Bad week for Sir Michael Caine

There's only been one story in town this week which, unless you've been living on the slopes of an Icelandic volcano is of course the election.

Caine: Team Dave
Caine: Team Dave

But within the context of the campaign - and one that commentators still feel has yet to ignite the public's imagination - there are some interesting communications sub-plots being played out.  At the time of going to press a week ago, the Tories launched a whizz-bang new National Citizens Service (not to be confused with National service for those over 65), designed to give young people the chance to undertake community work in summer camps. Spring chicken Sir Michael Caine was enlisted as the ‘face' of the launch.

Oscar-winning Caine fluffed his launch lines, referring to ‘this government' on more than one occasion and asking that we ‘give them a second chance'. Not too much to grumble about, but goes to show the risks associated with ‘talent' when it comes to staying on message. Although picked up by the Economist, ITN, BBC News 24 and a couple of blogs, the comments went relatively un-spun. Anyone else and this Freudian slip could have been interpreted as Tory arrogance. Dave couldn't resist a ‘blow the bloody doors off quip' at the presser either. The Telegraph's James Kirkup proposed a better one for use at PMQs. "Listen Prime Minister, you're a big man but you're out of shape. For me it's a full-time job. Now behave."

Key Lessons:

If you use celebrities don't expect them to stay on message

The celebrity may overshadow your own story

Good week for Ian Botham

Using celebrities to endorse policies has its risks, but handled well, can embody all that is good with PR. Used sparingly and subtly a picture story can carry a thousand words, simply by association. Once again it was the Tories making use of ‘talent' for electoral purposes and compared to the use of Sir Michael Caine, David Cameron's four mile stroll with Sir Ian ‘Beefy' Botham went swimmingly. Famed for his philanthropic rambles, Beefy welcomed Dave on a leg (sorry) of his ‘Forget Me Not' walk in Sutton Coldfield. Already the subliminal messages were flowing.

Dave, looking casual in charity T-shirt and slacks benefitted from Beefy's active, healthy image as they strode purposefully through the Midlands. As if to say, ‘join me on my marathon', Cameron was able to get himself the perfect boost. A photo-led story with no interference from the talent. ‘This is not about politics, it's about Leukaemia.' And that was that, no fluffed lines, no cringe-inducing endorsement, that's the way to do it, leave them wanting more.  The images of two fit and healthy looking men going somewhere with purpose carried a much more effective message than a stage managed launch. A PR six for Beefy with some free publicity for his charity work and a useful walk in the park for Dave.

Key Lessons:

A good photo-op can be extremely powerful

Sometimes less is more


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