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Media Skills: What you need to know – and what Uber have found out

Uber are in need of media skills training.

They’re the best thing that ever happened to taxis – or the worst, depending on your standpoint.

Drivers going out of their way to attract your high rating – yet feeling they want the protection of employee status.

The security of knowing exactly where your taxi is – yet concerns about passenger safety when collected.

Technological convenience meaning a cashless payment – yet that same technology hacked to cause a data breach affecting 57 million users.

And that’s before you get to the fact that Uber covered it all up.

Let’s dig deeper.

Media Skills #1: Rebuild trust

uber crisis mishandling ceo woman hailing taxi.

I certainly want to know when I get into a taxi in Glasgow and Edinburgh that the person I’m sharing a car with is fairly paid.

I want to know the company that helped organise it is treating me fairly.

And I want to know that my safety – and my data – are secure.

New CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has acted swiftly to repair damage and build trust within the $6.5 billion-dollar business.

“We’ve changed the way we do business putting integrity at the core of every decision – working hard to earn trust.”

He acted quickly, pinning the blame on the cover-up on two people – and sacking them both.

Many times in the past, our clients at Pink Elephant Communications have asked for help when things have gone wrong.

Our answer is always the same:

Act quickly, with integrity and rebuild trust.

Media Skills #2: Take control and go public

uber crisis mishandling ceo factory billowing smoke.

The BP oil refinery at Grangemouth suffered a series of fires and breakdowns some years ago.

The Health and Safety Executive carried out a review that found over 550 things they wanted to change.

Meantime BP carried out their own review – finding more than 700.

We helped them publicise their own findings first.

A hotelier called me to say he believed his hotel could be the source of a disease, from which a visitor had recently died.

I suggested that he publicise what he knew – much to his concern.

But I asked how I would feel as a guest taking my family to his hotel – only later to discover that he’s known all along about potential risks.

He went public, and restored trust.

Media Skills #3: Be proactive

crisis mishandling ceo taxi for uber.

Rule #1 in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is simple:

Be proactive.

So the Uber CEO now needs to hang out all the company’s dirty washing in public.

Or face a drip, drip, drip of bad publicity for some time to come.

On our Media Skills Training at Pink Elephant Communications, we ask clients to be proactive.

Especially with bad news.

Here are our top three rules:

  1.  Find out everything that’s gone wrong
  2.  Put systems in place to prevent further incidents
  3.  Tell the world what’s gone wrong – and how you’re fixing it

This has helped our clients for 28 years through industrial accidents, fatal accident inquiries, job losses and criminal investigations.

Things go wrong in business.

It’s how you deal with it that matters.

Uber’s CEO will be judged publicly on how he puts right the many things that have gone wrong.

You can learn more on doing this with our e-learning course Working with the Media.

Discover how to work with journalists in your own time, at your own pace.


Bill McFarlan is the Executive Chairman of Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.

You can view his full profile here


Photos in Media Skills blog by George Grinsted on / CC BY-SA / Benurs – Learning and learning… on / CC BY-SA
Media Skills blog edited by Colin Stone. 

28th November 2017 Featured in: Blog, Media training blogs By:

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