150,012 members

Skip to content. | Skip to navigation


Revenge of the last PR


Blog headlines

Friday, 25 November 2011

Revenge of the last PR

Marketing budgets are the first to go when things get tight. This is because marketing is seen as a luxury, a peripheral activity and nothing to do with the core business, whether that’s manufacturing bottle tops or running the NHS.

Organisations get scared about explaining to shareholders or voters why it is they are spending money on things that might otherwise be spent on churning out more bottle tops or treating more patients. 

It is rather like parents telling children that the food they waste might have fed a starving child. It’s not that the marketing budget will be diverted to essential services, it will simply be cut. In the same way, the broccoli on the side of the plate can’t be shipped to Africa; it will be scraped into the bin.

But in a recession, anything that might provoke a newspaper editor to reach for a headline involving the words “cuts”, “frontline” and “services” is cut anyway, just to make sure. 

The Department of Wellbeing and Feeling Better has stopped spending money on almost everything. PR, marketing and communications were the first to go, but more serious privation will follow. Civil servants are growing nervous as it becomes clear that the deliveries of tallow candles and hot water bottles are not early Christmas presents from a grateful government, but essential supplies to get them through a winter of austerity that may last until spring 2015. 

All of which adds to the mystery surrounding the Lansley tapes. Everyone has seen the story about the health secretary’s appearance on hospital TV, the distressed newborn babies, the angry relatives. Everyone has heard how patients who want to avoid the looping cabinet minister have had to choose between chewing through a mains cable or paying five pounds to sign up for the hospital telly network.  And everyone has also read Alan Millburn’s well-scripted jokes about government led schemes to cut hospital waiting lists and defy bed blockers. 

All easy targets and all missing the real story.

Mr Lansley’s taped appearance on wards is by no means unique. A grinning Andy Burnham also took advantage of the sick and bed-bound with messages of support and encouragement that were broadcast around the nation’s hospitals.

The real questions are who, why and how? Who was the PR person who persuaded the architect of the most controversial reforms of the NHS in living memory that it would be a good idea to make a jolly video of himself for patients? Why did no one realise what ammunition such a cack-handed PR stunt would provide to opposition politicians, the media and critics of the reforms? And how on earth did the world’s most incompetent PR person manage to survive the cuts which have cost all sorts of useful people their jobs?


west says:
Nov 25, 2011 05:17 AM
I think the author should take some time out to understand the definition of the word "marketing". It isn't PR and it isn't advertising - it is making a sound plan for your business. I'd love to know how that can be a bad thing?

"Marketing is seen as a peripheral activity, a luxury and nothing to do with the core business" Really? by whom?

Take a look at the world's most successful organisations and ask yourself what role "marketing" plays in that success.

I think you'll find it's critical and at the core of it. And in fact marketing budgets do not get cut when the going gets tough - they may actually be increased, or at least be deployed differently, but they are certainly never seen as a "luxury".

Of course, the NHS is "totally different" to big business organisations isn't it? And that's part of the reason it finds itself in the mess it is in.

Isn't it time the NHS got it's own house in order - all the millions of pounds of waste that exist in the system through dire mis-management.

Having a pop at someone who produces a promotional video is a cheap-shot designed to mask much deeper fundamental problems within.
julian.patterson@pcc.nhs.uk says:
Nov 25, 2011 09:59 AM
Peter, I agree. I for one really enjoyed your promotional video.
philton says:
Nov 25, 2011 12:37 PM
Peter. Such rancour, such passion. Was this caused by a rush of blood to the head? Over-tight underwear perhaps? Surgical removal required maybe? NHS or private? Now let be guess ...
JeanRobinson says:
Nov 25, 2011 03:06 PM
I love this bog. It brightens up my whole week. Keep up the good work.
JeanRobinson says:
Nov 25, 2011 03:06 PM
Blog. I meant blog.