Hacking Scandal: A Study in Lack of Crisis Preparedness?

The scandal swirling around the British tabloid publication, The News of the World, has been brewing for sometime regarding reporters & company-hired investigators hacking into the mobile phone voice-mails of celebrities, royals, politicians, and other deemed news-worthy people.

And this past week, the bottom fell out regarding the scope of the scandal causing the media mogul, Rupert Murdock, to shutdown the publication, which by the way was a very profitable venture. Reports are saying up to 4,000 mobile phones hacked and that members of law enforcement were bribed. Former editors and reporters have been arrested. There is outrage among the British public with many calling for boycotting other News Corporation publications as well as British Sky Broadcasting that Murdock has about 30% interest in. Both father and son have been summoned to stand before a British parliamentary panel looking into this hacking matter. The same calls of boycott and need of investigations have crossed the pond to the U.S.

This is a fast moving story with the sinkhole getting larger with every passing day. It is a direct assault on Murdock’s media empire. Murdock has retained Edelman handle crisis communications. Edelman does not have an easy road ahead of them.

What has struck me is how ill prepared News Corporation was for a crisis. I guess I shouldn’t be with recent research on crisis preparedness from Burson Harsteller and Penn Schoen Berland stating that 46% of businesses don’t have a crisis management plan and many have the mentality that a plan will rarely be needed.

We can all speculate how many hairpin curves are ahead for the Edelman team assigned to this; however, I’ll try not to. I don’t have access to the full situation and are basing my views on what I’ve gathered from BBC News, New York Times, Washington Post and other news sources.

But shouldn’t like something like this been in their threat matrix? Always think worse case scenario as well as the most far-fetched.

Were they part of the 46% not having a crisis plan or the percentage that had the mentality they wouldn’t need a plan? Head in the sand mentality rarely ends well with often destroyed reputation and lost revenue.

Take away from this is regardless of the size of company, every organization should have a working crisis communications plan. It could save your business.

  • Anonymouscoward

    A crisis plan for an illegal act!?  You’re hilarious.

    • http://www.ann-sense.com/ Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR

      Having a situation like this in a threat matrix within a crisis plan, could perhaps have prevented the illegal acts in the first place by having public relations professionals at the corporate table being their organizations’s conscience. 

      That said, it seems that News Corporation has an institutionalized culture of unethical or “get the story at all costs” practices going back well before this. And even the best crisis plan execution, won’t be able to “fix” their reputation. It much too late for that now.