Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Ken Clarke – in need of a new PR team?

Friday, May 20th, 2011 by Claire Beesley

An apple’s an apple. A spade’s a spade. And let’s agree that rape is rape shall we? No? It’s not? Well then, Justice Minister, Kenneth Clarke, you have confused me indeed; but not due to your statement, but why you would make it to begin with.

Whatever your stance on the comments Clarke recently made regarding rape sentences, which have seen the media up in arms and anti-rape campaigners demanding a meeting with the Prime Minister, I am sure we can all agree that Justice Minister Clarke should never have said what he did.

Playing devil’s advocate, one can understand the point Clarke was trying to make – and which he has since clarified to the media – that the circumstances of each case are different and so the lengths of sentences then depend on the individual case and the judge hearing it. However, misunderstanding or not, the fact remains that Clarke is a seasoned politician and should know better than to make a statement that was always going to create widespread controversy.

Having been in Parliament for over 40-years, Clarke would have given hundreds, if not thousands, of interviews, probably been media trained and been the recipient of constant PR counsel for over four decades. Why then did this undoubtedly adept politico make such a rookie mistake?

No doubt Clarke would be armed with a string of prepared and PR approved answers for tough questions on the most controversial topics, so did he just forget his composure and set answers? Or is Clarke getting complacent in his long-held role as one of the country’s best known politicians? Just like celebrities and footballers who admit infidelity and expect the public and their wives to still love them, do politicians suffer complacency after long holding office? If so perhaps Ed Miliband and the others calling for Clarke’s resignation are right.

However, if it was a genuine misunderstanding, should the public accept Clarke’s subsequent apology and give him another chance – after all, we all say dumb things but it wouldn’t necessarily cost Joe Blogs his job.

Or, perhaps Clarke just needs a new PR team or refresher course in how not to cause a media and public furore.

Whatever the reason for his comment, the media frenzy continues and it will be interesting to see if Clarke will be the latest in a long line to fall from a few small words.

Google Analytics Data Goes Missing

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 by Rob Brown


Web analysts pouring over on-line data from the US mid-term elections will be amongst the many people across the globe scratching their heads when they open their Google Analytics accounts.  Sites have been registering no visits at all for November 2nd.   A quick look at the hits for this site yesterday evening showed over 200 unique visitors but this morning Google Analytics, which tracks and reports on website visitor numbers for hundreds of thousands of organisations, showed zero.  Not even the people posting comments had visited the site according to the data.

Whilst this will be a major headache it looks likely that the issue lies with the web reporting rather than the data collection.  The fact that data was appearing yesterday and is now missing supports that theory and a look at the Google Analytics status dashboard shows that there have been already been two issues this week with web reporting.  The report on Monday’s bug says “Starting Oct 25th, a 24hr delay with processing in sampled reports was identified in some accounts. No data has been lost and a fix is in progress.”  It therefore looks likely that the data will be restored.  Today’s information appears to be displaying normally.

So far however there has been no word from Google on the latest issue and political analysts and businesses around the world will be in a state of some turmoil until Google’s Web Analytics software restores the data.

Update 12.15pm UTC

Google Analytics has resolved the issue.  The status dashboard now says “The problem with Web Report should be resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support.

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

Media bites back with cricket allegations

Friday, September 3rd, 2010 by Mark Perry

The traditional press has shown this week that it still has the ability to ‘break’ big stories.

The News of The World’s (NOTW) exposé of a multi-million pound cricket match-fixing ring involving three Pakistani cricketers and their agent, is the latest ‘sting’ in which the traditional media seems to be fighting back  to regain the news agenda from the web.

It was interesting to see how the story developed. The first I knew about it was on Saturday evening when a Sky News sports reporter tweeted that there was a big story about to break. Less than an hour later they had an editor from the NOTW live on Sky – I’m sure the News International link helped there!

Where the modern ‘sting’ differs is use of video footage to help the story stand, posted on the newspaper’s website, video sharing sites and – for now –  made available to the broadcast media.

The story has been given even more credence with footage from the match in question which clearly shows that what was promised in the video actually happened. In one of the twists in the story the Pakistani High Commissioner even claimed that the video was filmed after the alleged incidents. The response from the NOTW was a hint that there was more to come this weekend.

Contrast this with one of the other major stories of the week and the rumours which forced William Hague to make a personal statement. The rumours had come from the web and the blogosphere and although the media knew about them they had not been published as they possibly feared crossing a legal line.

It seems likely that we will see more of what we have this week. With the NOTW going behind the paywall its ability to offer content will be vital to driving subscriber numbers and what better than seeing further footage of its latest sting.

About Mark Perry

Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.

