Why the PR industry should thank Jeremy Corbyn

He may be a republican crypto-Marxist who wants to nationalise the economy and replace Nato with Hezbollah, but each and every one of us in the PR industry owes a huge debt of gratitude to Labour's newly elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn, writes PRWeek's features editor Alex Benady.

Why the PR industry should thank Jeremy Corbyn
He won the party leadership last Saturday on the back of a campaign that could be described as "anti-spin". 

Straight-talking and apparently guile-free he charmed Labour’s rank and file with his vision of a fairer, more decent society and a set of policies that would put clear red water between Labour and The Tories.

It didn’t matter that the mainstream media were not merely hostile, but almost hysterical in their opprobrium.  

He could always outflank them using direct appeals and social media. After all, he has the email addresses of every Labour party member. But he doesn’t have the email address of every voter in the electorate. 

As a result, in the days since he was elected he has faced probably the angriest and most vitriolic media outpourings since The Sun’s ‘anti-paedo’ campaigns of the early noughties. 

He has been savaged and smeared, derided and traduced and he has not been able to raise so much as a finger in his own defence.

In short Jeremy Corbyn has become a walking talking billboard for the PR industry. 

He is quite possibly the most graphic illustration in recent political history of what happens to people who pride themselves on buying their shirts from the co op because substance is what matters and spin, like fashion, is so shallow and dishonest.

Corbyn’s brutal pummelling in the media has become so uncomfortable to watch that some of the more thoughtful commentators are now begging him to take media advice. 

The Guardian, yesterday, ran a piece headlined ‘Why Jeremy Corbyn needs a spin doctor’. And the front page of the Indpendent simply asked ‘Is there a spin doctor in the house?’

Part of the problem is that PR like Corbyn has had a very poor press in recent years. 

Thanks largely to the antics of New Labour it has become so associated with "spin" that it has become synonymous with lies. That is certainly Corbyn’s take.

But in rejecting PR he has shown exactly what it can do and why it is needed. Yes it can be about sly manipulation and distortion. 

But at its best it is really about little more than emotional intelligence and forthright advocacy.

So when he came to name his shadow cabinet, anyone with a modicum of media experience would have taken one look at the team sheet and advised him to put out the story of it being the first female majority cabinet. 

Only then should he name the names. He did it the other way round allowing his friends in the media to position him as a pale male dinosaur.

Similarly, his economic policies need the benefit of some basic media presentation skills. 

His ideas of public investment, quantitative easing, concerted action on housing and renationalisation of some industries are all policies adopted by perfectly rational middle of the road governments in different parts of the world.

Yet without a programme of building relationships with editors and other journalists, without understanding the basics of how the media works, without a context and elementary presentation, they will come across like the ravings of a loon.

Even people who hate his politics can see that. 

That’s why everyone in the industry should be saying "thank you Jeremy". Thank you for making us look good. Thank you for making us look necessary. Thank you for showing the world that PR has a role and a value beyond smarm and spin. 

Alex Benady is features editor at PRWeek

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