ELECTION 2001: PRWeek's panel of experts give their view on the most effective PR techniques used so far

JEREMY BROWNE ... former Lib Dem director of press and


'The major issue is whether high-intensity spinning has become

counter-productive. More than ever before, Labour and the Conservatives

have engaged in furious rebuttal and prebuttal exchanges. This has been

most evident on tax, with journalists being submerged under pages and

pages of contradictory statistics.

'The media has become immune to endless heavy spinning, while the public

is left almost completely cold by the Westminster election game. Despite

ever more polling and focus group research, the parties are not getting

under the skin of the voters. Despite all the sound and fury, the polls

remain static.

'Kennedy's campaign points the way forward. The character of the leader

and straightforward messages - plus, ironically, smaller budgets - have

given the Lib Dem campaign a more "real" quality. With a cynical

electorate, being genuine is the great prize, and the spin doctors are

as much a barrier as a route to this goal.

'The post-election analysis may conclude that communications techniques

made famous by New Labour have reached the end of their shelf-life.

Instead the emphasis may become more minimal, less clever-clever, a bit

looser, slightly more rough at the edges. '

VERDICT: Trying to come across as 'genuine' is Kennedy's deftest PR


CHARLES LEWINGTON ... former Tory director of communications

'The "keeping silent" technique has to be one of the more effective

campaigning tools deployed so far. Unlike Neil Hamilton in 1997, Keith

Vaz has understood the need to say nothing - or at least nothing of

consequence - keeping a lid on a sleaze story, even when new allegations

surfaced in The Observer.

'Interviewed under duress, his answers have been almost bizarre in their

irrelevance. Eventually he offered an exclusive photocall to the BBC,

whose reporter was happy to comply with his desire to continue to say

nothing. Result: plenty of harmless colour stories about Vaz's

campaigning 'illness' but no row of substance.

'Ffion Hague is the second adherent to the "silence is golden" rule. She

has radiated charm without uttering a word, generating better reviews

than Cherie. The strategy begs the question why political wives need to

expose themselves by playing the media game during a campaign. Imagine a

campaign where all politicians were silent. Perhaps that would restore

voters' faith in democracy.'

VERDICT: 'Silence is golden' - less talk would restore voters' faith in


STEVE MORGAN ... former Al Gore campaigner

'The most effective tool is the internet. It may not be the most

important vehicle for message delivery, nor is it reaching large

numbers, in this election, but there's no doubt in my mind that its

future as a political battleground is assured.

'Both the Tories and Labour have invested to make use of internet

campaigning technology. Hague's e-broadcast on the Pound is an excellent

example. Labour has used humour to get its message across. Its pounds

20bn Cut 'n' Run e-mail game has proved very popular.

'All the parties are using the internet to provide basic information to

supporters and the media. The next election will see this medium evolve

onto a new plane as digital TV becomes the norm. The prize will be the

next generation of voters.'

VERDICT: Hague's e-broadcast typifies latest trend in e-communications.

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