Two of the most effective PR techniques, yet the most often shoddily implemented are internal communications, and the example highlighted here by the Solicitor General Vera Baird (below), consultation.
The Home Office today launched a consultation on how best to end violence against women and girls (this is the link to the press release). Many might argue that it should already know how it wants to tackle the problem, and to announce a consultation, followed by the obligatory few months writing up of the findings will inevitably force the issue into the long grass of a General Election campaign, and lose much needed changes to the law for another few years.
Not my view, but the view of Sandra Horley, Chief Executive of Refuge, the domestic violence organisation. Those views were bravely and forcibly expressed in the forum of a consultation ’roundtable’ set up by the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to launch the Government’s grand consultation. Sat around the table of the Cinnamon Club (just a few hundred yards from the Home Office) were Solicitor General Vera Baird, various other ministers, assembled representatives of human rights and domestic violence campaigning organisations such as Amnesty and Gingerbread, plus the inevitable celebrity endorsers, ‘model’ Danielle Lloyd and ‘Big Brother’ psychologist Linda Papadopalous.
Of yes, and hordes of invited journalists, photographers and camera-people, for whom the event had arguably been staged, to create a media event to support the launch of the ‘policy’.
Rather than allowing the moment to pass, Sandra Horley has the ‘audacity’ (as the representatives of Government clearly feel it is) to tell the Home Secretary what she thinks of the proposal. As chief executive of an organisation involved in this area of work for some time, she obviously feels passionate about the topic, and if the consultation were being conducted genuinely to collect views, find solutions and engage with opponents rather than just as a media opportunity, her contribution would be welcomed warmly.
I could not believe my ears while watching on Channel 4 News (watch the clip via the link here) as the Solicitor General, Vera Baird MP can be heard intervening (1min 2seconds into the attached clip) to say, “We’re getting into the sort of green custard situation aren’t we, where you throw a few phrases out and cause trouble.”
Jacqui Smith dismisses the campaigner’s intervention, claiming it is ill-informed. It is about reports of Government support for a register of domestic abusers, something that Horley clearly thinks is potty, but that Smith is denying is Government policy. It may not appear in the consultation paper, but in order to trail the launch on Monday 9th, stories were briefed in to appear on Sunday 8th (conveniently, International Women’s Day) which somehow reported that very policy (see Sunday Mirror, The Observer and reports on Sunday on the BBC website).
The Daily Mail (link here) also capture the full atmosphere of the exchange, made all the more bizarre by the inclusion in proceedings of those celebrity endorsers. It wasn’t just Danielle Lloyd (side left) but my old favourite celebrity endorser Jamelia (side right – and not to be confused with the former co-host of BBC Coventry & Warwickshire’s Breakfast Show of the same name), Zoe Wannamaker, Beverley Knight (incorrectly spelt in the press release) and Roxanne Pallett (Jo Sugden from Emmerdale to you and me) who are included as celebrity endorsers in the accompanying press release – along with the British Parking Association(?). It all feels like a case of ‘Pay and Display‘ to me rather than deep and genuine consultation – but then, genuine consultation is a rare and beautiful thing. The whole initiative has such great potential, and all the right ingredients for a successful campaign are there, but ……..
Perhaps I am wrong, and the whole thing was deliberately staged as a case of ‘managed controversy’, to ensure that the launch made it onto the news bulletins that evening. If so, it paid off. And if so, Jamelia’s odds-on to get her job back as co-host on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire’s Breakfast Show.