By John Donovan
Late yesterday evening, I sent an email to Mr Michiel Brandjes, Company Secretary and General Counsel Corporate, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and to the CEO of the company, Mr Peter Voser.
The email invited comment and correction in relation to a draft article focused on Bjorn Edlund (above right), who in February 2010 retired as Executive Vice President and Head of Group Communications at Royal Dutch Shell plc.
The draft article headline and content was critical in nature.
Under the circumstances, I also sent an email to Mr Edlund with the same invitation. He provided an initial response taking up the invitation and has now provided a substantive reply from his consultancy Bjorn Edlund Consulting.
It is fair to point out that many people connected with Shell would have some trepidation about replying at all, knowing that we are widely regarded as a long-term thorn in the side of Shell, having issued several high court actions against the company since 1994. The most recent proceedings, instituted by Shell, were in 2005. The acrimony has continued for nearly two decades.
Mr Edlund did not ignore my email, or engage in any prevarication, nor did he duck the issues. All tactics used previously by some of his former colleagues.
Instead, he provided a detailed polite response, with precise information, no threats, and no conditions attached.
His reply struck me as being honest, transparent and helpful. Consequently, I have no problem in accepting that some of the information in our draft was inaccurate. That article will not be published.
Mr Edlund provided a text book example of how to convert a potential critic into an admirer.
This PR guru is worth his weight in gold.