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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.

IPR’s anti-spin too

12 Aug

The IPR’s director general, Colin Farrington, gave a considered interview to ePolitix on the government spin issue. It’s published on Channel 4 News. Although Colin is not one to go for cheap sound bytes, he did say that Labour’s PR had become too aggressive and that Alastair Campbell should go:

That’s why in the autumn he should go quietly – if it’s possible to go quietly – and take a new career path.

Later update: Here‘s Colin Farrington’s letter, published in The Times, elaborating on this argument.

Anti-spin allies

10 Aug

It’s not that surprising that a journalist should campaign against spin, though it’s notable when it takes the form of a soon-to-launch anti-spin website. But he’s picked a surprising ally in Anne Gregory, president-elect of the IPR and Britain’s only professor of public relations. Patrick Weever explains what’s going on in today’s Observer newspaper.