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Wednesday, 3 July 2013

‘You haven’t got a PR problem, you’ve got a reality problem.’

Enjoyed this presentation by AlistairCampbell. He neatly puts his finger on the disconnect between the unrealistic hopes of company execs and the real world outcomes of PR.
I get calls from people out of the blue… But when a government or company or a big brand comes on, I always assume two things – 1, they have a problem; and 2, they think it is about the communications. They think they need a spin doctor.
So I go and see them and the first thing I do is say: “who are your key people?” and I ask to see them too, at the same time. And I get out some plain white postcards. And on each one is written the words: "The main objective of our organization is …"
‘And I ask them to end that sentence. Then I ask them to turn over the postcard, and it says:"The strategy to meet our objective is …"
‘And I ask them to fill that out too. Then I gather them in. And nine times out of ten, I gather in a stack of different objectives, strategies which are tactics, or strategies which are objectives, and I say to them… you don’t have a spin problem, you have a reality problem. 'If you are not aligned on strategy, you, the key people running the show, why should the public be expected to know and hear what you are trying to say or sell to them? And why should the media not take every chance it can to make your life more difficult, pore over your errors, ignore your successes?”
Of course he’s right. It’s probably the most frustrating thing that PRs have to deal with, the immanent failure of executives to integrate PR into all their work, instead to see it as a post-facto magic wand.

But how many other lowly PRs would embarrass a potential client at first pitch like this? How many would actually succeed in such a way by highlighting said client’s board-level dissonance?

I’m sure it works for Alistair Campbell but, by dint of his reputation, I think AC has most other PRs at a disadvantage here.