Remember that great Fram oil filter slogan: “You can pay me now, or pay me later.” Consumers clicked. ‘Buy a new oil filter and change your oil now for a few dollars, or pay big bucks for major engine trouble down the line.’
Nothing was likely added in recent days to the humiliating list of Murdoch transgressions that wasn’t on it nine months ago, when the phone-tapping, copper-bribing, ethics-trampling mess began. Thousands of stories suggested James Murdoch would have to go.
What if he’d stepped forward and taken responsibility and resigned when the crisis broke in July 2011?
It would not have ended without a further peep, too much still had to be exposed. But he and his father and their company and their newspapers wouldn’t have roasted over a slow spit until burned. News Corp. might have some equity — monetary and reputational — remaining.
Crises are born starving. The more damaging the crisis, the greater it wants to be fed — information, guilty executives, apologies, fines, facts, you name it. The appetite is voracious and it will not ease unless you feed it. Feeding James Murdoch early — when some scapegoated editors went instead — to the suddenly righteous British government and media would have sated that hunger somewhat.
If in doing so News Corp. had also come completely clean about its transgressions — which everyone knew would come out eventually, they always do — a great deal of reputational value might have been preserved, equity saved and fewer jobs lost to the Murdoch empire’s sins.
There is one alternative to the Fram crisis method. You could follow, as the Murdochs apparently did, Popeye’s friend Blimpy‘s credo: “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”
Tuesday finally arrived for James Murdoch. We’ll see if he satisfied the crisis’s appetite.