The Big Question: Can being sued be a positive public relations exercise? - Marco Pierre White claimed rival chef Oliver Peyton did more for him than his own publicist by suing him for establishing a similar restaurant in the same building as Peyton&rsq

Peter Carter-Ruck

Peter Carter-Ruck

Peter Carter-Ruck and Partners

’To be sued can, in certain circumstances, be good PR but this depends

upon a number of factors. Firstly, what is the nature of the action? If

it is for fraud, it cannot be good PR. If it is for trespass or libel,

it might, in certain circumstances be good PR. Secondly, it depends upon

who is being sued. If it is an action for libel and the defendants are

Private Eye, it might be regarded as very good publicity. On the other

hand, if a highly respectable journal which relies on accuracy were

sued, it could have adverse consequences and a loss could prove


Barbara Cahalane

The Law Society

’Although publications such as Private Eye have turned being sued to

their advantage as reinforcing their anti-establishment image, being

sued is rarely good PR. Mud sticks. The average punter thinks there’s no

smoke without fire. It is essential to have a sound pre and post trial

communications strategy. A favourable outcome can provide an opportunity

to reinforce the image of your organisation or product.

Losing demands an immediate and sustained programme to rehabilitate your

credibility with stakeholders. It is essential to be prepared for both

no matter how strong you believe your defence to be.’

Michael Regester

Regester Larkin

’It depends on the seriousness of the issue. For example, if you are a

national newspaper being sued by a soap actor you have accused of being

boring, the perception of him being a bore will probably remain, even if

you lose the case. The newspaper’s reputation remains intact. On the

other hand, if you are a national newspaper sued by a leading politician

whom you have accused of being a liar, higher principles are at stake

and losing the defence could seriously damage the newspaper’s


Ed Vaizey

Consolidated Communications

’As a former barrister, I’m all in favour of suing. Litigation is

changing in this country, in the sense that it has now become part of

the communications mix. The decision to sue should be as much a tactical

decision as a legal one.

And indeed the outcome of the case can often hinge on how the publicity

is handled. A legal defeat can still be a PR victory, and you can make

up in publicity what you lose in court. Marco has been clever - even if

he had paid out he would still have saved money on his marketing


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