Opinion: Leader - Honesty is critical in these fearful times

This past week will be fixed in the memory for a very long time.

As our previous magazine was going to press on 6 July, we were finalising the judging of the PRWeek Awards - a hugely rewarding day for all involved - and toasting the success of the communications team behind London 2012.

But, as all those in the media looked forward to a day of analysing PR triumph on an international stage, we were suddenly watching another story develop.

For those who work in London the rumours and piecemeal stories circulating early on Thursday morning were accompanied by growing fear and nausea.

We turned to every medium for information. First the mobile phone to check on friends and family, but these soon failed. Then the TV, but even by late morning there was little real information. Then to the internet - and more specifically to the blogs and sent-in mobile phone footage - where we could see the horrifying events gaining clarity.

Thoughts shot back to 9/11, but this time the story was taking place underground far from the TV cameras. Facts were frustratingly scarce until a highly professional press conference was screened live at 3pm.

Was this because the information was being disseminated badly from those at the sharp end? Or because it was being deliberately withheld? The answers will emerge only with time. As ITN correspondent Chris Choi quite rightly tells PRWeek, the first priority for the emergency services is to save lives.

From the politicians we had a well-rehearsed message of defiance: some from the head, some - thankfully - from the heart. The strategy was clearly to unite the country and avoid panic. But having heard so many viewpoints in the aftermath of the tragedy, one can't help thinking that the politicians and authorities could still improve their crisis response.

They must fine-tune their dissemination of facts and, above all, be careful to treat the general public with unfailing humility and honesty.

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