Fly on the wall TV, sometimes known as ‘obs docs’ (observational documentaries), are familiar fodder for prime time television. They have bred their own genre of satire, such as W1A and anti-heroes like Malcolm Tucker. But there remains some uncharted territory, and done right this obs doc would be a real eye opener. Inside a Crisis – The Comms Insider – impossible to make, impossible to get legal to sign off and impossible to resist for fly on the wall fans.
I never knew, during my days as a BBC Watchdog TV producer, how my call to a press officer triggered a chain reaction, leading all the way to the polished desks of corporate HQ. At best I imagined said press officer pottering off to do some fact checking before calling me back with a statement (or on occasions a spokesperson), after going via the café for a skinny flat white.
In reality the “Watchdog” call sounds the alarm, setting in motion a crisis response, which demands the time and energy of many of the most senior people and the budget to match. Late night conference calls, hourly updates and internal fact checking, all the while trying to maintain the day job.
And it is absolutely right that this is the case. Anything with the potential to damage business reputation should be prioritised. And with some focused advance preparation, you can mitigate the potential damage, by involving the right people and avoiding unnecessary loss of resource from across the business.
Crisis preparation means equipping your business to respond in an informed and effective way. If a crisis hits, step one is to assess what information you have and what you need to know. From there, step two means communicating in a clear and consistent way, with all those you need to speak to. There will always be questions – so step 3 – is to continue asking yourself the who / what / when / where / why and how and get the communications updated. This kind of scrutiny matters for the immediate issue and in the post event analysis.
Crisis preparation charts the course your business can follow in challenging times, by setting out the logistics and practicalities through to drafted statements. It puts you straight in the starting blocks if an issue develops, rather than on the benches with the game underway.
I may never get to make Inside a Crisis but I have a pretty good idea how our anti-hero could get the prep done to save the day.