FCO's Bahrain messaging too 'reactive', says former Govt. comms expert

The Government's advice to Britons to flee Bahrain has been deemed as successful by public sector comms experts, but the messaging has been criticised as too 'reactive'.

FCO: Bahrain messaging wrong claims comms expert
FCO: Bahrain messaging wrong claims comms expert

British citizens were urged by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to leave Bahrain on commercial flights yesterday.

Foreign secretary William Hague said: ‘The UK remains seriously concerned about clashes with protesters and reports of several casualties. I call on all parties to engage in an open and constructive national dialogue, so that it is translated as soon as possible into tangible actions that respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Bahraini people.’

This comes after criticism in the media over Hague’s failure to get Britons quickly out of the Libyan uprising. It was also reported yesterday that twelve British rescue workers were turned back from Tokyo airport, leading to Hague being labeled a ‘bungler’ by the Daily Mirror.

Former COI PR director Oliver Hickson said that the FCO has got its messaging and tone right by moving quickly to give a solution for British citizens to leave Bahrain. However, he adds that it does come across as a ‘reactive stance to previous mistakes’.

‘They really need to come out with a strategic communications standpoint to how they would handle these type of issues,’ said Hickson, who is now MD of Hickson Communications.

There has been criticism of Hague's move to charter a plane to evacuate Britons from Bahrain which left empty, after people were able to get commercial flights instead.

However, former FCO comms director Lucian Hudson added that Hague has come across as a ‘thoughtful’ media operator. ‘I think people trust that he does things for the right reasons,’ said Hudson, now MD of Cornerstone Global Associates.

Former Government speechwriter Simon Lancaster questioned Hague’s use of terminology.

‘I'm amazed that Hague used the metaphor of a 'wave of change sweeping over the Middle East' in yesterday's statement,’ said Lancaster, who now runs Bespoke Speeches. ‘One can scarcely think of a less appropriate metaphor given events in Japan over the last week - particularly as every other Western leader is sticking with the tried and tested 'wind of change' formulation.'

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