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商业 - 传媒与文化

新闻集团应对不当,窃听丑闻后患无穷

Shelley DuBois 2011年07月15日

为应对窃听丑闻,鲁伯特•默多克的新闻集团将《世界新闻报》停刊。新闻集团在危机中做出的这一本能反应及其它一些问题将始终困扰这个传媒帝国。

    危机当头,大部分人首先想到的要么是抵抗,要么是逃跑。在肉搏战中,这两条路都行得通;但是在企业危机中,这样做通常只会招致麻烦。

    事实就是如此,鲁伯特•默多克的新闻集团(News Corps.)正深陷危机之中。最近受电话窃听丑闻困扰的《世界新闻报》(News of the World)被停刊,但是丑闻却愈演愈烈。企业危机管理公司莱斯康传播集团(Lexicon Communications Group)总裁兼CEO史蒂文•芬可表示,鲁伯特•默多克在混乱中做出的一些决定看起来只是本能的反应。

    7月10日,《世界新闻报》出版了最后一期之后便停刊了。此前,新闻集团打算收购英国天空广播公司(BSkyB)剩余的股份,默多克目前正努力挽救这场被迫延迟的交易。但是,由于电话窃听丑闻,收购事宜将面临新的监管审批。

    默多克和他的儿子詹姆斯已将身处暴风中心的丽贝卡•布鲁克斯作为优先保护的对象。在窃听丑闻发生时,丽贝卡•布鲁克斯是《世界新闻报》的编辑,现在担任新闻集团英国分支机构新闻国际公司(News International)的首席执行官。

    这一做法有些奇怪,芬克说:“凭感觉,这样做不对。主动跳出来保护深陷丑闻的人显然不妥。”

    默多克迅速做出决定,关闭了拥有168年历史的《世界新闻报》,这也是一个奇怪的举措。因为在丑闻发生之前,《世界新闻报》运转良好,每周的发行量达到260万份,而且处于盈利状态。芬克表示:“ 他们应该消除丑闻造成的影响,并招贤纳士,促使其重新步入正轨,而不是将其停刊。”

    仓促停刊可能无法解决新闻集团想要解决的问题。芬克说:“他们试图将罪证和受害者一并埋葬,但这并不是处理危机的稳妥做法。”

    公关公司爱德曼(Edelman)的总监哈伦•罗卜表示,高管在面临危机时,通常会快速地做出反应。得益于做出有效决断的能力,有能力的员工在日常工作中面临危机时也能镇定自若。但是,应对危机则需要不同的技巧组合。罗卜表示,在某些极端情况下,凭直觉做事只会把人引入歧途。

    罗卜表示,我并不是说《世界新闻报》停刊就一定是个错误的决定,但是极端的行为会引发人们思考:“这个决定能解决什么问题?这个决定对新闻集团有什么好处?”如果这些问题能得到很好的解答,那么这个决定最终就是合理的。

    另一方面,极端的行为可能会在情感上博得同情分,特别是在危机时刻。罗卜说:“我想说的是,在危机时,如果人们感情用事或是凭直觉行事,基本上都会以失败告终。”

    芬克表示,这种情况经常出现。1984年,美国联合碳化物公司(Union Carbide)位于印度博帕尔市的工厂发生毒气泄露事件,时任CEO瓦伦•安德森立即跳上飞机赶赴印度。然而,飞机刚刚着陆,警方就逮捕了他,宣布他无力管理公司的危机。

    此外,美国前国会议员安东尼•韦纳近期的丑闻也是一个很好的例子。他一心掩盖自己在社交网站Tweet上的不雅行为,最终却断送了自己的前途,这一错误的决定比任何“艳照门”事件本身更为严重。

    个人或公司应对危机的最佳方法是迅速查明问题,控制社会舆论。比如,美国西南航空公司(Southwest)的波音737飞机的机身断裂问题。波音公司将其定性为制造工艺问题,“仅仅两天之后就没有人再说起这件事了,”罗卜说。

    如果公司无法确定问题的根源,事情的紧张感和神秘感就始终无法消除,从而引发媒体持续的关注。

    芬克称,面临危机时,过早做出的错误决定往往后患无穷,因为公司的领导者在为这些错误决定作辩护时,往往被迫处于一种难堪的处境。“《世界新闻报》停刊原本旨在表明,‘问题已经解决了,我们继续前进吧’。但是现在的问题是:问题真的解决了吗?”

    翻译:乔树静

    When it comes to crises, most of us are hard-wired to either fight or flee. This is useful during, say, hand-to-hand combat, but it often spells trouble during a corporate crisis.

    Make no mistake about it, Rupert Murdoch's News Corps. (NWSA) is in crisis. And the phone-hacking scandal surrounding the recently-shuttered News of the World grows more complicated by the minute. Some of the decisions Rupert Murdoch has made in the melee look like knee-jerk reactions, says Steven Fink, president and CEO of crisis management firm Lexicon Communications Corp.

    Murdoch closed the British tabloid, which printed its final issue on July 10, and is now in the UK trying to salvage a delayed deal to take over the remainder of British broadcasting company BSkyB, which is facing new scrutiny in light of the scandal.

    Murdoch and his son James have prioritized protecting Rebekah Brooks, editor of News of the World at the time of the hacks and currently the chief executive of News International, News Corp.'s UK arm.

    It's a strange move, Fink says: "It just doesn't smell right. You don't rush out to defend somebody like that who is so close to the fire."

    The quick decision to close the 168-year-old tabloid was another curious move. News of the World was doing well. It had a weekly circulation of about 2.6 million and it was profitable. Instead of shedding it, Fink says, "They should have purged the miscreants from the News of the World and brought in a credible and respectable team of journalists to right the ship."

    Shuttering the paper abruptly might not rid the company of the problems it's trying to solve. "They're trying to bury the body along with the smoking gun, and you just don't do that if you're managing a crisis properly," Fink says.

    Executives often respond to crises with quick action, says Harlan Loeb, a director at public relations firm Edelman. Powerful employees often get to where they are largely because of their ability to make solid decisions while under the gun during day-to-day business. But crises require a different skill set. In extreme circumstances, he says, following your gut can actually lead you down the wrong path.

    Not that dropping News of the World is necessarily the wrong move, Loeb says, but dramatic actions stir up questions such as, "What did that decision solve? And how is the company better because of it?" If there are good answers, the decision will ultimately be justified.

    On the other hand, dramatic action can be emotionally satisfying, especially in a time of crisis. "I will tell you this," Loeb says, "if you rely on emotion and instinct in the face of crisis, you will almost always get it wrong."

    This happens often, says Fink. In 1984, then-CEO of Union Carbide Warren Anderson immediately hopped on a plane to India after a poison gas leak at one of the company's plants in Bhopal. He was arrested upon landing, and rendered far less capable of managing the company's crisis.

    Former U.S. congressman Anthony Weiner's recent scandal is another example of the same pitfall. Weiner's decision to cover up his inappropriate tweeting habit ultimately buried him, much more than any crotch-shot ever could.

    The best response a person or a company in crisis can take is to quickly pinpoint the problem and then control the conversation about it. Take the recent issue with some of Boeing's (BA) 737 jets, flown by Southwest (LUV), that suffered tears. Boeing traced the issue to a specific manufacturing incident, and "two days later, no one was talking about it," Loeb says.

    Companies that can't locate the problem maintain tension and mystery in the story, which keeps it alive in the media.

    A bad decision made early in a time of crisis lives on, says Fink, because a leader is often put in the unenviable position of defending it. "The decision to shutter News of the World was designed to say, 'We've solved to the problem, let's move on.' But the question is: have they solved the problem?"

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