business change or restructuring programme.

1. Establish your narrative and stick to it: Ensure that you have an agreed and articulated core narrative and consistent messaging about the business decisions and the reasons for it. And strictly stick to it across all audiences and communication pieces to avoid confusion.

2. Scenario plan: Map out all possible scenarios that you are considering ahead of the announcement and make sure you have communications plans for each scenario.

3. Map your stakeholders: Map and categorise all the people and organisations you need to be considering for engagement, working out who needs to be told what and when. This could include unions, employee groups, regulators, sector bodies, suppliers and more.

4. Pre-prepare your media: Develop a media strategy and press statements. This includes developing an escalation process and reactive messaging in case of any leaks.

5. Make a timeline and stick to it: Once a strategy has been decided upon, put together a comprehensive timeline and task planning matrix to cover all aspects of the announcement.

6. Prepare content and templates: Develop a suite of communication materials in support of your announcement: emails, letters, FAQs, social media posts, videos, etc.

7. Script your presentations, meetings and interviews: Write scripts and talking points for senior leaders who are fronting face-to-face communications and meetings.

8. Establish a press office: Ensure that you have 24/7 press office support in place for the announcement and the media and stakeholder interest that will follow.

9. Keep communicating with your stakeholders: Prepare a post-announcement outreach and meeting programme with regulators, government, industry bodies and other key stakeholders as necessary.

10. Don’t forget your internal comms: Ensure that there is a programme in place for ongoing employee engagement and communications with those both affected and unaffected by the changes.

Communicating around restructuring, or any business change process, is all about preparation – use these top 10 tips as a guide and do your preparation before making your announcements to give yourself the best chance of successfully getting your message across and defending your reputation.



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