Issues management response to C4 Dispatches divides Viagogo and Seatwave

Jonathan’s introduction to PR at a Midlands metal-basher was followed by senior positions at three PR agencies, including ten years as head of Porter Novelli’s global crisis practice. Here he advised organisations including Gillette, Disney, the NHS, Yahoo! and his dream client, the International Cricket Council, as it fought to preserve the good name of cricket following match-fixing allegations. With his crisis radar malfunctioning, he launched his own reputation management consultancy, Insignia Communications, one month before the global economy imploded. Insignia has been busy advising clients on crisis and issues management, change communication and online reputation management ever since. His personal blog can be found at

An undercover expose by a TV show of alleged malpractice is sure to create an issues management challenge. The question is how to respond to that challenge.

This week, Channel 4's Dispatches placed reporters as employees within two of the biggest ticket exchange sites, Viagogo and Seatwave. Using secret filming they recorded examples of activity and comments which were potentially damaging to both organisations.

The key plank of Viagogo's strategy seemed to be prevention of the programme airing in the first place with the filing of a legal injunction which was subsequently overturned (thus generating further interest in the programme).

In comparison, Seatwave made active use of social media to communicate their perspective direct to its stakeholders (see for more details of this).

Interestingly though, neither organisation provided an interviewee for the programme. Whilst facing a reporter in this situation will pose a major challenge for the spokesperson, in my view, it is the right approach. Absenting yourself from the discussion simply allows allegations to pass without a counter argument.

Selecting the right spokesperson and providing thorough media training is of course essential. But if your organisation feels unable to defend its reputation, then maybe its the way that the business operates that requires attention rather than the way it communicates.

Jonathan Hemus

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