It’s not ‘news’ that the newspaper industry has been facing a very difficult time lately, the competition, first from 24 hour TV-news channels and then obviously from the internet has squeezed the profit and margins from all of the traditional papers and this week sees one of the biggest newspaper publishers starting to charge for content online.
Johnston Press websites, according to the BBC, will be asking users to either pay £5 for a three-month subscription (allowing them to read full articles), or direct them to buy the newspapers. This is apparently a trial but it seems to be an idea that is likely to stick. We have heard a number of organisations talking-up this idea lately (and there are obviously a number of sites which already require log-ins and subscriptions for you to access full articles). Recently Rupert Murdoch made it clear he was unhappy about ‘his’ news being available for nothing online – interviewed on Sky News, he “suggested the company’s online newspaper pages will be invisible to Google users when it launches its new paid content strategy”. He went on to say “There’s not enough advertising in the world to make all the websites profitable. We’d rather have fewer people coming to our websites but paying…There are no news websites or blog websites anywhere in the world making any serious money, some may be breaking even or making a couple of million.” And with titles like The Sun, The Times and The News of The World in his stable, Murdoch’s attitude to the online news industry has to be taken pretty seriously.
So is it fair that we should have to pay for news content online? The answer is probably yes, we have to pay for a newspaper and we have to fund BBC News 24 by buying a TV licence and so why should we get the news online for free? Advertising can certainly help to reduce the cost to the consumer but if Murdoch’s above quote is to be believed, the news organisations don’t make much money out of that revenue stream anyway.
The internet has provided us with a huge range of information and of course sites like wikipedia are free to access (although they are currently very keen to attract donations to keep the site going) but it does seem there is a shift now, towards clawing back some of these free services and making sure that we, as consumers of internet information, are required to pay in some form. Having said that we have also heard recently that YouTube are due to increase the amount of ‘official’ as opposed to user generated content they have on their site (although we do now get quite annoying pop-ups on YouTube videos, convincing us to click through to purchase something or other), so the days of getting something for nothing are far from over. The success of Google and their advertising business would also suggest that there’s still plenty of budget around to spend on pay per click ads and so Google for one will want to ensure there’s some accessible content on the other side of that click.
What’s our advice? Make the most of the free service while you can, once Murdoch changes the rules, others are sure to race to follow in his footsteps – we’ll be sure to give you all plenty of warning if we decide to start charging people to read our blog!
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.com – November 2009.
The news today tells us that Procter & Gamble is recalling 120,000 bottles of Vicks Sinex nasal spray after small traces of bacteria were found in the product. This follows soon after the story that Maclaren umbrella strollers were recalled in the US. This story was widely picked up in the UK even though no such product recall was made here. The reason for the coverage here is not only because of the serious nature of the problem (the UK company issued a voluntary recall on one million strollers in the US and offered free repair kits because the product was being blamed for fingertip amputations) but also because, understandably, parents in the UK were probably expecting to get further information, if not a product recall of their strollers. No such recall was made in this country nor anywhere else in the World and as a result the company was inundated with requests for information or with parents asking whether their stroller was also unsafe (many of these requests came via Twitter which is rapidly proving to be a serious platform for making your discontent and or just a mouth piece for the public).
Maclaren seemed to be a little unready for the onslaught from their customers and the wider public, but in their defence Farzad Rastegar, CEO of Maclaren USA, did pledge to supply the necessary repair kits to customers based anywhere across the globe (for more information; an analysis, along with some very well informed blog comments can be found on this site, which also tells us that Maclaren have used YouTube to post safety-style videos – a savvy move: http://tiny.cc/ZgCxb).
In this day and age, with information able to pass around the globe from ‘citizen journalists’ in seconds, companies clearly have to move quickly to protect their brands. There are many examples and case studies (including many used in our own media training and crisis training courses) which illustrate how organisations have handled crises, ranging from oil spills to product recalls, badly. There are also a few examples of how companies have handled these situations well, or at least minimised the potential damage to their brand e.g. Johnson & Johnson’s 1982 recall of Tylenol, which is still held up as a very well handled crisis. So what are the lessons learnt from the case studies? Much of what we learn may seem like commonsense with the benefit of hindsight but it’s surprising how often commonsense does not prevail when companies start seeing sales fall or share-prices tumbling, so here are our top ten tips:
- Act fast – this is where crisis planning and preparation helps, don’t delay in moving to solve the crisis.
