LEADER: When perception becomes reality

If, like many people who have worked in PR, you have ever questioned the importance and relevance of your profession, it is worth a quick look at the role of communication in this week's big stories.

Danny Rogers, Editor, <em>PRWeek</em>
Danny Rogers, Editor, PRWeek

As personal finance journalist Martin Lewis pointed out, there was no crisis at Northern Rock until the media made a big deal out of it. It was simply an overdraft request. And as The Telegraph’s Jeff Randall wrote: ‘The Chancellor and Gordon Brown were untroubled by possible carnage until they saw newscasts of old ladies in long queues...’

Indeed the ‘crisis’ was only averted when the Government comms decision was taken to announce that customers ‘would not lose a penny’.

And if one is still under the illusion that this administration does not put as much effort into PR strategy as the last, our profile of political aide Damian McBride this week should shatter this.

Similarly the tragic case of Madeleine McCann has moved from a crime investigation into a PR battle.

On Friday PRWeek.com broke the news Hanover was fending off the media onslaught surrounding Kate and Gerry McCann. The couple then re-hired Government comms expert Clarence Mitchell as their spokesman.

Since then we have seen sentiment shift back in favour of the McCanns, who had been under immense pressure from the Portuguese police last week.

Good comms doesn’t make the McCanns any more innocent, or guilty, but it could make a difference in the charges that the Portuguese authorities bring.

Equally, while expert PR may not change the way Northern Rock has been run, it does affect public confidence and ultimately its share price.

One would question whether PR advisers should ever become the story, but with the today’s level of media nous and scrutiny, this often seems inevitable. Whatever happens they are right at the heart of developments.

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