Ben Lowndes #viewsoncomms

A perspective on PR, development and life in the South West

Twitter cases show PR may be better than legal action

It’s been a frenzied week for the media, which has taken navel gazing to new levels over the spectacular failure of lawyers to protect Ryan Giggs’ privacy. They may have succeeded for a while in keeping their client’s name out of stories of his alleged affair. But, as pressure mounted and newspapers’ displeasure at the fact that it was open season on Twitter grew, it was only a matter of time before traditional media named him. By the time John Hemming used parliamentary privilege to publicly name Giggs, the story had turned from a fairly trivial one to an issue of constitutional significance and no amount of legal heavy-handedness was going to suppress it. When the Sunday Herald broke ranks last weekend and named Giggs, public appetite for the story was huge – and resulted in a record number of hits on its website, despite the fact that item only appeared in print.

Officials at South Tyneside Council may be equally aghast this morning at news of their legal attempts to unmask an anonymous tweeter who they say has made defamatory comments about the authority. They launched the case to track down a whistle-blower called ‘Mr Monkey’, who has made a raft of claims about councillors. The move is reported to have ‘cost council tax payers hundreds of thousands of pounds.’

The council has every right to protect itself against inaccurate claims that could damage its reputation. But I can’t help feel that, like the Giggs case, the publicity the legal action has generated will end up being a hell of a lot worse than that which the lawyers were seeking to deflect.

South Tyneside councillor @ahmedkhan1 made this point on Twitter this morning.

I have no idea what PR advice was given in these cases. But both stories demonstrate that taking a purely legal approach to solving a PR problem may actually worsen the damage further down the line. I’m convinced that if Giggs had ‘come clean’ when the claims were first made against him and given a contrite interview to the red tops, we would not be talking about him now. He could also have saved himself a fortune in legal fees. Instead, online chatter and a frustrated media have combined with a tale of a footballer playing away from home to create one of the stories of the year. I’m sure that was not the result Giggs would have been looking for when he first took advice on the pros and cons of legal action.

Surely damage limitation rather than a ‘command and control’ approach to silencing bad news would have been a better option? PR people need to be making this argument when their organisations’ reputations come under threat.

Responding to these issues is not a job that should be left to lawyers alone.

One response to “Twitter cases show PR may be better than legal action

  1. Pingback: Twitter forced by California court to hand over personal details and tweets of politician accused of libel by British group | iToD Daily

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

FragmeNTs

from the National Trust archaeology team in the Stonehenge & Avebury World Heritage Site

bristoljames.com

a blog about adapting to the digital age

Colin Wiles

Commentary on current housing and planning issues

4,000 bricks

A place for housing, communications and political debate

AdeCapon's Blog

All things digital, marketing, football and happenings

John Wade

Joining up the planks

Simon Rogers

Data journalism and other curiosities

David Higgerson

Journalism, online, random thinking

Connecting Social Care and Social Media

Sharing resources to promote the use of Social Media in Social Care

John Popham's Random Musings

"Just trying to matter"

nick atkin

A collection of random views on housing, technology & running

Guido Fawkes

Parliamentary plots and conspiracy

A Sense of Place

Ronnie Hughes

Council Homes Chat

Busting myths about Council Housing by providing a platform for people's stories/experiences #CouncilHomesChat #SocialHousing

social for the people

Social media training and advice

TessaCoombes

Policy Politics Place

Heritage Calling

A Historic England Blog

Housing Comms

A platform to share all things housing comms related

Ben Black's Blog

Simple stories about communications. My ideas, tips and thoughts

Government Digital Service

Putting the public first in delivering digital public services

bromcomms

The communications team behind Bromford

Dan Slee

Social media, PR and digital communications in the public sector from the co-founder of comms2point0

Paul Taylor

Social Innovation. Customer Experience. Service Design

%d bloggers like this: