Friday, July 11, 2008

The importance of being street smart

Colin Byrne, CEO of PR Agency Weber Shandwick has launched some serious criticisms against Gordon Brown and his communication team, one that seems to be ever changing and permanently on the back foot. In his blog on July 8th he noted:

Quite what prompted the incompetents - as they clearly are these days for
all their fat salaries and big job titles and egos - in the No10 bunker to have
the PM telling us to eat up our crusts one day and be photographed waving a
glass of wine around the G8 dinner table as he tucked into the conger eel the
next is beyond this simple communications guy’s understanding.

He notes here the double standards that was pervasive throughout hte G8 summit and so undermined much of what was said about being frugal and managing waste. But in an article in PR week out today Byrne expands on Brown's problem:

There's no way that these mistakes would have happened when Alastair
[Campbell] was there because he had news sense, he was street-smart. From what I
can see there is no-one at Downing Street from Brown downwards who has any
street smart

It seems quite worrying when there is a call for Campbell to come back given the stories of him haranguing news editors. However, what Byrne notes is that hostile coverage for most of the time was attached to Campbell, Blair remained teflon up until the Iraq War and that dodgy dossier;that was the spin too far. Brown instead is the archetypal velcro political leader, all that is wrong sticks to him. His early attempts to appear un-spun soon turned off the audience and now he appears to have attached the label loser among a large proportion of British voters according to Wednesday's populous poll for the Times. The big question is whether a Campbell figure could work for Brown in the same way as Blair, is the problem that he has no sense of how to manage his image? If image is important, he seems to fail to get anythign right; is this his problem or is his problem that nothing is going right so he gets the blame. In other words which way does the circle go; is it image first or is it the economy stupid?

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