Bubble trouble

May 5, 2019

When your big-city organisation is in trouble, it’s not safe to use the reactions of media as a guide to your response – if your objective is to satisfy customers or the general public.

Being criticised in public is not the same as being criticised by the public.  That’s because modern media, and many of the commentators they use, are not representative of public attitudes.

We saw this “media bubble” illustrated in the media’s portrayal of the issue of changing the name of the Crusaders rugby team following the Christchurch carnage.

Bizarrely, after a month of media criticism on the suitability of the Crusaders’ name, TVNZ published a ‘’shock’’ Colmar Brunton poll; three-quarters of those surveyed supported the Crusaders retaining the name.

That this was a shock to media is a good measure of their distance from the public mood.

But the unreliability of the media bubble was fully exposed by what TVNZ did with that story. It asked “experts” to explain how and why the public attitude was so off-beam.

Organisations at the centre of this issue could have been blinded from public sentiment by the intensity and tone of questions, and coverage from media and commentators.

Yet there were clues if they chose to look. When criticism in the media was at its strongest in late March, a Stuff.co.nz poll found 63% were opposed to ditching the name. 25,000 people signed a petition imploring the Crusaders to not change.

If the public matters to your reputation or your sales – and we think it almost always does – it is critical to look outside the bubble that blows up around you during a crisis. Media and commentators are often obscuring more than they’re revealing.