HARD COMMERCIAL EDGE OF PR 1996: CONFERENCE REPORT; In Brief

Industry is in a spin, says Hutton

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

industry.



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