Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Orange Alert: The suspension last week of a community affairs manager who works for British mobile phone company Orange raises a number of issues for bloggers and corporate blogging policies.

Inigo Wilson was suspended after the company received complaints about a “Lefty Lexicon” posted on a conservative website. The humorous posting defined “Islamophobic” as a term describing “anyone who objects to having their transport blown up on the way to work,” and described Palestinians as “archetypal ‘victims,’ no matter how many teenagers they murder in bars and fast-food outlets.”

The Muslim Public Affairs Committee objected, encouraging members to write to the company complaining.

Normally, I would consider this another example of corporate over-sensitivity. Wilson was not posting in any official capacity, and his words and actions outside of the corporate context are surely his own business. Moreover, this is one of those issues on which any action is going to offend someone. I suspect conservatives—and those on the left who value free speech over political correctness—will be appalled by Orange’s actions.

Indeed, the political commentator and former Conservative candidate Iain Dale said: "Inigo was acting in his private capacity. Orange have [sic] a choice: are they on the side of freedom of speech? The article is an attack on the left’s approach to language and the way language is used to shut down debate and promote a particular world view. It is intended to be satirical. Sadly, his opponents have proved his point to him by their reaction.”

But in this case, there are a couple of mitigating factors. The first is that Wilson identifies himself rather prominently in his lead-in as a community affairs manager for a large telecoms company—although he doesn’t identify Orange by name. I suppose it could be argued that by mentioning his corporate affiliation at all, he opened himself up to attack. And then there’s the fact that he’s a community affairs manager, perhaps not the ideal job for someone whose views of a segment of the population are so jaundiced.

One obvious message is that companies should have clear rules about these issues—online and off—rather than making up policy on the fly when an incident occurs.


  • At 8:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I blogged extensively about this last week. One aspect that you've missed is that if you actually read the whole of Wilson's Lefty Lexicon you'll see that he also defines community relations as "a formal system for ignoring public views while patronising them at the same time". It might have been in jest but even the most inexperienced PR should have realised that for a community affairs manager to say that publicly would make it more that slightly difficult to do their job. He also has a crack at what he calls self-appointed community leaders. That's slightly more than a mitigating factor in Orange's favour.



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