“At approximately 8am on 27 January, Paul Ansell, partner of the much-publicised missing woman Nicola Bulley, said goodbye to her for what may be the last time. That morning was like any other but the events that followed would change the lives of Paul, their family and friends forever.
At the time of writing, the circumstances surrounding Nicola Bulley’s disappearance are still unknown but, whatever the eventual outcome, a very public scar will be left with Paul and the wider group of family and friends who have been thrust into the media spotlight brought about by the mystery surrounding the case.
That intense glare wasn’t self-prescribed, engineered or orchestrated – it’s a chalice the family have been forced to wield in a desperate bid to guide public opinion while eagerly seeking ways to maintain media awareness around the case in the hope of finding Nicola.
Even for the most skilled PR industry ninjas, that’s quite a feat. Reputation management, crisis management, lobbying, evolving media narratives, not to mention the word monitoring and being in any way confident whether any of what you are saying or doing is helping the critical cause of finding Nicola. So, it raises the question of whether, in such extreme circumstances, should the right to PR representation be a legal right?
Lawyers across the globe will no doubt respond to such a suggestion with a resounding ‘no’, asserting that guidance towards the media and broader public would fall as part of a wider consultation of their services. A view and adamance that, at its root, stems from the acute topic of disclosure and how much to say, when and where.
In response, PRs would ascertain that those core questions form the basis of every brief they execute; be that a crisis, product or brand awareness brief. Further, PRs would overlay the need for swift, accurate communication – a territory which, historically, has also caused friction between legal and PR counterparts, with lawyers largely siding with the ‘less is more’ option.
To jump down from the fence and add some sensationalism, the answer is quite simple. You wouldn’t enlist a dentist to remove a cataract from your eye any more than you would enlist an ophthalmologist to extract a tooth.
Is there crossover? Absolutely, but it’s vital we remove any and all forms of dilution when it comes to the execution of PR, allow the specialists to be specialists and offer an environment for the best possible outcomes.
In the delicate case of Nicola Bulley, it’s unequivocal that the family would have benefited from independent strategic media counsel. From distancing themselves from allegations, continuing and evolving the narrative as we approach week three, to help guide and communicate with the huge volume of public interest and new wave of ‘TikTok detectives’. In the face of such extremity, is now the time to formalise PR’s role and cement its place in human legislation.”