“Law is just PR with a wig on.” – Alastair Campbell on modern communications

Alastair Campbell is best known for being
the 
often controversial communications lead
for then Prime Minister Tony Blair. He’s also been a journalist, a consultant
and an author in his long career. I particularly appreciate that Campbell was
one of the inspirations for the profane character Malcolm Tucker in the fantastic
satirical film 
In the Loop and
the TV show 
In the Thick of It.

Campbell recently gave a presentation
on what he calls modern communications in Australia and published the full
transcript on his site
. Here were the most interesting
perspectives on communications today:

And for the brands, worth remembering that with very few exceptions public affairs people are paid less than lawyers, accountants, auditors or other professional services – back to the reputation issue eh?

It’s true you don’t need to pass an exam to be a spindoctor. There are still a fair few chinless wonders in the game.

But really good operators can add a lot more value than just another lawyer. In fact one of the lawyers I was once involved with, at the time of the Hutton Inquiry, said to me sometimes law is just PR with a wig on. And more expensive.
But the experience, expertise and judgement of the very best people is rarer and more valuable than what you pick up slogging through accountancy or law exams.

So the question for the industry is how to be taken more seriously, and how to change.

This excerpt resonates
with me and what my partners and I are doing at 
The Pramana Collective:

Think about why people come to (communicators)
like us. Often, it’s because things are going awry. They have an idea but
they are having trouble explaining it. They have a plan – but the plan
is not going according to plan. They think what they do is great
but the media don’t seem to agree, and they want help getting the message out.
So they want a new digital presence, or a series of meetings with
opinion formers, or a new slogan. And all those things might be
doable. But they all jump ahead of what is usually their problem. They are not
clear about who they are, and what they are doing, their DNA.

Getting to the heart of the DNA is the
heart of good PR and public affairs. It is little or nothing to do with whether
you can place a puff piece here or get the CEO into an airline magazine feature
or have a nice dinner with a bunch of self important columnists.

They
are all tactics. But objective and strategy should always come first.

And,
objective and strategy built on organizations’ inherent truths are even more
powerful.

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