‘Worst PR disaster in years’

By James Knight.

Over forty years in public relations and international business I have worked at senior level at many events and pitches.

Working with some of the leading companies recently during the lockdown I had the misfortune to watch the Government Press Conferences. I have had to sit through many bad presentations from business to universities, yet I would rate the Press Conferences worse than most students would present. Let me explain why I feel this way.

The conferences could be shown for insomnia, they were dull as ditch water.

The presentations were badly designed with lack of media training and most of all presentation skills. Instead of presenting facts the public could understand, slides were presented with mistakes, the presenters seemed to mumble through presentations, to make things worse journalists more often or not could not put questions forward and in many instances could not cross examine the ministers.

The scientific specialists came over as wooden, they needed media training. There seemed to be a lack of preparation and a constant problem with ministers not giving them a free hand, despite many of them having good points to express.

I believe this led to lack confidence in the Government and proves how presentations can affect the message you are trying to get across.

With Track and Trace different information kept being presented, the same about PPE, care homes and other medical information, which made the ministers look like amateurs.

The Dominic Cummings Press Conference in Number 10’s gardens, because of spin, caused policy failing that the Government never recovered from. The public knew it was spin it brought with it all the associated reputation damage.

This has caused a great deal of damage to the reputation of the PR world and young people view it.

One of my views was we needed more diversity on the Press Conferences, with business people and different scientists involved, broader facts needed to be delivered.

Summing up, a lack of media training and presentations skills reflected on PR, confusing messages and spin caused distrust among viewers leading to audience figures hitting rock bottom and the message being lost, especially over isolation lock down.

Professor James Knight is an international businessman, public relations practitioners and academic. He was Fellow of Bournemouth University Public Relations School, guest speaker at Judge Cambridge, Surrey, Bath and Reading, International Mentor for Oxford Brookes on Hospitality. He is a Fellow of CIPR and the Society of Public Relations of America, as well as a fellow of the Institute of Directors. He sat for two years on one of Britain leading Cardiology Committees at Barts and is an Ambassador for Barts.

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