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Monday, March 06, 2006

It's That Time Again

Today’s the day I get to exercise my PR skills. It’s time to sort out Labour Party candidate profiles for the elections. Long gone are the "Michael Foot" days when we let the vegetables write their own blurbs. God! I shudder to think of it. They’d be describing themselves as "radicals" or worse and half of them would be talking about their days in CND and their opposition to Council property sell-offs to developers. For those of you not fortunate enough to be a PR Director like myself, I thought I’d share a few "trade secrets".

Such an ugly bunch - they must be LibDems
Miss Hackney Council 1957 contestants
Take Miss World, for instance (if Pipey hasn’t taken her already). At the start, they write things like: "I’m 25 years old from Slough, I live with mum and dad and I’ve always wanted to be a hairdresser but I thought I’d try this beauty contest thing and see how I get on."

We turn this into: "I’m 19 and of mixed Welsh and Bolivian ancestry. I’m studying childcare and global medicine at Bristol University and when I graduate I want to help find a cure for malaria."

So – let’s look at the draft profiles. Where’s the file… ah, here it is: "memlist". No Miss Worlds or Mr Universes among these fifty seven beauties. But far too much about politics, sex and religion. Get that stuff out and it’s plain sailing from there on.

So first off, paste out the word "socialism". Done. Now, what about "socialist"? Only Patrick and with him it’s part of an organisation name so I’ll leave it. "Freelance photographer for The Daily Telegraph". I don’t think so, Chrissie. "Freelance photographer and a member of the NUJ" sounds better. "A Marxist historian and member of London Socialist Historians Group, Jewish Socialists Group and Editorial Board of ‘Revolutionary History’ journal". You must be kidding, Barry. I think we'll have: "a life experience of struggling to win issues for working people gives him a breadth of knowledge". That’s got a better tone to it.

Next… we remove all references to "gay" and "lesbian". Yes Katie, you may well have your picture pasted all over half the lesbian websites in Europe but you’re not spreading it about on the Hackney Labour Party site, thank you very much. Out, damned references, all of you! Now, here’s a trick for the ones who are not out but could be the subject of gossip. "Married with young children". That should do it.

Now for the religion bit. Remove all references to "Jewish", "Protestant", "Catholic", "Muslim", "Hindu", "Sikh", "Buddhist" and (worst of all!) "atheist". We can’t have stuff like "Islamic community activist", "Catholic anti-abortion campaigner" or "God-fearing evangelist" Let’s have some nice soft phrases: "involved in fundraising through local church", "Secretary of the local mosque", "attends the local synagogue". Done.

Now let’s put in a few cases of "Chair of local management committee", "Governor of local school", "management committee of local community centre" and "international voluntary work". Take out any references to "acting" and replace them with "culture". Bingo – we’re nearly there.

So how to round off each profile? This year’s theme has to be crime, what with it rising and with so many stabbings and shootings in the borough. But we have to be careful here not to make it sound like a major problem, less still Labour’s fault. So I think words like "look forward to making Hackney a safer borough" and "has a particular interest in issues related to anti-social behaviour" have just about the right tone. Done. Well, I got "anti-social behaviour" in 8 times and "tackling crime" 9 times, but I think I got away with it.

So that’s it. No longer Heinz 57 varieties, but vegetables that look good enough for Tesco, all perfectly shaped and pretty near consistent in colour and texture. The art of PR – and why I’m paid so much money and deserve every penny of it.

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