No one disputes that the BBC is currently facing one of the biggest crises in its long history. But what are the ingredients that define the magnitude of the issue it faces? Here are five reasons why the crisis is of such huge proportions:
1) The people factor
This is a crisis which has enormous and wide ranging human impact. The children who were abused, the celebrities who were accused, the politician who was wrongly accused, the director general who lost his job, the British public who feels it has a personal stake in the BBC. All of these factors provide a rich vein of human interest, which creates and sustains attention on the issue.
2) The perceived cover up
Crises which contain a hint of cover up are often the most damaging of all. The idea that the BBC knew about abuse and failed to act makes this a desperately hard issue to manage.
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3) The inadequate response
History shows time and again that it is an organisation’s response to a crisis which causes most harm, not the crisis itself. The BBC failed to demonstrate decisive leadership and pro-active crisis communication when the crisis first emerged and this allowed the situation to worsen.
4) Repeat offending
People will forgive organisations for one crisis, but when it becomes a pattern there is less room for sympathy. To create a second crisis as the BBC reeled from the first, conveyed an impression of an organisation in chaos, exactly the opposite of the desired perception at such a time.
5) The undermining of the BBC’s brand essence
A crisis always does more harm when it strikes at the heart of an organisation’s brand essence. That’s why Toyota’s global product recall which called into question its values of quality and reliability was so damaging. In this case, the crisis centred on trust, a quality which lies at the very heart of the BBC. This defines it as a crisis of the very highest order.
The factors above make the current situation hugely challenging for the BBC. As a set of warning lights in any incident, they make a good crisis management checklist for any organisation.