The PR Guru

April 7, 2010

PR experts make their own gaffe

It happens to the best of us. A slip of the tongue, a well-intentioned move which backfires, that kind of thing. We PR Gurus are only human after all.

But something came to my attention over Easter which simply beggars belief. It was so breath-takingly stupid I have been unable to blog about it til now.

And it came from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations – the people who supposedly set the standards in our profession.

They dimwittedly decided to give an award to Northumbria Police for their handling of a case in which a young pedestrian was killed by a speeding police car. Unbelievable.

Let’s assemble the evidence:

In May 2008 Hayley Adamson was hit and killed by a speeding police patrol car.

PC John Dougal was jailed for three years after being convicted of driving at 94mph – without using his blue light and siren – moments before he ploughed into her.

Just under a year on from the tragedy and a day before what should have been Hayley’s 18th birthday, the force managed to bag a “gold” prize from Chartered Institute of Public Relations, for their effectiveness and sensitive on dealing with the matter!

The entry, which was described as “An extremely sensitive issue that the judges felt was handled in a very professional and caring way”, came as a sickening blow to the girl’s family, who are obviously appalled by the award.

The main objective of the PR campaign was to “minimise the risks to Northumbria’s reputation” an aim that they have clearly failed to fulfil.

I think the main shock to the whole saga is the air of vulgarity from the police force.

Surely they should have maintained their dignity, and that of the victim’s family, and kept their own counsel?

They claim they were nominated for the award by someone else. But this is unlikely – the CIPR stipulate on the awards website that entry fees are required, so unless a very generous third party has nominated the force, surely they’ve handled the application themselves? 

So an appalling gaffe – how could anyone from Northumbria Police have thought this was a good idea?

And how could the CIPR endorse it by giving them the award?

Needless to say, while arguably the force merited the award for their handling of the case at the time, they have certainly undone all that hard work with this application.

The most disappointing aspect of it for me is the damage the CIPR have done to our profession.

They’ll need all their crisis management skills to turn this one around.


1 Comment »

  1. I’ve never quite understood what function the CIPR serves, and come to that most trade associations seem a bit ineffective. I’ve sought advice twice from CIPR and was passed from pillar to post until I gave up. Thankfully I’m no longer a member; the money I save gets better used elsewhere.

    Comment by Richard — April 8, 2010 @ 2:19 pm | Reply

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