Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ad Fab, the BBC and Public Relations

Today, the PR industry seemed to celebrate a PR campaign and managed to get the BBC to talk about PR without using words like stunt or 'cheap and easy' and mixing publicity with PR in its usual way.

Its story says that "the campaign to secure settlement rights for Gurkhas undoubtedly owes much of its success to the fact it had a household name in Joanna Lumley to champion its cause."

So the barb was there.

They then found an expert who blew the gaff:

However, according to public relations experts, it was thanks to a unique set of circumstances that it won such a remarkable victory.

Prof Anne Gregory, director of the Centre for Public Relations Studies at Leeds Metropolitan University, said celebrity "ambassadors" have been used to good effect by charities such as Unicef.

But she said Lumley's close ties to the Gurkhas - her father fought alongside the Nepalese warriors during World War II - were crucial.

"She was the perfect figurehead," said Prof Gregory.

"She has that real personal connection. She's not doing it for the money or self-promotion and people feel she has the right to speak on the Gurkhas' behalf."

Public perceptions of the soldiers as "noble, brave, altruistic and loyal to the Queen without necessity" made the Gurkha Justice Campaign stand out from other causes, said the professor.

"People feel we should be generous to them in return for their loyalty," she said.

Even so, without Lumley's backing, Prof Gregory said the campaign may have waited much longer to achieve its goals, as leaders struggled to make their views heard.

In other words, the public relations campaign would win with or without Ad Fab glitter.

I think that Lumley did an excellent job. But it was a good (not great) public relations job and not an exercise, stunt, 'cheap and easy', or publicity.

Liberal Democrat Peter Carroll who was the power behind much of the strategy said: "There was pretty ruthless planning that went on to ensure that Joanna Lumley chose her moment well."

A planned and sustained effort.

Well done to them...

I wonder, as Nick Robinson might say, if they have learned the lesson.

After all, the BBC is a mighty publicity machine but will need some hard public relations to sustain its reputation as it exposed expenses to public scrutiny and ups the licence fee in the midst of recession.