Labour press office needs to improve, warns new report

The Labour Party press office needs to become quicker and more skilful, according to a report by professional comms networking group Labour in Communications.

Sir Keir Starmer at this year’s Labour Party conference in Liverpool (Pic credit: Getty Images)

The Ready for Government report, by comms experts from a number of major agencies, has been released to coincide with the Labour Party’s annual conference, which is currently taking place in Liverpool.

It outlines a number of “adjustments” it says should be made to the party’s press office. “The party needs to run a more deft, rapid press office which brings information to journalists when they ask for it and ensures Labour’s voice is heard at every opportunity,” it said.

The report claims journalists have complained “that they currently sometimes find the party’s press office to be slow and uncoordinated.” In some cases, journalists “have stopped contacting the press office for comment as a result”.

Another criticism is that the “personality and individuality of quotes or op-eds from frontbenchers often feel stripped back once passed through the press office”.

The report added: “This process is often extended by the need to check quotes against current policy.”

Expert opinion

Released by Labour in Communications, a networking group of more than 3,500 comms professionals, the report sets out what it calls “a blueprint for Labour’s path to power at the next general election”.

It has been written by Labour supporters from agencies such as Brunswick, H/Advisors Cicero, FleishmanHillard, Hanbury Strategy, Global Counsel, Pagefield, Lansons and SEC Newgate UK.

Writing in the foreword, Lord Peter Mandelson, one of the architects of New Labour and a veteran of Labour election campaigns since 1987, said: “Labour’s communications approach needs dynamism. It is up to us to explain – with confidence, clarity, and conviction – what the choice is.” He added: “If we want to win and gain the trust of voters, our messaging has to be both ambitious and credible.”

Ingredients for success

Labour’s comms team is led by Matthew Doyle, executive director of comms, with Sophie Nazemi as head of press and broadcast.

The report presents several recommendations to improve the running of Labour’s press office. These include placing a timer on responding to journalist requests, ensuring that staff can refer to a live, up-to-date ‘Policy Bible’ so that they can swiftly check current policy.

There should also be a spokesperson from the shadow cabinet “to act as a fast rebuttal voice, with the press office empowered to put out quotes without their sign-off if needed for ease”.

The recommendations are part of a wider package of changes that are needed, according to the report.

Labour needs to use “Instagram influencers” and local “hero voters” to attract hard-to-reach audiences, and shadow cabinet members should “develop their own ‘elevator pitch’ for broadcast interviews tied to their own political story or real-life experience”.

The party’s comms team should also “adopt a ’Moneyball’ approach to press management, securing the statistically most undervalued media opportunities via the most efficient use of party resources”.

And in the run-up to the next general election, Labour should co-ordinate a national network of spokespeople and take a “laser-like approach to messaging, with one big idea as an umbrella to individual policy discussions”.

The Labour Party would not comment on the findings of the report.

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