There was a surprising moment at the press conference held by Rebekah Brooks and her husband yesterday. Rupert Murdoch’s favorite power editor had assembled the media to respond to news that criminal charges of conspiring to pervert the course of justice had been levied against her, her husband and assorted colleagues. Complaining the charges against others were unwarranted, Brooks emphatically stated “I was the Editor of the News of the World. I was the Editor of The Sun and I was Chief Executive.” What a surprise! Was Brooks acknowledging she had been in charge after all?
The odd thing about the situation Brooks now finds herself in, is that despite many powerful friends, she has no visible supporters, apart from her Murdoch cronies. Issues keep escalating, new discoveries are made and there is no brake on the relentless pursuit of those involved. With charges being announced yesterday, the moment to sway public opinion and temper the investigating zeal of others may have just passed.
Put simply, Brooks’s problem is that no one believes a word she says. Maintaining her line that she was unaware of phone hacking (bar one rogue reporter) has tested the limits of her own credibility. Coupled with her now infamous testimony where she acknowledged the routine payment of police officers, she has become the target of rage for all matters Murdoch.
PR Verdict: “F” for Brooks and her PR strategy. Disliked and disbelieved, the future of Rebekah Brooks looks bleak. Her salvation may lie partly in mustering some public supporters but where are they?
PR Takeaway: Sometimes it’s better to concede something rather than deny everything. Brooks and her cronies have faced an uphill battle, hemmed in by a legal strategy that obsessively denies any responsibility let alone culpability. A radical rethink might be needed. To restore some credibility to Murdoch’s fallen angel, comments to the media should acknowledge some personal failure and fault. What else might encourage supporters to come forward publicly and guide this issue into another direction? That’s the question her legal and PR team might want to ponder.
To see the press conference and read more click here.
What’s your PR Verdict?