Kids Company should have focused on good PR rather than image and spin

Camilla Batmanghelidjh's heart is in the right place but she would have been greatly helped by a more enlightened view towards PR

Danny Rogers
Monday 26 October 2015 12:32 GMT
Camilla Batmanghelidjh's company could have aided
Camilla Batmanghelidjh's company could have aided (EPA)

Camilla Batmanghelidjh said last week ‘I don’t believe in PR and I don’t buy into branding’. Following her stormy appearance in front of a Parliamentary committee, the Kids Company founder told PRWeek magazine that instead 'Unrelenting love is the branding I offer the children.’

Unfortunately she was rather missing the point. Batmanghelidjh was making that common mistake of confusing good public relations - effective, open and consistent communications - with an obsession with image and spin.

Actually one could argue Batmanghelidjh was an expert at the latter. The image, with her colourful dresses and headwear was strong and so were her claims. Indeed many powerful people, including David Cameron, for many years bought into this branding, pledging public money.

But at the very least Kids Company was failing to communicate precisely what it was doing on the ground with the generous public funding. That is why when details came to light of a cavalier attitude towards allocating cash and high staff salary levels the much-hyped charity quickly became a scandal.

The negative stories ran for weeks during the summer, perpetuated by an inability to explain what had really been going on. And again last week Batmanghelidjh's evasive and aggressive approach during the Parliamentary hearing further aggravated politicians and pushed the story back up the media agenda.

It also emerged last week that the charity's chairman, the BBCs Alan Yentob, has recently been receiving PR advice about the Kids Company scandal from the former BBC communications director Ed Williams, now UK CEO at the world's biggest PR consultancy, Edelman.

Maybe Batmanghelidjh should do the same. One senses that despite the media attacks, she is not a charlatan; that her heart is actually in the right place. In that way she is authentic and possesses a sense of purpose, crucial to all great campaigners. However a more enlightened view of public relations could have helped her cause - in every sense.

It could have avoided this level of crisis. And it could have provided an approach to more effectively achieving her claimed passion of helping disadvantaged children in perpetuity.

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