Danny Rogers: Nothing in public life is safe from being leaked

On Monday, two senior comms professionals were 'outed' for applying pressure on the BBC.

Danny Rogers: Nothing in public life is safe from being leaked
Danny Rogers: Nothing in public life is safe from being leaked

First The Guardian revealed that Boris Johnson's erstwhile media strategist (and newly appointed director of comms at News International), Guto Harri, had sent emails to BBC news executives allegedly warning that unless coverage of Johnson's mayoral election campaign improved, the BBC faced a 'huge public fight'.

On the same day, footage appeared on YouTube of Downing Street's director of comms, Craig Oliver, berating BBC News' chief political correspondent Norman Smith for his coverage of David Cameron's relationship with Rupert Murdoch. Oliver was unaware that the TV camera trained on him and Smith had not been switched off.

These revelations throw up several interesting issues.

First, there is the question of how these private PR rants become public. The BBC strongly denies that it leaked either. Harri's emails could have been leaked by the Mayor's Office, but what would have been the motivation once Johnson had won the election? Equally, the BBC TV camera feed could have been leaked by other news organisations. At the time of writing, both remain a mystery.

Second, these incidents show how quickly even the most careful PR advisers can 'become the story'. Harri, despite being a flamboyant character, had managed to avoid the spotlight during his time working for the Mayor. Now he has joined News International - still caught in the eye of the hackgate storm - this could become more vital. Indeed, one wonders whether the email leak was from an anti-News International interest.

For Oliver, discretion is even more critical. We should remember that he was the replacement in Downing Street for Andy Coulson, and his lack of 'baggage' was a big part of his appeal, alongside his obvious TV nous. Indeed the Norman Smith rant - which can still be found on Guido Fawkes' site Order-Order.com - was the first many of us had seen of David Cameron's (less 'sweary') equivalent of Alastair Campbell.

Third, and most importantly, both these revelations demonstrate starkly the new climate for comms: the fact that virtually nothing in the cut and thrust of public life is guaranteed to remain private.

This requires a complete rethink by organisations of all types. If business leaders, politicians and brands are not already aware that 360-degree comms is vital to everything they do - indeed to their long-term reputational success - then tomorrow's revelations via social media could be a harsh reality check.

Also read: PRs must show more caution over correspondence with media

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