Is controlling the narrative the right response? Crisis Comms Admire PR style…

Admire PR CEO Andrea Bristol shares her thoughts on controlled narratives in crisis communications…. enjoy!


If you live in the UK, you can’t have missed the Philip Schofield and ITV controversy. 

(If you have missed it and fancy catching up – read this for a good synopsis


We are now at that point in the debacle, where agencies have ditched their clients, companies are distancing themselves from ITV and the situation, and there is a clamor for truth. All we can be sure about is this is just the start of a few months of revelations. I have no wish to delve into the Schofield side of this cataclysm – there would be an x-rated use of the English language that my mother would blush at. Let’s remember this is not the first in a line of press stories involving ITV and Schofiled – ‘queue-gate’ anyone? Looking back now, I have to wonder who knew the darker stories going on at that time hidden underneath these headlines.


What I want to talk about is my take on ITV and their response this past week. Now they face scrutiny of their actions and are also being abandoned by sponsors. What would my advice be?


Going back to their original press statement, my view is they didn’t act decisively enough and strongly enough. Being ‘deeply disappointed’ doesn’t tell their audience anything. Let’s get more honest. Rather than trying to ‘control a story’, my advice is to give a truthful initial statement, followed by a guide timeline of following information. Don’t be afraid of using real and strong words, such as ‘angry’. If you are part of a situation where you know you need to issue a heartfelt apology and make institutional changes, this need not be rushed (slow down to speed up here), but let’s at least tell the public we will be doing that. Give an approximate timeline.

The key to crisis communication is to be quick and decisive with the initial statement. Be clear about updates. Be respectful and sincere. 


To those companies distancing themselves from ITV, what’s the best course of action for them? Clearly, they will lose some publicity from the sponsorship, but what can they gain? 


  • Talk about why they moved away – have more staff than the CEO involved, so there is a wider company narrative.’Prep for social media as well as press and website. 
  • Redirect ad and sponsorship spend to new audiences. Charity, grass roots sport, start a fund or new initiative? This is an opportunity to get creative. 


For other tips on crisis, check out our other content here:


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