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Top crisis PR tips for Charles Saatchi (not that he'll listen)


By Andy Barr | Head Yeti

July 9, 2013 | 4 min read

It is never nice to be the guy picking through the bones of a bad situation but the elephant in the room of the very sad Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson situation is the fact that he is obviously ignoring the advice of his PR team and his own gut instincts to go so very public.

Charles Saatchi's heart has ruled his head

When The Drum posed the question, "what PR advice would you have given him?", I don't think I would have deviated from crisis comms 101: keep a dignified silence unless forced to do otherwise.

In proactive media terms, and putting aside that this is such an emotional story, Saatchi did the best thing by going to the world’s largest paper to get his side across. Well, it would have been the best thing had this not been a story about his own personal life, and had he not been formally announcing his divorce from his wife. In this context he has made a truly horrid move and, in my eyes, committed a truly horrid act.

Obviously, we don't know the ins and outs. For example, we don't know if he got wind that the opposing party was about to launch a volley via the media and he felt his hand was forced, and as such he felt the need to act first.

I think that in this instance, his heart has ruled his head and he felt the need to say something publicly. His PR advisers will have wanted him to keep quiet and see how it played out. Saatchi is now in very dangerous territory.

He has made the wrong decision and his public reputation has been transformed from being a wealthy, successful recluse to a wife beating bully who has now humiliated his wife via a national newspaper.

This is why he is in dangerous territory; his only way to repair the damage is to address the situation via the media and right now, no one is that forgiving.

Referring back to the crisis comms 101 manual, his only hope is to apologise, ask for forgiveness, take some time out to reflect and then step back into the media eye later down the line to show he has truly changed.

Will this work? Would he even care? I very much doubt it, but he could capitalise on the 24 hour media world that we now live in, in that a new story will come along soon that will blow this off the top of the news agenda and he can start the repair work.

This is a sad situation, with a sad outcome, made even worse by the fact there are kids involved. It does serve to demonstrate for those who are studying crisis PR that no matter what advice you give, in situations like this you are ultimately dealing with human emotion and human actions and as such anything can happen.

There will always be a route back to a positive profile for Charles Saatchi but the question is, does he really want or need this profile, or will he simply go back to his reclusive ways and leave the public arena?

As for Nigella Lawson, her dignified silence is winning her more fans and admirers by the hour. Once this is all done and dusted and the divorce is complete I imagine her advisers will arrange one tightly controlled, high-profile interview to give closure.

She will be hard-pressed to find a media outlet with the same global clout as the Daly Mail but I would bet you one of her chocolate puddings that Oprah Winfrey would be the first and best port of call.

For now, we will all continue to watch and see how it unfurls. We know we shouldn't and it is in poor taste to do so, but we watch nonetheless.


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