Danny Rogers: Comms strategies shift for the New Year

Happy New Year.

It's always good to have a fresh start for January. But I wish the British media had the same view. The news agenda so far - with the exception of England's astonishing Ashes victory - has had more than a touch of deja vu about it.

Snow travel chaos, a crisis on Eurostar, fears of a flu pandemic: the newspapers could almost have copied and pasted last winter's headlines.

However, the comms surrounding these so-called crises has at least become more sophisticated (see analysis, pages 2&3).

BAA boss Colin Matthews somehow survived, thanks to the sacrifice of his annual bonus, the announcement of heavy investment in new snow-clearing equipment at major airports, and doubtless some very good media advice from his chairman and comms specialists.

Indeed the PR industry has hardly paused for breath over the mid-winter break. There have been major reshuffles at the top of the big PR networks, including Robert Phillips' appointment as EMEA boss of Edelman and Paul Taaffe's imminent departure as global chief of Hill & Knowlton.

FD (formerly Financial Dynamics) is also changing its global leadership team, and rebranding under the name of management consultancy owner FTI. This could be a significant move as such firms increasingly attempt to blur the lines between management consultancy and reputation management.

Such practice should be put to the test as multinationals including BP attempt to rebuild their operations and reputations in 2011.

We are already seeing ever closer integration of political and corporate affairs, writ large in the battle over bankers' bonuses. Here the Liberal Democrats appear to have misjudged things badly.

It was important for Nick Clegg and Vince Cable to be seen to score points on this issue, but signs are that the bankers' lobby is withdrawing its olive branch. The banks claim that their previous restraint was not fully appreciated, but in truth the politicians have not achieved the right balance of carrot, stick and media strategy.

But one also cannot help thinking the Conservatives - inherent supporters of the financial sector - are happy to hang the Lib Dems out to dry, much as they did on tuition fees.

To shine more light on this fascinating area, PRWeek has signed up two fresh political columnists: George Eustice, previously press adviser to David Cameron and elected an MP last May, who will alternate with comms expert John Woodcock, a new Labour MP (next week).

danny.rogers@haymarket.com

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