Playing dare with the truth

PR professionals don't lie, do we? Of course not. In our clients' interests we may see truth as a many splendour'd thing, sometimes to be viewed through a prism held at oblique angles to the light.

Ian Monk: 'There was, pronounced Anthony Fry, 'a disconnect' between his version and that of Mark Thompson.'
Ian Monk: 'There was, pronounced Anthony Fry, 'a disconnect' between his version and that of Mark Thompson.'

We may occasionally resort to euphemism, equivocation and judicious silences, which some outside the sainted profession, moralists or scoundrels for example, might seek to equate to lying.

But we don't lie. It would be unethical.

Dancing on the head of the pin is our speciality, as I was reminded by the Parliamentary Select Committee exchange involving Anthony Fry of the BBC Trust and the MPs interrogating him. The subject was who knew what and when about the grotesquely inflated payoffs given to BBC senior management.

Fry appeared to be on the ropes, his account at odds with that of former BBC director-general Mark Thompson. The Rottweiler MPs scented the blood of a big fish. Someone must have been lying. Was it the former DG, they pressed?

Since it seems unlikely that Fry readied himself for the televised ordeal of a Westminster appearance without some presentational advice, I would like to lay claim by the industry for his response. It was a perfectly crafted example of avoiding any suspicion of being untruthful or of accusing another of being so.

There was, pronounced Fry, 'a disconnect' between his version and that of Thompson.

Cue dropped jaws at the shock created by the perfectly crafted and unanswerable response.

No finer line has been drawn since Hillary Clinton, caught out over her recollection of having to dodge bullets on a visit to war-torn Bosnia, attributed what those moralists and scoundrels would doubtless have called a bare-faced lie to the fact that she 'misspoke'.

That phrase might have come from the mouth of Lewis Carroll's Alice and it seems unlikely the then secretary of state would have used it without taking prior PR advice. Another notch on the industry's bedpost?

Should the PR industry take all this lying down?

Or should it continue to prosper in the hope that, as wags might suggest, the media do just that?

Ian Monk, founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executiveat the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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