Most of the UK have today been glued to the circus that is the News of the World hacking scandal drawing in the Chairman Rupert Merdoch into the the chambers and eyes of Parliament. There are a few things that I have found incredibly curious and interesting in the details that came out of this particular episode. The biggest one of all being the question of ultimate responsibility. When you are a chairperson within an organization what level of responsibility is reasonable to expect when there are lots of companies that make up the organization?
Until now I always thought that the ultimate responsibility would lie with the person at the very top but in the case of NOTW this appears not to be the case. Or at least that’s how it appears to be coming off. I find it curious as I run an international organization consisting of 91 community groups worldwide. Each runs independently but with the same goals aspirations an alignment based on my guidance. In many ways this is similar to the structure of NOTW. Each group runs with their own team of helpers (NOTW has employees…). If something went wrong within one of these groups and they weren’t aligning to the organization’s ultimate goals then the issue would initially be raised with the local group co-ordinator and I may never get to hear about it, but if this isn’t resolved then they come to me as their next point of call. Ultimately the buck stops here. A judgement call is made. My question is why is this not the case at NOTW? Why didn’t anyone take the questions higher when they didn’t get a satisfactory answer?
In some ways maybe that’s me playing the devils advocate but just think, if no one actually asked the question beyond NOTW group itself how could Rupert Merdoch actually be ultimately responsible? If no one told me a group of mine was having an issue either internal or external I would never know. This is the nature of dispersed organizations on an international scale.
On the other side of things I do keep track of the news, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus to check that I’m not missing any conversations in this arena and to me that is a form of advocacy. A sanity check if you like that everything is doing fine and that people’s voices are behind heard if they are shouting in places where I may not otherwise notice. Doesn’t News Corp have something like this? Maybe a PR department or marketing department keeping track of brand opinion and advocacy? When an issue is flagged in this area sure it should go down to the group/ company in question but by all accounts it should be passed up as well to ensure that any issues are resolved quickly and in an appropriate manner. In the case of NOTW there should have been News Corp lawyers all over this really quickly and early on to sanity check the internals. So in that sense I see there being some people responsible at News Corp as well as NOTW. The issue is actually a global one within their business. It leaves them open to attack and also open to mistakes that damage the company’s reputation,
The whole case is a fantastic opportunity for Universities to study for international business and also in terms of journalism and ethics. I do hope that people actually use this experience as a learning experience for generations to come.
My reason for writing this post is to remind myself that should I stop listening to those voices then I need to understand the risk to my own brand and reputation. You can’t always rely on the messengers to get the message to you… active listening is essential!