JM | Sep 18, 2021

The importance of crisis management

Al Edwards

Al Edwards / Our Today


Do you remember,21st night of September?
Love was changing the minds of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away
Our hearts were ringing
In the key that our souls were singing
As we danced in the night
How the stars stole the night away,
Ba-dee-ya say, do you remember?
Ba-dee-ya, dancing in September
Ba-dee-ya, never was a cloudy day

Earth, Wind and Fire.

It has been an eventful month thus far with seemingly every few days bringing a new crisis to Jamaica

And we still have a third of September to go!
Rampant COVID infections, lack of oxygen, miscalculations by allowing freewheeling parties, lockdowns, lack of faith in both the government and vaccines, shortage of vaccines, storms-natural of course, a government minister having to fall on his sword, questions surrounding an investment house on a crest of a wave of success, children unable to return to school due to poor planning.

All these instances are characterized by ineffective crisis management and events being allowed to get out of hand and become overwhelming. No one is stepping up and heading off the threat.

In many cases the go to approach is to hire a PR firm, send out a press release and get on the phone in appeasement mode. It’s a good payday for communication consultants but inevitable, this method does not solve the crisis.

Irwin Stelzer’s book, “The Murdoch Method” draws attention to crisis management, building reputational capital and not squandering it.

Rupert Murdoch is the media titan of our times, and has entered the pantheon of the legends such as Beaverbrook, Rothermere, Hearst who transformed the media landscape in their lifetimes.

In his book, Stelzer notes how Murdoch takes personal responsibility and leads the line himself when a major crisis  arises with what Stelzer calls “The Murdoch Method.”

There are lessons that many in positions of power in Jamaica can learn from.

Stelzer writes: “To apply the Murdoch Method of crisis management one must: reputational capital;
2.take personal charge;
4. accept responsibility and blame;
5. Pay for one’s sins;
6. Convert crisis into opportunity

One has to be true to their word and take responsibility.

Rupert Murdoch once said: “ I don’t like to change a deal once I have agreed to it and left the room”.

Stelzer drives home the point that a large stock of reputational capital is the key to all else when it comes to managing a crisis.

“And Rupert Murdoch has a large balance in his reputational bank account as even his enemies and critics admit,” he writes in his book.

With the ongoing crises in Jamaica , it does no good laying the blame at the feet of the business sector, poor logistics management, party promotors, vaccination theorists et al. Who is in charge and looks to be in charge and does that person have credibility?

Someone has to step up and take responsibility for there can be no power without responsibility. Don’t look to pass the buck as they say.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness addressing a virtual press conference on Wednesday, September 1. (Photo: Donald De La Haye, Jamaica Information Service)

You must have what it takes to go into the lion’s den and take on all the tough questions, questions that require answers.

Stelzer continues: “But even a large supply of reputational capital is of little use unless its owner takes personal charge in a crisis – “accepts ownership” of the problem is the more commonly used expression these days – which is what Murdoch did when confronted with three crises, each of which threatened to bring down all he had built: a financial crisis that almost caused him to lose control of his companies; the hacking scandal in Britain; and the sexual harassment suits at Fox News Channel.

Former Agriculture and Fisheries minister Floyd Green speaking during a December 2020 post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House. (Photo: JIS)

“In such crises, anonymous or even well-known and highly regarded public relations spokespersons may be trotted out, lawyers consulted, but only the acknowledged man in charge  can successfully call the shots. In a crisis, the all-clear sign is never clearly marked, and its location changes often and with dizzying speed. What seems a solution in the morning is no longer available later in the day; escape hatches close, new ones must be found.

“ The best person for the job must not only be quick-witted; he must have an overwhelming incentive to solve the problem in a way that preserves the viability of the enterprise, which brought in “crisis-managers” often do not have; and he must see how every step along the way to a solution affects other parts of the enterprise.

Fayval Williams

Most important, Murdoch as crisis manager is known to have the power to have his companies honour any commitment he might make.

Also, from Rupert’s point of view, his personal management of a crisis puts him in an excellent position to decide who “gets thrown under the bus,” and who will be sacrificed to the gods of public opinion and the legal authorities should such a sacrifice be necessary.”


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