Wikileaks' Julian Assange handled media scrum succesfully, say PR experts

The media scrum that greeted Julian Assange as he walked out of the Royal Courts of Justice last night was well-handled, according to PR experts.

Released: Julian Assange
Released: Julian Assange

Wikileaks founder Assange walked from custody after nine days in jail when a high court judge released him on bail, having been warned that he faced extradition to Sweden to face sex assault allegations.

Facing journalists from around the world on the steps of the courts, Assange gave a statement in which he said of the British justice system: ‘If justice is not always the outcome at least it is not dead yet’.

Shout Communications director Catherine Bayfield said Assange’s handling of the media was ‘textbook PR manipulation’ and used celebrity endorsement at the highest level: ‘not tabloid fodder but monied intellectuals and pillars of society including Ken Loach and John Sulston, the Nobel prize-winning scientist.’

Bespoke Speeches founder Simon Lancaster said of Assange’s speech: ‘Mr Assange  must wrap himself in a David and Goliath style narrative if he is to sustain support. This speech did that - it was suitably modest and understated.

‘He resisted the temptation to grandstand, like Jonathan Aitken did with his notorious "sword of truth and trusty shield of fair play" against The Guardian. Assange's speech was less like Winston Churchill and more like Winston Smith from Nineteen Eighty Four. This was a good call - the biggest danger for him at the moment is that he becomes bigger than his cause or his assailants.’

University of Westminster visiting professor of public relations Trevor Morris said: ‘Assange's speech to the media on the steps of the Old Bailey was well-crafted. He avoided the temptation to sound triumphant or like a persecuted victim. Instead his line was a fairly dignified: "Thank you for your support. My cause is just. This is about more than me."’

However, Morris questioned whether the public will ever warm to Assange, who he suggests comes across as self-regarding.  

 

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