4 Lessons Learned From the BBC’s Crisis Double-Whammy


It goes without saying that life as a leader at Britain’s venerable British Broadcasting Corporation hasn’t been good in the last several months.

To recap, the BBC came under criticism for its decision to cancel a news report on one of its former personalities, Jimmy Savile, who was accused of having a long history of sexual abuse of children. Then, in early November, the broadcaster was embroiled in a second crisis after wrongly accusing a former political official of child sex abuse.

Consequently, heads have rolled at the BBC. Director General George Entwistle resigned after just two months in the job, and two of its senior executives left shortly after that.

The BBC’s double-whammy illustrates the importance of a critical crisis management rule: Don’t let Crisis No. 1 distract you so much that it causes Crisis No. 2. There are three other key crisis lessons that apply to this situation:

  • Your crisis team must encompass all key aspects of the organization: From operations, marketing, communications, IR, C-level executives to the board of directors, the team must be tightly knit.
  • Shoot bullet holes into the organization: Uncover every potential crisis, even the ones that seem implausible. Explore everything scenario that can hurt your organization. This didn’t happen with the BBC’s second crisis.
  • Limit the messengers: All too often, companies in crisis limit the message, but fail to control the messengers. To its credit, the BBC did let go two senior executives that ostensibly cleared the way towards smoother communications of its crises.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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