Diary: CIPR adds another gong to Tutu's shelf

Venerable peace campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu will have to find more space on his mantelpiece after the CIPR awarded him its highly prized President's Medal.

Although in this country his name is irreverent slang for a Lower Second Class Honours degree, the CIPR accolade is somewhat harder to come by.

Every year the medal is given to an individual who, in the opinion of that year's CIPR president, has made a 'distinguished and positive use of communication'.

The 74-year-old's hectic schedule meant last year's CIPR president Anne Gregory had to wait until last weekend before she could hand the medal over. But Gregory was prepared to make an exception for the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner, saying he had 'placed communications at the heart of everything he'd done'.

'In South Africa he has been instrumental in bringing about democracy, a system that only works if communication is open and transparent,' she added.

A 'delighted' Archbishop Tutu said good communication was a force for good in society, and as such should be 'prized and nurtured'.

Truly on a mission, the archbishop is also to provide an opening message at the World Public Relations Festival on diversity in Trieste - for which PRWeek is a media partner - at the end of the month. 'Communications is at the heart of building a society based on mutual respect and understanding,' he will say. Hear, hear, Desmond.

Lewis lands safely as rumours fly solo

The big gossip doing the rounds on the Communications Directors Forum aboard the Oriana was that Vodafone director of corporate affairs Simon Lewis had flown straight in on his Vodafone-branded private jet.

As viral campaigns go, this one was staggeringly effective. The rumour comes back to Diary half a dozen or so times from several sources.

But Lewis assured us that, while he had heard it too, the story was nonsense: 'I flew BE from Gatwick to Guernsey and endured one of the bumpiest landings ever.'

As the forum approached its climax and the shores of Southampton drew closer, BNFL's top PR man Philip Dewhurst was identified by some as the source of the mischief. But Dewhurst tells us his link with the story is itself a naughty invention.

Lewis, a former press secretary to Her Majesty the Queen, would, in truth, make a dashing James Bond figure.

But Diary is left washed up in a morass of spin and counter-spin. We ask (probably in vain) for the real agent of this rather effective PR campaign to come forward.

Plenty to refresh, but little to chew on

Meanwhile, Diary's landlubbers were piped aboard the Oriana cheerily anticipating a bottle of rum, some yo-ho-ho and the chance to hobnob the cream of the industry.

But while the first two were immediately apparent - especially by 1.30am in the Crow's Nest bar - we were disappointed that hacks had been cruelly denied the opportunity to breakfast or lunch, let alone wine and dine, with any of the delegates or exhibitors aboard.

While the scribes were hardly confined to the engine room, we were certainly restricted to two tables in the corner of the restaurant, the organisers clearly afraid the fearsome trade press would force their guests to walk the plank - or maybe even ask some tricky questions.

Speakers were similarly confined to quarters, ensuring that by the end of the three days, conversation among this marginalised community had moved on from challenges facing the industry to the intricacies of US foreign policy, then to the meaning of life, and finally the price of bananas.

Now one can understand why exhibitors are primarily concerned with budget-wielding clients, but surely by supper-time they have had enough of selling, and may fancy chewing the fat with some salty old sea dogs.

'Land ahoy!' has never sounded so sweet.

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