When a spokesperson needs a spokesperson…

The resignation of Number 10’s Director of Communications has been long anticipated by the chatterati, but the manner of his departure is still interesting- in particular, his explanation of his reasons for resigning. When the PR person is in need of PR, the sell-by date is nigh, so he was right to go.

But, there are consequences of sacrificial lambs or people “falling on their swords”. When the reputation of the spin doctor is damaged, the inevitable result is that the client’s judgement is called into question, and the news coverage tonight focuses on just that- driven by Labour’s nudge, no dount, who want to do more than just see off Coulsen; Prime Minister Cameron himself becomes an easy target, too.

I can remember trying to explain to camera (and interview) shy CEOs that they were the people to take the limelight, not me. All too often, clients have the expectation that the “PR Person” is there to take the flack, handle the heat, dodge the bullets, etc. But, as most Number 10 spin doctors have found out, they have the disadvantage of being the lightening rod and surrogate target for the boss- which means the press will feel justified in having a go at you, no matter how good you are. The only one in my experience to emerge unscathed is my old friend, Simon Lewis, who (having experienced the pressure cooker of HM Queen’s publicity challenges) managed to get out of Brown’s number ten with his reputation intact- indeed, enhanced.

So, my advice to my PR students is “be careful out there”. When the spokesperson needs a spokesperson, then it’s time to let the client realise that they need to be in the firing line, too.


About catherinesweet
Academic, professional, communicator, stakeholder in a dozen different disguises

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