Fresh eyes

Wikileaks drama shows need for effective crisis comms

Paul Tustin Client Director PR & Comms Headshot

Written by Paul Tustin,
PR & Communications Director at Freshfield

The blizzard of leaked information through Wikileaks brings into question the whole issue of crisis planning and protecting your reputation in an age of lightning fast online communications.

More than 90,000 documents, dated between 2004 and 2009, on the war in Afghanistan alone have been released in the Wikileaks deluge, as well as 400,000 secret US military logs on the war in Iraq, and thousands of US embassy cables. We still do not know whether all of this information is verified or not.

The site has also given access to the documents to three newspapers – the New York Times, Der Spiegel and the Guardian – ahead of public release. As the media rushes to publish the revelations, everyone is left asking who might be behind such huge leaks. The Pentagon has already launched an investigation but still Wikileaks refuses to name its sources.

Today, the information channels used online are rapid and worldwide by nature, particularly when an organisation comes out with allegations at such a level and in such depth. The consequences of being on the receiving end of any online allegations, whether founded or unfounded, can be hugely damaging.

But it’s not just governments and large organisations that have been placed in the crosshairs of these new channels. Huge advances in technology mean an individual can out-manouevre almost any group or organisation using a variety of online channels, including Facebook and twitter, blogging with claims about people, services and products that are difficult to continually counter unless the relevant expertise and resource is in place.

This is why a plan and strategy for dealing with such crises is so important.

At Freshfield, our crisis management team works with clients to ensure we have a clear agreed position in the event of any accusations or statements which may damage the reputation of the organisation.

There are some key questions we need to be able to answer. Do we have a dedicated crisis team, can we identify the crisis, who are the audiences, what resources do we have, are we prepared and are we up to date with the plan?

Not all crises or issues can be planned for, but they can be managed much easier if there is a structure in place which can deal with them, whether online or offline.

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