From disaster to double-O heaven

It was the niftiest PR two-step, shifting a tsunami of hostile media headlines to an even bigger wave of coverage 24 hours later that vindicated the brand's five-star values.

Ian Monk: 'How heartening to reflect on the power of the sort of crisis management seen at Stoke Park to turn disaster into triumph'
Ian Monk: 'How heartening to reflect on the power of the sort of crisis management seen at Stoke Park to turn disaster into triumph'

Deliciously, in the week the latest 007 epic hit cinemas, this drama was played out at the five-star 'Goldfinger' hotel and country club of Stoke Park, featured in many Bond films.

It started with the technological nightmare of an email that should have been forwarded from Stoke Park rather than being despatched via the reply key. (We've all done it, haven't we ...?)

This slip saw the email inadvertently hit the screens of a couple who wanted to get married at the hotel, informing them that they were 'not the type of people we would want here'.

The story, replete with the offending email and a picture of its sender, went via a local news agency to national newspapers. They reported gleefully on the gaffe, with speculation on the levels of snobbery of an establishment capable of turning away a Ministry of Defence engineer and his counsellor bride-to-be.

Nightmare scenario.

And yet how neatly was it turned on its head the next day with the revelation that Pauline Bailey wasn't entirely the blushing bride but a 'model' on the little-watched Red Light Central TV channel.

Thanks largely to a profusion of risque pictures dug up of Bailey in professional poses, the follow-up story commanded even greater acreage than the original.

How heartening to reflect on the power of this sort of crisis management to turn disaster into triumph.

What a cheering thought that the Stoke Park team, rather than simply resorting to defensive statements, seems actually to have had the instinct, news judgement and media savvy to encourage a discreet look at the calibre of publicity-hungry adversaries.

Their triumph ensuring that the skeleton popped out of the cupboard and into the headlines will not win a PR award. But it is a perfect example of the rewards that a bit of hard-nosed nous and cool consideration can bring. PR double-O heaven, in fact.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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