BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Battered Bradford must rebuild its reputation

In the aftermath of the weekend's rioting, Bradford council PROs

are battling to protect the carefully crafted image of their city.



Two years ago, Bradford Metropolitan District Council's then

newly-appointed director of communications Owen Williams told PRWeek of

his dream of creating a different perception of the city.



With tens of thousands of jobs lost over the past 40 years in the

textile industry, a delicate racial balance and a series of riots in

1995, it was a decision long overdue.



Since then much has been done. The council's 2020 Vision campaign has

brought together businesses and community groups and this year the town

is bidding to become European capital of culture in 2008.



That image now hangs in the balance, with West Yorkshire Constabulary's

press team working round the clock on crisis communications.



The force's in-house PR unit has so far followed a strategy of

openness.



At a hastily-arranged press call, the chief constable admitted the

strategy of containment had failed in the face of 11 hours of rioting

last Saturday night.



Sharrion Llewelyn - deputy head of media relations at the council and

one of five PROs dealing with the deluge of enquiries from local,

national and international media - said now is not the time to talk of

recent positive positioning. 'There is a feeling that what has gone on

is not enough,' she said.



'When we are asked why the riots have happened we say it is for an

inquiry to decide. There is no one reason.'



This week sees the release of a report by former Commission for Racial

Equality chairman Sir Herman Ouseley into race relations in

Bradford.



Leaks of the report suggest it says the city is dividing on racial

lines.



As the Ouseley analysis shows, the riots may undermine all the good work

done in the last two years.



So far the media has offered condemnation for the violence but withheld

criticism of the police and council.



The Yorkshire Post's editorial last Monday praised 'years of good work'

in community relations. Its attacks are aimed at the far right and a

minority of rebellious young Asian men.



Will the media be so restrained after the Ouseley report is

published?



Sue Coffey, founder of Bradford-based Zymo Marketing and PR, is sure the

city can win the PR battle in the long term.



'The nation is seeing Bradford unite in its condemnation of this

violence,' she said. Time will show if this is too optimistic an

assessment.



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