Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Sun Puts Us All In A Spin...

So, Alistair Campbell reportedly believes that The Sun overestimates its power on voters. Fascinating that a man who made his fame and fortune manipulating the media should now question its influence. He might as well have told the world that his job was pointless, his efforts wasted and his life's work a complete farce (and many a person would agree with him).

However, I am probably not alone in thinking that he doesn't actually mean it - the power of the Sun bit. He's still spinning. It hurts and he knows it.

Not since 1970 has The Sun backed the wrong party. Have they got it wrong this time? Pretty unlikely from where I'm standing.

Suppose he's right though and The Sun doesn't have the sort of power it thinks it has. Let's suppose they are only doing this to keep readers onside; that their customers are telling them they've fallen out of love with new labour and they want their readers to keep on loving them. Let's suppose than rather than seeking to influence the electorate, they are just looking out for themselves. They are not trying to wield power: they are trying to protect profits.

The Sun is a business after all. It needs it readers more than they need them. So, they've got to get this one right - and that is what Gordon needs to worry about. If Murdoch wasn't pretty sure that a fair whack of his 3.13 million daily readers would follow them down the ditch labour route, he would never have let the paper go there.

Campbell's blog is well worth a read - I'm just loving the spin in that. He writes; "When The Sun came out for TB they did so with the headline 'The Sun backs Blair.' Today's 'Labour's lost it' underlines that the decision is about negative feelings towards Labour, rather than positive support for Cameron."

Is it just me or is their decision to switch allegiance because the current party has simply lost it actually worse than switching because there is an alternative on the horizon? If someone told me I had lost it - because I had lost it, I'd feel pretty grim. I'd rather they told me I was good but was just pipped at the post by some other charmer, and it was probably time to try something new and all that (words anyone in agency life has heard at one time or another).

All in all, the whole debacle has left me feeling a little cross. Labour splashes a fortune on spin doctors only to declare that the power of the plaudits they are seeking to influence is grossly overestimated. Do they think we are complete fools?

A whole industry has sprung out of a corporate (and increasingly personal) desire to shape media attitudes. Many a PR person will tell you that Bill Gates once said he would spend his last dollar on PR. I doubt Bill Gates will ever be down to his last dollar - he's to bright for that. He knows only too well that the media can make you - or break you. Yes, media is becoming increasingly diverse and newspaper circs are still falling but 3.13 million readers is not to be sniffed at, and not a far cry from 1992 daily readership figures of 3.5m.

PR is not suffering in the downturn as much as advertising because it has such an important role to play today. The media, whether new or traditional, is still phenomenally powerful and, as the UK's best selling daily newspaper, The Sun is arguably the most important medium for brand communication in Britain today.

Yes, readership numbers are falling and yes, the Internet is changing the way we communicate but as far as the next election goes - The Sun is either a) able to influence how people vote or b) acting as a barometer for the mood of the nation or c) a bit of both.

Worryingly for Mr Brown, I'd wager the answer's C - and Campbell knows it.

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