Danny Rogers: Shifting power elite demands PR rethink

It is difficult to analyse 'hackgate' because the story moves at such a pace. As I write Rupert and James Murdoch, and Rebekah Brooks, are preparing to be grilled by a Parliamentary select committee.

Danny Rogers: Shifting power elite demands PR rethink
Danny Rogers: Shifting power elite demands PR rethink

But this is already the media crisis story of 2011. It is a very different sort of crisis from those faced by Toyota and BP last year. Yes it is a corporate crisis - at least in terms of News International, and more recently, News Corp - but it is also becoming a reputational catastrophe for the Metropolitan Police, and possibly the Prime Minister.

Indeed, this is a bona fide scandal on the scale of Watergate in the 1970s, or Britain's own Profumo affair in the 1960s. As such it will have far-reaching implications for national politics, the media and even the PR industry.

Hackgate has further diminished public trust in the media and the police. I was tempted to include politicians in this list, but they were pretty much at rock bottom anyway.

Importantly it will take a huge amount of hard work and open and professional comms to retain even a working level of trust for the affected organisations.

More than that, hackgate has prompted the unravelling of a close-knit power elite, which has developed over the past two decades. Such elites are perhaps inevitable, but the most recent incarnation included the youthful leaders of New Labour and the Cameroons, the generation of senior police officers they appointed, and key players in the Murdoch-owned media.

Also inevitably - arguably justifiably - this elite attracted some of the UK's top PR players. This ranges from those comms professionals directly involved in the clean-up, such as News International's Simon Greenberg, and the Met Police's Dick Fedorcio - who has now been referred to the IPCC - to the country's leading PR consultants.

But the tectonic plates on the upper plains of British public life are shifting. The scandal is driving rifts between power players. Previously strong social and business alliances are being broken in fevered self-interest.

The Chipping Norton set suddenly looks less powerful. The list of 'must attend' parties has been thrown into question.

It is too early to predict how the landscape will look once all this volcanic dust has settled, but one suspects it will be permanently transformed.

I have no doubt that most of Britain's PR elite will continue to flourish but, trust me, they are seriously rethinking their social calendars, alliances and strategies.

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