Andy Skinner, managing director of PR company ASAP, says the LDV van saga was a an object lesson in how not to handle public relations...

I was privileged to be working on the Midlands Rich List, parked variously on different desks on The Birmingham Post while the previous incarnation of LDV went through its death throes.

It's a shame that there was no one on hand with a camcorder running because the various to-ing and fro-ing that went on would have made a wonderful "How not to..." training video for the PR industry.

The LDV saga was handled about as badly as it is possible to handle such a public story.

LDV is a company that has both sought and received massive coverage in the past when its chief executive was hailed as a saviour/saint/ miracle worker (delete as appropriate).

Launches of new vehicles have been given by the local media the kind of coverage normally reserved for the arrival of a new Ferrari or some other kind of supercar.

And while one understands the commercial sensitivities of attempting to pull off a deal that rescues some if not all of the 1,200 jobs, I would still argue that LDV had a public duty to maintain a better dialogue with the media than it did.

I say a "better dialogue", but for all I could see or hear there was no dialogue.

The company press officer's reaction when the going got tough was simply to fail to return phone calls.

These from members of the media he had been quick enough to court in the past.

The company's PR company was similarly left in the dark, to the point where they were getting their only information, or speculation as it increasingly became, from the same media that were ringing them for information.

You can argue as long as you like that a private company's affairs should remain private but not after you have coveted the spotlight for so long.

The media spotlight is not a marketing tool that can be switched on when times are good and switched off just because it doesn't suit to be in the papers, or on TV or radio, for the time being.

And no, I am not shooting the messengers here merely for obeying orders.

If the people that pay your salary tell you to behave in a certain way, you either walk or comply.

How you feel about your moral obligations, to staff, to suppliers and to the city that has supported you through bad times and good is up to you, whether you be a staff member or an executive director.

I fear that the lasting result of the LDV debacle will be the final and total collapse of the business. Such is the sour taste that has been left by the deal that the new company will struggle to find suppliers willing to take a risk again.

The media will certainly be less compliant when the new organisation wants the spotlight turned back on again.

To say that it was impossible to communicate with the media while such delicate negotiations were underway is arrogant nonsense.

Any press officer worth his or her salt knows how to handle a situation such as was faced by LDV.

The company has been heard to complain that the eventual deal was nearly scuppered by media speculation.

It wasn't. It was nearly scuppered by the company's hamfisted approach to a project vitally important to the city of Birmingham and its citizens.

The saving or not of 1,200 jobs, to say nothing of the jobs that may be lost as suppliers fight to cut their costs following losses sustained from LDV.

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