PR and the McCann family

September 24, 2007

Like most people in this country I’ve loosely followed the Madeline McCann story and although I can’t claim to be an expert (unlike much of the British media), I feel I am relatively well informed of the ‘facts’ of the case. 

I was surprised to read the Matthew Parris column in the Saturday Times this week, blaming PR and ‘marketing positioning’ for the backlash against the McCann parents. The article drew an inflated analogy to that of the ‘Find Maddie’ campaign and the subsequent opinion of the McCann Parents with David Cameron’s use of PR and his recent drop in the polls. According to Parris, people are now suspicious of ‘Market positioning. As a nation we’re learning how to spot it; and we don’t like it.’ 

The article suggests that the British public have turned on the McCann parents because ‘Where we would have expected to see parents distracted and disorganised by grief, we have seen a professionally run campaign to find out what the media want, and give it to them’.  

This really is an inaccuracy. 

If in the direct aftermath of the ‘kidnapping’ the wide scale media campaign had resulted in a positive sighting of the ‘abducted’ girl the media would be praising the McCanns for their professionalism in the brink of a tragedy. Instead, retrospectively, they are criticised for organising a communications campaign that reached around the world and put the issue in every major newspaper in Europe.

The reason the McCanns have been turned into such pariahs (third world policing aside) is that columnists like Parris think that now Madeline McCann is almost certainly dead, her parents are fair game to criticise, type cast and even accuse.

As one contributor to the Times Online comments section below the offending article commented: The Parris article is ‘Superficial rubbish. Why do the McCanns feature in a political opinion piece?’

 It isn’t the first time Parris has attacked the ‘spinners’ but accusing the McCann parents of being ‘too organised’ is as far fetched as it is insensitive.


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