Cameron’s Need for Good Crisis Management

This mornings, headline story from the Daily Mail, (Monday 21 September) which alleges a bizarre and distasteful incident involving the British Prime Minister David Cameron, during his university days at Oxford, illustrates how quickly ones good reputation can be ridiculed and tarnished online. Within hours of the story breaking, it had dominated social media, trended on twitter and is still making the headlines of online news forums.

It’s far too early to even speculate what long term damage such allegations will have on Mr Cameron’s political career, if any, but one thing is for sure- it aptly demonstrates the necessity for good ‘Crisis Management’ at such perilous reputational times.

Crisis Management

The term itself is used to describe the processes and procedures devised to mitigate against potential or actual reputational damage caused by a crisis situation or event that is subsequently reported in the media or online.

Such strategic know-how and tactics are deployed quite frequently for organisations, who might face crisis situations and risk irreparable damage to their brand, products or stakeholder’s loyalty and confidence. However, as is evident from the ongoing allegations about Mr Cameron, such reputational crisis can also affect an individual’s brand, no matter how well known or powerful they may be.  The great quote from Billionaire investor Warren Buffett encapsulates the dangers-

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

What makes a good Crisis Management plan?

Downing Street’s initial statement said they “do not recognise” the allegations, made by Lord Ashcroft, in his unauthorised biography of the Prime Minister. This response alone was not strong enough and was later followed up by a separate statement from the Conservative Party vehemently denying the allegations and discrediting the author’s motives.  One would expect much more crafted and measured responses over the coming days, but the question remains, what makes a good Crisis Management plan?

Every situation or incident varies greatly, but I’ve listed below some common fundamental procedures, which need to be acted upon immediately following a crisis, whether they be devised strategically for an organisation or private individual.

  1. Verify the nature of the crisis situation– establish what has happened and where it has happened, this will enable the gathering of information to determine ones strategy and position in response to the crisis.
  1. Prepare an initial statement and develop key messages– these should be consistent and outline if possible, the position being adopted in response to the crisis. Furthermore, a ‘holding statement’ may need to be issued first to the media if required, to bide valuable time for a more definite and reasoned response.
  1. Coordination between communications and legal– depending on the nature of the crisis, some communications may need to be curtailed due to legal constraints. For example a legal matter before the courts, may preclude certain sensitive information being released to the media as to avoid prejudice to that case.
  1. Appointing a spokesperson – those appointed as spokesperson/s on behalf of the organisation or individual, should be media-trained and well briefed on the crisis situation, while being duly competent and confident answering difficult questions. A good spokesperson can therefore, add real value in providing clarity to the press, while in turn helping to restore some reputational credibility.

J.O.S Solicitors is one of the only law firms in Ireland, providing dedicated Public Affairs services for our Corporate and Industry clients. Crisis Management and Reputational Protection is a cornerstone of that offering.  We also provide bespoke legal advices and representation in the area of Defamation.

If you would like J.O.S Solicitors to assist or advise your business about any area of Public Affairs and Crisis Management, or Defamation then please contact us.


 This publication is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional public affairs advice. No liability is accepted by J.O.S Solicitors for any action taken or not taken in reliance on the information set out in this publication. Any and all information is subject to change and professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication.

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