21st September 2018
Surrey Chambers board member Claire Dee personally recalls the Lehman Brothers crash of 10 years ago.
In September 2008 I was working for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in London as deputy head of their press office. It was full-on. As one of the world’s largest professional services firms, it always was. And then it got really intense.
One of my press office colleagues received a phone call and ushered me in for a quick meeting. PwC had been appointed as administrators to Lehman Brothers the investment bank. We both paused and agreed it was going to be busy!
I’d been involved in several press office challenges in my career to date – including the demise of Andersen from the fallout of the Enron scandal, and the decline of car manufacturer MG Rover – but this was off the scale.
With hindsight I can see why. The ramifications were huge and far-reaching and are still being felt today. Banks, as a rule, don’t fail. As a result, the media went mad for the story and it was a round-the-clock operation.
Managing the media in a crisis is no mean feat. As any seasoned communications expert will tell you, you have to take control and own the story before others do. And you must ensure you communicate well in a timely manner. Drawing the blinds is not an option.
Fast-forward to 2018 and we now have social media to deal with too. Today’s world is even more intense and clear communication is even more relevant. One poorly worded tweet or ill-thought-through post and it’s gone viral. The damage is done. As so many have learned to their cost…
So how is all this achieved?
One of the most valuable lessons from my time in the Andersen and PwC press offices was first-hand experience of the true art of teaming. When things are full-on and there are too many plates spinning, step back, take five, and work as a team. One person cannot handle hundreds of press enquiries 24/7, but if you categorise them, divide them up among the team according to their skillsets, and agree to work shifts, suddenly the impossible is possible.
Claire Dee sits on the Surrey Chambers of Commerce board, is co-chair of the Surrey Chambers Business Women in Surrey group, and director and founder of Claire Dee Communications.