Some weeks live in the memory for amazing, happy reasons, some for tragic reasons.
Sorry if this is a little self-indulgent and off-topic in terms of pure PR relevance, but this last seven days contained a mixture of both and all I can do is offer a few reflections to try and put it all in context.
1/ The British general election
My PRWeek U.K. counterpart Danny Rogers pretty much nailed it here, not much more I can add to that. U.S. observers might, however, have been a little bemused to encounter characters such as Lord Buckethead, Elmo, and The Monster Raving Loony Party candidate going head to head with Prime Minister Theresa May in her Maidenhead constituency. Clearly some Brits don’t take their politics quite as seriously as other countries, though there are those who say it is increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the serious and joke candidates in elections across the world these days.
2/ Terror attack on London Bridge
Millwall is a tough area of Southeast London hewn from a long tradition of docks and immigration. Its local soccer team is notorious for having some of the hardest fans around, and I know from living in Bermondsey and Peckham at certain periods in my past that they are not to be messed with. They have an ignominious history and it’s fair to say they haven’t often covered themselves in glory headline-wise. But when three crazy terrorists are coming at you armed with 12-inch-long knives shouting "This is for Allah" it is people like Millwall fan Roy Larner you want by your side.
Larner was having a meal in Borough Market on Saturday night and told U.K. newspaper The Sun he had consumed "four or five pints – nothing major" when the attackers smashed their way into the restaurant: "I took a few steps toward them and shouted ‘F*** you, I’m Millwall’," said Larner. He was stabbed eight times and sustained injuries to his head, arms, and torso, but his actions in fighting off the attackers gave other diners time to escape out the back of the restaurant and undoubtedly saved lives. Faced with the man who has been dubbed "The Lion of London Bridge," the terrorists eventually fled the restaurant and were gunned down in the street by the police. Eight innocent lives were lost and many were badly injured, but it could have been so many more.
The London police’s response to the incident was magnificent, and they had the attackers cornered and killed within eight minutes, but there’s no doubt Larner’s actions helped them achieve this amazing feat. He is rightly being lauded as a hero and I hope they give him a medal – he certainly deserves it. His modest response: "I just did what I had to do."
His mom said presciently: "He’s quite nippy and lippy and wouldn’t back down from a fight. He wouldn’t care who it was or if they had a knife or gun."
BTW – the much-decried mainstream media ("MSM") doesn’t do itself any favors sometimes. In its coverage of the London Bridge attack, MSNBC confused Vauxhall in Southeast London with the Vauxhall Motors auto factory in Luton, Bedfordshire, owned by GM. Shoddy journalism and, as I’ve said on this blog before, the media needs to hold itself to higher standards if it is to turn around the perception President Trump is peddling that these outlets are part of the fake news epidemic. The drive to 24/7 cable news coverage and instant social media reaction is not an excuse for sloppy journalism.
3/ Manchester stands firm
Talking of standing strong in the face of cowardly terrorist attacks, big props to Arianna Grande and all the pop stars who returned to Manchester last Sunday to put on a benefit concert in support of those victims of the attack on Grande’s gig at Manchester Arena two weeks prior. She seems an incredibly impressive young woman, who showed inner strength and maturity to put the event together and host it with such aplomb. I confess that I must have had something in my eye when she did a song with a children’s choir from a local Manchester school and at several other points during the event.
Great credit goes to the people of Manchester for the caring and resolute way they have responded to the awful attack. A friend of mine and his wife were in the lobby of the venue waiting for their two girls who were at the concert when the bomb went off and were knocked down by the force of the explosion. Miraculously they and their daughters escaped unhurt, but the sight of the dead bodies around them and horrific carnage could not be unseen. RIP all those innocents who lost their lives.
4/ James Comey gives evidence
No real point in expounding further on this one too much, you will have been saturated in coverage elsewhere, but a couple of observations.
Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz issued a statement on the President’s behalf on Thursday afternoon, in which he started with the line: "I am Predisent Trump’s personal lawyer." Again, like MSNBC above, it’s sloppy practice that doesn’t set a professional tone in any way whatsoever. Where’s the due diligence in all of this? Perhaps they should have got Sean Spicer involved. On second thoughts...
5/ Anchored down in Anchorage
We were pleased to welcome Alaskan-based PR pro Kristin Helvey to the PRWeek newsroom this week to be a guest on our weekly podcast. Helvey gave us the lowdown on common misperceptions about Alaska, the PR and business scenes in what is by far the largest U.S. state, and her views on the PRSA and Alaska Airlines.
Helvey was in town for the PRSA Silver Anvil Awards, and she went home with a trophy in the Crisis Communications category. Congratulations to her and everyone who won. I hadn’t attended the event for a few years but it reminded me why you need to bag yourself a seat at the back and on the aisle of the cinema-style auditorium. With well over 100 trophies to hand out, staying the course is only for the bravest of hearts. At least the winners don’t give interminable speeches like some other ceremonies I can think of.
Let no one ever complain about the time it takes to hand out the 35 Oscars of the PR world at the PRWeek Awards every March – our excellent events team has that down to a T.
6/ Diversity appears in many forms
I was delighted to attend the D&AD’s New Blood Shift event at Vice Media in Brooklyn on Wednesday night. The D&AD is a globally renowned creative awards non-profit and exists to promote excellence in design and advertising. New Blood Shift helps young people who can’t necessarily afford to embark on a program of mainstream education from their own resources. Up to 20 applicants get the chance to participate in night-school programs and benefit from exposure to leaders in the field. At the end they show off their portfolios to the industry and can secure paid placements.
Economic exclusion is just as much a diversity issue as gender or ethnicity, often they are linked. At this time it is more important than ever to encourage diverse individuals into communications and marketing so the work in creative industries reflects the modern population and consumer. It’s fair and it’s actually good business. Long may this scheme continue and prosper.
And, by the way, isn’t Vice Media an incredible story and an amazing location to work in that is doing its own bit to encourage diversity within the media? It’s good to see a media company that is truly innovative and successful in these tough times for our business.
7/ Diverse perspectives on the Hall of Femme
Finally, PRWeek has received a bit of blowback about our Hall of Femme celebration, which took place at the Dream hotel late last week, specifically about the all-male panel that was part of the event.
I covered this in my last blog, but the issue has continued to be under the spotlight on social media this week, especially Richard Edelman’s comment about women needing to speak up more loudly if they feel their voices aren’t being heard. We have an op-ed from Heather Whaling at Geben Communications that addresses this much better than I can.
Part of the confusion about what was, after all, an event to celebrate achievement and excellence amongst women in the PR industry is that the article about the male panel was isolated on social media channels and not placed in context with all the other content from the event. The male panel was just one part and a part that had been requested by last year’s Hall of Femme honorees, but taken in isolation I can see how the optics might have appeared off.
As I said last week, Pam Wickham’s comments were a much better bellwether of the event and what most people went away talking about and inspired by. Either way, lessons were learned that we will use to improve next year’s presentation.