How to win a PR Battle

How do you win a PR battle?

Lesson 1, brief your media.

Look at this story in yesterday’s Church Times.

Bishop Tim DakinBishop Dakin’s decision over Jersey upheld

A JUDGE reviewing a safeguarding complaint in Jersey has upheld the decision by the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, not to take disciplinary action against anyone involved (News, 29 November).

Dame Heather Steel was asked by Bishop Dakin to review the handling of the complaint, in May last year. Her final report has been handed to him, but has not yet been published. Bishop Dakin is seeking legal advice on matters of defamation and confidentiality.

He has also appointed a group to carry out an “impact assessment” in order to minimise the impact of publication on “HG”, the woman who made the complaint.

The first review of the handling of the complaint by Jan Korris, a psychotherapist, published last year (News, 15 March 2013), was critical of the Church’s response. It prompted the Archbishop of Canterbury to give “personal apologies to the young woman who was so badly let down by those she had turned to for help”.

After the completion of the impact assessment, Bishop Dakin is expected to give the Steel report to the Bailiff of Jersey, the Dean of Jersey, and the Ministry of Justice. The Steel terms of reference also require publication of the report.

On Wednesday, HG said: “This matter has been handled terribly on all sides, and maximum harm has been done to me as a result.”

Some of the content of this is practically word for word what Winchester Diocese’s PR agency, Luther Pendragon, sent to me in response to my enquiries a few days ago. The headline alone is worth everything – it proclaims loud and proud that there is nothing wrong with anything the Bishop of Winchester has done and the impression is given that there is no story here. Move on. Nothing to see.

Lesson 2, try to arrange for your opposition to do nothing

Of course, I understand that far from everything being hunky-dory, the authorities on Jersey are furious that Tim Dakin has reneged on the Terms of Reference of the Steel Report which clearly stated that on receipt of the report (and not after any redaction) he should forward it to the Bailiff, the Dean and others.

But have we heard anything from the island? Are the authorities briefing anyone? Is there any news coming out of the Bailiff’s Office?

Zip. Nada. Nichts.

No challenge as to whether the Bishop should seek legal counsel at this point. No push-back as to why he hasn’t handed the report on as he should have. No briefing as to whether the report should have actually gone to the Bishop of Dover (who now has ordinary jurisdiction over all matters to do with the Church of England in Jersey).

Tell you what, if I was someone in the States hierarcky, I’d be furious if the Bishop’s PR team sent lots of journalists and bloggers the letter that he sent me, but told them that they can’t refer to it or mention it’s contents because it’s private and confidential. So confidential you sent it to everyone.

But no, nothing from the Island.

Not. A. Peep.

At half-time it’s Luther Pendragon Winchester Diocese 1, Jersey 0, with the islander’s team not even on the pitch.

Update

Following this blog post I have been contacted by a very senior source in the States of Jersey. I am told that the Jersey authorities have made it explicitly clear to the Bishop of Winchester that they expect him to keep his word and deliver immediately an unredacted version of the Steel Report to those named in the Terms of Reference. I am also told that the Dean is privately looking forward to receiving the report and is telling senior colleagues that given the emphasis made recently by senior Church of England leaders amongst others on transparency and trust, nothing short of an unredacted copy will do.