What do you do when your Media Director becomes the topic of the news, not just the manager of it?
Victoria Police Media Director Stephen Linnell today gives more evidence at a police integrity investigation, amidst allegations about the leaking of highly sensitive police operational data and information. While not proven guilty of the leaks themselves, a series of taped phone calls – where four-letter expletives are used to describe another top-ranking police officer – don’t exactly enhance Linnell’s reputation.
Itâ€™s bad enough that these events cast aspersions on several professional reputations (this senior PR included), but even worse that the leaks are linked to potential police involvement in the assassination of a police informer. Few will miss the irony that an PR exec hired to protect image, can cause so much damage to it.
Several media pundits are now questioning the role and influence of â€˜Media Directorsâ€™, inferring that they may have too much power. For years, PRs have been lobbying hard for more influence and a seat at every board table. Yet are they prepared for the additional responsibilities and potential culpabilities that these roles entail? Radio jock/lawyer Jon Faine also noted that the regional governmentâ€™s Media Director has mysteriously become unavailable at a time when the Victorian government is expected to comment on the proceedings.
Hereâ€™s a couple of great (related) PR insights; commenting on Linnellâ€™s role (and others like it) The Age investigative journo Nick Mackenzie has opined that (when encountering high-powered Media Directors) â€œitâ€™s a struggle for journalists to get access to key information from organizations’. Nick feels that senior PRs and Comms Directors more often operate as information blockers rather than facilitators. If true, weâ€™re back to the bad old days of PR spinmeisters and publicity players. As Trevor Cook’s missus said, “It’s like watching Serpico or something!”
Melbourne PR doyen Mike Smith of Inside PR warned that senior PRs and Comms Directors need to tread very carefully in managing their remit of spreading information and protecting it, too. Clearly, this is the PR disaster that Media Director Steve Linnell currently finds himself in.