In the aftermath of the weekend's rioting, Bradford council PROs
are battling to protect the carefully crafted image of their city.
Two years ago, Bradford Metropolitan District Council's then
newly-appointed director of communications Owen Williams told PRWeek of
his dream of creating a different perception of the city.
With tens of thousands of jobs lost over the past 40 years in the
textile industry, a delicate racial balance and a series of riots in
1995, it was a decision long overdue.
Since then much has been done. The council's 2020 Vision campaign has
brought together businesses and community groups and this year the town
is bidding to become European capital of culture in 2008.
That image now hangs in the balance, with West Yorkshire Constabulary's
press team working round the clock on crisis communications.
The force's in-house PR unit has so far followed a strategy of
At a hastily-arranged press call, the chief constable admitted the
strategy of containment had failed in the face of 11 hours of rioting
last Saturday night.
Sharrion Llewelyn - deputy head of media relations at the council and
one of five PROs dealing with the deluge of enquiries from local,
national and international media - said now is not the time to talk of
recent positive positioning. 'There is a feeling that what has gone on
is not enough,' she said.
'When we are asked why the riots have happened we say it is for an
inquiry to decide. There is no one reason.'
This week sees the release of a report by former Commission for Racial
Equality chairman Sir Herman Ouseley into race relations in
Leaks of the report suggest it says the city is dividing on racial
As the Ouseley analysis shows, the riots may undermine all the good work
done in the last two years.
So far the media has offered condemnation for the violence but withheld
criticism of the police and council.
The Yorkshire Post's editorial last Monday praised 'years of good work'
in community relations. Its attacks are aimed at the far right and a
minority of rebellious young Asian men.
Will the media be so restrained after the Ouseley report is
Sue Coffey, founder of Bradford-based Zymo Marketing and PR, is sure the
city can win the PR battle in the long term.
'The nation is seeing Bradford unite in its condemnation of this
violence,' she said. Time will show if this is too optimistic an