The Sun reported last Tuesday that ‘squeaky-clean’ band member Mark Owen had confessed to having ten affairs - one long-term - despite being in a five-year relationship with the mother of his two children. He told The Sun: ‘I have been an idiot, a d***head, a k***head. All of the above and more.’
Take That’s PR agency DawBell released a media statement as soon as the story went live on The Sun’s website. It read: ‘From Mark Owen: 'I'm so deeply sorry for the pain my actions have caused my family and friends. I'd like to ask the media to please respect the privacy of my wife and children during this difficult time.' There will be no further comment.’
PROs were waiting to see whether newspapers would run with lurid kiss and tell stories this weekend, but there was only one such story in the News of the World about band member Howard Donald’s sex life.
Band & Brown’s board director Mark Lowe said: ‘It was pretty inevitable that after Owen’s orchestrated first ‘confession’ other revelations would come out and the band’s PRs have done what they can to minimize the fall-out.’
PHA Media senior consultant Phil Taylor, the former associate editor of News of the World, said the story had been handled ‘absolutely right’. ‘The Sun clearly had evidence on Mark, and he’s clearly done a deal. But coming out with it all at once stops the drip-drip of scandal stories. He’s drawn a line under it, he’s made clear the affairs didn’t happen during his marriage and he’s said he has a booze problem. He’s gone into rehab and now he can come out and move on’, he said.
Taylor Herring’s managing partner James Herring agreed: ‘I am guessing that The Sun had Owen over a barrel, so a total confession was the only route. But honesty does seem to have been a good plan.’
Herring warned that these stories could have a negative impact on potential and current brand partners like Marks & Spencer. ‘This kind of coverage is certainly going to make any commercial sponsors pretty twitchy. How they are seen to be dealing with their issues will have a key bearing on ongoing contracts’, he said.
But Taylor believes these stories will not have a long-term effect on the band’s reputation. ‘The latest Howard story is not a big problem. Mark is the big story and it will have shocked a lot of his fans. But there will be no long-term implications. Take That are adored by all age groups and they will forgive him. Life’s a big learning game. If you own up to your mistakes then you can move forward.’
Lowe agreed with Taylor: ‘I don’t think these revelations are in Tiger Woods territory. Most of Take That’s fanbase have been round long enough not to be that shocked so a major backlash is unlikely, even if a few sponsors do get the jitters.’