Twitter’s strength its lack of a premium edition

Friday, August 27th, 2010 by Patrick Chester


How likely is it that a PR account executive in Manchester – in the role for only a matter of months – would gain access to talk with one of the most important PR professionals of our time?  Yesterday I shared a brief exchange with Tony Blair’s chief spin doctor Alastair Campbell over Twitter. I write book reviews at On Thursday I wrote a review for Alastair Campbell’s The Blair Years.  

It wasn’t a nice review, but I was honest:


The book is surprisingly tedious – Campbell is a former Mirror journalist, so why didn’t he write his memoirs like one? It is full of tiresome detail and repetition, and could be around 300 pages shorter.  The Blair Years is a frustrating read – I recommend Alastair Campbell by Peter Oborne and Simon Walters as a more illuminating account of Blair’s communications machine. Having published the review, I looked to see if Campbell was on Twitter. There’s no reason to hide a bad review from an author, and I wanted to see his response.  

He was, and so I told him I didn’t enjoy his book:  


His response was predictable: 


Troubled by such a dignified reply, I made amends: 


And, ever the communications maestro, Campbell was provocative in summing up: 


Although retired, it still feels like a major coup to have spoken to such a high-profile figure as Alastair Campbell, even if only on Twitter. Twitter’s strength is its fairness. Email, telephone and letters – all private media – provide the opportunity for the other person to ignore them – with Twitter, it’s much more difficult. Campbell searched for his name and saw that review was out there. He had to respond. Everyone on Twitter is on an equal footing. Besides “Verified Accounts”, there are no premium features for members with millions of followers, and no added benefits have been introduced for those willing to pay. Because of this, it allows an anonymous PR person the opportunity to interact with a person who worked in the corridors of power for over a decade.  

I’m reading John Prescott’s Prezza: My Story: Pulling No Punches soon. Wish me luck – he might put up more of a fight.

About Patrick Chester

Patrick is an account executive at Staniforth. He also runs a book review site at

China, Google, Censorship and the Web

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 by Rob Brown


Google has made global headlines today with the revelation that it is redirecting users in mainland China to its unrestricted Hong Kong site in order to avoid complying with the Chinese laws that direct the search engine to censor results.  Chinese firewalls however mean that results for searches such as ‘Tiananmen Square’ still come back censored.

For those who want to delve behind the headlines you can replicate the experience of one of the half a billion Chinese internet users.  Internet browser Firefox has a plug-in that simulates the great firewall of China.  Users who add the Firefox China Channel to their browser can experience what it is like to surf the internet from inside the republic. 

You may have heard the factoid that if Facebook were a country it would be the world’s third largest behind China and India.  The web is seen as the borderless, global and free but it isn’t.  States like China filter and block content that they don’t want citizens to access. The so-called Golden Shield Project is policed in China by an estimated 30,000 strong task force who deny access to politically sensitive or regime critical content.  

The battle between Google and the Chinese government is symbolic of the rise of web communities and the decline of the power of the nation state.  Challenging censorship is an honourable aim but before we celebrate the rise of the web community too much we should spare a thought for the fact that the leaders at Google aren’t elected either.

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

Party Leaders On Women’s Media Trail

Thursday, March 11th, 2010 by Jo Rosenberg


No doubt there are many out there who would scoff at the fact that today’s politicians, in the run up to the general election, are making a beeline for women’s mags and daytime TV.

Ok, so being questioned by Kate Garraway might not be quite the same as being grilled by Paxman but, argues Mike Girling, Nick Clegg’s press officer: “Those interviews can be quite tough in their own way.” And Martin Frizell, former editor of GMTV, agrees that being asked left-field questions about X Factor or what they’re doing for their wives on Valentine’s Day can be “shit scary”.

It’s strange to think that a “comfort zone” could include the likes of Paxman or Frost, but for steely politicians, an interview about emotions, mainstream culture and even favourite biscuits, as recently demonstrated by Gordon Brown, can be way more harrowing than being quizzed on the state of Iraq.

Women’s glossy magazine, Red, is currently gearing up for an election special for its May edition featuring interviews with Brown, Cameron and Clegg. According to research carried out by the magazine, nine out of 10 of Red’s 225,000 readers will vote in the general election yet 48% say they haven’t decided who they’ll be supporting.

And it’s not just the party leaders who are being advised to focus on women’s media. Sarah Brown guest edited Fabulous, the News of the World’s female-focused supplement, last year but reviews were mixed.

MediaGuardian deputy editor Vicky Frost, commented that there was too much of Wellbeing for Women, of which Brown is patron, and too little of Brown’s life:

“I’m not saying she needed to star in the fashion shoot – although that really would have been fabulous – but what about a one-pager about life with her own kids, or healthy dinners she cooks,” Frost said.

