Has Marr handled his PR crisis well after confessing that he has in the past sought and been granted a super injunction to prevent a past extramarital affair coming to light?Today’s newspaper and TV revelations feature Andrew Marr, the engaging BBC political presenter and former editor of the Independent newspaper. In what seems a surprising confession, he has told us that he has in the past sought and been granted a super injunction (popularly known as a gag order) to prevent any hints of a past extramarital affair coming to light. In confessing he cites the unease and embarrassment in being a journalist, yet working to stifle the efforts of other journalists. He is, as far as I know, the first gag order user to come clean.
What impact will this have on his reputation? Is it enough that he has (now) unburdened himself and can sleep well at night knowing that his journalistic morals have triumphed? Alternatively, is it a meaningless gesture after benefiting from the privacy effect for several years, only coming forward after (one hopes) the sting for his family has become less intense. It wasn't entirely voluntary, of course. It should be noted that, according to the Guardian and some other papers, that his statement came only after Private Eye sought last week to challenge the injunction. How has his handling of this delicate matter helped or hindered his case, and will it have a lasting impact on his reputation?
Handling a PR crisis In dealing with the fallout from a nasty story, public relations consultants will always recommend honesty, and there is no doubt that in the language he uses Marr has put forward a very honest and human case. He says he was protecting his family, and this is a position we can all understand - but above this, still says he strongly believes that any revelation at the time would not have been in the public interest. To me that is perhaps the most important factor within the gag order debate - while those who actively court publicity using their private lives should expect and accept more media scrutiny, for the vast majority of figures in the public domain such stories only give a little frisson of fascination and satisfy curiosity which, frankly, doesn’t reflect very well on the readers in any case. Marr does seem to firmly fall into such a category. He is one of the smartest and savviest journalists in the UK scene right now. He has (if a little late) come clean, given clear and cogent reasoning, and one gets the sense that there really wasn’t much more to it than an unfortunate mistake. He has undoubtedly paid some painful domestic dues, and come through that, although one must feel for his family both at the time and now. Personally I can't help feeling that he deserved a little pain, at least, but that's beside the point. For companies, brands and individuals alike: dealing with a PR crisis takes planning as well as honesty and truth, acting fast to neutralise or deal as best as possible with the subject in hand, and show that there is a human face behind the brand. Mr Marr has, as far as possible, done exactly that. As a smart journalist, he will also keep a close eye on the resulting debate and follow through on the last crisis rule, which is not to assume it is all done and dusted and walk away from it but to remain responsive when required. The result is that, although the story will come back to bother him for quite some time to come, he will, in all likelihood, come through this relatively unscathed.