LEADER: Try letting Gordon Brown be himself

In many walks of life, the best career advice is not to upset the boat. Keep the boss happy. Don't give your opinion unless anyone asks.

Danny Rogers, Editor, <em>PRWeek</em>
Danny Rogers, Editor, PRWeek

But the best PR professionals are not like that. They are valued highly precisely because they can give unpalatable advice. Indeed, they may be the only ones able to do so.

Like him or loathe him, Alastair Campbell's notorious 'deputy PM' status derived from the fact he occasionally told Tony Blair what he didn't want to hear. That is why Blair rated him. And trusted him.

Campbell's problem was that he increasingly became 'the story' and so some of the efficacy was lost.

One suspects that Gordon Brown's PR team, on taking over Number 10, was not objective enough. He had a loyal coterie of advisers - Damian McBride, Ed Balls and so on - but that is not always enough. They certainly do not seem to have the independent, maverick streak of Brown's former press man, and PRWeek columnist, Charlie Whelan.

This is why people such as Stephen Carter and David Muir were brought in this year; experienced businesspeople and creative chiefs who could bring a fresh perspective to the beleaguered office.

As this magazine has consistently revealed, the newcomers have clearly told Brown some home truths - that people see him as 'distant and cold' - and have come up with initiatives to change this perception.

The trouble is the tactics so far have often been misguided. Since Campbell made 'spin' the story, the genie cannot be put back into the bottle. Hence any tactic that could be perceived as a 'PR gimmick' has been picked up and slammed by the national media.

The answer lies in Brown's authenticity. As Carter and Muir know well, good advertising derives from a 'product truth'. To try to make their product - Brown - seem something he is not, will inevitably backfire.

The way forward must lie in getting the basic policies right. And in letting Gordon be, well, Gordon.

Email: danny.rogers@haymarket.com

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