A Call for Calm

Whisper it. The real truth is, that the majority of the industry doesn’t give a damn about the text book-peddling, muttering commentariat.

Anyway, you’ll never remove splinters from my rear end. I’m not a fence sitter. Moreover, I don’t consider my contemporary offering as pure PR. Instead, let me praise someone working at the epicentre of a global news story. On Monday afternoon a superlative PR hoved into view, reminding the world what is great about British public relations. A precise man; direct, adroit, authoritative, elegant and effective. A safe pair of hands delivering leading communications in real time for his company.

Indulge my wish for a moment, whilst I contextualise Chris McLaughlin, the spokesman for the London-based satellite provider, Inmarsat.

My last two business trips to the USA have coincided with an epic 24/7 news event. I was in LA at the time of the Boston Marathon bombing. As I switched on my hotel TV, the room filled with the choking, noxious fumes of CNN news reportage fumes. The news channel jettisoned reasoned journalism, choosing instead to ladle tabloid invective across a tragic event. Unlimited global news authority is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it. Permitting a group of hyper ventilating reporters to replace news authority with conjecture is a calamity, but then again, a real comment on the state of journalism.

This week I have been in New York. Once again quality news journalism has been replaced by moronic talking heads, treating the tragedy of flight MH370 like a cruel soap opera.

Now back to Chris McLaughlin. As the mystery of the missing airliner grew (and the audience spiked) attention turned to British satellite company Inmarsat. Whilst the geeks were working hard to try trace the last journey of the ill fated plane, Inmarsat’s authority offered evidential opinion on a flight path. Engineers calculated that the jet flew at cruising speed for the full seven hours. This technical data was seized upon by the 24/7 TV news hyenas.

Chris McLaughlin, Inmarsat’s comms man was drawn on for expert soundbites. On every channel he faced a barrage of cretinous questioning. Obviously, he was expected to deliver the news of the tragic fate of the aircraft. Instead he rose above the clamour, circumventing the ludicrous interpretation of Inmarsat data to present a calm reasoned, factual, yet interesting position of the technical evidence. Buffeted by the whims of the airhead anchors he maintained his decorum and conveyed a super professional PR front foot.

McLaughlin posited the core of his charges’ technical excellence and deflected fanciful suggestions with the wit and the charm of a great communicator. It was a masterpiece.

These are challenging times. Let’s celebrate the best in corporate class. Chris McLaughlin is a true classic company figurehead and in times of crisis, brands, institutions and governments require class acts like McLaughlin.

But is the industry able to produce them?

My suggestion is less talk and more action; we need to provide the right conditions to breed talented communicators. Corporate communications exist to bring calm to a crisis. This calls for mindfulness, intelligence and brilliant but careful use of language.