From PR to PM

Guest post by Carl Foster, Peppercom London

May 12 london  A common gripe in our industry is that PR doesn’t have
a ‘seat at the table.’ Well, in the UK one PR man has blasted past the table to
become Prime Minister. Last night, in the most exciting political drama seen in
Britain for 65 years, David Cameron got the top job in the country.

David Cameron became leader of the Conservative Party
in 2005 (as Carl
at the time), but before that he was head of corporate communications
at Carlton Television. However, to define him as a ‘PR man’ is somewhat
inaccurate. Cameron became a researcher for the Conservative Party right after
graduating from Oxford and then went on to become a political advisor for the
then Prime Minister, John Major and also the Treasury. Cameron was well aware
however that if his political ambitions were to be fulfilled he needed to
demonstrate success outside of the world of politics. According to
in The Guardian, the mother of
Cameron's then girlfriend Samantha, Lady Astor, contacted her friend,
Michael Green, then executive chairman of Carlton. Apparently she suggested he
hire Cameron, and Green

How did this political animal perform as a Public
Relations Officer? The former business editor of
The Sun, Britain’s
biggest selling newspaper, described Cameron as a "poisonous, slippery
 Highly respected
business journalist, Jeff Randall, said, “In my experience, Cameron never gave
a straight answer when dissemblance was a plausible alternative” and that he
would not trust Cameron “with my daughter's pocket money.” Not good. But to be
fair, Cameron was the conduit between the media and Sir Michael Green, someone
with a fiery reputation and a dislike of journalists. Additionally, Carlton TV
was trying to navigate the new fangled world of digital TV when the behemoth of
BSkyB was way out ahead already. Perhaps the greatest lesson Carlton taught
Cameron was that no amount of presentation and PR could overcome a broken
organisation with a leader that doesn’t prioritise communications.

Cameron has bought the Conservatives a long way since
2005 and has fundamentally changed the party (albeit not as radically as Tony
Blair transformed Labour into New Labour in the 1990’s). What comes now is
anyone’s guess. The Conservatives won more seats and votes than any other party
in the election on May 6
th but did not win an overall majority. Last
night, in the
dramatic 90 minutes
British politics has seen in half a century, the
Conservatives struck a deal to form a coalition government (the first since
Winston Churchill’s in World War Two) with the Liberal Democrats. The Tories are
going to need more than good PR though if they are going to bring the
change they promised in their campaign.

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