News International's apology over phone-hacking is 'too little, too late', claim PROs

News International’s apology over the ongoing phone-hacking scandal ‘took far too long’ and may have come too late to protect its reputation, says one crisis management expert.

Sienna Miller: Suing the News of the World over phone-hacking claims
Sienna Miller: Suing the News of the World over phone-hacking claims

In a statement on Friday, the newspaper publisher said it had ‘decided to approach some civil litigants with an unreserved apology and an admission of liability’.

Yesterday, the News of the World published an apology on page two of the paper titled ‘Voicemail Interception: An Apology’ which said that it ‘publicly and unreservedly’ apologised.

It has also launched a £15 million compensation fund for victims.

Jonathan Hemus, founder of reputation management consultancy, Insignia, said that while taking responsibility for a crisis ‘can signal the start of reputation recovery’, previous denials of widespread phone-hacking may have damaged the credibility of the apology.

‘Taking responsibility for a crisis and saying sorry can signal the start of reputation recovery in the event of a major issue, so the News of the World’s statement at the weekend could be seen as a turning point in this long-running crisis,’ he said.

‘The challenge faced by the paper is that in order to be effective, apologies must be sincere and timely. In this case, it took far too long for News International to acknowledge the reality of the situation and its apology was made only when its back was right against the wall. 

‘Earlier denials of widespread phone-hacking will damage the credibility of any future statements.’

Alan Twigg, managing partner at Seventy Seven PR, also argued that the apology was ‘too little, too late’ and suggested the opportunity for a successful PR offensive had passed.

‘This frankly isn’t about PR anymore – it’s about the law and avoiding arguably up to £70m of litigation,’ he said.

‘It’s all too little, too late after the whole tawdry issue has been flogged for too long and the numerous aggrieved parties given time to mount and publicly state their own cases.

‘The fact that the whole issue is now being driven by lawyers and not PRs or journalists says it all.’

According to reports, a fund has been set up by NoW to settle claims from some of the people subjected to phone-hacking by the paper, including actress Sienna Miller, who is suing the paper.

The police investigation into alleged phone hacking gathered pace last week when the News of the World's chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, and former associate editor Ian Edmondson were arrested and released on bail.

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