People will form their own opinions in the absence of facts…. Managing your reputation and taking control

People were insulting each other and there was an obvious reluctance to listen to other opinions.

Dear Editor

 

When the situation at the border started a week ago the immediate action seemed to be that of a headless chicken.  Everyone took to the internet and utilised social media, particularly Facebook to get their personal message across.

 

Driven with passion these messages and comments were contradictory and often outlandish.  People were insulting each other and there was an obvious reluctance to listen to other opinions. 

 

In the absence of facts people will form their own opinions, and sadly the facts seem to be missing.  Where was the media leadership and management?  Where was the crisis media plan to implement in the event of such an occurrence, particularly as this could have been predicted?  The Gibraltar media was providing information for the domestic market but all that the international media was getting was from Spain ~ or that is certainly the way it seems.

 

Fortunately Gibraltar has friends working in the media and PR in the UK and as a result of the social media activity these individuals were driven to use their own contacts to generate interest.  This was done most successfully with the BBC by Helen Wade.  Updates were also put out to all UK and some international news desks and key syndication agencies.  This activity may have overlapped with work being done by the Government press office but there seemed to be no evidence of this.  So far only one news release is being shown on the GoG website but there may have been others and verbal contact, although this isn’t evident.

 

By the very nature of Gibraltar’s predicament, the Government must implement an ongoing, planned and sustained PR plan with sufficient flexibility to enable any reaction to any crisis or issues management scenario.

 

Without a brief it isn’t possible to recommend a full PR campaign but I have made  a number of observations:

 

·         PR is not a ‘one off’.  There should be a PR programme which aims to promote the name of Gibraltar worldwide and manage its reputation.  Much of this might already be in the realm of the GoG Press Office.  Regular media contact on all issues, business, tourism, finance, sport should be constantly offered to the media (The New York Times carried a substantial piece on Gibraltar’s EUFA membership).

·         The media should be monitored for upcoming features. For example:

Global Assets Journal Sep 2013 Finance Centres : Gibraltar and Bermuda

The Lawyer Oct 2013 Gibraltar

Seatrade Cruise Review Dec 2013 Regional Reports: Mediterranean incl. Black Sea, Adriatic, French Med, Malta, Italy, Spain, Gibraltar

Tanker Operator 06 Dec 2. Gibraltar Report

Is material being provided to these publications?              

 

  • Until the BBC arrived it seemed most the cameras were on the Spanish side.  Had arrangements been made for GBC to syndicate footage worldwide?  Had consideration been given to bringing in a Video News Release organisation to produce material that they could and would distribute to world networks putting across your key messages? It is worth building relationship with a suitable organisation for future use.  Did anyone syndicate radio stories and interviews to UK radio stations?
  • In addition to the above pre-planned features the Government should constantly generate feature material that can be ‘sold-in’ to identified media channels and publications away from Gibraltar ~ opinion pieces, by-lined articles and informative, covering all aspects of life in Gibraltar.
  • Social media must be cohesive and organised.  A number of well meaning people were bombarding the internet but when analysed they were simply talking about what would appear to an editor hundreds or thousands of miles away as simply a bad traffic queue. There was no ‘peg’ for the story.  Social media activity must also be GoG led and the messages should reflect all the other key PR messages used in other PR/media channels. Spain used social media immediately.  Lots of individuals in Gibraltar took action but it was not thought out, dispassionate and often not logical.  Also people started emailing news desks with a story about a traffic queue.  Admirable, but they are people who are not skilled in media techniques and were unable to identify the peg on which to hang the story.  It was also taking control of the situation out of the hands of the GoG.
  • Careful targeting of media is also essential.  Gibraltar media is important but think Brussels, New York, UK.  News agencies are also important as they will do a lot of the work for you. They make there money by selling stories.
  • The UK press is paramount.  One person stated on line that if a UK editor doesn’t know anything about Gibraltar he should resign (after Gibraltar’s role in WWII and the Falklands).  In reality Gibraltar is smaller than Blackpool and in the eyes of most Brits who do not know the place is a mix of a resort, a tax haven and a military garrison. Most editors will not know anything about the Rock (hence the importance of a planned and sustained educational PR programme). There will be no editors working who can remember WWII and most will not have been around during the Falklands.   Perhaps one of the GoG press team should work from the London office for at least a week per month to get to know key editors and correspondents (tourism, city and financial, business, defence, legal, banking etc) face to face briefings are invaluable and I am sure this must already be done.

 

These are just a few observations which I hope might be helpful.  I might be completely wrong and there was media leadership at the Border.  Sadly it did not come across and the disparate internet activity was beginning to put the cause in danger.

A UK citizen

(name and address provided)

 

Category: Local