Judge and Jury: The man who fell to Earth conquered new media frontiers - Despite the untimely end to Richard Branson’s latest trans-global balloon venture he still emerges from it as a media hero, says Jackie Elliot, chief executive and managing

Richard - he’s wonderful - even when he gets it wrong, he gets it right.

Richard - he’s wonderful - even when he gets it wrong, he gets it


A massive build-up with pre-publicity and excitement charting every

fraction of the way, stunning lift-off pictures on the national front

pages and television, problems emerging in time for breakfast broadcast,

huge relief in time for lunch and a perfect apology for disappointment

and failure.

And more - a last minute hero, who saved the day and forgot to

photograph the can that plummeted to the ground so that the balloon and

its crew could survive.


I can’t knock it and what’s more, I don’t want to. All of us earthbound

PR people should throw our hats in the air at the guts, grit and the

marvellous luck of the man. He has managed to encapsulate, in less than

24 hours, everything that makes a great story and keeps the media in


An eccentric British adventurer doing something that hadn’t ever been

done (churlishly, we could pause there, I suppose); doing it under his

own steam through his own well-earned means; being consistent about

wanting to do it (no mere stunt, this); never being arrogant; giving us

emotion (farewell to wife and son); giving us great beauty and drama

(but keeping the scary bits to himself until everyone was safe); and

then having that overwhelmingly appealing national characteristic of

being able to say ’sorry - it didn’t work out’.

But nobody got hurt, no vital emergency services appear to have been

called away from other more pressing cases - if his pride was hurt, he

was prepared to let us see it - and as a result we loved it. And filmed

it, and photographed it and talked about it - mainly with great

admiration and affection.

Having met Will Whitehorn, I’m prepared to believe that the whole thing

was minutely planned - down to the last grainy shot of Richard in the

basket - even so, I don’t mind. What a testimonial to the value of

creative public relations and the impact of media coverage on an event

with so many brand benefits. And as Richard has now proved - how to take

risk by the scruff of the neck and make it your friend.

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