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Lessons from the phone hacking scandal

20th July 2011

Three lessons for any organisation come through very clearly as we receive wall-to-wall coverage of the murky (but perhaps over-exposed) phone hacking scandal:

Lesson One: Let your staff know your ethical policies

Rupert Murdoch referred to the News of the World as 1% of his global organisation.  However, he has ovbiously trusted Rebecca Brookes, and even 1% is just two layers of management below the boss.  "Did Rebecca Brookes know Rupert Murdoch well enough?", is the question, if Rupert Murdoch sincerely did not want his reporters to become engaged in the practices he now says are abhorrent. If his ethics were so different, and he had hired people he not only trusted, but knew, and then communicated his ethics, then he would certainly be in a different position now.

Lesson Two: Get it in writing

News International reporters' main gripe in all of this is that there was a "culture" of "do anything to get your story".  This is conveniently ambiguous and parks the blame squarely in mid air between management and work force.  Obviously from a management point of view this is very helpful with blame avoidance, but any worker should know that ultimately they could be held accountable for their actions, and asking for explicit instructions is crucial.  For us at Oxford Web, and for you, gentle reader, the lesson is the same but for a different reason: having an instruction in writing saves time later when ambiguity can cause additional discussion of how work should have been carried out and what the result should be.

Lesson Three: Take advantage of events to get good PR

Virgin Media is jumping on this opportunity to claim that 'Richard [Branson] likes [its new TiVo device], Rupert doesn't'.  If you're on the brink of choosing a TV recording/playback device and you see this ad, I think you're highly likely to go with Virgin and not Sky.  You needn't take a half page ad in a national newspaper to benefit from this advice - use your customer e-news, tweeting or blogging to push home your advantage or 'hook' an audience with something topical!


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