Oxfam, The Presidents Club, Barry Burnell and Weinstein are a just few of the massive scandals that have smashed into our lives. Time after time, our trust has been broken by the very people we look up to. As a result I believe scandal management is a whole new thing in the communications toolkit.
A crisis is a catastrophe, an emergency or a disaster. It is generally something that happens to an organisation. It disrupts and throws it out of kilter. Most major organisations have sophisticated crisis plans in place which roll into action once the scenario they have planned for takes place. Control, order and communications are key in managing these situations.
But what about a scandal? Scandals involve morals, ethics and cause outrage and anger. A scandals' tentacles reach deep into not just the organisation but into the emotion and lives of the general public. It's the trusted charity which is found to have abused the very people the public donated hard earned cash to save? Or a football club which proud and loving parents sent their children to only to find they were brutally abused. Or the boarding school where children were damaged by the very people their parents paid a fortune to in order to have them safeguarded?
Dr Jonathan Heaney a professor of sociology at Queens Belfast, argues that the reason these scandals are so powerful and wide reaching is that they act as a driver for the formation of national memory and identification.
Scandals differ from crises because of the often violent emotions they generate and because the emotion is generic and personal. Disgust, hatred, anger, fear, grief are all feelings which people experience on a daily basis. And all of these can now be expressed at the touch of a button through social media. And when high profile celebrities amplify these scandals through the mainstream media as they have with the #metoo and Oxfam campaign ensuing crushing tidal wave destroys everything in its path and a negative national/international memory is created.
What should happen now? Organisations need to prepare for scandals immediately. Scenarios for sexual harassment, pedophile exposure, criminal activity, pornographic and drug related revelations should now be standard on the scandal scenario planning list. Call in the experts at once, don't wait as if you do, it may be too late and the damage may be irreversible.
There have been far too many for this growing phenomenon of scandal management to be ignored,
"Seventy percent of people tell us that they can't distinguish between a real story and 'fake news,' and they also believe that media is somewhat politicized, elitist," Edelman told CNBC Tuesday. "Half the people have now signed off of mainstream media altogether, so they're getting their news exclusively from search and social. "So, I think it's urgent for companies, and media companies, especially, to try to bring the discussion back to informing, as opposed to opining."