The public relations disaster around the Van Morrison fatherhood story hurts two people. Neither of them is Van Morrison. One of them is his wife, Michelle. The other is his PR man in Ireland.
I'm particularly sorry for Michelle because I know her. She worked for me for about 12 months a few years ago. She was hardworking, generous, funny and clever. She understands PR.
The minute the story broke that Van had fathered a child by his manager, she'd have understood that only one course of action would work. Van had to give a brief interview immediately. Telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The interview would have gone worldwide and the allegation placed on Morrison's website by a hacker would have died.
Instead, the story ran, unchallenged, long enough for it to become established as an accepted truth. Mark Twain said that a lie could travel around the world before the truth got its boots on. Now that we live in a digital world, a lie can travel several times around the world before the truth gets its boots on. And, in this case, it didn't get its boots on the right feet.
A Dublin-based, highly respected PR consultant gave an interview on Morrison's behalf. Some PR consultants speak on behalf of their clients. Some -- me included -- don't. We don't because we believe clients should speak up for themselves. And because we know that when clients are under extreme pressure, they may forget important facts, or not see the significance of a particular fact.
In this case, the PR man in all good faith went out and said that Van Morrison didn't know the woman named Gigi with whom the hacker said he had a child. He certainly had not fathered any child that this strange woman might have had. He was happily married to Michelle, with whom he had two wonderful children. End of story. Done and dusted. Put to bed.
Well, not quite end of story. Not long afterwards, it emerged that this woman is a director of several of the musician's companies. So he does know her. The PR man, finding himself liberally covered with egg, tersely indicated that he had said what he was told to say. Far from being done and dusted, the story now unravelled in all directions.
Putting the original hacker to one side, the fact is that one man and only one man is responsible for this PR disaster. George Ivan Morrison is that man. People who don't know Van Morrison will be mystified as to why he should manage his own reputation so badly. People who do know him will not have been surprised by the events of the last week.
The fact is that Van Morrison doesn't care. He has been known to be incredibly rude to people in public. He rarely gives interviews, mostly, I suspect, because he can't be arsed. Not only is he not interested in publicity, he doesn't need it. He is one of those singers whose career continues and whose fan base cannot be driven off, no matter how unfriendly he is.
For Morrison, the only thing that matters is the music. He lives, breathes, eats music. Anything outside of the music is a waste of time and a pointless distraction.
When he briefed his PR man, he simply wouldn't have considered the damage a half-brief could do. It was just "get this thing off my back".
The end result is the first PR disaster of the year, wounding Michelle and his PR man and leaving fans mystified. Proof -- not that anybody needed it -- that Van Morrison is good at music and bad at almost everything else.