Could Murdoch’s legacy to his children be prosecution?

Poor old Murdoch of News Corp, multi marriages, many children and media empire fame! His 168-year-old paperNews of the World (NOTW) has been forced to close because of a phone hacking scandal and his personal brand – known for being so private – is under nuclear-size attack.

His business plans diverted by the scandal with his mission to buy the remaining stocks in BSkyB blocked. Former supportive politicians are making negative judgements, while we watch the drama unfold.

Is this a new lesson in change management and corporate re-birthing (akin to the Packer’s move to gambling) or is this corporate wangling at its best. After all, Murdoch has been strategically looking to close the paper for a while and there appears to be no buyers biting for what is left of his newspaper empire.

The ageing Murdoch; after a life of breaking new ground, investing in and controlling media empires (and apparently politicians) while exhibiting extraordinary egocentric behaviour (with a unique art of sidestepping shareholders) shows us a real-life family drama akin to no other. Could a better movie script be written?

Meanwhile, it’s interesting to see which papers comment and who is next in line for the chop. After all, while NOTW had a unique and ubiquitous brand – can other media outlets claim to be so innocent? Should they be so quick to condemn? May the purely innocent cast the first stone! Surely NOTW is not the only paper to have hacked into private phones, stalked people with cameras and paid private investigators for information.

Reading global news tonight, the stories are unfolding as fast as I can search.

Back to my point though, to be ‘brand Murdoch’ has to be a weighty responsibility for all those in senior positions within the company. A responsibility that would appear to be increasing hour by hour and is not pretty by any stretch. I trust the Murdoch spin merchants are earning their money 24 x 7 and gaining little sleep. As you watch the fallout amongst politicians, influencers and Murdoch employees it’s interesting to see where personal loyalty really sits in times of crisis.

And what about the implications to his family business? The art of succession when faced with a father of Murdoch’s reputation must be like facing Everest in a t-shirt. Always challenging and at the risk of destructive exposure from the outset.

While Murdoch has kept a guarded personality in the print media he created, the new world of social media cannot be quite so controlled. Stay away and the online community will brand you all by themselves. While opting not to engage with the public until his announcements on Friday, he has become a target of much lynching.

Is the current social media backlash going to change perception? There is already a boycott Rupert Murdoch group Facebook page and Twitter comment inviting retweets of ‘If you hate Rupert Murdoch’.

This demonstrates the power of an online personal brand today. Think of online commentary as your digital resume providing information about you, your actions and your ethics. Social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and others, have taken personal branding to new heights. These options were simply not thought of when Rupert Murdoch’s career started out.

Maybe it is time Murdoch addresses building his personal brand as a priority. In times of crisis, reputation fat comes in handy when you are being sucked dry -on a global stage. A positive reputation could potentially save you from a whole heap of uneducated or public criticism.

If Rupert Murdoch had a more active program around his personal brand reputation, could he have possibly lightened the blow from the recent phone hacking scandal? Perhaps. Although he has been around for a long time and many of us know him well, where does he stand with the vociferous younger generation whose lives and opinions are shaped by social media? What about the brand of his empire? Does Murdoch have enough public goodwill?

Murdoch faces the possibility of the public deserting his media empire as a result of the phone hacking scandal – which may be exacerbated as a direct result of not having an engaging personal brand to help protect him from backlash – equally I can’t help thinking the very media he created, will join forces to affect his brand and that of his empire.

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