The PR tale behind Wagatha Christie
By Rachel Murray
I t made headlines, months of courtroom drama and even a musical! Could there be anything left to say about the Wagatha Christie case?
I’ll let you know when I’ve binge-watched the new Disney documentary, “Coleen Rooney: The Real Wagatha Story.” Meanwhile I’m still wondering what happened to Rebecca Vardy’s PR advisor.
Mrs V engaged a PR agency when she became involved with her now husband, the footballer. I imagine the brief was: “Raise my profile, get me as much or more media coverage as Mrs R, and get me on the telly.”
We have heard a lot about one particular consultant at the agency – because, it is alleged, they conspired to pass secrets and stories to the media about other WAGs and footballers. This consultant left the agency to become independent in 2019 and took Mrs V as a client.
I wonder if it was at this point that the brief changed from profile raising to undermining – not just the competition (Mrs R) – but anyone else in the overpaid, over privileged world of professional football.
It seemed the original brief was going well – there had been photo calls at opportune moments, a newspaper column and high-audience TV appearances. But did the client (Mrs V) feel her moment of glory was waning? Did she need to go to new extremes to maintain the relationship with the tabloids? Or was the PR consultant driving the strategy here?
We may never know, because the PR consultant has been excused from giving evidence by a psychiatrist and their potentially incriminating mobile phone is at the bottom of the North Sea.
The PR consultant is not on trial here, but this could have all been avoided if they had referred to the original brief, reviewed the objectives and agreed some key messages. This new course of action might achieve the original objectives, but at what cost? The client should have been advised that not all publicity is good publicity and it could in fact be extremely damaging to her carefully built profile.
The PR could also have benefitted from the counsel of colleagues. Having been an independent consultant myself for many years, I can testify that there are moments when the wisdom and observations of a team were sorely missed.
The world of B2B PR is clearly very different to celebrity publicity but we do have clients who want to be on the front page of their specialist publication, and one or two who might like us to do a hatchet job on their competition! Needless to say, our job is about providing consultancy – which sometimes requires standing up to clients when their choice of action is inadvisable. We love it when clients come up with ideas, but there are times when saying don’t do it can be the most valuable service we deliver.
Rachel is an account director in the London office