Bad Publicity isn’t Good Publicity

Making news, telling stories and getting a message across is the daily workhorse of the public relations profession and something that I have been practising for over 20 years. 

A headline today on Facebook News caught my attention: “Protestors claim to ‘seize’ Edinburgh Castle citing Magna Carta”. My first thought was some English nationalist group is making a bizarre claim for publicity purposes. However, delving into the article reveals that this was a group of independence supporters suggesting they were making a dramatic attempt to re-claim the iconic bastion of military dominance in the historic capital city.

Well for a publicity stunt it certainly grabbed attention, though little of it for benefit to the national cause. Not only did it involve a fracas with police officers but the idea of using an artefact of English constitutional history to make a modern claim in a Scottish context is lost on me, and many others.

Already the commentary in online news reports was mixed, ranging incredulity at applying an English historic legal document under Scots law, to support that well ‘at least someone’s doing something’. 

It’s easy to provide red meat to an independence supporter base which is impatient for constitutional change. That minority has always been within the national movement throughout its history. Wendy Wood was ahead of the game. From the late 70s through the 80s, Scottish National Liberation Army and their ‘bombing’ campaign was the angry face of the impatient nationalism, not prepared to accept democratic means to an independence goal.

No doubt this minority will feel emboldened by such brazen tactics. Perhaps a lot of people in the wider national movement will have a chuckle at the gallus action. However, what is going through the mind of those Scots who have voted No in 2014 and who we want to convince to support Yes at the next referendum? 

In short, they are not impressed. The wilder extremes of flag-waving Nationalism certainly doesn’t appeal to them. Even more important, what exactly is the message being conveyed to them? Edinburgh Castle, which is already part-owned by the Scottish Government (along with the MoD), is hardly the totem of a repressed nation. Yes it has national significance but beyond it attracting the headlines, what was the message? No one knows. If it had been aligned to how Scottish taxes are being wasted by Wesminster reserved spending, hence causing a GERS deficit, that would have more resonance. 

So if you are thinking of supporting such activity in future, think about what the message is. If you want to make a mark, have a go at Faslane, the greatest white elephant in UK spending. Or maybe cross the water to Rosyth and protest about the rotting hulks of nuclear submarines, which many people are completely unaware of.

1 Comment

  1. Very good points. We have to wonder about the ignorance of the people involved in that stunt. At least actors could have the excuse of someone else having written their script.

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