By Deborah Wroe
I was brought up not to tell lies, so much so that I even struggle with white lies, (A friend: “Does my bum look big in this?” Me: “Er, the blue is more flattering”) so how did I end up in the seedy world of secrets, lies and spin that is marketing and PR? Well in my opinion, marketing and PR is not secrets, lies and spin, or defending the indefensible, but is about truth versus hearsay, facts versus conjecture, it’s about shouting out about achievements and storytelling.
There was an article in the Guardian on 9 December, an interview with 72 year old Lord Tim Bell of Bell Pottinger fame, Margaret Thatcher’s ‘spin doctor’, and knighted by Thatcher. I’ll give you the link at the end* so you can read it if you so desire, along with the comments which are always worth reading.
Anyway, that, rather long, but fascinating article prompted me, yet again, to defend those of us working at the ethical end of PR and marketing, not spinning, and not encouraging people to spend money on things they don’t need or want, but working to ensure clients’ products or services are foremost in peoples’ minds when they do have a need for your product or service, and truth telling.
The ASA’s (the UK’s independent regulator for advertising across all media) mission is to ensure that advertising in all media is legal, decent, honest and truthful, to the benefit of consumers, business and society. But there is no independent regulator in PR. To a degree it’s unregulated and anyone can call themselves a PR guru *shudders*. So, you get the horrid, “ooh I wonder who the PR is behind this tittle tattle” on big and small ‘news’ stories, such as the current Nigella v Saatchi case (not the actual legal case, in which incidentally Nigella is not on trial); but the PR case as in lots of #TeamNigella with little sight of #TeamSaatchi.
So PR suffers from bad PR!
Yes, there are PR companies who fight the good fight (ahem) on behalf of dodgy regimes, and oil spills, but that’s not our bag. If you have been deliberately misleading with porky pies about what’s in your porky pies, or have closed down your business with a string of bad debts and are setting up a phoenix company and wanting to launch it with a bang, we are not a good match. And yes, we do our due diligence before taking on new clients, we practice what we preach.
But if you want to build much needed new houses or plant forests (the two are not mutually exclusive) and celebrate your successes whilst also acknowledging when you have cocked up then our door is open.
And if you think the decline in newspaper sales, much highlighted by the sad closure of The Liverpool Post, means the end of PR, we’d tell you you are wrong. The medium may change, but it’s just new avenues and new media; same rules, different platforms.
Tom Daley chose to totally control his own story by self publishing his ‘news’ on YouTube, as he had previously been misquoted. He set the agenda, timing, and tone, but the aftermath was reams of column inches in print and online media (and it wasn’t even ‘news’ – who you choose to fall in love in with is no one’s flipping business – RANT NEEDED!)
Tom was open and honest, heartfelt and sincere. Tom we salute your two fingers up to the media, you don’t have to own the media to own the media.