Gini Dietrich

Communication Lessons from News of the World

By: Gini Dietrich | July 13, 2011 | 
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When I was a kid, I remember my dad coming home from work and telling my mom he’d had to fire someone.

I very vividly remember the image it conjured in my head. MY dad had set some poor man on fire! What about his family? What about MY family? Was my dad going to go to jail? Isn’t setting a person on fire murder?

At that very young and impressionable age (I might have been five or six), it became clear to me that you never wanted to be fired. Or have to fire anyone, for that matter. And, like so many of us, even though I grew to understand what it meant, it was still something you never wanted to happen.

Being fired. Closing your business. Going bankrupt. These are all things that are seen as huge failures in the business world.

Until they’re not.

Because of my Vistage membership, I was fortunate to watch someone go through bankruptcy two years ago. It’s not something I would ever wish on anyone. But I learned a great deal from it. My biggest lesson? You can pick up and grow another business after bankruptcy.

Who knew? I always believed that was the kiss of death and you’d never be able to work a day in your life again.

News of the World Closes

Fast forward to this past Sunday when News of the World published its last issue. A Murdoch publication, you tend to think nothing he does fails. But this one. Boy! This one was self-inflicted.

For those of you who don’t know, the bare bones story is they were intercepting phone calls of everyday people and celebrities in order to get to the juicy tabloid stories before their competitors. They hired private detectives to take photos and spy. They did everything they could not only to get the story but, in some cases, break the law in order to get them.

James Murdoch suggested to his father that they close the paper and they moved swiftly to do so.

The Communication Lesson

But the interesting thing is not just that they’re closing the paper; it’s that they’re changing the conversation.

News Corp. also owns The Sun, a weekday tabloid in London so it’s pretty likely they’ll return to the Sunday market fairly quickly. Not only that, but News of the World was bleeding cash (I guess that’s what happens when you hire private detectives to do reporting?) and I can imagine they’re pleased to get the property off their books.

So the conversation goes from the egregious things they did, to very fast decisions, to a bankrupt company, to an entirely new vision at a company that is making the parent lots of money.

Think Arthur Andersen turned Accenture. Blackwater turned Xe.

While Rupert Murdoch is still lumbering along in the age-old traditional media (buying the Wall Street Journal, anyone?), this move gets a bleeding company off the books, changes the conversation, and allows the younger generation in James Murdoch (assuming he doesn’t go to jail) to move toward the digital age more quickly.

You haven’t seen the last of News of the World. You’ll just find it in a different form…most likely a Sunday edition of The Sun.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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