Howard appoints trio to head Tory comms

Conservative Leader Michael Howard has created a triumvirate of top communicators as the party bids to woo younger voters with an image overhaul. The party is to hire O2 marketer Will Harris to take a newly created director of marketing role.

Harris – whose hiring to the Tories’ line-up was speculated on last week – is expected to work alongside policy director Greg Clarke and a new press secretary, whose identity was yet to be confirmed as PRWeek went to press.

The triumvirate will spearhead the party’s endeavours to widen its electoral appeal and be seen as a credible alternative government. They will report to joint party chairmen Liam Fox and Maurice Saatchi. The appointments follow last week’s cull of top PROs at Central Office, which included director of strategic comms Paul Baverstock and media director Nick Wood.

Following the party’s decision to sell its HQ in Smith Square, Central Office staff were this week believed to be in advanced talks to take space in Millbank Tower, Labour’s ex- headquarters. The new Tory PR line-up will take on a distinctly less political make-up than the previous regime. Unlike his predecessor Iain Duncan Smith, Howard is understood to believe politicians alone should set strategy, leaving staffers to enact that strategy.

The appointment of a director of marketing – thought to be the first by a political party – signals the Tories’ determination to review its identity as a brand, not dissimilar to the New Labour project of the 1990s. As vice-president of marketing at mobile phone company mmO2, Harris rebranded BT Cellnet as O2.

Harris will be expected to appoint an ad agency to help the Tories’ fight in the next general election. He has been on sabbatical from mmO2 since the summer to write a book. Harris declined to comment, as did Central Office.

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