I’m a Communications Professional – Get Me Out of Here

Sorry, the title of this is simply there as a desperate attempt to lift the blog up the search engine rankings. And also because I find it amusing.

Let’s talk about Damian McBride. I think I can safely call him ‘McPoison’ because that’s what all the lovely media commentators have told us that that’s what he was referred to as by the great and good in Whitehall and Westminster. Apparently. No names – as far as I read – were allocated to this, but, hey! ‘McPoison’ it is. Great.

Once upon a time – and thanks to AA Gill for making me shake with laughter with the comment that if he opened a restaurant, it would have to be called ‘Once a Ponce a Thyme’, genius – (and I’ve taken it out of context, sorry) – I had a boss who at the very beginning of my career with him told me never to believe my own hype. Basically, what he was repeating was the old ‘rule’ – the communicator is not the story. Once the communicator becomes the story, or, worse, believes that she or he should be the story – because of the amount of power, knowledge or influence that that individual has, or believes they have – then the only way is out. Generally a fast out, and in a downward trajectory.

It has to be said, being a f*ckwit adds to the issue.

So, Mr McBride. Not a good look, it has to be said. When the papers said that he was old school, spending his time briefing over long lunches, you just had to take one look at him to accept the veracity of the reportage. Hold on, though – just one cotton-picking minute – wasn’t this a man who probably worked 24/7 without any time for himself or others – mostly in darkened rooms long after the rest of us were home dining with our families or enjoying beverages and badinage with our mates? There’s a reason why politicians and those who work with them look rubbish – stress, overwork, the general horror of being a (reasonably) public servant in the spotlight, all the time.

So forgive McPoison for looking bad. But what about the name – ‘McPoison’? Daily Mail (eurgh) readers are happy to believe that this man was evil incarnate, and it only takes a few well-chosen rumours to ensure that this nickname becomes a matter of public record. Let’s – however – not forget that the same journalists that had been feeding off him for years are the ones who nailed him the moment they got a sniff of misfortune. Fickle, that’s the issue – but (and again, hey!) if you’re reading this and you’re in communications, this ain’t no surprise.

So what’s it all about then? Well, if I can bear to squeeze myself into the mind of a Daily Mail reader once again (god, it’s small in here) it’s about the scurrilous nonsense that Mr McBride was emailing to others. Made up rubbish. All without foundation. And yet, if you can believe the subsequent media coverage (and I have to, it’s my living) these rumours were nothing new. They’d been going round for some time.  There’s even a perverse theory that implies that somehow the Conservatives themselves may have been complicit in this. (No, I don’t know how that works either.)

Anyway, so what was McBride’s real fault in all of this?

Believing his own hype. He actually thought that sending those emails, to the people he sent them to would be fine. And that, because he was what he was, they would not come back and bite him on the bum. I’m sorry, but even the rawest junior account executive – if she or he has any talent at all – realises that you do not commit that sort of stuff to paper, never mind email. And, supposing you were stupid enough to do so, you pick who you send it to. Very carefully indeed.

 No-one – in the PR/Comms field – is that important that they cannot be comprehensively caned. We are not the story. Never forget.

(I’m sure, however, Mr McBride is now an extremely highly-paid consultant to a City Public Affairs firm. And good luck to him.)

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