Murdoch must eat humble pie in PR battle


CEOs must possess several qualities to be great leaders, but the News Corp scandal has proven that having good communications skills - especially in a crisis - is the pick of the bunch.

Rupert Murdoch did not give enough credos to his communications strategy when accusations first emerged that News of the World had hacked into murder victims’ voicemails.

Saying his company only made “minor mistakes” in its handling of the crisis in a Wall Street Journal interview - without saying sorry - and then putting his name to sombre apology ads hardly evokes a sense of public sympathy for the organisation.

And - not that anyone should warrant a pie in the face - saying at the Commons select committee that the News of World calamity was just a “small part” of the things he has to deal with at the helm of News Corp, deflected responsibility at a time when he should have been repeating his remorse.

The 80-year-old media mogul has an equally dated approach to PR, which could see the foundations of his media empire crumble, both here and Stateside.

Readers' comments (1)

  • We couldn’t agree more, Lara, particularly your point that for CEOs to be truly great leaders, they must possess strong communications skills. Might I also add the need for modern communications skills? That seems to be part of the issue now afflicting Rupert Murdoch. No one doubts that he is a successful businessman and has the necessary communicative skills that come with leading a global company of 52,000 employees (a fact he pointed out several times during today’s hearing). What he appears to lack, however, is any sense of what comprises modern public relations, and most certainly, a sense of what is required in modern crisis communications.

    It’s for this reason that PRSA created its MBA Initiative in 2008 ( We firmly believe that modern CEOs need a much stronger understanding of how PR and reputation management impact their business; certainly more so than they are receiving now via the world’s top MBA programs and business schools.

    As you rightly note, Rupert Murdoch seemed completely out of touch with the reality and severity of this crisis when he told The Wall Street Journal that News Corp had only made “minor mistakes.” Given that The Journal is a paper he owns, and he presumably had a bit more license to say as much as he wanted without getting cut off by the reporter, wouldn’t it have made sense for him to completely set the record straight in that interview and for his own paper to get the glory of running *the* biggest interview with the man who is at the heart of the global news cycle right now (though certainly not for the best of reasons)? Instead, he obfuscated and blurred reality, which only served to diminish his and company’s credibility and reputation further.

    Keith Trivitt
    Associate Director of Public Relations
    Public Relations Society of America

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