Test of Government PR message over Libya still to come claim PROs

Senior public affairs experts have praised the Government's early messaging around the decision to launch military action in Libya, but warn the real challenges are yet to come.

David Cameron: Swift messaging over Libya praised by PROs
David Cameron: Swift messaging over Libya praised by PROs
In a statement outside Downing Street on Saturday, following a meeting of the government's Cobra emergency committee, David Cameron confirmed that British forces were now ‘in action over Libya’.

Speaking of the decision to take military action against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, the PM said that 'Libya action is necessary, legal and right'.

Adding: ‘British forces are in action over Libya. We have all seen the appalling brutality that Colonel Gaddafi has meted out against his own people.’

Jon McLeod, chairman, corporate communications & public affairs at Weber Shandwick warned that this was ‘the easy bit’.

‘It is always easiest to play with military hardware at the start of a campaign,’ he said.

‘You can appear to be tough and to be dispensing justice at one and the same time. This is the easy bit. The cost in human and financial terms as well as the politically intractable postscript to these events are the ones no one can predict. We shouldn't forget that Libya is the country that brought us Lockerbie, a story that still haunts UK political life nearly 23 years after the event.’

James Tyrell, director at Insight Public Affairs suggested that the endorsement from a number of Arab States was ‘the most important development both for the campaign and for Cameron’s international reputation’ but echoed McLeod’s sentiments that the real challenges were yet to come.

‘As activity increases, with the potential for ground forces involvement, we will likely see a ramping up of Government messaging reiterating the UK’s involvement as standing up to its role as a responsible international citizen,’ he said.
‘Whether this is successful depends on the content of news reports on the ground and the likely questions of legality already being raised by unsupportive UN members.
‘Getting the pitch of messages surrounding the UK’s intervention in Libya was always going to be a priority for the Government, keen to avoid the mistakes from Iraq.

‘The Foreign Secretary’s subdued messaging surrounding the announcement and planning stages was well advised, avoiding him being drawn away from commenting on facts alone. The MoD has also been quick to highlight this weekend’s failed bombing mission by the RAF because of uncertainty of risks of civilian collateral damage, reinforcing that this is fundamentally a humanitarian mission.’

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