EDITORIAL: The spin that powers the wheel of fortune

EDITORIAL: The spin that powers the wheel of fortune - How's your reputation? Are you happy with the way you or your company are perceived? Or could your public profile use some brushing up, some explaining? There are critical moments when most of us can

by RUFUS OLINS
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

How's your reputation? Are you happy with the way you or your company are perceived? Or could your public profile use some brushing up, some explaining? There are critical moments when most of us can use advice - when facing an interview or presenting a proposal to a board of directors or to a press conference. A long-awaited opportunity may depend on how we put across our message.

Anyone who has suddenly faced a television camera or fielded rapid-fire questions from journalists knows that the tone of a news story or interview can turn on the most unexpected element. Your offhand quip about a competitor, perhaps, or an ill-advised remark about some Government policy. This is why advisers have been around for so long, helping leaders to communicate throughout every chapter in history. The rise of the press gave birth to public relations as a career option, but it faced a struggle to be taken seriously. Today, PR is an industry in itself and the power and influence of its exponents seems to grow at every turn. One only has to compare the press secretary roles of Sir Bernard Ingham and Alastair Campbell in successive governments to see that.

And no longer is it just heads of state, film stars and politicians who rely on PR consultants to manage their images. Few commercial organisations would think of operating today without the help of what we now call 'the spin doctors'. Today's twenty and thirtysomething .com entrepreneurs are media savvy. Their business plans never fail to include the funds required for PR. One senior spin doctor commented recently that a monthly fee of dollars 40,000 has become standard since publication of the seminal internet story in Michael Wolff's Burn Rate, where the figure is a recurring item.

In business as in politics, the right public profile has become a necessity - and the professionals profess to know how to manage them.

If you have come into contact with the PR industry at the top end, you know it is far more sophisticated than merely pushing out stories to the voracious media. This month, we look at the world of financial public relations in the City of London and lift a corner of the veil that obscures some of the fiercest boardroom battles and biggest corporate gambles of our time. It is a sector run by a sophisticated breed, some of whom have passed up promising careers in investment banking, government and the media to take a place at the heart of the City. The sector's key players, such as Alan Parker, Tony Knox and Angus Maitland have been involved in more boardroom conflicts than many eminent company chairmen. It is a role that can sometimes find them driving a strategy as well as selling one to investors and the public. Their experience and expertise can help to determine not only the perception but sometimes even the fate of some of the biggest corporate moves in Britain - and beyond.

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