The phone started ringing at 7.30am and it didn’t even begin to slow down until 7.30pm. The mobile and the landline were going at the same time. The email was firing. Activists had broken into meat processing facilities across several states, and our client – the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) – needed urgent media support.
What started out looking like a serious industry crisis evolved very quickly into a major opportunity, but it might not have gone that way. Activists were on a mission to create uproar about what they perceived as issues in the industry. Instead, there was a huge outpouring of public support for the meat sector. There were several key reasons it went the way it did and not all of them were down to our client, but several were, including:
- AMIC got on the front foot very early.
- The organisation’s CEO cleared his schedule and made himself available for media interviews all day long.
- Critically, they sought expert counsel and listened to our advice. Media were clamouring for this story. It was vital AMIC choose the right opportunities and the right messages. With the wrong messaging a very different outcome might have been had. AMIC went out from a place of authenticity, putting people, and jobs at the centre of the discussion.
The result? Nearly 250 pieces of media coverage with over 35 million reach for our client in under 24 hours, virtually every single one of them responsive to AMIC’s messaging, and a good many of them critical of the activists’ illegal and disruptive activities.
Our support in the midst of chaos included many elements. First and foremost, we sought to get everyone on the same page. Even in the frantic throes of a true media meltdown, it’s important to be strategic. We corralled the right people and made sure we all had the same understanding of what was happening and how to respond.
We worked very closely with the client all day, so their CEO could focus on his interviews knowing we were managing the constantly shifting diary entries (“there are three TV interviews; wait now it’s two; no wait, three again and with a radio interview in between…”)
We liaised directly with media to maximise the output – knowing who to call and what to say can make the difference, for instance, between an ABC story running on one station or right across the country.
We set up immediate media alerts so we could keep an eye on who was saying what, where, and when. Our messaging evolved over the day as everyone from social media commentators to the Prime Minister added their two cents.
While all this was going on, we had other clients to look after. While Sue and I were buried in media calls, writing statements and constantly updating the client and each other, we were incredibly well supported by the rest of the team, who managed media lists, kept the day’s diary from completely falling apart and managed to keep our other projects on track at the same time.
The media conversation has started to move on now and the next challenge is to leverage the momentum of last week and turn it into longer term opportunities.
Are you ready for a media crisis?
Talk to us about what to do when it happens, and what you can do ahead of time to help you prepare.