(bbc.co.uk)

The riots in British cities have caused headlines around the world.

With just a year to go before London stages the Olympics, the UK is in the news from Beijing to Brisbane for all the wrong reasons.

“Everyone is just very shocked,” New York Times reporter Ravi Somaiya told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Mr Somaiya said the riots had been a big story across the Atlantic, dominating the front pages of his newspaper for several days.

“A couple of months ago Britain was Harry Potter and the royal wedding. Now it is phone-hacking and riots in the street. It’s quite a turnaround,” he added. Quite.

Elsewhere in the US, the Los Angeles Times reported that “community leaders, sociologists, police and lawmakers were left groping for a meaning for the worst social unrest to hit London in a generation.”

In China, meanwhile, Beijing’s Global Times, claimed the riots are evidence that western democracies are “at their wits’ end.”

The riots have also been headline news on TV and radio stations in Russia, Australia and the US.

However an individual publication or programme may choose to analyse the shocking events of the past week, the wider point is undeniable: the UK’s image has taken a battering and the timing could hardly be worse.

As alluded to by Somaiya, a few thousand thugs and looters have undone all the good work done by the nuptials of Kate and William. In the space of a few months we have gone from PR hero to zero.

The big question now is whether the damage to our reputation will be long lasting.

Visiting professor of PR for Westminster University, Trevor Morris, told PR Week that London’s reputation had been damaged, but whether this becomes a longer-term issue depends on factors such as whether there are copycat riots in other European cities.

He added that London would need to launch “showpiece and grassroots activities to show (it) is back.”

It will certainly take more than a couple of press releases to restore our reputation. The success or failure of UK PLC’s PR team will have implications for us all.

Outwrite PR