‘Instant’ international action ensured that this hot issue got balanced
coverage, says Harold Godwin, director of healthcare Europe, Manning
Selvage and Lee
It’s 5.50pm and time to at least think about that first glass of wine.
At the end of another hectic day at Manning Selvage and Lee we get a
call from Professor Spitzer of McGill University in Montreal. He has
been recommended to contact us to handle an issue that he is clearly
very angry about.
After five years research in five countries involving extensive
epidemiological study and analysis by leading specialists, the results
of which were being discussed for the first time at a meeting in
Montreal, he hears that a major storm has erupted in the UK media based
on his work.
Little did we know what we were in for over the next 24 hours. We
recommended a press conference for first thing in the morning for the
national broadcast and print media - no problem, except that Professor
Spitzer was in Montreal. He left immediately for London Heathrow.
A press alert and invitation was written and sent to all appropriate
media by fax.
Between 6pm and 6am the next morning a press statement, a background to
the study, biographies and Q&As were prepared for Spitzer’s arrival at
6.45am in time for the first interview on Radio 4’s Today programme.
By the time we arrived at the Heathrow Hilton an assortment of
television crews and press and radio journalists were waiting for us as
we walked through the door.
Professor Spitzer gave a short presentation and answered the many
questions from the media. After several TV and radio interviews,
Professor Spitzer, by now visibly exhausted, left to catch the next
plane back to Montreal.
The result was like a tornado hitting town. Following the Today
programme at 7.10am the story took the lead position throughout the day
on national television and radio. It was the lead story in all the
nationals the following day and media interest continued through the
The coverage redressed the issues and put the news about the combined
pill into perspective.
Grateful Professor? Certainly, especially because he had been able to
give his side of the story and make clear his views on a health issue
that touches so many people.
The PR team at MS&L? Exhausted, but all agreed that this had been one of
the most exciting day’s work for a long time. And the next step? A
repeat in Berlin a week later.