A former Downing Street strategic communications director this week advised Gordon Brown to turn his back on journalists and 'find a new way of communicating with the public'.
In an exclusive article for PRWeek, Benjamin Wegg Prosser suggests that Brown could reconnect with the public if he makes more use of the Central Office of Information, which co-ordinates government advertising and marketing.
Wegg Prosser is currently a consultant director at comms consultancy TLG (The Ledbury Group). He previously served as Tony Blair's director of strategic communications and Peter Mandelson's top special adviser.
He writes: 'It is widely acknowledged that unless Brown begins to turn around Labour's fortunes by the time of the Labour Party conference, he will be facing the prospect of being Labour's shortest-serving Prime Minister. His team is already hard at work developing smart new policies to woo the public and tactical wheezes to push David Cameron off track.
'These plans will only work if Brown is able to find a new way of communicating with the public.'
With the press showing little sign of warming to Brown, Wegg Prosser makes the controversial suggestion that Number 10 should place less emphasis on media relations: 'Now is the time for him to turn his back on his former friends in the fourth estate who have become some of his fiercest critics. Don't stop them doing their work, just don't help them do it.'
Wegg Prosser advises Brown to turn to the Central Office of Information: 'He should be asking the ad men for their best ideas to project the policy priorities of the Government ... clean, simple and effective public information campaigns that drive home social marketing messages.'
He adds: 'There was a time when the greatest advertising professionals cut their teeth on public information campaigns ... These campaigns meant something to a generation and, more importantly, influenced public opinion more powerfully than any press release or media interview. Brown should seek to rekindle this era.'
WEGG PROSSER SAYS
- Brown's relationship with journalists has delivered little for him, 'with the notable exception of the Daily Mail'
- Brown faces 'the prospect of being Labour's shortest-serving Prime Minister'
- Plans for a fightback will fail unless Brown uses new 'vehicles and forums' to communicate with the public
- Now is the time for Brown to 'turn his back on his former friends in the Fourth Estate'
- Number 10 and government departments should instead make more use of the Central Office of Information
- Whitehall press officers would still have a role to play but they must cut back on the type of media handling 'that delivers little to the Government'
46% - Voters who want Brown to stand down
36% - Voters who want Brown to stay on as Prime Minister
49% - Voters who would prefer ex-PM Tony Blair as leader
10% - Voters who see Brown as best among Labour MPs to be PM
12% - Voters who say David Miliband would be best PM
Stats from YouGov poll on 10 August, published in News of the World.