Danny Rogers: The shutters come down on an era of spin

A bevy of senior politicos attended last week's PR on the Edge conference, hosted by PRWeek, and it was illuminating to hear from some key strategists behind the Barack Obama election campaign in the context of our domestic political malaise.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

So while Damon Jones, who was director of press relations for the Democratic National Convention, talked about reaching new highs of voter engagement, the shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt MP conceded that public trust was now so low in British politicians that it no longer mattered what they said.

It does matter, of course, but Hunt was exaggerating to make a point.

He was saying that the crucial thing today, is what politicians actually do.

There is indeed a dawning realisation among our political class that there is no longer anywhere to hide in the new media age.

Recently we have seen politicians floundering in the media glare, desperately searching for the phrases that would once have pulled them out of trouble. But they are finding that these no longer work.

The public’s access to electronic information – and their ability to express their views via blogs and phone-ins – is such that only the truth will do. It could even be argued that this brings down the shutters on an age of spin.

Jones, who has now gone back to his ‘day job’ as external relations leader for Procter & Gamble, says what he learned from the Obama campaign was that product truth and perception must now be one and the same.

And, critically, he argues that media advisers now have the ability to shape the product, not just the message.
So as well as the eyes and ears of an organisation, PR professionals have now become the fingers, shaping the core product.

Today’s politicians must not just listen to their electorate, they must actively – and tangibly – change their behaviour accordingly. And if they actually expect to stay in power, they should go one stage further, as Obama did. They must adopt a position of true moral leadership.

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