Birmingham Council recruits Terry Brownbill to improve PR

Play ‘hardball’ with media, says PR ace

A public relations consultant hired by Birmingham Council to turn around perceptions of social work has emphasised the importance of playing “hardball” in councils’ dealing with the media.

The council brought in Terry Brownbill, who used to report for The Sun, after coming under fire over the death of seven-year-old Khyra Ishaq last May.

The authority was also rated as inadequate for safeguarding by Ofsted last year.

Brownbill said: “I play hardball with the media. One way is to meet them and have it out across the table. If that doesn’t work we withhold advertising budgets, or use the press complaints process.

“I liken the relationship to that of the schoolyard bully. You don’t get a bully to stop by negotiation; you knock them down first and then you’re on equal terms.”

He said he had not worked in this way at Birminghamt and had had a good working relationship with the main local newspaper group, the Birmingham Post and Mail, on coverage of social work.

This month the Post featured a report by a journalist who had shadowed senior children’s social worker Wendi Grizzle.

Read Brownbill’s account of the Post‘s journalist’s shadowing experience

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