2Day FM Chairman’s Crisis Communications Fail

[Editor's note: Thank you to our friend and colleague, Issue Outcomes' Tony Jaques for bringing this story that's burning up the headlines overseas to our attention.]

“Shit happens” should not be in your vocabulary when it comes to crisis communication

The chairman of a large firm should, in theory, be well-versed in crisis communications, and thus highly aware of the need to choose words wisely when discussing a controversial incident. Of course, should is the operative word here.

When Max Moore-Wilton, chairman of the parent firm which owns 2Day FM, the Australian radio station whose prank on a hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was staying led to the suicide of a nurse late last year, was asked about the situation at a shareholder meeting, his response included the words, “shit happens.”

The Independent’s Heather Saul has more details:

According to CNN, the shareholder asked: “Just in relation to Eddie and King Kong, Kyle and obviously the UK incident, do we have a cultural problem?”

Mr Moore-Wilson replied: “I think it’s fair to say that those incidents were very unfortunate, there is no doubt about that.

“In each particular case we thoroughly investigated them and it comes generally within the context of some of these incidents where a whole series of events come together and in the immortal words of somebody who I forget, s*** happens.”

Our question to Mr. Moore-Wilson is, are there not a million more considerate and far less abrasive ways to say the very same thing? It’s not like this is a question out of left field, an experienced chairman is certainly aware that shareholders will want to know what the story is regarding recent crises, and Moore-Wilson should have been beyond prepared to answer in the proper manner.

The media, especially overseas, immediately seized on the story, with most clamoring for Moore-Wilson to apologize. What did this silver-tongued fellow do next? Issue a heartfelt apology? Oh no, nothing of the sort. Here’s a quote, from the same Independent article:

Mr Moore-Wilson reportedly told the Australian Associated Press yesterday: “I’m not here to be censored for my use of a word which is common in everyday parlance in Australia. If you don’t like it, or the media don’t like it, well that’s fine.”

“Well that’s fine.” Well, Mr. Moore-Wilson are advertisers dropping your station, or listeners boycotting because of your immature and downright foolish attitude, fine too? Because that’s what’s going to happen if you continue acting like the wrong end of a horse.

The BCM Blogging Team
http://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com

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