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Row over calls for sacking

CIPR accused of censorship over Drum columnist

The DrumA public relations body has been accused of trying to censor a trade magazine by calling for a columnist to be sacked.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations wants The Drum to drop Richard Hillgrove because he has a conviction for tax fraud.

The CIPR claimed his appointment to the Glasgow-based publication  ‘brings the industry into disrepute”.

A number of PR professionals echoed the call, taking to Twitter in recent days to express their dismay over Mr Hillgrove’s appointment.

Mr Hillgrove, the founder and chief executive of PR firm 6 Hillgrove, was handed a 15 months prison sentence, suspended for two years, after being found guilty of two counts of tax evasion in May 2014. He was also ordered to undertake 200 hours of community service and pay £5,000 in court costs.

He began writing a column for The Drum, in partnership with former lawyer Andrew Eborn, called Bang On, and claims it “shines a light” on the the PR industry.

CIPR president-elect Sarah Hall said his appointment “does a disservice to the public relations industry.”

She said: “The CIPR is calling on The Drum to rethink its decision and work with us to champion ethics, integrity and professionalism to advance the communications industry and its status within society.

“The public relations profession is often criticised for not practising what it preaches and managing its own reputation.”

Mr Hillgrove has responded by further attacking the PR industry, not least for its involvement in ‘fake news’.

He told trade publication Press Gazette that when he sought to join the CIPR in 2014 he was refused because of his work for Charles Saatchi, who was cautioned in 2013 for assaulting his then wife Nigella Lawson.

He added: “Andy Coulson, who was David Cameron’s spokesman, actually served a prison sentence and he is still a member of the PR industry. Are they going to carry out a tarring and feathering of particular individuals because of their brushes with the law?”

Mr Hillgrove said the CIPR is attacking him because his column criticised the PR industry for its role in creating fake news.

On the CIPR’s attempts to have dropped by The Drum, he said: “It’s censorship. PR has been about fakery for years. But they have to protect their own. If someone in the PR industry steps out of line they gang up on you and beat you up in an alleyway.”

“I had a questionable brush with the law. The sentence was suspended by the judge for good reason.”

The Drum said it was not commenting, but it has run Mr Hillgrove’s latest column on its website today.

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