Don‘t let the media put you down, says PHA Media chairman Phil Hall

One of the greatest challenges for PR companies is representing a client where it simply doesn’t matter what you do … the journalists have an agenda and they will stick to it come what may.

We have had two recent examples while working with Parking Eye, a company that manages car parks and the Church of Scientology, which was the subject of a Panorama TV investigation.

Parking Eye is an easy target because nobody wants to pay parking fines, even when we know we are in the wrong. They are given no credit for making sure there is parking space outside the stores in which we shop; that they are kept clean and they also clear the way for deliveries to come and go. Motorists pull all sorts of strokes to avoid the fees and yet when there is one mistake the outcry in local papers or on TV is disproportionate.

Likewise with the Church of Scientology. There are no mind-bending drugs, no brainwashing. Journalists complain the leader lives in a swanky house in Los Angeles, while ignoring the Pope lives in the Vatican or the Archbishop of Canterbury in Lambeth Palace. The church runs and pays for such things as drug rehabilitation units, literacy centres in the third work and crisis relief.  Are there bad Scientologists or parking companies? Of course there are, but the issue in the media is balance, proportionality and the truth.

Too many organisations of this kind bury their heads in the sand and hide. My view is they must be persuaded to open their doors and tell the truth, admit their mistakes, but enthuse about their achievements and roles in society.

With the internet library that exists on every computer through Google or another search engine, the damaging piece will remain unless you fight back with a volume of positive stories. Sometimes the journalists will still be cynical, but you can’t win them over by hiding. And while on that point is it fair that the internet references should remain forever? It means anyone who has made a mistake (and haven’t we all?) has to live with that mistake indefinitely.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act allows digressers a second chance … the internet over-rides the law of the land and can basically do what it likes under the flag of accuracy. Balance and proportionality go out of the window when negative stories sit at the top of the search engine permanently because at the time of their newsworthiness they attracted huge interest and they bounce back to the top constantly. 

This surely can’t be just?

Phil Hall is ex-editor of the News of the World and chairman of PHA Media. Phil writes a regular column for

When can we be creatively brave again?