Murdochs and Brooks were well coached but needed 'more humility'

The Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks appeared to be well-trained but should have shown more humility, a PR academic has suggested.

Murdochs: well coached
Murdochs: well coached

The two hearings that took place before the Commons culture, media and sport select committee saw Rupert and James Murdoch, and subsequently Rebekah Brooks being grilled over the phone hacking inquiry.

The Murdochs’ performance was interrupted when a protester threw a plate of shaving foam at the father, a move which is thought to have thrown public sympathy in their favour. Following the hearing, News Corp's share price soared by 5%.

Preceding the hearings, it was revealed that News Corporation has turned to Edelman for help, while Bell Pottinger chairman David Wilson was appointed by Rebekah Brooks.

Westminster University visiting professor for public relations Trevor Morris said that the three ‘should be pretty pleased with their trainers’.

‘None of them were narky or pompous and they largely avoided self-pity. Rupert Murdoch did slightly lean towards that but if anyone is going to get away with it, it’s him, because he’s an old man.’

‘The three key messages were: we’re very sorry; we’re doing something about it; and it’s not really our fault.

‘If it had been me advising Murdoch, I’d have got them to focus on saying they took their eye off the ball. A little more humility wouldn’t have gone amiss.’

Morris added about the protester’s attack: ‘The Murdochs must have been so pleased with it, on reflection – it distracted from the main message and invoked sympathy. It’s hard to think of a way he [the protester] could have better helped the Murdochs.’

Portland managing partner  Steve Morris said that ‘it could scarcely have gone better’ for the Murdochs.

‘The session was fraught with risk. But there were no major gaffes, no losses of temper, nothing to provoke the committee or worsen the situation. Instead, the custard pie moment was a gift.’

Morris added that the familiy looked dignified and emerged with sympathy, while Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng was 'a star'.

Luther Pendragon director Mike Granatt added that all three got their messages across with determination.

‘The Murdochs succeeded only in treading sewage; they sank no further into the morass, but they rose not one iota, despite a remarkably opportune foam pie.’

The Guardian’s Nick Davies has written today that the Murdochs’ performance ‘show two kinds of advice – a PR strategy and a legal defence’, adding that Rupert Murdoch's line ‘This is the most humble day of my life’ was spoken twice.

Davies wrote: ‘PR consultants around the planet would spot the soundbite there, uttered by Mr Murdoch but written surely by an expert.’

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