If you are anything like me, you are probably fed up of the daily headlines concerning the systematic hacking of phones by News International and/or the people it engaged. Some of the alleged incidences are shocking and despicable without doubt, but to me, the whole sorry tale is an indicator of the culture of the organisation. Even a little humility in front of the parliamentary select committee has done little to quell the storm. But what can we learn from the way Murdoch runs his business?
1. Power can be dangerous
I doubt that humility is often witnessed in Rupert Murdoch’s boardroom. He has always appeared to be an insular character, who has surrounded himself with people who have been highly dependent on him, owe him everything and have therefore, been reluctant to tell him what he needs to hear. Leaders need an independent viewpoint. It’s hard to be impartial and dispassionate about the business you’ve created. That’s natural. And that’s why an external perspective from someone with no agenda, who is prepared to say what needs to be said and ask the questions that need to be asked, is important to any business.
2. Success can be dangerous
There is no question that Rupert Murdoch is one of the most successful media figures in history. But success can make you blind to the need to change, the need to understand the changing needs and values of your clients. There seem to be no lengths that News International (and the News of the World in particular) wouldn’t go to to get an inside track into the lives of celebrities and victims of crime. As Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson say in their brilliant book Rework, “Culture is the by-product of consistent behaviour”. Need I say more? Success in the past is no guarantee of success in the future. Be humble and willing to learn from others.
3. Profit before principles will kill you eventually
News Corporation have been around for many years. The News of the World even longer. Whilst the shareholders of News Corporation seem to have been comfortable investing in a “family” run business, due I am sure to decent returns, they are now paying a price as it’s shares trade at a lower multiple of earnings than any of it’s competitors. Putting clients first will bring your clients back again and again and will lead them to readily refer you.
4. Reputation is everything
It was clear that the News of the World was on the slide when it’s biggest ticket advertisers began to distance themselves from the paper and started spending their advertising budgets elsewhere. With it’s reputation shot to pieces, the demise came very quickly and was almost inevitable. Recovery would have been a long hard road with no guarantee of success. Manage your reputation.
5. Show you care. Really care.
In the early days of the crisis all the footage and photos of Murdoch showed him grinning like a cheshire cat. What impression did that leave with the public. Arrogant? Uncaring? Detached? Disconnected from reality? The show of humility in front of MPs, even if genuine, was too little too late. Show your clients you really care. As a potential client, I don’t care how much you know, until I know how much you care!