Monday, 8 February 2010

Dealing with a difficult situation

The wayward husband, the lush wife, and defusing a potential media crisis through flexible, creative thinking

One of the best examples on dealing with a very difficult media situation was shown last week by Tzofit Grant, the wife of Portsmouth football manager Avram Grant.

Mr. Grant allegedly faces being questioned by vice squad officers after he was seen visiting a Thai ‘massage parlour’, described as a brothel in the ‘Sun’ newspaper.

When confronted about her husband’s alleged errant ways Tzofit, a TV presenter in Israel, said the revelation did not bother her: “He can get Thai massage any time and any how. I don’t understand all the fuss. He’s the manager of Portsmouth. Do you know how tough that is? He’s a great manager stuck in a crappy team. He works so hard he needs two massages a day, and from two women, not one.”

Unlike the media saga involving the England football captain John Terry, the media interest soon waned following the unexpected comments from Mrs. Grant.

Her response echoed the retort given by Franklin Roosevelt, when someone raised the issue of his wife Eleanor’s drinking habit – a habit which was well known in private circles, but could have made politically devastating media headlines.

When asked if his wife had a drink problem FDR replied along the lines of: “If you think she has got a problem you should see her mother!”

His flippancy again defused the situation, took the heat of a negative media situation.

The lessons here are not about always to be flippant in a negative media situation (in fact, it will often be the worse tactic to employ.). Rather it is to be flexible in the range of responses available to you.

What Tzofit Grant and FDR were employing is what I call ‘Bigger Box Thinking’ – putting an issue in a far bigger context, to diminish and dilute the significance and potency of any poison.

The tendency of most media specialist is to look within a situation – use Smaller Box Thinking – to analyze, establish ‘the facts’ and use these as the tools for managing the situation.

The limitations of this approach is in failing to put into a bigger context, being able to fully engage emotions and emotional responses – including humour, as well as metaphors (if used correctly, the most powerful tool available to a communicator.)

Last week was a good week for me; I delivered a beta version of a new creative communications course I am running called, ‘Create messages which create real change’.

One part of the course deals with overcoming negative barriers from people failing to trust you, or your message. I share five tactics for using in these situations including:

  • take your opponents negative belief to its logical conclusion.
  • give counter examples to demonstrate potential credibility
  • identify another belief which may have stronger potency for the situation.
  • explore a detail for building common ground
  • depict a wider bigger picture which can create a common denominator.

You can see how both Tzofit and FDR both used these tactics to positive effect.

If you disagree with what I say, take your argument through each of these five tactics.

Then ask yourself: ‘Do you still want to disagree?’

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