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Right to spin

20 Nov

The Times reports that Guy Black has been approached to head communications for the Conservative party. He’s certainly well connected in the worlds of media, politics and PR (his partner Mark Bolland was last week rebuked by the IPR for revealing confidences from his time as adviser to Prince Charles).

Turning the tables

21 Sep

It’s been interesting to see how debates apparently about the ethics of public relations have developed into a challenge to media methods.

In the wider sphere, the allegation that Downing Street ‘sexed up’ the Iraq dossier has turned into a debate about honest and accurate journalism (see this in The Observer).

In our world, Patrick Weever’s anti-spin campaign has been challenged (also in The Observer) by Chris Rushton, who leads a joint degree course in journalism and public relations in Sunderland. He argues that the two practices can’t be separated – they need to understand and learn from each other:

Among the many things students of journalism learn is never to take on trust something that is given to them by a press officer. Similarly, PR students know not to believe everything a journalist tells them.

Campbell’s legacy

6 Sep

Public relations in the UK is losing its most renowned figure. Kate Nicholas of PR Week assesses Alastair Campbell’s legacy, in what is almost a eulogy (registration required).

Perhaps she fears a duller time as editor of our trade weekly. Perhaps we’ll miss a high profile example for our lectures and tutorials. Perhaps we really are seeing the beginnings of the death of spin.

Beyond rebuke

1 Sep

Downing Street has moved quickly to remove any appearance of a conflict of interest. The incoming director of communications will not retain his share options in PR firm Chime Communications, the BBC reports.

In government, it is important to remove yourself from any potential conflict of interest. In consultancy, the profit motive should not cloud your judgement and advice. Yet while barristers are rarely associated with the criminals they represent, PR consultants are assumed to be no more than pawns of those who pay the bills.

Epitaphs on spin

30 Aug

We will surely never see times like this again. The UK’s most influential and best-known PR adviser announces his (expected) resignation, and it’s the biggest media story of the day.

For the record, this is how The Mirror, The Times, The Guardian and The Telegraph report on Alastair Campbell’s departure. Only the last of these thought yesterday’s Iraqi bomb blast a more important news story.

Age of the amateur

17 Aug

In Britain, we tend to favour amateurism – and are suspicious of professionalism. Yet voices in the media have begun to talk about the need for greater rigour in news reporting. Here’s Will Hutton writing in The Observer:

Britain has never had the American tradition of fact-checking. Writing for American newspapers and magazines recently, I have been impressed by the insistence that every fact over there is sourced and checked; our reporting culture, on the other hand, is lackadaisical. Andrew Gilligan’s dismaying lack of supporting notes and willingness to push a story beyond its sourced limits to make a political point springs directly from this culture. Be sure he is not alone.

Hill climber

13 Aug

If Alastair Campbell should leave, then informed opinion suggests a move to 10 Downing Street by Bell Pottinger consultant David Hill. Roy Hattersley, writing in Media Guardian, recalls a previous phone conversation that demonstrates his scrupulous honesty:

I asked him if its real purpose was to make sure that I would not be publicly critical of his decision to work for Tim Bell – adviser to Margaret Thatcher and part-architect of several Labour Party defeats. He answered, without embarrassment or hesitation, that it was. Hill finds it almost pathologically impossible to deceive or dissemble. That is why he is the right man to re-establish a relationship of trust between Downing Street and the press and, in consequence, between Downing Street and the general public.