Perhaps Brown and Cameron should sit tight in their comfort zones and let their wives spill some election winning gossip. With neither Sarah Brown or Samantha Cameron having ever given an interview, they could well clinch it for their steely loved ones…

Keeping Mum – the new political battlefield

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 by Ben Furber


Today’s guest blog post by Ben Furber, a design and communications professional based in Manchester who specialises in political and non-profit organisations, and who has worked on new media campaigns for Labour, focuses on how politicians are working hard to win over she who knows best: Mum…

Every week one columnist or another is hypothesising about what the general election will be about. So when, in November, Rachel Sylvester wrote that the ‘election will be won at the school gate’ and cited the Biscuitgate affair on Mumsnet, I paid the column little attention.Why wouldn’t I? I’m a young single male with no plans for or interest in having dependents any time soon. But now, once again, Mumsnet is on my radar. On Friday, with exclamation marks and many profanities, I was emailed a link to a Mumsnet forum thread — 35 pages then (and 38 pages now) of its readers’ very own David Cameron billboards. Clearly not all of the 140,000 plus attempts have been generated by political activists!

Luckily for me I was in the same room as a young mother, so I asked her: ‘What’s with Mumsnet?’ She told me: “When you have a question, it’s where you go. When you’re concerned about something, it’s where you go. When you need support, it’s where you go.”

This was when it clicked. Mumsnet isn’t just a website, it is a community — just like the coffee mornings that go on all over the country on a daily basis in community centres and local churches, but virtual and available twenty-four hours a day. It’s Mums and Dads meeting, talking and providing each other with support.

Many candidates are prepared to sell their right arms to talk to these community groups, explaining their party’s family and child policies. No wonder the parties centrally are doing the same with Mumsnet.

The perceived wisdom is based on a fine communications model: senior party officers flood the lobby with targeted policies and spin, hoping the national media will write about it and those that glance at a paper the next day read the headline. At the same time the well connected candidates talk to those local community groups that they can blag their way into. But as Mumsnet (as well as others) show, there is a new way of connecting, a better way of connecting.

Local campaigning is working for Labour this year – that return to the fundamentals of what it is to ask someone for their vote. In many places this is being done effortlessly. The street endorser and direct mail models are working wonders. But at the other end we have a hostile national and mainstream media which continues to try to convince the public that the election has already happened and Cameron has won with a landslide.

What Number 10 seem to have understood with Mumsnet is that instead of relying on journalists with their clear editorial focus, specific groups can be talked to direct. So politicians have started talking straight to engaged groups at a national level, just like they do in community centres,  but they are now doing so online.

But more is needed.

It could be the tip of the iceberg: the parties could start talking about the benefits of community campaigning versus local campaigning, not because it’s fundamentally difficult  – it isn’t – but because it increases the scope and provides the additional focus of new and social media.

So we all know about Mumsnet now, great. But there are others, too, and time needs to be put into finding those groups and communicating with their users.

It is scary for a lot of people, accepting and understanding that certain websites have the potential to engage – just as we do on the doorstep. But everyone needs to. Mumsnet provides all the data needed. There are interested groups online with diverse interests that are becoming communities. With over 350 Cameron billboards submitted on Mumsnet, these communities are clearly engaged and each one, each Mum, is a constituent.

Bonnie befuddles the BNP

Friday, October 23rd, 2009 by Jon Clements

For once, it was something on BBC Question Time that Britain’s three main political parties could agree on – they can’t stand Nick Griffin and the BNP.

Between them, some points were scored; but the true dissection of the country’s favourite political bogeyman came not from politicians, but from cultural commentator, Bonnie Greer.

Claiming to know nothing about politics, let’s call her, for a moment, the “product reviewer” of the BNP. And in that, she set about discrediting the most fundamental claims about the party’s “product”. Was she providing a critique of policy or the things Griffin has said in the past (many of which he now denies or claims he no longer believes)? No, she was concerned with the BNP’s apparent inability to get basic facts right about the origins of “the British”, which they seek to represent.

And with a predominantly calm demeanour, she was subtly raising the question: “If you can’t get your own story straight, how can you expect us to want you to govern?” And could be it be any more humiliating for Griffin to be invited to the British Library to sort out his knowledge?

And the basis of her “product review” came from – yes – that most ubiquitous of marketing tools, the party’s website. 

If Nick Griffin felt it was a PR coup speaking for his party on the BBC’s flagship political panel programme, he might think again. No PR can make up for a fundamentally flawed product.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

PR Media Blog Hits the Big Time

Thursday, October 8th, 2009 by Rob Brown


Earlier this week I gave a workshop on PR and social media at the CIPR Northern Conference at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds.  One of the examples I covered was the work that the team at Staniforth has done with this blog.  You don’t really get the full perspective when your are on stage so I was astounded at just how big the blog looked on screen when this picture popped into my inbox (courtesy of Don’t Panic’s Andy Wake).  The post in question is a piece on art by my colleague and fellow blogger Julie Wilson.

