The emergence of Tony Blair in the 1990s, and particularly following the 1997 election, reflected greater involvement of public relations in terms of control, being “on message”, focus groups, soundbites, planning and managing a daily news agenda, “spin” doctors, etc, etc.
Anyone who has witnessed the media saturation of “prime-minister-in-all-but-name” Brown (self perpetuating oligarchy anyone?) over the past 3 days should recognise a carefully planned and executed public relations strategy.
A lot of research has clearly been undertaken into the messages that need to be conveyed, the impression that Gordon needs to create, and the types of people he needs to influence (who aren’t Labour party members).
Execution of the plan has been carefully orchestrated and so far seems as slick as the pre-1997 strategy. Is that good for public relations? Is this a new era – where the necessity for public relations to be more about facilitating discussions with powerful publics is recognised?
Somehow I don’t think so. I feel what we are seeing is just a more sophisticated, updated version of the “command and control” approach to media management.
A different dimension compared to a decade ago is the power of online communications. As Darren points out, the Brown camp has clearly recognised this – but this time, a less linear communications model is in place – where the message and the medium are “controlled” by disparate individuals, more fragmented micro-groups or inter-connected networks.
It will be interesting to watch how Brown’s communications develop and whether there’ll be a backlash on the role of public relations again.
[P.S. This isn’t intended to be a political post, simply a reflection on the public relations approach]