PRmoment Leaders PA Mediapoint PA Assignments PRCA PRmoment Awards Winners North Creative Moment Awards 2024 PR Masterclass: AI in PR

PR Observations: How Michelle Mone turned from a PR dream to a PR nightmare

A self-made, regionally accented, aesthetically Tabloid-friendly woman helping out the UK in its time of need. Good lord, Michelle Mone is a PR dream.

The self made Baroness who left school at 15 with no qualifications and became a byword for British business success. One can only dream of being the lucky comms professional representing her.

A self-confessed liar who was involved in a profit-making enterprise that failed to deliver its pandemic-aiding brief, took the public’s money anyway, and seems to view bonnie Prince Andrew as a bastion of media-handling excellence. Wait, what?

Everyone knows the Ultimo Uh-oh story now, not least because Mone herself is keeping us thoroughly entertained through a series of desperate/delightful (delete as appropriate) social swings at the Government. It’s a bit like when Hans Gruber grabs at Holly McLane during his defenestration at the end of Die Hard. Reading the messages, it might be harder for some of the associated politicians to slip her grasp, though.

I won’t name the comms pros involved in the whole sorry saga - their names are out there already - but there’s a salutary lesson here about knowing your client. And I mean REALLY knowing your client. To what extent can you take what they tell you at face value? What proof do you require before speaking to the press?

There’s a sliding scale here, clearly, but I would humbly suggest that matters of public spending during the biggest medical crisis for (almost exactly) 100 years require the deepest of deep dives into the veracity of any statements. Of course, much of the latter discourse was conducted through lawyers, and even they’re now apologising about the record they gave to the media.

Perhaps from a comms perspective, none of this was avoidable, though. You can only do so much and then you’re a hostage to the word of the person paying your bills.

So what’s the message here? Do your due diligence. And be lucky. And Merry Christmas.

This PR Observations column was written by David Quainton, head of communications at the digital consultancy Emergn. The opinions are his own.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for free to our twice weekly editorial alert.

We have six email alerts in total - covering ESG, internal comms, PR jobs and events. Enter your email address below to find out more: