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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

A letter to PR Week: 'there are higher goods in life than the successful implementation of a crisis PR strategy'

PR Week, the magazine for PR professionals ran a piece last week on the Church of England's response to #occupyLSX.

I decided to 'green ink' the editor in response.

Dear Editor,

I suppose it would be too much to expect the PR industry to view the C of E’s response to #occupyLSX in anything other than its standard myopic view of the public domain (‘St Paul’s Cathedral and Adivisers in “PR Disaster” According to PR Experts ‘ PR Week 27 Oct).

As if every action could or even ought to be reducd to a #PRfail or #PRwin.

It’s precisely this kind of cynical, instrumental logic that corrodes the legitmacy of the political and business class.

PR professionals and journalists alike would do well to pay attention to what the Arch Bishop of Centebury, Rowan Williams, has said about how his church has responded to the occupation.

In an op-ed piece for the FT this week (02 Nov) he set out an argument that I think serves as a riposte to those in PR and media land who insist that the church’s response ought to be reduced to a bland exercise in PR efficacy.

In the op ed piece Rowan Williams explained that: ‘… the Church of England is a place where the unspoken anxieties of society can often find a voice, for good and ill. If the Church cannot find ways through, that is not an index of its incompetence, so much as the sensitivity of such matters.’

What the archbishop is saying here is that the issues raised by #occupyLSX are legitimate although ethically complex and difficult to resolve. But even if it were possible, it is by no means certain that the C of E ought to seek to reduce these complex issues to a simplistic set of ‘lines to take’ just to please the media.
Put simply there are higher goods in life than the successful implementation of a crisis PR strategy.

The Church took time to reflect on the contradictions of its position in a reasonable and transparent manner last week and three people resigned as a result (each in a dignified and conscientious manner that shows them and their  institution in a good light).

Far from ducking away from the issues, as most organisations do,  the C of E has shown that it is possible for an institution to face up to a dificult and contradictory set of issues. It has even forced the mysterious Corporation of London to ‘pause’ and ‘reflect’ on the way it should respond.

And by changing its position on whether or not to evict the occupiers, it has avoided the infinitely graver ‘#PRfail’ of consenting to what is depressingly likely to be a violent eviction at some point in the future.

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