I was until this time unaware of any requirement for balance in the briefing provided by a PR firm. The idea that such a requirement exists is as far fetched as expecting it to apply to the speeches of prosecutors and defence counsels in the courtroom itself.
My understanding has always been that the PR executive, like the barrister, is an advocate, whose skill lies in his ability to present his client in the best possible light – even when (indeed, especially when) he has only the most hopeless material to work with. Telling outright lies is obviously out of order. Selecting the facts that suit the case and could convince journalists is what the game is all about.
It should be noted that this was not a case in which a naïve Bank of England had been put at a disadvantage. Not to put too fine a point on it, the bank has employed its own in-house PROs for 40 years or more – and in that time has proved highly skilled in using the press to divert criticism and advance its interests.
The greater pity would be if the judge's blast were to prompt Maitland to withdraw from this area of PR. What happens in courtrooms during financial cases is often neglected because most newspapers are too under-resourced to cover trials that may run for months, or in this case, years. PR fulfils a valuable function in bringing some of this hidden information to the surface. Partially one-sided it may be, but such disclosure results in commentary and analysis of issues – which would otherwise have been ignored – to the benefit of media and audience alike.
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