To hear some people talk, it has been a great week for PR. The
Royal Family is even marrying into it. Prince Edward has acquired his
own PR bride. Sophie Rhys-Jones will now be on tap to advise the very
top on how to perk up the Windsors’ image. And everybody lives happily
This, I fear, has been the measure of some of the reportage of the Royal
engagement. It has demonstrated yet again the media’s ability to fill
page after page with the most insensitive and intrusive guff.
You can be absolutely certain that had Miss Rhys-Jones had her
professional PR way it would have come out differently. But once
anything becomes public knowledge these days you can be pretty certain
that the story will spiral out of control in the hands of the media
whose reverence for fact, principles and restraint makes Max Clifford
In short, far from being a great week for PR, it has revealed its
limitations once the pack takes over. Coming on top of Peter Mandelson’s
failure to practise the PR judgement he was born with and Charlie
Whelan’s confirmation of the fate of those PR people who operate outside
the corporate machine they are supposed to be serving, there is only one
conclusion to be reached: PR has made an extremely messy start to 1999.
It was really in the mire by the time the Prime Minister had finished
with his daggers-drawn colleagues on his way home from the
Instead of contenting himself with a rallying call to the troops to put
the Christmas season of ill-will behind them and get on with the
Government’s vast agenda of unfinished business, he tried to kid us that
his ministers were just one happy family.
For good measure, he poured praise like molasses over the head of his
exceedingly awkward Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who wears his resentment
at not being PM on his sleeve. And he even penned for the Independent an
article headed: ’My party is more ideologically united than I’ve ever
known it’ after his deputy, John Pescott, had spent Christmas in charge
trying to swing New Labour Old Labour’s way.
I have never understood why politicians demean themselves in this
their apologists say that they don’t have much option, given the
political penalties of disunity. They have to try to present a united
front. But why do it in a way which makes them look not just ridiculous
but encourages the belief that all politicians do is lie in their
Don’t forget, Mr Blair came to office pledged to clean up British
He has a curious PR way of going about it. PR is about carrying
conviction not utter disbelief. Is it too much to hope that some people
will get the message in 1999?