Murdoch Looks to PR Pros for Crisis Management

Rupert Murdoch has turned to a team of PR advisors to help control the damage of News Corp’s phone-hacking scandal.

The PR dream-team includes Alex Bigg and James Lundie from Edelmann, the world’s biggest PR firm, and Steven Rubenstein from Rubenstein Public Relations, a fixture in New York communications. Joel Klein, once the head of the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust unit and Matthew Anderson, head of News Corp’s strategic affairs, led the in-house team.

Recap of the scandal

In July of 2011, News Corp closed down the News of the World newspaper in Britain due to allegations of phone hacking. The allegations include trying to access former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s voice mail, and obtain information from his bank accounts, family’s medical records, and private legal files. Other allegations include the exploitation, with intent to gain access to or use private information, of a list of 4,332 names or partial names, 2,987 mobile phone numbers, 30 audio tapes of varying length and 91 voicemail PIN codes. The names are said to include those of British victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, family members of victims of the “7/7” bombings on London’s transit system, family members of British troops killed overseas, Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old missing British girl who was later found dead, actor Hugh Grant and a lawyer representing the family of Princess Diana’s lover at the inquest into her death. Click here for a complete review of the scandal.

Suggestions to manage the crisis

The group of advisors suggested that Murdoch:

  • Meet and apologize to the parents of Milly Dowler, the murdered schoolgirl, whose phone was hacked by News of the World.
  •  Prepare an apology to readers (which ran in all national British newspapers over the weekend).
  • Accept the resignation of Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton.

Recovery in America

News Corp hired Sard Verbinnen and The Glover Park Group to assist in public and government relations. Rubenstein will also play a key role in the U.S.

Positives working in his favor

Murdoch’s son, James Murdoch, carried himself well during the hearing by British lawmakers, which relieved some of the pressure over his future. The senior Murdoch also improved after the first hour of the hearing, slipping in his soundbite quote and offering forceful answers on the role and responsibility of his papers in British society.

An unexpected positive occurred when Murdoch’s wife had to fight off a protestor trying to attack Murdoch with a plate of white foam. The action became a leading headline and served the cause of humanizing the media leader.

Click here for more information about the PR powers Murdoch has brought to the table.  

Crisis management: Predictions?

Murdoch obviously misjudged public outrage over his actions. Do you think it’s possible he or his team will make another mistake? What are your predictions for Murdoch and News Corp.?

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