It’s the way that you deal with it

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“It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it… it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it” – so goes the familiar refrain from an 80s’ pop song that has a knack of becoming lodged into the brain like a tape cassette stuck on repeat.

It’s unclear whether ITV presenter Tom Bradby is a big Bananarama fan but their hit tune seems an appropriate soundtrack to last week’s incident. What happened wasn’t ideal but the way it was dealt with was.

News at Ten was forced off the air when the studio had to be evacuated due to a fire alarm. The alarm blared in the background as Tom, like a pilot on a plane experiencing heavy turbulence, told viewers: “We still have a fire alarm here and we’re not quite sure what to do about it, so I’m really, really sorry about this, but I’m afraid we have to evacuate the building.”

Many of us will have experienced fire alarms, loud tannoy announcements or even noisy animals whilst we conducted serious and important phone calls, meetings or video conferences. We just didn’t have to worry about the 1.2 million ITV News viewers staring at us.

Spare a thought too for Robert Kelly, of the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University, who gave a noble attempt to deliver his expertise about the South Korean president’s impeachment as his two children burst into his office space. All of it was captured on live BBC News and, whilst it was a prized entry on the end-of-year comedy round-up shows, it was hard not to have sympathy for Kelly – or ‘daddy’ – as he wilfully tried to keep going.

Whilst there are many, many things that we cannot control in life and work, the manner in how we react can be incredibly significant. What we say, the timing of our message and how people feel when they receive it should be prioritised when something we didn’t quite want, or plan, has gone public.

In a situation that tested the professionalism of ITV’s news team, presenter Tom Bradby apologetically raised his hands, stayed calm and gave a straight and honest statement to the viewers. This ability to remain unflappable has surely enhanced his reputation.

ITV immediately released a statement in the aftermath: “We apologise for the interruption during the live broadcast of News at Ten this evening due to a fire alarm in the building. All staff were safely evacuated according to fire drill procedures.”

In effect the message was – we’re sorry for inconvenience; we care about staff safety and wellbeing.

At Active PR we’re very familiar with the ‘oh no, the alarm is going off’ situation which applies itself to a range of predicaments across all businesses and organisations at one time or another.

We recognise that by being quick and agile in responding to a scenario – as well as appearing clear, coherent and genuine – reputations can be protected and often enhanced. In over 25 years it’s fair to say we’ve seen a lot and helped support businesses through the turbulence – though none of our clients’ children have burst into daddy’s interview on live TV (yet).

It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you deal with it. That’s what gets results.