I found out later that whilst I was talking another blogger was backstage behind the screen bashing at the keys of a laptop just a few feet away.  Alastair Campbell was opining on Osborne’s oratory at the Tory conference before taking to the stage for the keynote speech at our event.  I’m sort of glad I didn’t know that at the time.

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

Do the Tories lead the “social” club?

Friday, October 2nd, 2009 by Jon Clements

As the Conservative Party prepares to complete the conference season in Manchester on Monday and launches the online campaigning tool,, (seen here in Beta form), PR Media Blog put questions to Jeremy Hunt, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport and Spokesman for Online Campaigning. The questions and answers were supplied in written form and have been reproduced as such.

PR Media Blog: The Tories are way ahead in the polls. Does it matter what the party does online between now and election day?

Jeremy Hunt: While the Party is currently ahead in the opinion polls, the only poll that matters is on General Election day and we’re taking absolutely nothing for granted.

In terms of our online efforts, we’re the only party that has committed consistent time, effort and resource into online communications since the last General Election, and you can be sure that digital will continue to play a massive part of our engagement with voters.

PRMB: David Cameron has been dismissive of Twitter where people in the other parties have embraced it as a communications tool. Is he worried that encouraging Tory MPs to use it would be too uncontrollable and risk re-toxifying the Conservative brand?

JH: Twitter is the fashionable tool of choice at the moment, but as Thomas Gensemer of Blue State Digital said: “Services like Twitter are scattershot and dizzying. They burn political capital. Besides, they don’t talk to the people you want to talk to.”

It’s OK using Twitter if, like Grant Shapps, you already have an email list of over 10,000 local residents with whom you can communicate directly. But many Labour and LibDem MPs have a totally disproportionate attitude to it – how many of Kerry McCarthy’s constituents are on Twitter? I’d be amazed if it was over 10%.

It’s not fear of Twitter by any stretch of the imagination – our Party account has more followers than Labour and the LibDems combined, and several public facing staffers are on there too and constantly engaging with people – it’s rather that our MPs and Candidates focus on the digital activities on channels that matter in their local campaigns – websites, email, Facebook and supporter mobilisation.

PRMB: Do you see so-called “right wing” bloggers such as Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes as the Tories’ natural allies online in the run up to the election?

JH: The dominance of the centre-right in British political blogging is a testament to their quality and independence, and though we have a relationship with almost all of the big beasts in this world, it is up to them to decide on their editorial line.

The top centre-right bloggers are, however, part of a broader Conservative movement that is looking to challenge the wastefulness, incompetence and lack of vision in this current Labour Government.

PRMB: Does having a social media presence conflict with the Conservatives’ need to control the message very tightly in the coming months?

It’s important for any political party to have a clear, distinctive message so the voters know exactly what we stand for. However, it’s equally important to be reaching out to voters so they can ask us questions and figure out if they want us to be the next government. Social media offers us an excellent opportunity to have that conversation and open ourselves up to public scrutiny, but so do other channels.

Email is still the most accessible engagement tool out there and public meetings provide a great way to engage directly. David Cameron has also held almost fifty ‘Cameron Direct’ events over the past year, engaging with over 10,000 people face-to-face and answering their questions on a range of subjects.

PRMB: Is the party afraid that social media will become the source of damaging stories or allegations that will turn the polls against it? How well prepared is the party to deal with a scandal erupting online?

JH: We saw from the Draper-McBride scandal what happens when a central Party tries to take control of independent, online media – it ended in the kind of fiasco and disgrace that will come to define Labour’s approach to the internet in the minds of most people for many years to come.

The Conservative Party inherently understands that online communications comes with risks, but that the opportunities are too great to ignore.

PRMB: I’ve read that the party is going to advertise on Spotify. In what way is this the right medium for a political party to engage with the electorate? Is this just trying to piggy-back on the latest “hot thing”?

JH: Your advertising strategy has to be about reaching out to people who would never ordinarily engage with your content – or even be that interested in politics and platforms like Spotify (or Google AdWords, which we’ve also used with significant results) are a great way of reaching new audiences.

We’re absolutely not about going for the latest “hot thing” – if a platform wasn’t going to be effective for us or offer value for money then we wouldn’t use it.

PRMB: Does the party think it will harness online communities in the way Barack Obama did ahead of his presidential win?

JH: Can we emulate Obama? US elections are very different in tone, size and scale to ours in the UK but we are the Party that has best understood and adopted the lessons they learnt last year. Obama’s achievements in terms of organising activists and raising money have certainly raised the bar in terms of what a political party can achieve online and we’re obviously looking to do something similar in Britain.

To that end, we’re launching something very exciting at Party Conference – the most advanced political campaigning tool outside the USA, and the endpoint of our content and supporter recruitment strategies.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''