Industry is in a spin, says Hutton
Observer editor Will Hutton told the conference that both PR and media
professionals are facing growing pressure to spin, accent, or withhold
information as companies seek to protect their corporate reputations,
and media outlets try to differentiate themselves from rivals. There
was, he said, a ‘near crisis in spin’, in which ‘the casualty is some
kind of truth and high quality public debate’. However, said Hutton: ‘It
is difficult to construct too much spin without an element of truth,’
and he added ‘The public increasingly want their news straight.’
New technology won’t kill mass media
Financial Times media correspondent Raymond Snoddy highlighted the huge
impact that current technological advances in telecommunications,
computers and digital broadcasting will have on the media landscape.
But, unlike Peter Gummer, he stressed that rumours of the imminent
demise of the mass media are greatly exaggerated - because consumers
will still want them.
Public lose faith in official information
‘Public confidence in all our major institutions is in dramatic
decline,’ according to Paul Edwards, deputy chairman of the Henley
Centre. Data from the Centre’s Planning for Social Change surveys over
the last decade, indicated that people now place more value on personal
experience or what they are told by family, friends or colleagues than
officia’ sources, said Edwards, who suggested we could be moving towards
‘personal rather than public relations’ where ‘accuracy becomes far more
important than coverage’.
Shell and Greenpeace could face rematch
Shell and Greenpeace could be heading for another PR clash if Shell
decides to revive plans for deep sea dumping of the Brent Spar oil
platform. The prediction came from Mark Damazer, editor of BBC TV News
Programmes, in a conference discussion about the lessons of the Brent
Spar affair. Damazer admitted a continuing sense of unease at the use of
PR-generated footage such as that supplied by Greenpeace during the
incident and he conceded that the power of such pictures left the
corporation open to criticism from opposing sides who feel their views
are not presented as forcefully. Nevertheless, he blamed Shell for
failing to react quickly to requests for interviews on the issue.
Cruikshanks advocates more power to EC
Industry should be pushing for the EC to have more powers and resources,
Elaine Cruikshanks, managing director of Hill and Knowlton Belgium, told
the conference, ‘because only in this way will the Single European
Market be maintained against fragmentation’ with each member state
interpreting EU directives differently.
Lewis calls for long-term business strategy
Simon Lewis, director of corporate affairs for NatWest Group called upon
companies to adopt an inclusive approach to managing their business with
more emphasis on long-term strategy in their meetings with shareholders.
However, current insider dealing legislation may have to be reviewed to
allow this. For their part, institutional shareholders - fund managers
and trustees - also need to become more inclusive and more accountable
for their decisions, said Lewis. Otherwise the risk in PR terms is that
they might be seen as the trade union barons of the 1990s.
PR plan counters water industry critics
John McAngus, chief press officer at Anglian Water, admitted that his
company along with other water companies has been bombarded by hostile
media scrutiny and sniping since privatisation. But he insisted that a
responsive PR strategy, based on genuine stories to tell about the
utility being both well-managed and socially responsible, has managed to
rescue Anglian Water from the PR crisis which has faced the water