CCTV highlights lack of crisis management

A quick search of reveals the images of the South Yorkshire police officer hitting a young woman have, unsurprisingly, been picked up by media around the world.

With news reports from Australia to Mauritius to the Gulf , plus footage at ,  the CCTV video has conveyed an unpleasant impression of Britain, Sheffield and the police, rightly or wrongly. 

This is a classic modern crisis where a local incident can become global news.  And, as with the Motorcycle News journalist (see earlier blog post), the press office at South Yorkshire police doesn’t appear to be handling it well.

The  quotes a press statement: “We are satisfied with the way this incident was handled and happy with the conduct of the officer, but we will investigate the circumstances of the complaint.”

After the CCTV footage received wider coverage yesterday, the paper reports a slight change in tone: “The force is outraged at the nature of the report itself, and the possible suggestion that this may be linked to any kind of racist incident.  Until we have had further consideration of this, there will be absolutely no further comment.”

Looking on the South Yorkshire Police website there is no mention of this incident – indeed the focus is very “press agentry” with happy stories about “Your Safer Neighbourhood Team”.

From the outside, South Yorkshire police appears to be defensive in its press relations and possibly unable to provide strategic counsel on a better way of managing reputation.  Police forces in the UK deal with some very difficult issues and many of their PR functions have demonstrated best practice in media and community relations.  I hope South Yorkshire could learn from these more open and responsive PR colleagues – on present form, it needs to.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

2 thoughts on “CCTV highlights lack of crisis management”

  1. Would it have come to this if it had not been for YouTube? I’ve just heard on the news how some schoolchildren have been arrested for alleged racist remarks made on YouTube about a teacher, it was a remark involving football and they had no idea it was racist and that he was Jewish, the school head is saying it has been taken out of context too.

  2. I think the Guardian had the CCTV footage first – but it certainly adds a new dimension to online when you can look at images. Of course, images can be taken out of context – but as they say, pictures speak louder than words. Especially if the PR response is essentially “no comment”.

    I would hope that rather than arresting children, with the example you give, the footage could help stimulate a discussion about how what we say in innocence can be misinterpreted by others. I’m not advocating a madly politically correct world, but we do need to be sensitive to the feelings of others – provided those aren’t being manipulated by those with other agendas.

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