A charity event held at London’s high-end Dorchester Hotel has today been revealed as a seemingly mysogynistic nightmare. It sound like the kind of disgrace you would imagine could no longer exist in an enlightened society.
The Financial Times newspaper sent female reporters undercover to find out what would happen at this men-only Presidents Club charity dinner. The lurid tales emerging are like something you would have imagined happening at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion in the 1970s!
As professional communicators, we can only think that there must not have been any of our peers involved in the decision for this kind of thing to take place. They would surely have seen the pitfalls from about five miles away if there had been…
Starting from the basis that it’s just plain wrong to have men as the only guests with 130 young women paid to be in attendance, you don’t have to be the world’s best PR person to figure out that this is an embarrassing disaster in the making.
Yes, it’s raised enormous amounts of money for good causes (it was a charity event, after all). However, it’s probably the last time for at least a while that this particular organisation is going to make anything like as much for such causes.
The world-leading advertising agency, WPP, had a table and has already said it won’t be supporting the charity again. Many others are likely to follow suit. There’s no reason to think that WPP, or any other guests, knew exactly what they were getting involved with, but by all accounts there were plenty of attendees all too happy to embrace the mysogynistic bear-pit atmosphere.
Get PR advice early
You need to look at an event from all around while you are planning it. Who, if anyone, is going to have a problem with it? Does it send the right messages about your organisation? Does it fit with current norms and values? It is accessible (in all of the senses of that word) to everyone who will want or need to be there?
Those questions apply as much to the venue as to the event organiser as to the attendees. Many of those present at this event may well be embarrassed today that they were part of it. It is actually an annual ‘do’, so we could hear more about past incarnations before this is over.
The clue is in the name: your public relations and media advisors will help you avoid this kind of publicity. What you have to do is involve them in the conversation from early on. It’s quite amazing that an event like this could even be conceived in this day and age.