Loose lips sink ships may have been a wartime slogan, but in recent weeks banks NatWest and Coutts have demonstrated that loose lips can sink both careers and reputations. We have seen this story play out slowly and somewhat painfully in the media, with NatWest and Coutts slowly coming to the realisation that they seriously misjudged the situation, the government’s reaction and the reaction of the general public. What may have started as a very run of the mill charity dinner one evening in early July, has turned into a furore that may yet see the resignation of the entire board of one of the country’s biggest banks. So, what happened and what are the PR lessons learned?
Black Letter Communications Blog
Expert pr advice for the legal sector
It began with Megxit. In 2021 the world watched as Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, told all to Oprah Winfrey in what has become an infamous interview. They mooted that they wanted to tell their side of the story, they wanted to tell their truth. A strange expression, ‘my truth’ or ‘your truth’. As children we are taught to tell ‘the truth’. The idea that there can be variations or interpretations on an event, conversation or other is not new. However, adopting it as ‘your truth’ is. Most of us would acknowledge that in the retelling of a story or event, recollections are often skewed in favour of the storyteller. Sometimes this is done consciously and sometime unconsciously, as we naturally view events through our own lens.
When digital communications first sprang on to the scene and email became the de-facto method of business communication over the telephone, you’d often see stories in the media of the outraged employee who sent an email ranting about their boss to the whole company, instead of just a few intended recipients, or ‘private’ emails shared publicly by jilted spouses.
The long-awaited route map out of the pandemic has been revealed, and to everyone’s pleasant surprise, it wasn’t a communications failure. In fact, along with some early spring weather, it brought a glimmer of hope on the horizon that the threads of our lives we dropped so abruptly last March, may soon be picked up again. Whilst the pandemic is by no means over, the one-year milestone that we are edging towards isn’t something any of us could have envisioned a year ago, when we believed we were locking down for a few weeks to ‘flatten the curve’.
One of the many things that we will all take away from 2020 is that open, honest and informed communication will never go out of fashion. Whether it’s an election, an unprecedented global pandemic or an error in judgement – honesty is key.
We often find ourselves advising our clients that communication is necessary, not just in the good times, and the times of success, but also during the challenging times. And this is certainly one of the most challenging times any of us have faced. In the absence of the reassurance that we all so desperately crave right now, what is it we expect in the communications from the companies we deal with? Empathy, warmth, solidarity, something that feels like a virtual hug?