Alastair Campbell and PR

Debate (although 'war' would be a more apt description) has broken out in Britain about Alastair Campbell's recently released memoirs of his time as Tony Blair's director of  communications . . . THE BLAIR YEARS: Extracts from the Alastair Campbell Diaries by Alastair Campbell.

FT.com has this to say about Campbell: "Not since Larry Speakes, the former White House spokesman, put words into the mouth of President Ronald Reagan, has a spokesman so near to the seat of power indulged in such naked self-aggrandisement. This was the last thing the PR industry needed, at a time when cynicism over spin had already reached new depths."

At the Daily Telegraph, Andrew Pierce calls Campbell "a swaggering bully" and makes a sound case for his use of such invective, adding that "Those of us who have been on the receiving end, or witnessed, Campbell's foul-mouthed rages over the years don't even notice when he is unpleasant." Rod Liddle at The Times provides the context with his observation that "Campbell's vitriolic hatred of the press was perhaps occasioned by his relentless, obsessive need to curry favour with it."

Setting aside the vitriol, which makes reviews and columns delightful reading, the comments have also launched some discussion in PR circles, certainly in the International Public Relations Association (thanks to Richard Linning for drawing the issue to all our attention), about the relative standing of public relations as a profession.

The best observation comes from FT.com . . . "There is nothing inherently wicked about the public relations machine. If it did not exist it would have to be invented, for the sake of efficiency if nothing else. In moments of quiet candour, journalists have been known to admit how useful press officers can be. But in an era of 'information overload', spin doctors need to exercise restraint. Shouting louder, more often, will not help.

As a communications professional I am not sure whether to give thanks that media are granting us the legitimacy of our role or to take umbrage that they think what we do is all -- and only -- about them.

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