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Turning a negative into a positive…

November 2018Charlotte

But there are the times when you’re not able to dictate the schedule or the topic and what you’re facing is not necessarily positive!

Breaking difficult news such as price increases, service delivery issues and circumstances beyond your control can be daunting and there can be the temptation to delay going public and to keep under the radar.

But fast effective and open communication is key in getting ahead of the crisis or challenge and showing your customers that you’re in command of the situation, that you’re a business of solutions and not problems. Being open and honest actively demonstrates your integrity and builds trust in  your brand.

It’s about wherever possible turning a negative into a positive

Returning to work after the weekend staff at the Ace Centre in Oldham were faced with a devastating scene. Thieves had targeted the national charity which enables children and young adults with complex disabilities to communicate. Thousands of pounds worth of specialist computer technology and equipment had been stolen.   The staff were distraught.

  • Damage limitation…

The crime was outside their control but it had serious impact on their service delivery, real implications for their clients and potentially Ace Centre’s reputation.  At the heart of this incident were real human consequences and that was the true crime. People across the North West were being left without a voice.

The Charity needed to get some important messages out in the public domain…

  • The equipment stolen in the burglary which includes state of the art eye-gaze technology is highly specialised with little personal or commercial use to the public but is absolutely critical to the assessment work provided by the Ace Centre.
  • Staff had acted quickly to bring in replacement equipment and technology from outside sources and their Oxfordshire centre.
  • Some of the charity’s home, school and NHS assessment and replacement services had been affected with clients and families facing delays.

In communicating the theft, we concentrated on effectively and illustratively showing the real consequences of the thieves actions and how it had affected their service delivery. It’s what drives news agenda, it brings the story off the page, it moves the story on. It was honest.

  • Breaking it down…

The key action was to identifying the media outlets with the most pressing deadlines – rolling news bulletins and print copy deadlines.  We approached media with not only a detailed press release with quotes from the charity CEO. We also provided a full breakdown of the types of personal stories which could be featured;  facilitating access, preparing contributors, shaping the focus of the articles. It became more than a crime and immediate crisis – it was opening up a conversation about the challenges and consequences faced by people in their everyday lives and how the Ace Centre had been so instrumental in their lives.

It’s testament to the values and work of the charity that their clients and their families were so willing to let the press and media into their homes, to show first-hand the impact the crime would have in their lives. It’s also testament to the power of personal testimony.

The story ran online and in print in the Oldham Chronicle, the Oldham Times. It engaged a regional and national audience with coverage on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC North West tonight and BBC online.

See Sam’s story here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-merseyside-45919013/burglars-steal-disabled-boy-s-lifeline-technology-from-oldham-charity

The charity’s urgent call for help to retrieve the stolen equipment and raise awareness of their client’s circumstances has had real impact, engagement and has even driven donations to the charity.

  • Managing a crisis

This situation demonstrates that crisis PR isn’t about spin without substance – it’s about ensuring that your values, your expertise and your services are pushed to the fore.  For the Ace Centre it was about raising awareness of the vital work the charity undertakes on a daily basis and raising the story above the physical theft of expensive technology and hitting the implications head on.

Key things to remember when dealing with a crisis or ‘bad news’

  • If there’s a problem – apologise – don’t hide.
  • Fix the problem and show that you are.
  • Be open – be honest – be human.

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