Lucy Kellaway’s Response to HP is Important For PR

(a repost from my LinkedIn profile)

PR consultants should be outraged at Lucy Kellaway’s attack on one of their own, right?

She has gone public with what was probably intended as a private conversation and pretty deliberately rubbed someone’s nose in it.

Is that fair?

Of course it is. If the HP’s PR guy didn’t consider the risk that his approach would be reported, then he is naïve.

What I’m hacked off about is the reaction from journalists which has been virtual fist bumps and air punching, as if this is sticking one on the PR people (with its unspoken “the bastards” undertone).

Here is level headed Rory Cellan-Jones from the BBC.


Well Rory and others, PR people are pleased too.

I celebrate Kellaway’s column and I celebrate the FT both for telling HP what it can do with its implied threat and then give Kellaway free rein to write about it.

I’ve read Kellaway’s original column (to which HP has reacted so badly) and to my mind it was funny, sharp and true. HP’s CEO, while her comments at Davos opened the piece, didn’t come out of it half as bad as some of the others quoted.

The line between advertising and editorial is sacred and PR people should fight for it to remain so.

The Telegraph has been accused of blurring the line in recent times and you can draw your own conclusions about whether this has any bearing on how its readership compares to the FT.

The separation of advertising and editorial is the datum point for everything that we in PR and communications do and if advertisers and publishers start confusing where it sits to suit some short term need or to soothe some CEO’s ego, then everyone loses, PR people very much included.

PR at its heart is all about negotiating with a journalist or editor about the intrinsic value of a story. Make that a transaction and everyone is compromised and you cease to be able to value a story on its own merits.

I don’t want that and I don’t think clients would want a world where that is the case.

Bravo Lucy Kellaway, bravo the FT and to HP…you’ll get over it.


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