OPINION: Welcome to Fantasy Island M. Gerbeau

We live in interestingly messy times. We have just had the dangerous novelty of Afghans trying to hijack their way to asylum, with the subsequent support of brainless do-gooders, and the Tory leader knowing during Prime Minister’s Questions when Labour’s head of the Welsh Assembly had resigned before Labour’s very own Prime Minister, who was accordingly ’humiliated’ in the Commons. The Lords blocked repeal of S28, opposing the promotion of homosexuality, while the Commons reduced the age of homosexual consent to 16.

We live in interestingly messy times. We have just had the

dangerous novelty of Afghans trying to hijack their way to asylum, with

the subsequent support of brainless do-gooders, and the Tory leader

knowing during Prime Minister’s Questions when Labour’s head of the

Welsh Assembly had resigned before Labour’s very own Prime Minister, who

was accordingly ’humiliated’ in the Commons. The Lords blocked repeal of

S28, opposing the promotion of homosexuality, while the Commons reduced

the age of homosexual consent to 16.



As if that wasn’t messy enough, the Government sought to elevate the

importance of marriage in sex education while moving to give homosexual

partners the same employment rights, apart from pensions, as married

couples.



And if anybody knows who is in overall charge of Tory economic policy or

what it is, then please tell me. This does not speak highly for

political PR. Indeed, one wonders whether anybody these days thinks

anything through before they speak or act. Consistency and coherence

certainly do not seem to be priorities. But nothing came quite as

messily as the Great Millennium Dome management fiasco. And here

commercial, as distinct from Government PR, had a decisive hand in the

still simmering brew.



No one can argue that the Dome has been a commercial, organisational,

presentational or PR success. Against that background, some sackings

were perhaps inevitable, given the amount of private money invested in

the project. But the manner in which Jennie Page was replaced raises so

many questions that the PR industry, concerned with building and

protecting reputation, would by now have instituted a public inquiry if

it were remotely concerned with its own reputation.



Let us leave aside the interesting juxtaposition between the hype over

P-Y Gerbeau, the new Gallic boss with the transatlantic persona, and Bob

Ayling, chairman of the Dome’s board, reporting a pounds 60 million

third-quarter loss for British Airways. How come we got the impression

that M. Gerbeau was the saviour of Disneyland Paris, had ’worked across

the entire range of management functions relevant to a world-class

visitor attraction’ and ’headed a team of six directors managing a team

of up to 2,000’ when the truth is much more prosaic? It seems that M.

Gerbeau, on a mere pounds 35,000, just ran parking, ticketing, the

attractions and customer relations at Disneyland Paris.



Only M. Gerbeau can confound the suspicion that he has been grossly

overblown.



But whatever he does at the Dome he cannot kill the unfortunate

impression that PROs are in the business of fantasy rather than fact if

it serves some obscure short-term purpose. Why, after M. Gerbeau’s

arrival at the Dome, should anybody believe another word we say?



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