Communicator of the Week: Charlie Hebdo

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting one of the legends of British PR. Professor Tim Traverse-Healy OBE is the grandfather of a friend of mine, as well as being the only remaining Founding Father of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and International Public Relations Association (IPRA), still alive.

Professor Traverse-Healy, before beginning his 66 year career in PR, fought as a Royal Marines Commando in the Second World War. In 1947, still only a young man despite all he'd witnessed, he began his ground-breaking career which defined an industry most of the people reading this now work in. 

As Professor Traverse-Healy said in his personal credo published to mark the end of his career last year: "Information fuelled by effective two-way communications is the currency of dialogue and controversy is the price that we may have to be paid to achieve credibility.”

These thoughts came to mind in the aftermath of the awful terror attacks in Paris last week. The events have been well documented, as has the overwhelming reaction from those in Paris and other cities around the world who marched together in unity against the attacks.

The satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, had continued to take an approach that brought it credibility and controversy in equal measure while, in their own unique acerbic way, try and get people talking. Ultimately the editorial approach – not to be cowed by threats and intimidation – would see a massacre at the magazine’s offices. 

Now, as the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie continues to break social media records, Charlie Hebdo’s surviving staff have published a “survivor’s issue” – once again depicting the prophet Muhammad. It is a statement against those who oppose freedom of speech as much as a celebration of the lives of those journalists murdered. 

My belief is that we should have the freedom to insult those we wish but the manners to hold back from doing so. I can’t imagine I would ever buy a magazine like Charlie Hebdo but, as a PR and communication consultant as well as a passionate believer in freedom in all its forms, support their right to satirise some of the world’s institutions which divide so many. Controversial but credible Charlie Hebdo is my Communicator of the Week.

Communicator of the Week is written by Ed Staite.

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