CAMPAIGNS: Lambeth fills media role in girl's tragedy - Crisis Management

Client: Lambeth Council

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: The disappearance of Bunmi Shagaya

Timescale: 2 July - ongoing

Budget: Undisclosed

On 2 July, London schoolgirl Bunmi Shagaya disappeared near a lake while

on a school trip to France with her classmates. Tragically, three days

later her body was found in the water - she had drowned.

Her school, Hill Mead Primary School, is in Brixton in the borough of

Lambeth. Because the tragedy had happened overseas, neither the

Metropolitan Police nor the French police could drive the response to

the media, so the responsibility fell to Lambeth Council's

communications department to take the lead.


To communicate to the media that the school understood there were

questions to be answered, that the school was doing everything it could

to help Bunmi's parents, the parents of the other children on the trip,

the teachers on the trip and those left at the school.

Strategy and Plan

When the news that a child had gone missing started to filter through to

the council on the evening of 2 July, Lambeth council's director of

communications Robert Blower knew there was going to be an onslaught of

press inquiries.

However the immediate concern was for the family of the missing child

and for the parents of her classmates. They were told the news as early

as possible the next morning.

One pressing problem was that Lambeth was not getting much information

from the police in France. But, to try to hold off media interest, a

press conference was called for 1.30pm that day. Present were Michael

Peters, Lambeth director of education, the chief inspector of Brixton

police and the deputy head of Hill Mead school.

All three had briefed the parents of the children that morning - a

tactic that Blower says paid dividends, as all of the parents were very

supportive of the school in their own dealings with the media.

The most the press conference could do was talk about Bunmi herself, but

it established lines of communication with the media. Lambeth press

office liaised with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to see if it

could get information from the French police.

A press officer was camped outside Hill Mead School to answer

journalists' questions and provide feedback.

The press office installed six phone lines and held press conferences in

the morning and afternoon, when it would release a statement. It made

Peters available for interview.

When the children returned home from France, Blower negotiated for one

cameraman's footage to act as a pool for the others to ensure an

absolute minimum of media intrusion.

Measurement and Evaluation

Lambeth monitored coverage to ensure that key messages were getting

through and, where there was misinformation, to correct it. And it also

identified areas where it felt it could have performed better.


Relationships with the press were improved and the messages coming from

parents were supportive of the council's actions.

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