Although Porsche has claimed the victory in its legal challenge to the £25 “gas guzzler” London, congestion charge, it is not surprising that most of the coverage (outside the specialist motoring media) reports the story as a climb down by new Mayor Boris Johnson in deciding to scrap the levy.
It is always difficult for such work to be seen as independently credible, as it is unlikely to be used if the findings run counter to the goals of the funders. This is especially the case when the report is headed: “Green tax or white elephant?”, which doesn’t exactly present an objective impression.
Looking further at the report, its independence does not seem to mean undertaking a robust analysis of the case being examined. It is clear from the use of language that a particular perspective is being supported.
Does this matter? The rhetorical perspective of PR supports the view that organisations have a right to put forward their positions, and it is up to others (such as the former mayor, Ken Livingstone and environmental groups, in this case) to offer counter arguments in order for public opinion to reflect on these (often via the media and other channels of debate).
So it is not surprising that the language used to support a particular side in the debate will be carefully selected – and indeed, one of the skills of a PR practitioner lies in framing messages.
Porsche’s decision to support Kidz is framed as backing “a charity devoted to taking at-risk youths off the streets and a life of knife crime, and giving them training in mechanical skills and maintenance.” Those are very topical messages giving the current media focus on stabbing incidents.
PR materials (regardless of whether they are produced by businesses, charities or public bodies) do not present information in a truly neutral way. But then neither does the media.
To return to my opening point – there are many ways of telling this particularly story. A triumph for Porsche, a disaster for the environment, Boris keeping his promises, another insult for Ken. Each of these can be true and each involves some spinning.