Most PR Week readers are familiar with the tradition of shooting
the messenger. But there can be few practitioners of our art who have
been rained upon by more assassins than the Chancellor’s press adviser
Charlie Whelan. With Tarantino-like subtlety, he has been gleefully
pumped with hot metal from all directions.
But it’s too soon to be dancing on the grave of any Government media
handlers. It now appears that last week’s hysteria had its origins in
the over-eager response of a reporter who took his eye off the ball.
That had nothing to do with new-tech spin doctoring - it was a much more
This Government has thus far managed the media more effectively than its
predecessors, thereby reducing the ability of journalists to spin their
own political yarns. There is a delicious irony in seeing the press
complain about spin doctoring when they were quite happy to be ’spun’ on a
daily basis by Labour in opposition.
So, what are the lessons from this dizzying tale?
One view gathering momentum (or at least being ’spun’ by ’sources close
to’ the Prime Minister) is that the Government should move to briefing ’on
I can’t believe British political reporters would be willing to go down
the US road, with soft focus White House-style press conferences. What
turns the lascivious lobby journalist on is the thrill of the chase. Of
course, it is normally the traditional ’off the record’ lobby system which
provides the scoop. We corporate spin doctors should be wary of knocking
our political colleagues. Our discipline is at centre stage, our profile
raised by the Whitehall ’sultans of spin’, although the focus on clear and
consistent messages hardly extends to EMU policy any more than it did
under the Conservatives. That explains why the financial markets can be so
easily panicked by the merest whiff of a policy.
Professional management of the Government’s communication is here to stay.
Journalists who have become lazy and over-dependent on spin doctors should
hopefully have learned their lesson from one colleague’s misfortune.
However, it may be too much to hope that City high-rollers will learn
not to believe everything they read.