Crisis Management: Lessons From FFK’s Saga
At a press briefing in Calabar on Thursday, August 20, 2020, Femi Fani Kayode (FFK), a former spokesperson and Minister to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, addressed the media, after inspecting the projects embarked upon by the Cross River State Government.
This was part of his “Good Governance Tour” across States in the South-South region.
But in the course of the media briefing, a Daily Trust newspaper reporter, Eyo Charles, inquired to know from the ex-Minister who was bankrolling his “tour”.
Rather than answering the question, FFK went wild, labeling Charles as ‘very stupid’.
When a video of the ugly incident hit cyberspace, it immediately went viral, sparking ferocious backlashing for FFK.
Recently, Founder and CEO of the School of Impactful Communication, Mr. Ishola Ayodele, at a virtual seminar, posed certain questions to PR professionals, focusing on the metamorphosis of FFK’s responses concerning public opinion and pressure from journalists & other stakeholders.
These are some of FFK’s Responses
From, “I will never apologize”, to “I met with my advisors till late last night and I wish to say the following. I hereby withdraw the word “stupid” which I used in my encounter with a journalist in Calabar.”
There was also, “I wish to convey my regrets to the reporter for my response to him and I also wish to express my regrets to the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and members of the Nigerian media, whom I hold in high esteem”.
These were some of the questions Mr. Ayodele posed: How do we manage a quick-tempered client like FFK to prevent a crisis such as this? Is there a relationship between the activities of a pressure group/trade union and the direction of crisis? In what ways can the activities of pressure group/trade union shape the direction of crisis? What are the best ways to navigate crises involving pressure group/trade unions? What are the general lessons we can learn from the FFK’s Saga?
Responding to the question on how to manage the crisis, a PR Expert, Ms. Shileola Adama noted that there is a need to carefully educate such clients on the dangers of being on the wrong of the media, stressing that it could mar the reputation built over decades in seconds.
“Public office holders should have prior knowledge on how to relate to the media, as well as a strong level of emotional intelligence, knowing they are accountable to the public,” she stressed.
Mr. Charles Oni, also noted that, “the theory of the individual difference has enlightened us with regards to temperament and the need to be careful while handline high volatile or temperamental individuals.
“While newsmakers may be difficult to handle, the PR expert may sit by his principal, and whisper to him or her if he or she is about to trip, and before the question and answer session, screen the reporters’ questions (this depends on the status of the reporters) or moderate the session in a way to cushion the impact of some vitriolic questions.”
He advised that in case of an outburst or serious guff as that of FFK, the PR expert should convince his principal to offer a retraction or public apology to ameliorate the damage.
“But beyond FFK, NIPR should advocate to Nigerians the need for character education as the present direction less education is part of the problem.
“Discussing the PR challenge without the fundamental ill may just be shooting in the dark. Parents must create time to educate their children and build in them the tenets of humility, moderation, and the use of the golden words: please, thanks, and sorry,” he said.
Mr. Ayodele stated that, “some people have argued that the journalist should frame the question in a different more subtle way, but the truth is journalists are not in the business of making your boss or client look good. They are in the business of storytelling and as Dr. Charles has observed absurdity is a very good story.
“Hence, the PR Professional has to study, understand the biases of the media coming for the briefing, articulate pertinent like questions the Media may ask and prepare your boss or clients.”
Similarly, a seasoned PR Expert and CEO of Image Merchants Promotion Limited, Mr. Yushau Shuaib emphasized the need for adequate rehearsal on media engagements to prepare principals for worst media encounters to help protect their reputation.
“A PR person or consultant should have the courage to tell his/her principal the bitter truth at all times so that he/she can listen to the professional advice.
“I must add that the last apology by FFK, especially the one on the video was ‘fantastic’. This is because it seems to come from the bottom of the heart. It was very natural, touchy, and emotional, especially the references he made to those he disappointed with the incident.”
It is incontrovertible that PR professionals must study and understand not only their principals but the nature of planned press briefings.
By so doing, it will help a PR person identify possible crisis outcome, and keep him abreast of any communication crisis his principal might encounter during the briefing.