News unspun to the play of puns. Adding humour to rumour. A current affairs crescendo of creative innuendo.
It’s been a week since one of the largest gatherings in Europe took place under one roof at London’s Excel Centre.
The Global Peace and Unity (GPU) event was a showcase of boy bands, albeit nasheed singers, stalls displaying the latest trends in modesty garb, people ‘ingesting sharia’ compliant food and speeches from some well respected movers and Shaykh-ers from the Islamic world.
The dust must surely be settling down now on all the media activity surrounding the annual extravaganza. But that’s assuming the dust saturated the atmosphere in the first place.
Apparently, the two-day event attracted a whopping 100,000 attendees and being in it’s fifth year of existence, one would expect a well-oiled and sophisticated PR machinery in place ready to promote the activities of such a large-scale event. Think again. Only last month, I contacted Islam Channel, the creators of the yearly GPU weekend, to make enquiries with their press relations team, who are non-existant. What is unfathomable, is how this channel without a PR defence line is still standing, especially with recent stories about Interpol red notices and Ofcom fines?
Apart from Lauren Booth’s declaration to the Islamic faith and Sayeeda Warsi’s non-attendance to the event, there was no other mainstream coverage of the event. With no positive coverage in any mainstream media platform and scarce coverage in some ethnic/Muslim media, it looks like the PR machinery needs more than just oiling.
Why is the PR component to an annual event like GPU such a life-line? Being host to a large Muslim gathering, it goes without saying that structures need to be in place, armoured with lines ready to combat any Islamophobic and inaccurate coverage. The current socio-political climate makes this a fact of life. With poor PR preparation, look how the New York community centre Park 51 became transformed into a ‘Ground Zero mosque’ by the right-wing media blogosphere.
It’s also a disservice to the loyal attendees, who annually purchase tickets, bombard messages of support on Facebook and twitter and rarely criticise a brand that they are actually proud of. It’s a source of pride for many Muslims in the British community, a family event. Yet it feels like it’s all been a waste because media opportunities have not been capitalized
How such an event took place without a press office of sorts indicates the possibility of a non-existent PR strategy, poor allocation of funds and a lack of any strategic foresight from the leaders of the event.
So whilst the tabloids are consumed in questioning the presence of certain movers and Shaykh-ers as well as the absentees (Baroness Warsi), under the narrative of extremism, certain media might be more imaginative next year. Is it worth taking the risk without a PR team?