While the boss of Bell Pottinger represents dictators claimed his firm are decent people in the Guardian, Save the Children are alleged to be supressing news stories to curry favour with corporate donors in the Independent. So how do you define right and wrong in PR?
Wrong on the right?
The Guardian led with a banner trailing a rare interview with the man who taught Thatcher how to pretend to relax and founder of PR firm Bell Pottinger, Lord Tim Bell. This man is portrayed by the left as evil incarnate and has a well recorded track record of defending the indefensible.
To firms like Lord Bell’s, a dodgy dossier can be the basis of a lucrative brief and they are not alone. As the Guardian points out, PR firms across the country are busy defending clients ranging from sweat shops to dictators.
Yet there is something admirable about the principle behind what they do – everyone has the right to representation in a democracy. Just because I (or, I hope many of my Claremont colleagues) would turn down almost every brief Bell Pottinger Private and the like would accept, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a belief system at work. Bell himself does hint at one principle that drives his firm:
We’ve never been approached by a leftwing government, that I’m aware of. You don’t want an adviser that doesn’t agree with you.
Towing a left-hand line?
One PR who has learned the hard way that you need to agree with your organisation featured on the Independent and i front pages.
The former Save the Children head of press has turned whistle blower on his charity’s dealings with big business and claims that, in order to safeguard corporate donations, he was ordered to spike a news story criticising energy firms.
Save the Children may well deny this. But just as any organisation can use busy news days to sneak out announcements they don’t want attention for (oh come on, everyone knows it still happens), so all charities will make sacrifices to keep their donors happy. Charities do not have a monopoly on ethics and principles – and just as there will always be politics in charity campaigns, there will always be money.
In essence, yesterday’s front pages told us that sometimes those we believe are amoral have princples and those charities we see as saintly are as easy to buy as any other organisation. But throughout both articles what is clear is that who you decide to work for will always remain a personal decision.
So just how do you define right and wrong in PR?
It simply comes down to your own personal beliefs.
[Picture courtesy of Dance United]
Claremont has been working for some time with the Arts Alliance – an umbrella organisation for arts charities working in prisons and with offenders, be it with dance, theatre, poetry, painting, etc.
These are tough times for the arts, tough times for charities generally. As budgets are squeezed, charities are under pressure more than ever to prove their value.
The arts are naturally brilliant at winning over people’s hearts to the value of what they do.
It is not uncommon to hear accounts of even the most sceptical critics of the arts undergoing a personal transformation once they have been in person to see projects in action for themselves – ‘taken to the frontline’ – and absorbed the many stories of triumph over adversity.
But the arts are not always so good at winning over people’s minds to the value of what they do. Especially when it comes to winning over the bean counters, who will probably never be ‘taken to the frontline’ and will only be concerned with the numbers.
And in these tough economic times its the bean counters who hold all the beans.
Responding to this, the Arts Alliance commissioned an economic analysis of the value of arts organisations working in the criminal justice sector, working with an organisation called New Philanthropy Capital - a formidable (and super friendly) think tank made up of economists and brainy types.
The result is ‘Unlocking Value‘ – a heavyweight report that looks at the impact of three arts charities working in different ways in prisons and with ex offenders: Only Connect, Unitas and Clean Break.
Claremont launched the report to the media yesterday, generating some serious coverage including the Times, Evening Standard, Huffington Post, Third Sector, interviews on a dozen or so BBC radio stations, as well as this superb piece on the 1pm BBC One TV News:
Claremont was also deployed at a launch event last night at the Royal Festival Hall to do social reporting – live video, blogging and tweeting from the event. We even managed to get a few minutes with Lord Ian Blair, former Chief of the Met, as well as Vince, an-offender who’d turned his life around and who spoke eloquently at the event.
We love this kind of work. A great cause. A meaningful and highly considered approach to integrated campaigning. A chance to get some brilliant results that make a difference to people’s lives. For me, this is what Claremont is all about.
Here are some of the coverage highlights from our two stories for Child Safety Week 2011. See previous “Spreading the word for Child Safety Week” post for background to the Autopilot Britain story. The nationwide Big Taste Test also generated some great coverage and pics! Just click on the image below to take a closer look.
Our first story went live today – ‘Autopilot Britain‘ – a survey of 5,000 people investigating the extent to which UK citizens are running their lives on autopilot.
So far the story has generated 20 interviews across BBC and commercial radio stations, 75 regional newspaper articles, 30+ internet news articles on the likes of Netmums, Yahoo and MSN, as well as national newspaper articles in the Daily Mail, Express and a big splash on page 3 of the Telegraph:
Part two of our work for Child Safety Week – The Big Taste Test – goes live later this week… watch this space!
See previous ‘Mapping the Alzheimer’s Gap‘ blog post for background to this campaign. Just click on the image below to take a closer look.
Today the Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Scotland launch their “Mapping the Dementia Gap” study, and new partnership with Tesco, with a bit of help from the team at Claremont. Combining traditional health PR with digital, we’re showing the data behind the half a million people who will have undiagnosed dementia in 2021.
We’re big fans of data journalism and love to combine PR’s sense for the story with digital’s ability to engage. The push for open data and transparency is making these skills vital, but having the data is one thing – how do you put it towards achieving your comms objectives? How do you make it accessible and relevant to your audience? How do put your data to work beyond your own website?
Here’s a few tips if you want to use data to tell your story:
The map itself is shown below. It organises the data into UK health authorities, with England automagically flipping from Strategic Health Authorities to the smaller Primary Care Trusts as you zoom in. A simple red-to-green overlay vividly shows the varying diagnosis rates. You can search to find more detail for your own area, and then get a link for sharing or embedding the map. This is key for local media who will be able to show the map focused on their city or region.
The map was put together in double-quick time to coincide with the Tesco announcement and we had to leave some ideas on the cutting room floor, so look out for new versions in future.
[iframe http://dementia.maplarge.com/Dementia?lat=55.16350465972881&lng=-4.763183593749991&z=5 456 750]
Great news: following a three-way pitch, the Textile Industry Children’s Trust has appointed Claremont to run an integrated PR and marketing campaign for the charity’s re-launch in November.
We are providing strategic counsel, social media support and a PR campaign to engage the UK fashion industry. Part of our brief is to communicate the charity’s planned change of name and new brand identity.
Claremont will be helping to develop a partnership with the industry trade magazine Drapers.
We’ll also be developing new ways to sing from the rooftops about the charity’s 150-year history (Charles Dickens is a former patron) and prestigious board of trustees, which includes leaders from Marks & Spencer, Topman and John Lewis.
Things are generally going well for Claremont. We are adding the Textile Industry Children’s Trust to a growing client list that includes the Electrical Safety Council and City University.
This is an exciting win because it’s an opportunity for a long-term relationship with a client that has ambitious plans for the future.
Watch this space… and let’s go!