Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Up-front media relations

Clarence Mitchell is the new PR representative for the embattled McCann family. Having worked with them closely as head of media monitoring for the Cabinet Office, the former BBC reporter announced to assembled journalists in the McCann’s home village of Rothley that he was giving up his role as a civil servant to work full-time for the couple.

As the supertanker of public opinion appears to be slowly turning to the idea that Kate and Gerry McCann might in some hapless way be responsible for the death of their daughter Madeleine, Mitchell’s announcement conveyed two strong messages:

1) He is wholly convinced of their innocence, to the extent that he has given up his job to support them, and
2) The media should remain focused on the need to find Madeleine, who he believes is still alive, and not to get distracted by speculation about her parents

Almost from the beginning of this sad story, commentators have noted the McCann’s own skills in media relations and their campaign to keep this as a high profile case in the news agenda. The formal announcement of a new media spokesman presents an interesting contrast to the usual tendency to keep the ‘PR process’ hidden from the public.

The strategic thinking here is that it is better to be up-front about having a PR spokesman (and one who is himself relatively ‘high profile’), than to be accused of attempting to influence the media agenda through behind-the-scenes manipulation or spin.

From a PR perspective, the thin silver lining in this dark and cloudy affair is that the story reinforces an association in the mind of the public of PR with honesty. The essence of the McCanns’ case is that they have nothing to hide – including the fact that they are using PR techniques to get their message across.

Filed under:
Clarence Mitchell     Madeleine McCann     media relations


transfattyacid said...

I'm not sure why you say public opinion is turning, in my experience opinion was either against them or ambivilent

Pete Wilby said...

This Guardian article does start off with comments on how opinion has shifted against the McCanns - then goes on to suggest that the tide of events are starting to turn back in favour of the couple.