Tag Archives: Communications

Terror Threat

The terror threat is palpable in central london at the moment: I think every day for the last week has seen at least one major road closure to examine suspicious bags or cars – the security services are certainly on edge, it’s not just London, Paris too is on high alert with regular evacuations of tourist sites, something almost unheard of in our laissez-faire republican cousin.

It’s an odd state of affairs – Be Aware! we’re told, but the question most people ask is of what? Odd looking cars, people with turbans, odd beards, shamrocks, the germans, smurfs – what? Most people on the street wouldn’t know where to start without some guidance, and so far there’s been no guidance. The result? Fear – precisely what the terrorists want, we change our lifestyles because of them, and they win.

It’s interesting to watch the various media outlets explain the terror threat, the BBC have made a huge thing out of it – it’s been the lead or top three story all week, ABC news and FOX are the same, some French outlets – most notably Canal+  are following our lead – whilst the German’s are remaining remarkably stoic, the conservative Erste network and the rather lowbrow commercially guided ZDF and ProSieben channels are treating this as an ‘and in other news’ feature. Not once has the terror threat come above story 3 – why? Because there’s very little one can actually say about it without resorting to hyperbole and conjecture, and that’s not news.

When I grew up it was exposed on an obvious Military installation at the height of the terrorist activities of the Irish Republicans. Cars were bombed, people were shot – but through all of this, guidance was always given, you knew that you have to check your car before you got in it, you knew you had to report certain people, numberplates or activities, and you knew most of all that the chances of you actually being involved were ludicrously low; but for the sake of everyone in your community you should be vigilent anyway. Some commentators have been screaming for exact facts, but that’s clearly not intelligent or practical, but if the state, both ours and abroad, want us to be more aware; they must start giving the public more useful information about what they need to be vigilant for, rather than simply scaring people about an unknown, unsized, unpredictable threat.

Communications Control

Dear lord, the past few days have been interesting: the Liberal Democrats are really showing how far in opposition they really are – they’ve got so little control of their communications it’s hard not to feel sorry for them – they’re a mess. No clear line, briefing against each other secretly (but in a horribly obvious way) and just generally having the communications strategy of a bunch of rabid puppies.

They desperately need to get a grip: for the first time in their history they’re in power – and it’s all about to go awfully wrong if they don’t stop a few movers from acting like they’re running a university debating society, it’s shabby and unbecoming of a party in power.

This goes for the Conservatives as well – better press handling will result in slicker relations with the media; not spin, but at least making sure people are saying the same things at the same time: what will kill the coalition dead is the press, if they scent descent or a mixed message it’ll be leaped on every single time. I’m amazed with all of the support they have from really influential lobbyists, communications specialists, old-style PRs and digital and social media people that it’s still such a mess.

Some have blamed it on the state of the economy, the mess they’re having to sort out – the rush of the coalition talks, but they’re all just making excuses. A good communications plan and superb people to carry it out will work whatever the situation, so please. Stop making excuses and start exercising some communications discipline.

The Mic is Always On

It’s one of the first things we tell people in media training whenever we’re asked to do it – it doesn’t matter how well you know the hack, it doesn’t matter how quiet you think you can do it, it doesn’t matter how flippant your remark might be, the open mic of the news media is guaranteed to pick it up.

So to see such a huge cock up today, from a seasoned political operator, clinging to power  desperate to stop his party not just losing power, but losing the right to form the official opposition was stunning. To call a voter you’ve just patted on the back a bigot for asking questions (which incidentally weren’t in my opinion bigoted at all – just concerned) is naive beyond belief.

Of course, behind a closed fader or a slammed phone or door, we’ve all said what’s on our minds – “tosser” is my favourite insult to hurl – but in the middle of an election, to someone that you’d probably just won around to your side again, an easy win – jesus. Brown was right, it was a disaster!

In between the chuckles and gawping at the slow-motion car crash that unfolded all afternoon, Brown made his appearance in a radio studio and looked like a broken man, head practically on the table, perhaps the funniest part of that interview wasn’t shown much after the initial live encounter: when challenged on losing the election, he chucked his head and arms back and rolled his eyes so hard he looked like he might damage himself. It was a tragic display from a broken man, and a broken party – there was no defence from Mandelson, Prescott or any of the others in the cabal: then the squatting in the poor old dear’s house until an awkward apology was no doubt extracted… it was just a car crash.

As a communications specialist I think this will be an important nail in the coffin of the Labour campaign: I don’t think it’s the stake through the heart that certain commentators are predicting it’s going to be – but I do think that Brown’s now a wounded animal, and that’ll be a dangerous game for both Cameron and Clegg to play with. CCHQ have been remarkably restrained all day, LDHQ slightly less so – but it shouldn’t be forgotten that wounded animal’s lash out – sometimes fatally – so it’ll be interesting to see how they both handle him.