ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN: The men behind the victories of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, are now offering their winning strategies to the UK corporate world. Jemimah Bailey reports

’This trip (to the UK) has really been good for me - I’ve gone from being apprehensive and sceptical about this venture to being enthusiastic.’ It’s a frank admission from James Carville, the ’ragin’ Cajun’ who helped put Bill Clinton in the White House.

’This trip (to the UK) has really been good for me - I’ve gone from

being apprehensive and sceptical about this venture to being

enthusiastic.’ It’s a frank admission from James Carville, the ’ragin’

Cajun’ who helped put Bill Clinton in the White House.

The ’venture ’Carville is referring to is the setting up of a strategic

consultancy, GGC-NOP, with fellow US political consultant Stan Greenberg

and Labour pollster Philip Gould. NOP, the research group which already

handles opinion research for the Labour Party, will hold the final 25

per cent of the newly formed consultancy.

There are some in the consultancy world who will treat this latest

venture with scepticism, and others who will greet it as a revolutionary


Carville and Greenberg, who are both currently based in the US, spent

several days with Gould last month shmoozing the grandees of the UK

corporate world, touting for business for their fledgling


’What brings us together is an understanding of change,’ says


’Communicating how to manage change successfully is a central part of

what we do.’

Gould agrees: ’There’s a different mood out there and if business

doesn’t realise that, it will find itself in trouble in exactly the same

way that political parties find themselves in trouble when they don’t

respond to change.’

’We are dealing with a serious deterioration in institutional trust,’

Carville says, by way of example. ’It used to be that if you were a

corporation or an institution and you said something, people believed

it. Now you’re met with more scepticism than trust. If people detect

arrogance they put up barriers.’

No one is going to deny that business has a valuable stake in

understanding the state of political and cultural thinking, nor that

this thinking has shifted in recent years.

’We’ve been involved in the biggest political transformation of the

post-World War II period,’ Greenberg insists. ’People experienced a

period of a breakdown of certainties in the 1980s - in the economic

realm, in the political realm, in the welfare state.

’The reason Clinton and Blair won was because they showed that they

understood the right balance of accepting change and creating new areas

of security.’

As far as the UK is concerned Gould argues that the country is becoming

increasingly assertive and populist. The political and cultural changes

of the 1990s have created an environment in which big companies no

longer automatically know the rules of the game.

’You can’t presume that the old rules are going to produce the same, or

necessarily good, results,’ says Greenberg. ’You need a strategy, a way

of changing the probabilities. You need to be able to intervene and

affect outcomes in a new environment.’

The central tenet behind the GGC-NOP consultancy is that the involvement

all three men have had in politics gives them an invaluable insight into

how the Labour and Democratic parties modernised to cope with cultural

changes. Now that the political parties Gould, Greenberg and Carville

have championed have achieved electoral victory, the time is right to

apply the same modernisation techniques to the corporate world. Using

their research and polling techniques to understand target stakeholders,

the consultancy will devise ’break-through’ strategies.

’The business people we’ve been talking to want to make sense of this

change,’ says Gould. ’They almost need a translator - they just don’t

know the language or the jargon.’

Gould recounts a conversation he had with one leading corporate figure

during a dinner. ’He said: ’I now feel that every one of my customers is

a voter. What they think about the politics of the world and what they

think about my business are intertwined and locked together. It’s just

not possible to separate them anymore.’’

The blurring of the boundaries between the political and corporate world

should mean that Greenberg, Gould and Carville’s skills are


In an article on reputation management (PR Week, 11 April 1997) Mark

Goyder, director of the Centre for Tomorrow’s Company, identified

’clarity of purpose, enduring values and a clear personality’ as key to

managing reputation - a statement which could equally be applied to the

political world.

Whether or not the three are offering anything new in terms of strategic

input is debatable. Although their political credentials are dazzling

and previous corporate experience solid, it could be dangerous to rely

on the ’big name’ factor. It is possible that potential clients could be

discouraged from associating with such high profile spin doctors - a

label they will find hard to escape. Carville, however, is confident of

their future success.

’The distinct advantage that we have is that we have been doing this for

most of our adult lives,’ says Carville. ’There may be someone who can

offer a similar service, but not a similar background. We haven’t just

got together and said: ’gee, there’s a need for a strategic division,

let’s go out and make one’. Between the three of us there is a wealth of

experience - not just in understanding what to communicate, but how to

communicate it.’

As for potential clients - Greenberg says that in his recent discussions

with corporate figures in the UK, concern about Europe is high. ’Many

major business sectors have an enormous interest in building receptivity

to Britain going into a single currency,’ he says.

Greenberg believes another area for potential clients could be those

industries in Britain which have fallen in public esteem.

’There’s a serious interest in trying to address the question of

industries with an image problem. It’s not just the practice of a

particular company, but the overall lack of confidence in an industry

which is adversely affecting the futures of those industries as a whole

and, consequently, the individual companies,’ he explains.

The enthusiasm of Gould, Greenberg and Carville to unleash their

combined ideas and practices into the corporate world is clear. Carville

also admits to a more personal reason for his involvement in the

project: ’All of my adult life has revolved around politics. The

circuits get burnt out, you know. It’s the same people I keep fighting.

Everything just has a real sameness to it.’

All three have ’been there, done that and written the book in politics’,

and now there is a sense that they are looking for the next big


The proof of the pudding will be whether companies with the GGC-NOP

stamp will see their reputations enhanced and their performance



One of America’s best known political consultants, Carville came to the

fore during the 1992 presidential campaign. He ran Clinton’s Little Rock

’War Room’ and is credited with the all-encompassing campaign phrase

’it’s the economy, stupid’. He was nominated as campaign manager of the

year for his work.

Affectionately known as the ’ragin’ Cajun’, he is a lifelong political

campaigner who took his first canvassing job while still at high


Carville is married to Mary Matalin, his opposite number on George

Bush’s re-election campaign and the couple wrote a book about their

experience - ’All’s Fair: Love, War and Running for President’, which

became a best-seller.


A key figure in the modernisation of the Labour Party and its election

campaign, Gould was responsible for polling at Millbank, telling the

politicians what voters were concerned about.

His use of focus groups - informal discussions with small groups of

voters - has been credited with helping to steer Labour towards victory.

He first met Carville and Greenberg while visiting the Clinton campaign

in 1992 and returned to the UK to write a paper which compared the

success of Clinton’s campaign to the Labour Party’s 1992 defeat. He has

worked on Daniel Ortega’s election campaign in Nicaragua, for Michael

Manley in Jamaica and for Express Newspapers.


Like Gould, Greenberg is a skilled and influential pollster and was one

of the architects of the modernisation of the Democratic Party in the


Greenberg has been credited with identifying the swing of voters of

McComb county as being the key to defeating the Republicans in the 1992

presidential campaign - the Basildon of American politics.

With Clinton’s victory behind him, Greenberg went on to work with Nelson

Mandela in South Africa’s first post-apartheid elections.

Greenberg has also been involved at a corporate level with the

multinationals Boeing, United Healthcare and life science company


Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in