Lessons you can learn from this clunky crisis media management statement

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The lessons you can learn from this clunky crisis statement

Imagine you run a leading ticket resale website.

Then envisage that ahead of the biggest match of the season, stories begin to emerge that tickets bought through your site don’t actually exist.

Well, that was the potentially damaging situation faced by sites such as StubHub and Viagogo with fans travelling to Madrid expecting to attend Saturday’s Champions League final.

Clearly, this was a delicate situation which needed to be skilfully managed.

 

Hundreds of fans who bought Champions League tickets on StubHub and Viagogo told they do not exist The Times

Fans devastated as tickets are cancelled hours before Champions League Final Metro

 

So, it is perhaps surprising that StubHub responded with one of the clunkiest media statements we have seen.

It’s three paragraph response ended with this: “While StubHub undertakes vigorous checks on all sellers using its platform, we will, as part of our ongoing operational cadence, review the situation in more detail once the event has been finalised but right now our priority is to address the needs of fans who have purchased tickets for this weekend’s match.

That quote has been put in the name of Miguel Giribet Giral, the company’s vice president, but it feels manufactured and not like something he, or any human, would say.

There are too many words jammed in there and there is unnecessarily complex language, with ‘operational cadence’ being the biggest offender.

But it is also robotic and impersonal. You would perhaps expect leaders to use ‘we’ or ‘I’ instead of the company name and show personal involvement in ensuring something similar does not happen again in the future.

This part of the statement should read something like:

“Right now our priority is to help those fans who bought tickets for the Champions League Final.

“But I will ensure that after that match we review our operations and look to improve on the vigorous checks we already carry out on sellers using our platform.”

Suddenly we have a statement which is easy to understand, doesn’t look like it has been put together by a committee and shows both the action and reassurance needed in this type of situation, without falling into the trap of over promising.

It is also worth pointing out that in the other parts of the statement there was no apology to those left wondering if they really did have a ticket for the match, which was really the first thing the company should have said.

 

Here are our top tips for writing an effective crisis media management response.

 

Respond quickly – The best way to influence a story is to provide a response before anything has been published. If customers are reading something along the lines of ‘…(company name) did not immediately respond to our requests for a response’, then the situation has already become much harder to manage. This is why holding statements are so important.

 

Strive for plain language – An effective crisis response or reaction to a negative story is one which is easy to understand. Wordiness together with industry and legal jargon must be avoided. If the statement is in the name of a CEO or another senior leader it needs to sound like it has been put together by a human and not a robot.

 

Apologise first – The apology should really be the first thing said in a statement in response to an incident like the one we have highlighted in this blog. It shows that customers are utmost in their thoughts, that they understand the severity of what has happened and the impact it has had. Starting a statement with a CEO saying “I’m sorry” is particularly impactful.

 

Empathy – Organisations need to show customers, and potential future customers, that they understand the severity of what has happened and the impact it has had. Phrases like ‘we understand’ and ‘we appreciate’ are useful here, but speak from the heart. Don’t become a cliché.

 

Action – Show how you intend to make things better or ensure that the same thing does not happen again. But take care not to say anything which could prove difficult to live up to or make you a hostage to fortune.

 

Reassurance - This is closely linked to the ‘action’ part of an apology. People want to feel reassured that what has happened is a one off and can’t be repeated. In some situations, you may be able to refer to safety protocols you have in place or a previously good record.

 

Don’t get defensive Defensive statements can ruin credibility. In a crisis media management incident, people want brands to be seen to take responsibility and to be accountable. Vague statements which don’t really address what has happened can also make an organisation sound defensive.

 

Add something different – Quoting a leader is a good way of showing some visible leadership during an incident. As well as sounding genuine that quote should add something to the story and not repeat what has already been said.

 

 

Find out more about preparing for a crisis by downloading our free crisis media management eBook. It includes a guide to helping you identify the right spokesperson, messaging templates and a risk register to help you identify your organisation’s vulnerabilities. And speak to one of our account managers about our crisis plan testing days which put delegates through realistic and challenging scenarios.

 

Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

Click here to find out more about our practical crisis communication training.

 

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