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PR on the front Page

Pic: Press Association

Pic: Press Association

It is not often that the activities of PR consultants make the front page of a British national newspaper.  After all, our job is to promote the client – not make the news ourselves.  But this morning Nick Davies’ article on the front page of The Guardian suggested that both of the Murdoch’s had been heavily coached for the session.  Indeed, when asked by one of the select committee whether they had been coached they said that they had been told to tell the truth and be as transparent as possible.

But having reviewed the session it would seem that the afternoon could be considered something of a result for the Murdoch clan.

Clearly it would have been much better not to be in the position at all, but having painted themselves into something of a corner over the past two years with denial after denial, looking their inquisitors in the eyes and apologising is a good start to defusing what could have been a heated committee session.

It has been widely reported that PR consultancy Edelman has been providing council to the Murdochs on how to handle their appearance in front of the select committee.  It would seem that they did a great job with father and son apologising numerous times and at one point interrupting each other in their rush to demonstrate just how contrite they are.  It was in sharp contrast to Barclay’s CEO Bob Diamond’s appearance in front of select committee in January this year, where sorry was definitely not in his vocabulary.

In fairness, they were helped by a committee that was not tough in its questioning.  Maybe because it is only a matter of weeks since all UK political parties had been close bed fellows with the Murdoch papers in fear of generating negative news and comment.

The aborted attacked on Murdoch senior with a plate of shaving cream at the end of the session by Johnnie Marbles does raise questions  over Westminster security and has go some suggesting that it was planned to illicit sympathy for the 80 year old (a step too far I think).

In summary, a good afternoon’s entertainment that elicited little new information but clearly demonstrated the crucial role that having sound communications advice can go a long way to making a very bad situation a little bit better.

Richard Houghton

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