Opinion: Tabloid prey need PROs as much as lawyers

Britain's stars and celebrities (and yes, there is a difference), princes and politicians, footballers and businessmen are all under a media spotlight of unprecedented intensity.

We have the world's most voracious tabloid press, embracing the newspapers formerly known as broadsheets, and magazines - all of which operate in arguably the least-regulated environment in Europe. TV, too, has become increasingly tabloid, with recent editions of Panorama using extraordinary levels of innuendo.

The media message to high-profile figures is: you are public property for us to examine and judge. European privacy initiatives are resisted as essentially unBritish, libel actions remain prohibitively expensive for most (and, in any case, do little to put the genie of falsehood back in the bottle), while self-regulation through the Press Complaints Commission offers limp and belated redress for past wrongs.

How then is the reputation of a client - who finds himself or his family's privacy traduced, or who has been wronged by a rapacious media - best protected? Many continue to reach for their lawyers, with their accomplished gravitas, reassuring threats of injunctions and immense fees. The smart ones increasingly turn to a PRO who understands the workings, sensitivities and fears of the media: the results can be better; bills smaller.

The advantage of the PR strike is that it can be pre-emptive, offering real protection of reputation and brand. And, with no legal battle and ensuing bitterness, there remains a positive, rather than negative,
implication for the client's future media relations.

This is why public figures as diverse as Prince Charles, Wayne Rooney (who I advise), Chris Tarrant, politicians and businessmen have recently turned in the first instance, often discreetly, to spin doctors.

In my experience the media ‘enemies' are often quite receptive. Despite their need for sensation and revelation, publishing groups and broadcasters prefer not to be sued. Indeed, many editors have been ordered by cost-cutting executives to cut out the legal bills. Clients can equally be more receptive to a mixed solution of media management by the savvy PRO and pre-emptive legal action.

All of this means growing opportunities for PR and law professions to work together. Indeed, many forward-thinking law firms are now passing valuable business leads to PR people.

Privacy, protection and good future relations are the modern solution for the age in which we live. It is simply constructive business.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and was formerly a senior newspaper executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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