Stories about takeovers before they have been officially announced are tricky for all involved.
Hacks get more excited about breaking a deal story than practically anything else (I think wrongly, but that’s for another day.)
For flaks they are potential disasters. How could this story have possibly leaked, thinks the client. The one thing we wanted kept secret more than any other, and you couldn’t manage it…
For flaks the temptation to just lie, to deny there’s any deal in the offing, is high. Some in the trade find that temptation proves irresistible.
The alternative route is to leak the story elsewhere, so the flak can be sure their own spin is on that version of the story.
I think the flaks inclined to do that don’t appreciate just how important the story was to the original hack; don’t realise for how long their own name will be mud (eternity).
The best approach has to be the most honest one. If the hack has really got the story, and is plainly going to run it in the face of “we do not comment on speculation”, some gentle briefing around the edges does the power of good.
The hack looks even better informed than she was. The client gets to know beforehand what’s being written and when. And the flak wins praise for being a decent sort.
That way of doing things goes an awfully long way. I think the boss of every good PR firm in town knows this. Too many of the underlings seem not to, seem to think it is their job to Stop Stories.
Of course, if stories didn’t exist, there would be very little need for PR in the first place.