Judge and Jury: Why PR could only have a walk-on part in the ROH saga - A lack of management structure and muddled corporate branding made managing PR for the ROH a no-win situation, says Quentin Bell, chairman of the Quentin Bell Organisation

Blimey! What a gift. Hacks have charted how the ROH events have unfolded in terms of ’acts’ and ’scenes’ and, of course, parallels have been made with the tragedy and farce of opera plots themselves.

Blimey! What a gift. Hacks have charted how the ROH events have

unfolded in terms of ’acts’ and ’scenes’ and, of course, parallels have

been made with the tragedy and farce of opera plots themselves.



And there has been no paucity of the elements common to all brilliant

stories: conflict, controversy and contrast. There is the contrast

between elitism and populism. For example, can - or should - opera ’be

taken to the people’, or is it by definition a minority activity? Does

public money justify mounting an educational PR campaign to the general

populace?



Opinion is divided.



Then there is the conflict between artistic excellence (or expense may

be a better word) and commercial reality: a dragon on stage for eight

minutes costs more than the entire annual subsidy of regional

theatre.



And does it make sense to slash seat prices on the altar of

accessibility - a bit like Rolls-Royce selling its cars below cost price

in order to extend the experience to everyone? Opinion is divided.



Also, although vital, would a wise management rely only on rich donors,

lottery money and the Arts Council? Surely they would seek to increase

income by developing their brand. Where are those strategic alliances

with businesses? Where is that merchandising?



Finally, controversy. Enter, stage left (as Old Labour) Gerald Kaufman

whose colourful rhetoric ’bears the unmistakable odour of revenge’

according to the Sunday Times, in whose columns he himself talks of ’the

stifling aura of exclusivity that made me feel I was intruding into a

private club’.



Does he demonstrate a little bitterness?



The report ’would be actionable if not protected by Parliamentary

privilege’ says Lord Chadlington, whose actions by falling on his sword

are entirely honourable (aided paradoxically by Kaufman’s vitriol).



’It is better to do what is right, right away,’ he told me as PR Week

went to press. And he is right. The issue has ramifications for all PR

people for no matter how glamorous a product appears, if the management

structure behind it is convoluted; if the brand ethos is muddled; and if

a coherent, consistent marketing plan owned by all is not in place -

then no amount of PR campaigning will work.



All these are dilemmas that still remain unresolved.



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