Two stories have dominated our headlines this year – Madeleine McCann’s disappearance and the Mills/McCartney divorce. Both are perfect media fodder, both involve personal and family tragedy and both have used PR machines to further their own ends. But which has succeeded and why?
The whirlwind of media frenzy surrounding Madeleine McCann shows little sign of abating. Leaving aside the obvious emotional and complex criminal investigations, as a PR case study the McCanns have pulled off one of the biggest PR coups of recent times.
In creating a global phenomenon of their daughter’s abduction they have ably run the gamut of PR tactics. Everything from press conferences, setting up exclusive interviews, leaking information to the press, engaging third party endorsements and buy-in, drawing in media partners to bolster support and reacting to opportunities while maintaining longer-term objectives have been drawn upon to ensure their daughter’s disappearance a global story.
The on-going saga of the ex-Beatles’ divorce continues to rage and becomes evermore acrimonious. Our own experience in both reacting to and commenting upon the story for one of our clients has ensured we have been in the thick of it.
Heather Mills’ recent public unravelling on the GMTV sofa – followed by seemingly every other possible media outlet – has led many to question her sanity. That she and her PR consultant had parted ways the day before comes as little surprise. Her ill-thought-out, rambling and confusing tirade drew vitriol and scorn from the nation’s newsrooms.
Having been in the spotlight for many years, one would hope and expect Ms Mills to have a pretty well-honed understanding of the nature of our media. If she does, then she is clearly determined not to play the game.
So what’s the missing link between the two stories? Control.
Where Heather has unleashed her emotional, frenzied and troubled self to the world in an effort to gain public support, the McCanns have relied upon their PR team – and some old-fashioned stiff upper lip – to achieve the same aim. But, while they have each been courted and villified by the press at different strokes, the public at large remains sympathetic to the plight of Madeleine’s parents – despite still being formal suspects – than that of the former glamour model.
We may be living in an increasingly cynical and media-savvy world but there’s clearly nothing quite like a well-managed media campaign to sway public opinion. Take note Heather.