The Daily Telegraph has recently revealed that Gaddafi was hoping to win over people’s opinions with an anti NATO PR campaign in Britain. Plans were found in a government building that had been abandoned in Tripoli, and consisted of an £8.8 million budget to pay well known British and foreign campaigners to alter the perception of NATO’s involvement in the country. Further investigations suggest that, in the end, nobody had actually been approached and obviously the plans haven’t been carried out.
Prior to this discovery, an email was sent to London PR agencies from Libya’s Ministry of Information asking for support in portraying Gaddafi’s regime in a more positive light. It is safe to say that most agencies wouldn’t touch an email like that with a barge pole, Porter Novelli EMEA head of corporate Alex Woolfall said “now, more than ever, PR agencies are under as much scrutiny as the clients they represent – they have their own reputations to think about’. Although this appears to have been a bit of a desperate long shot, it shows how PR is recognised as a powerful tool – when used correctly.
The fact that Gaddafi’s regime thought it worthwhile to contact PR agencies also shows the importance of communication and the amount of influence an agency can possess. Effective communication can make or break a person, company or indeed regime. What the PR professionals decide to do with information can prove critical to a business.
However, PR companies also want to be careful and proactively manage their own reputations just as much as those of their clients. After all they are a business in themselves. It is rare that the agent directly wants to become involved in headlines, although Max Clifford could prove to be the exception. Clifford is one of the most well known controversial publicists who is often found representing “stars” that have got themselves into some kind of trouble. Max Clifford is a kind of minor celebrity in his own right, and is associated with the sensationalism found in tabloid newspapers from representing unpopular clients. He has built a career for himself through his work but seems to be one of the few PR professionals that are so publicly involved with their clients; however it seems to work for him. With the News of the world press scandals recently it has been said that “Once the press officer becomes the story, it is the end of the press officer”. PR agencies are often employed by clients to provide discreet, but effective services but these clearly aren’t tactics that are favoured by all.
Since it appears that the world considers Britain’s PRs to be one of the leaders in reputation management, maybe you want to get your company clued up and on the ball with one of our crisis media training packages. After all; this course is more likely to help you than Gaddafi’s panicked attempt at using PR companies to save his more than unsalvageable reputation.
Written by Will – www.bluewoodtraining.com – September 2011