PracticeConsultingThe corridors of power…

The corridors of power...

It is being called the 'restaurantgate' affair. Earlier this month, someone - by the sound of it, a drunken PR man, and nothing unusual there - left a dossier packed with confidential details in a restaurant in Covent Garden. The story was gleefully splashed all over the nationals.

For the person concerned, this was almost as embarrassing as the case of the City analyst who drunkenly relieved himself against a dark glass ‘wall’ outside La Caprice – not realising the wall was a window, and he was peeing directly at the horrified diners on the other side.

But the dossier’s loss was nonetheless mortifying for the firm in question: Brunswick.

On the face of it, Brunswick is a PR success story. It acts for 30 of the FTSE-100 companies, making it to public relations what PricewaterhouseCoopers is to auditing. But for all its dominance, Brunswick is not popular with journalists. It is insufferably arrogant, boasting to clients about its supposed ability to ‘control’ the press.

Brunswick’s total loss of control in this case was seized upon with great delight. Whether the dossier contained secrets or not was in the end irrelevant.

What the incident did, was raise questions about whether City PR firms like Brunswick have simply become too powerful. They routinely work with the UK’s biggest companies, sharing their most sensitive secrets. And yet, what do they contribute, other than to spin disinformation in nasty takeover battles?

Clients must wonder what they pay people like Brunswick for. A lot of it comes down to holding the hand of media-shy chief executives. Brunswick charged British Airways the outrageous sum of Pounds 1m a year to cover for Bob Ayling. It presumably charges similar fees to clients like Marks & Spencer, BT and Railtrack, without doing much to improve their appalling public images.

Shareholders of these companies might rightly ask exactly what they are getting for their money.

  • Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times.

Related Articles

5 tips for SMEs to protect cash flow

Accounting Software 5 tips for SMEs to protect cash flow

3m Alia Shoaib, Reporter
Tyrie on Finance Bill 2017: ‘Making Tax Policy Better’

Consulting Tyrie on Finance Bill 2017: ‘Making Tax Policy Better’

9m Stephanie Wix, Writer
Managing partner Q&A - the year ahead: Richard Toone, CVR Global

Accounting Firms Managing partner Q&A - the year ahead: Richard Toone, CVR Global

10m Kevin Reed, Writer
Friday Afternoon Live: HMRC complaints rise; Deloitte scoops big audits; and corporate reporting woes

Audit Friday Afternoon Live: HMRC complaints rise; Deloitte scoops big audits; and corporate reporting woes

11m Kevin Reed, Writer
New head of equity capital markets for KPMG

Accounting Firms New head of equity capital markets for KPMG

11m Stephanie Wix, Writer
Deloitte 'self-imposes exile' on government contracts to defuse PM row

Accounting Firms Deloitte 'self-imposes exile' on government contracts to defuse PM row

10m Kevin Reed, Writer
Managing partner Q&A - the year ahead: Julie Adams, Menzies

Accounting Firms Managing partner Q&A - the year ahead: Julie Adams, Menzies

10m Kevin Reed, Writer
Friday Afternoon Live: Deloitte's tech thing; PAC wants HMRC 'contingencies'; and Sports Direct

Business Regulation Friday Afternoon Live: Deloitte's tech thing; PAC wants HMRC 'contingencies'; and Sports Direct

10m Kevin Reed, Writer