Years ago – pre-Twitter & Facebook but very much in the age of websites & blogging – I remember a client had a problem and was appearing on BBC’s Watchdog. I remember telling them that to beat Watchdog we could put everything relevant on their website, seed it about and have the few complaints in context – all before the show had aired. They ignored the advice, thinking it was better to hope that it would go away instead of dealing with it.
Sadly, that’s still the attitude by so many which is why I’m applauding what Ed Staite did with The Sunday Times over the last few days…
For those not sure what happened, The Sunday Times set up an undercover interview with Crisis Media chap Ed Staite, trying to see if he would promise access to a minister – perhaps even George Osborne – in return for cash, something that is considered a no-no (though I think it mistakes access for influence, but that’s an argument for another day).
Anyway, obviously that’s not something that people just say “Yeah, give me £250K and I’ll give you George,” so journalists have to act like fake companies. It’s a well-known trick, did similar myself back in the day when I was a journalist (at a different level admittedly).
Anyway, Ed hears on Friday night that the Sunday Times is going to run something, so what does he do? Panic? No. Ignore it and hope it goes away? No. He gets onto the web and publishes everything on his blog – the full pitch/proposal that he offers and his impression of how the meeting went.
The Sunday Times disagree with what he says but the sting was taken well and truly out of their story – Ed had more than 24 hours to get his side out there, people online spread it and The Sunday Times comebacks were, frankly, pathetic.
In all honesty, all The Sunday Times has done here is give Ed Staites a fantastic advert into how good his crisis comms services are. Now any PR/SocMed/Comms expert worth their salt would have done the same but the fact that so many don’t is what makes this so impressive.
But – as one person said – let’s assume Ed Staite is protesting too much (I don’t think he is – heck, he hasn’t even taken out Google ads on his name), what can The Sunday Times do to try and win this one:
As I say above, this has turned into nothing but a great advert for Ed Staite. If I was him, I’d take an advert out in next week’s Sunday Times.
(Quick disclaimers: I’ve worked for the ST in the past as a freelance journalist, I don’t subscribe to The Sunday Times – I refuse to do so until the app includes the Scottish edition – and I live in Scotland where people would rather be called a bastard than a Conservative, so I’m not coming at this from any bias.)