It was the mainstream media grilling from hell – but one that taught Eview Group valuable lessons on crisis management, which other agencies would do well to heed.
All it took was one innocent mistake for all hell to break loose for Eview Group. From out of nowhere, the franchise found itself caught in a media storm that seemed like it would never end. But thanks to some astute crisis management, Eview was able to become old news within 24 “absolutely crazy” hours.
The crisis unfolded in November 2014 after Steve Walsh, an agent based in the Mornington Peninsula region of Victoria, commissioned some drone photography for one of his listings. Unfortunately, the overhead photo that was printed on the signboard also showed the adjacent property, in which a grandmother was sunbathing topless.
The image of Mandy Lingard was so small and grainy that it’s highly unlikely anyone would have ever realised what it showed. However, she knew it was her, and once she alerted the mainstream media to that fact, the whole country became aware that Eview had taken drone footage of a topless grandmother.
A Current Affair described the incident as a “privacy outrage” and said Ms Lingard had “been perved on by an eye in the sky”. The program also showed footage of Mr Walsh and Eview director Manos Findikakis delivering a “grovelling apology”. The Herald Sun also got stuck in, telling readers how “embarrassed” Ms Lingard was to have been photographed “lying face down wearing just a G-string”.
As Mr Findikakis explains, the unfolding crisis proved to be a blessing in disguise for the franchise.
“The number one thing – it’s the first sign of your culture and your team,” he says. “Those 24 hours were absolutely crazy. When things go wrong, it’s a test of your culture and a test of your leadership.”
Mr Findikakis advises principals to immediately form a plan of action if they find themselves in a similar situation.
“The first thing we did was send out an email to the entire team saying this has occurred and this is how we’re addressing it. The second thing we said to the team was to make sure that no one places anything on Facebook – the team became disgruntled because they felt we were being attacked wrongfully,” he says.
“The third thing we did was approach the media to say that at 4pm we would be making a press release. We got onto our insurers and we got onto our solicitors. We had a corporate team meeting and we all backed each other up. The other thing we did is we kept our team informed. So every couple of hours we sent a group message to say this is what has happened and this is what we’re going to be doing.”
Mr Findikakis says his phone didn’t stop ringing for 24 hours. However, thanks to Eview’s astute crisis management, the crisis suddenly came to an end.
“The next day I felt like yesterday’s news, because no one rang me: we were yesterday’s news already. But it was a valuable lesson in how to address such a damaging situation,” he says.
Mr Findikakis says one benefit of the crisis was that it showed the strength of Eview’s culture and brought the team together.
Another benefit, according to fellow director Maria Findikakis, is that it actually helped the agent deliver several record months – even at the centre of the storm.
“Steve has been there a long time. He said that a lot of people who knew him in the area knew what kind of person he was, so he got a lot of emails and phone calls to say that people understood it was a mistake – they felt sorry for him, basically,” she says.
“Sometimes the media can work in your favour, but we don’t want those situations recurring.”