In Tom Selby’s article, “Cost cutting sees Friends Life head of PR leave,” I was surprised to see that Friends Life, a company in the UK that offers financial products, insurance, and other services, decided to get rid of the head of their public relations department. The company is large, so I would assume they need someone to be in charge of their public relations plan and strategy. But I guess they thought having someone in house wasn’t worth the money, which makes me wonder how they’re going to maintain a consistent message while managing their reputation. The article says that they’re going to use an outside public relations firm and use some internal staff, but they won’t get another head of the department.
Going forward, they have to remember, and so does your company, to have a strategy and team approach to public relations. Too often I’ve seen clients that have internal and external public relations support that don’t communicate with each other, so the left PR hand doesn’t know what the right PR hand is doing. It can cause confusion of the company’s message and even be time-consuming because information might come out in pieces, so the company doesn’t know how to proceed, especially in a crisis situation. Sometimes the parts of the PR wheel are so disjointed that the principals of the company have to step into the PR kitchen, causing frustration among everyone involved.
So if you’re going to do what Friends Life has done, be sure to have a plan that everyone knows how to work with, and communicate effectively with all parts of the PR puzzle.
I read a news story in the Globe and Mail called “Hopley’s lawyer insists he isn’t dangerous,” by Rod Mickleburgh, about a man who abducted a toddler from his home, then returned him four days later. Even though the abductor says that the three-year-old was not harmed during those four days, it’s still a scary situation. I can’t imagine how I would feel if one of my kids disappeared. I would be elated that they were returned, but totally upset that they were taken from our home, and I’m sure other parents feel the same way. What makes it worse is the kidnapper’s attorney is saying that the man should not be considered dangerous because he has “the maturity and manner…of a child” and didn’t do anything to the toddler.
When an attorney speaks for their clients, they need to think around corners. I don’t think he considered how parents would feel, so he should have addressed the concerns of the people reading the story. The fact is, his client still abducted the child. He should have at least acknowledged parents’ concerns by saying, “I understand that most parents feel upset about this situation, and I understand that they would want justice.” And then he could go into his defense of his client. Maybe he did talk about how parents feel, and the newspaper edited it out. Unfortunately, we can’t control what they print. However, the story only shows the attorney defending his client’s actions, and it makes him not seem sympathetic to what the public would perceive. Basically, “dangerous” becomes a subjective term, and any parent reading the story automatically would think, “This guy is dangerous; let’s lock him up for life.”
So I’d say that the attorney is losing the battle in the court of public opinion.
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