Watching some of the re-runs of the BBC’s immortal WWII comedy series, Dad’s Army, reminds me of the character types we can encounter (or, worse still, become!) in PR crises.
See if you can recognise any of the following Home Guard types from your own crisis management experience:
The Panic Merchant – Lance Corporal Jones
When the captain made Jones, the local butcher, Lance Corporal, he said: “his experience will stand us in good steak, er… stead.” His most memorable catchphrase is: “Don’t panic, don’t panic.” But at the onset of calamity he loses the plot himself. He’s got the right idea, but he doesn’t quite exude the calming influence that he’s trying to promote.
The Smoothie – Sergeant Wilson
His laid back demeanor and impeccable manners may make him seem like a safe bet to put up for interview, but the media and the public may wonder if he’s a bit too relaxed about the whole affair. He perhaps doesn’t show enough concern or urgency about lessening the impact of the product recall on customers or the community affected by the chemical leak.
The Harbinger of Doom – Private Frazer
Meet the purveyor of doom and gloom, who always paints the worst case scenario. In crisis management it’s wise to anticipate what could go almost unthinkably wrong, but he crosses a line by practically willing disaster into reality. He’s definitely not the much-needed ray of hope in the team when chins are hitting the floor.
The Spiv – Private Walker
He’s the wartime black-marketeer who can lay his hands on anything from whisky to nylons. Ironically, he’s among the cleverest in the platoon and others turn to him for answers in tricky situations. He’s best kept well away from the media, though, as he will duck and dive to try and impress journalists and sell your business down the river.
The Born Leader – Captain Mainwaring
Here’s a great respecter of authority – mainly his own. He won’t admit he maybe got it wrong and is likely to put what he would call ‘those spotty faced reporters’ in their place if they ask ‘insolent questions’ – the ones that the PR pro warned him about in the first draft of the Q & A list.
The Ingénu – Private Pike
This guy is so wet behind the ears he needs to wear a swimming cap to keep the water from leaking out. When the investigation into the cause of the crisis begins, he may well be a prime suspect because of his famed carelessness. When a crisis recovery plan kicks in, he’ll probably treat it like a bit of a game.
In answering my opening question in the headline, I know that you can safely answer: ‘none of the following.’ All the characters are comic extremes, but maybe they hint at a few genuine tendencies to avoid in a crisis situation when the heat’s on.
What Dad’s Army type situations, if any, have you encountered in real-life crisis PR situations?
If you aren’t familiar with Dad’s Army, you can check out a few clips here – http://bbc.in/TB6YoJ