Trawling through the archives of Stephen Davies’ excellent blog, I stumbled accross an article on crisis management. It was good and informative, focusing on preparation and basic crisis handling advice. In fact the article reminded me of a conversation I’d had with a guy, for whom I was doing some voluntary free lance work.

He was a head teacher of a school that had just been slammed by OFSTED and had a rough time of it in the local press. He was worried about the damage to the school brand and asked me how he could stop the story.

“You can’t,” I answered. “You have to move it.”

I’d first experienced this kind of media relations practice watching a Channel 4 interview with Max Clifford talking about Mark Oaten’s inauspicious frolickings. When asked what he would have done, Clifford replyed that he would have found a good looking girl, included her in “the orgy” and provided pictures. This, he said, would have moved the story on and the pictures would have given editors something to print.

I remember thinking at the time that this was both the best and the worst of PR simultaneously. It would have been a cynical lie but it demonstrated such a profound understanding of the redtops that I couldn’t help but stand back and admire the evil genius of the plan. 

Moving the story is an essential part of crisis management and falls squarely within the remit of the PR pro. A candidate for a “moving” story must fulfill two criteria, it must: do less damage that the current one, and, sell more papers than the current one.

As far as I can see this is primarily a political tactic (our current PM being a past master at it) but the applications in PR are obvious. If anyone has got any examples of stories where this has happened, please leave comments below as I’m still groping my way through this.

Definitely a topic worth discussion though.

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