Fresh eyes

A man, a plan and a crisis

a man a plan a crisis
Paul Tustin Client Director PR & Comms Headshot

Written by Paul Tustin,
PR & Communications Director at Freshfield

So this is Labour’s ‘new generation’. Out of the chaos of the General Election, the Labour leadership race and then the Miliband brothers’ crisis, what next for Labour?

The last six months have brought a series of crises for the party, and how they plan, communicate and set their strategy for this next Parliament will be critical.

Looking back over the last period, you could ask what was their plan for the last election? Did they have one? Maybe they did but it just wasn’t very clear.

Politics aside, these crucial moments in any organisation need planning, and the plan needs communicating. We call it crisis management planning, but there is a well-known saying which sums it up, especially in this age of scrutiny and accountability – ‘Every man needs a plan’. Never more so for Ed Miliband and Labour.

Rather than keep their next steps to themselves behind closed doors, huddling together and being filmed walking in and out of crisis meetings, is it not better to become more transparent and accountable? The Labour Party members and the general public want to share and understand what they now stand for.

As with any other organisation, how their reputation emerges out of a crisis for the longer term is what will make or break them.

In these days of mass communication, multi-channel technology and mobile communications, the choices are almost too many and confusing. Why not use them all? Difficult if you have little to say, or are not sure what you want to say.

Better to step back, lay the plans and come out with clear conviction from the word go, using those channels that are most appropriate eg. Labour wouldn’t use Facebook to launch its new manifesto, would they? For Ed Miliband, the choice of using both traditional and new media will be challenging but by being pro-active he can become more positive rather than reacting to a series of events which have so far been largely out of his control.

We can look back at organisations that have risen from the ashes of crises such as British Nuclear Fuels, now Sellafield Ltd, who are helping to lead the nuclear renaissance, the Conservatives following their second landslide election defeat and Virgin after its aborted attempt to run the National Lottery. They all have one thing in common. They have learned the lessons, now plan for a crisis before it happens and they are stronger organisations for it.

Labour now needs a period to draft its plan, develop clear messages and communicate what it stands for with transparency and clarity. This will engender trust, and from trust it can grow support.

For many organisations in today’s modern business world, the temptation to look inwards, ignore the wider world and try to shun a crisis is too tempting. The results can be catastrophic.

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