- Gather as much information as you can – you may not have all the facts from the start but make sure you can find them out as soon as possible.
- Be honest – tell the truth, if you don’t, people will find it out sooner or later.
- Show your regret – this is especially important where health risks (for people or the environment) are involved.
- Tell the press – if you ignore the press they will not be very forgiving, if you speak to them early on, you can set your ‘stall’ out and put forward your story first.
- Tell your wider stakeholders – the press will do their job, but don’t assume everyone will be able to get the information they need from the media.
- Keep the public updated as often as you can – just putting out the initial release is not good enough, people will want you to keep them informed about changes and developments.
- Explain what you are doing to resolve the situation – people want to know what ‘real’ action you are taking to fix the issue.
- Don’t be miserly – now is not the time to penny-pinch, whether it’s a media campaign or customer compensation, ensure you make an appropriate budget available.
- Keep the dialogue going – even once the crisis has been resolved, make sure you continue to communicate with your stakeholders and PLEASE don’t pretend the incident never happened.
You would be forgiven for thinking our top tips seem to focus on the communications element, but there’s a good reason for that – properly carried out this can save your reputation.
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.com – November 2009
It will probably work its way into plenty of media training courses (possibly even our own!) and case studies on ‘how not to carry out your PR’, but this week Tele2 has been forced to apologise and pay an unknown amount in expenses after their publicity stunt back-fired.
Reports, in the evening, of the 25th of October, stated that an object had crashed, in Latvia, near the Estonian border, causing a 27-foot-wide, 9-foot-deep crater. News organisations immediately (the first sign something was up) got hold of supposed ‘bystander’ mobile phone footage of the smouldering ‘meteor’ at the bottom of a crater (watch it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BD5MUSBOBK0). Experts and emergency services, including police, military and rescue workers rushed to the scene to investigate the space invader-object, to take radiation samples and ensure the safety of the local population. However, when they arrived on the site it became clear to authorities that the meteor strike was a fake; one of those present, Girts Stinkulis, a geologist at the University of Latvia, said, “It’s artificial, dug by shovel,”. So the question was; who had carried out the prank and why?
In wasn’t until the 27th, a few days later, that the Swedish owned telecommunications company Tele2, admitted they were behind the hoax. At the phone company’s HQ in Stockholm, Tele2’s Pernilla Oldmark said the hoax was “part of a marketing campaign that will start shortly”. Vita Sirica, of the company’s Latvian branch said the hoax was co-ordinated with a PR firm “to draw attention away from Latvia’s economic crisis and toward something else more interesting”. A valiant attempt to cheer people up you might say but that’s not what the government said; “the Interior Ministry doesn’t want to do business with a firm that promotes itself at our expense,” Interior Minister Linda Murniece was quoted as saying. The Latvian government, who are fighting a deep recession, quickly announced that they were cutting their contract with Tele2. This was, presumably, not the result that the phone company or their PR advisers were hoping for, and they are now promising to reimburse the Latvians for any expenses they incurred during the government operation.
As publicity stunts go this one certainly had some of the right ingredients, it had a wow factor and did get Tele2 plenty of coverage, but this publicity stunt did backfire, mainly because there seems to be no concern for the involvement of authorities or for the distress of the local population who were warned of a danger from radiation. Furthermore, some PR experts are asking how a meteor strike even reflects the work, products or services that Tele2 carry out – what doesn’t help is that the company have yet to explain what they were actually trying to achieve or illustrate with the stunt.
This is, of course, not the first PR stunt we’ve seen, that very quickly proved to be a bad idea, but you do have to admit that this one, which was broadcast on news channels all over the World, was a stand out example of bad timing and poor judgement.
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – November 2009