LEADER: Roddick illuminates dark days of spin

Here we go again. Not just the verbal jousting that marks the start of the phony election season.

Claire Murphy, deputy editor, <em>PRWeek</em>
Claire Murphy, deputy editor, PRWeek

But also the now-familiar adoption by the Tories of a ‘more spinned against than spinning’ positioning, accusing Gordon Brown of using his visit to Iraq to cynically steal headlines from their party conference.

The irony of this message emerging from a party run by a former PR man is hard to avoid. But given that images of Brown clad in a bulletproof vest were beamed into homes just when the Tories had hoped their tax plans would be discussed by the nation’s media, it is understandable that they tried to turn the story to their advantage.

On a lighter note, as the story on our front page documents, prospective London mayor Boris Johnson is also merrily (very merrily) knocking PROs, as a way to create some political leverage between him and his Labour opponent. The picture he paints of Ken Livingstone’s PROs ‘hanging on by their fingernails to the radiators’ will not be forgotten in a hurry.

But there is a serious issue at stake here. In the public lexicon, PR has gained a reputation for trustworthiness almost on a par with estate agents or (perish the thought) journalists. It is not a new charge but given the eagerness of the Conservative Party to taint Brown with the manipulation charge levelled against his predecessor, this is one key message that is going to be heard again and again over the next month.

There is an antidote to all this dark thinking, one that is neatly illustrated elsewhere in this week’s issue. Our Clarion Awards feature shows comms at its best and most illuminating, carrying on the late Anita Roddick’s ethical crusade. The piece on the way aid agencies deal with the media in disaster zones shows how well-planned comms can help sustain the flow of donations.

Ammunition for your defence should a friend or family member accuse you of contributing to dark arts.

Danny Rogers is away on holiday

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