Smokescreens and spin

Those who are ill or parents of an ill child, as well as those who have lost loved ones, will naturally seek hope, meaning and will move mountains to try and find a cure or make progress. Some will be, understandably, desperate. Some will be resolutely determined.  All are likely intelligent, indeed inspirational people, keen to make things happen – so how have so many of these great people been lured in to supporting this campaign?

Unrelenting smoke, mirrors and spin from an expert ensemble.

Repetition of set lines and phrases is a known political tool, put to great use by Saatchi & Saatchi in the 1979 Thatcher campaign ‘Labour isn’t Working’ and put to continued use by Lord Saatchi in articles, interviews and oration in broadcasted meetings. This is combined with an emotive, powerful support team, set up to tug on heartstrings with a pull of hope, guilt and despair.

Further still, the use of the media. Lord Saatchi has significant power and wealth and has used this, and many trusty contacts, to bulldoze the public into support through various media channels. His Director of Communications Dominic Nutt is a journalist who has written for the guardian, and who worked at Save the Children as did Liz Scarff.  Liz, an award-winning digital media consultant, has been a driving force of campaign policy. She has done some admirable work in the past, the Saatchi Bill being only her latest project. Her USP has become crowdsourcing mega campaigns through social media: she was behind the success of crowdfunding £2m for the icancer campaign (also featuring Dominic Nutt).

Great, wow, so what’s her secret?
She states here her approach to a very successful save the children campaign:

“to use digital and social media to engage with key target audiences.. (real mums)…telling the story.. is immensely powerful.. they could connect… on that very real level – as their journey progressed the…. community became more passionate and actually began to take ownership of the campaign themselves.. so we effectively started to crowd source”

“Blogs in support… media coverage… it was amazing to see how passionate the community were about the campaign very quickly…we had lots of media… it helped that … (bloggers) work in the PR industry’’

“I think that the essence.. is this idea of peer-to-peer communication and authenticity in the voice and how you communicate, and the sort of content that you produce”

Well super. But rolling out this exact model to go against evidence based medicine or legal safeguards is, I would suggest, thoroughly inappropriate. To use ‘immensely powerful’ stories (ooh, like dead children and cancer?) to drive passion in the community (of parents of children who are or could ever become ill, those who are terminally ill and the bereaved?) to reenact this model is not an appropriate application of her talent.

In that campaign, against “9 million children dying needlessly every year” evidence based practical health solutions existed to drive change – the absolute opposite premise of the Saatchi Bill; but despite this paradox the tactic has been to drive the Bill forwards with the same winning approach, using emotive stories from relatives to disband concerns as to whether or not the campaign is telling the truth.

Back to Dominic. Dominic has not only, in the true spirit of the campaign, written articles absolutely failing to declare his clear conflict of interest, but is notably married to Glenda Cooper; a journalist with an impressive career including a role at the Daily Telegraph who was also previous Consulting Editor at the Telegraph, and former Guardian Research Fellow. The Telegraph is one of the media outposts that the Saatchi campaign has broadcast from, dedicating a whole webpage to the campaign, running frequent press releases in print, disguised as articles. Any reader of the Telegraph would likely assume the editorial standards would ensure the content that they are reading is factually accurate, and would be inclined to believe every word.

I do not doubt the character and integrity of the individuals involved, all clearly very talented in their respective industry – but when patient safety and lives are at stake, this powerful smokescreen team begs the question – Why? Why would they need this spin if any of it was a genuinely good idea in the first place? With historical electoral campaigns, Lord Saatchi as former chairman of the party turned Tory life peer, and numerous donations from Saatchi & Saatchi- £322,605.41 in advertising alone in 2010; Conservative backing including support from the one and only Jeremy Hunt is not surprising, and nor is it too much of a stretch to wonder, really, what else here is being concealed or lobbied in the background.

It’s all a bit unsettling – who on earth is running the show for this to have gone so far when so clearly inappropriate from the beginning? But oh, what a show it is.

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One thought on “Smokescreens and spin

  1. PR is nothing more than telling any lies that you are paid to tell. I really don’t know how people like Liz Scarff sleep at night.

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