Posts Tagged ‘News International’

Edelman’s trust barometer under pressure

Monday, January 23rd, 2012 by Jon Clements

Is international PR agency, Edelman’s annual trust barometer to be trusted?

Or, more to the point, can a PR firm that opts to work with News International be trusted on the subject of “trust”? This is the stance that influential MP and Murdoch-mitherer, Tom Watson, asserted on Twitter this morning – on the day Edelman launched its 12th annual trust and credibility survey.

Watson’s challenge to Edelman led to this exchange with its EMEA CEO, Robert Phillips:

Which led to Phillip’s response (large type) and Watson’s accusation (small type), based on Edelman’s News International connection:

And Phillips’ somewhat indignant plea to Watson:

And a final volley from Watson in return:

So, is Watson right? Is handling PR for News International to be treated as a similarly unethical assignment as – say – representing repressive regimes? And does it destroy your credibility as a communications business?

Only Edelman and NI knows how the conversation went when the deal was being struck, but Watson’s suggestion that working for NI is de facto unethical – ergo Edelman is unethical – is too simplistic and no doubt reflects his own visceral feelings towards Murdoch and co.

If a fly on the wall in the Edelman/NI negotiations told us that the job briefed by the client was to “get us off the hook, spin it any way you want to, but don’t tell us how to run our business,” then Edelman would have to ask itself if this was a gig it wanted.

However, if that same fly reported that the client acknowledged the mess it had made, was willing to make amends to the victims and was committed to a thorough overhaul of its business practices and culture for its own survival and the public good, that’s a different story.

Just as most offenders get the chance to rehabilitate themselves, so companies and organisations deserve the opportunity to put the past behind them and build a new, responsible and ethical paradigm. And if a PR firm is part of a genuine and concerted effort on the part of that company to demonstrate its contrition and willingness to change, then why not? After all, creating good will and understanding among its publics are laudable aims for a company and its PR advisers. According to political commentators Watson, himself, is not averse to the use of PR consultancy.

Tom Watson is not alone in being appalled and disgusted by the endemic corruption and wrongdoing we now know existed in News International. But once the punishment has been handed out, is there no room for second chances?



About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

Edelman grasps the Murdoch PR nettle

Thursday, July 14th, 2011 by Jon Clements


Update: @tim_weber, BBC business and technology editor, sees a PR presence in the “dramatic change of tone” from News Corp.

As PR people, surely we should feel vindicated that News International’s reputation implosion has prompted the hiring of PR company Edelman for “general comms support and public affairs counsel” following the phone hacking scandal.

After all, doesn’t everyone – as in David Cameron’s oft-repeated words about Andy Coulson – deserve a second chance?

There will be some that say there is no coming back from a reputation disaster such as a newspaper hacking the phone of a murder victim and deleting voicemail messages, so giving the family false hope she was still alive.

Neverthless, reputation rehabilitation is not impossible, Edelman has got the gig and good luck to it.  But what will the PR planning agenda look like?

Rebuilding News International’s reputation is key to the Murdochs’ long game – gaining total control of BSkyB. Though it has ditched the bid now, News Corporation, News International’s parent company, needs to regain the trust of the public, politicians and regulators to stand a chance of being deemed “fit and proper” to own not just all but any of the broadcasting giant.

In terms of reputation management, closing the News of the World has been the Murdochs’ symbolic gesture that rogue companies within their organisation will pay the ultimate price, despite the inconvenient fact that the wrongdoing was done on someone else’s watch.

But for any PR provider tasked with restoring corporate reputation, having access to the “warts and all” truth of what goes on behind closed doors is essential; otherwise, life will become a continual fire-fighting exercise rather than a strategic campaign to not only talk about how the company is effecting positive change, but prove it.

And this is where I think Edelman’s biggest challenge lies: how does an outside organisation negotiate a corporate culture where the most senior executives have been willing to cover up grossly bad practices with denials,  selective amnesia or claims of complete ignorance? As Steve Richards comments in The Independent today, “Here was a company that evidently thought it was powerful enough to get away with it, able to block police enquiries and to pay off victims of crime”. Demonstrating a fundamental overhaul of corporate behaviour will need more than cosmetic communications based on half-truths to prove that change has genuinely taken root in News International.

Good PR has to be founded on truth, and Edelman needs to be confident that what News Corp is telling them – at any point – is true. As the Burson Marsteller/Facebook debacle showed, the agency has a reputation problem just as big as its client’s when forced to base a campaign on spin.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''