Coulson exit provides new opportunity for Cameron

First published on 28 Jan 2011 -

So, in an exciting week of news, Andy Coulson – David Cameron’s token piece of rough – moved on to pastures new.

Does this provide the Prime Minister with the opportunity to develop a new, more professional approach to developing his policies and bringing more of the common people, rather than tabloid newspapers, along with him?

I do hope so. It seems to me that, in politics, unlike in commerce, politicians think up what they are going to do, release a press release accordingly and then manipulate the media to support them.

Most people in business cannot do this. Marketers and their products and brands do not get covered in the media like politicians do. So they have to think. And they have to make sure they bring their customers along with them or they go bust.

It is not like this in politics.

Once you have been elected, you can do what you like. Admittedly, this is less the case in Coalition than with the massive single-party majority of the Blair Government in 1997 but the LibDems do not seem to putting up much of a fight (as they can’t until after the AV vote, possibly in May).

In politics, there is much less strategy involved. PR is the key.

Hence the importance of people like Andy Coulson and Alastair Campbell, tabloid journalists who would not know a marketing strategy if it hit them in the face – reactive and media-manipulative journalists rather than strategic thinkers.

In politics, it seems, there is a bit of strategy involved in the election process with Thatcher and Saatchi remaining the seminal case history as long ago as 1979.

Once you are in power, strategy goes out of the window and PR takes over. For example, how deeply thought-through have been the recently (and hastily?) announced NHS reforms? See my post:

Steve Hilton is David Cameron’s Director of Strategy. After studying PPE at Oxford (what a surprise), Steve joined Conservative Central Office, where he came to know David Cameron and Rachel Whetstone, his future wife, who happened to be political secretary to Michael Howard, and then fellow godparent of the Cameron’s late eldest son, Ivan.

Our Steve came up with the infamous “New Labour, New Danger” demon eyes poster campaign as well as the re-touched Cameron ‘Face’ poster. Great job, Steve.

Apparently he now spends a lot of his time in the States making him, in the immortal words of the Late Sir Robin Day a ‘here today-gone tomorrow’ figure.

Let’s hope Cameron takes this opportunity- alongside his team of all the talents currently advising on the role of the COI (see last post) – to completely re-structure the way modern politics is defined and managed.

Define the objective. Test the proposition. Develop a brief. Engage the people. Bring them along with you. Then draft the press release.

Don’t just go straight to the media and sound-bite the media reaction.

Please be more professional than this. Get yourself some ‘upstream’ strategic thinkers on board, work out the human implications of your political agenda and then launch the PR campaign.

There are people on the Brand Republic website who know what they are doing. We know how people behave and what is going on in the real world out there (outside the Westminster village).

Why not give some of us a go, even if we were not at Eton or Oxford or Eton?

Wishful thinking? I am afraid so. I bet he gives Coulson’s gig to some other political hack and carries on busking it on a day-to-day basis. That’s the only thing the other hacks will understand, and that’s what matters most, so that’s why he will do it.

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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