The story of former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher has dominated the headlines and social media over the last few days. We’ve discussed it several times in our Media Training courses recently, exploring why it’s a media story and looking at how badly the government has handled the issue.
We’re delivering more and more crisis communications training courses and issue management workshops as organisations of all types from all sectors and their PR companies. In-house comms teams become aware of the increased risks they face. With the advent of social media, a vocal and vociferous public and greater scrutiny by regulators, you can see how those risks are more significant now than ever.
Chris Pincher Allegations
We usually start our Media Training courses by looking at what interests journalists as we explore the raw ingredients of a media story. The Chris Pincher affair has so many of these elements. First, it’s very human. Politics can sometimes seem dry and dull, especially when focusing on issues, statistics, and policy detail. However, politicians are human beings, and so are we, the voters. That means that anything that ticks the “human” box, especially about human feelings, is excellent for the media.
There’s also a powerful element of trouble and scandal here – two other great ingredients for media stories. We want to add another aspect. If you look at any issues that make the headlines, explode on social media and will have the phone lines to call-in programs buzzing, it’s an issue based on fairness. It might be billionaires not paying their fair share of tax or immigrants cheating on the immigration and asylum rules, depending on your political persuasion. Either way, if somebody is seen acting in an unfair or immoral way, it will always resonate with the public. Allegations of sexual impropriety and dishonesty by politicians press this button massively.
10 Downing Street
We’ve also discussed recently in our Media Training and crisis communications training workshops how Number 10 has handled this issue. As we mentioned to a group yesterday, it’s interesting to look at the mistakes that have been made here.
The first and most apparent is that Number 10 has changed its story. As we say in our crisis Communications Training courses, you need to set up your stall and deliver your key message as soon as the issue goes live and ensure that you stick to that message. You cannot change your line unless the situation has changed because of events beyond your control or facts have come to light that you could not possibly have known about when you first issued a statement.
Another essential element of any crisis is care or concern. If you’ve made a mistake, if somebody has suffered or even died due to the situation, you must express some concern. You don’t have to apologise, but to sound human and credible, you must, at least, sympathise.
Even in this case, which seems to be about politics, responsibilities and job descriptions, there has been some human suffering. There have been interviews – as you would expect – with men who claim to have been the victims of Chris Pincher’s unwanted attentions. An element of concern for those who have been upset and offended wouldn’t go a miss in this situation.
Media Training In London
We also advise people attending our Crisis Communications training courses to release all the facts immediately. This often goes against the grain as organisations don’t want to make public something that could be difficult for them. Still, given that it will undoubtedly emerge eventually, we point out that the organisation concerned should release the information quickly. This also helps to make it look open, honest and proactive.
Being transparent and responding quickly and truthfully to media enquiries also helps position any organisation as the single source of truth. In other words, journalists will go to it for information rather than constantly looking around for other commentators and “experts” to provide insight and fill up broadcast time and column inches. As we’ve seen in the Chris Pincher case, plenty of people have been willing to perform this function, making it even more difficult for Number 10 to maintain control of the story.
Boris Johnson Resignation
By the time you read this blog, Boris Johnson’s fate might well be sealed or “the greased piglet,” as David Cameron famously called him, might have escaped and lived to fight another day. We don’t know. As experts in Media Training and Crisis Communications training, one thing we do know is that this case provides a perfect example of how not to handle a crisis.
London Media Training
At Communicate Media, the person you speak to about your Media Training course is the person who delivers it.
Get in touch today for more about how we can help to prevent any crisis communications disasters as the government have had recently.