MoD Spin.

#1
I'm very happy to see that we have more "Spinners" than tanks. Ideal situation.

Guidos blog

Savage cuts by 2015 though. Possibly.

Situation: No Change.
 
#2
Wow - Guido is becoming ever more innacurate - although to be fair, he does seem to like being the story rather than breaking the story these days.

The harsh reality is that there is a small cadre of military (and I stress military) corporate comms types in Main Building who do everything from speaking to the press through to coming up with gizzits to hand out to people. They generally speaking do one tour then bugger off on promotion, which may explain why so much PR is 'less than optimal'. There is also a small central press office, who do all the defence news stuff ranging from the website through to press releases.

Whether we like it or not, an organisation which collectively employs roughly a quarter of a million people, spending £36 billion of public money a year, and which does a lot of things ranging from the extremely cool to the terrifyingly controversial is going to attract public interest and media attention.

Now we have two choices - we can go for option a, which involves sticking our head in the sand, singing 'lalalalala we cant hear you' and not engaging with the media at all. This is not particularly sensible, nor is it an option favoured by politicians of any persuasion, who naturally want to sing about what MOD is doing, because usually committing HM Forces is a career enhancing means of winning an election...

Alternatively we could go for option b, which is to employ a small cadre of people, to handle all this stuff and ensure that when HM Forces hit the news, that there is a reasonably cogent argument to put forward, that we dont end up being ambushed by journalists intending to make us look stupid, and that the MOD side of the debate is listened to. At the same time they can do all the engagement needed to keep on generating goodwill, public support, recruits and so on.

Part of Option b means that we need people to do press stuff - this is where this supposed 600 press officers comes from. Dig a little deeper and you'll find it really means that there are 600 people across the whole of MOD&HM Forces who have, as part of their wider duties, a PR role. This can range from doing a once a year press release, through to doing a bit more when time permits. This work usually does all the local fillers, which help keep the local newspapers sweet, and also updates unit websites and so on. We may be cynical about it, but don't underestimate the genuine desire by the public to learn more about what we do, and what we're up to.

Part of the advantages of the information age is that its much easier to broadcast internationally from a local vicinity. We're now much more easily able to get messages out using more means than before - but this does mean that where previously PRO was a job given more to make an OJAR look vaguely impressive, now the means exist to do something about it. Thats why we focus so much more on it now than before.

Do we get it right? My own view is that MOD PR is a hell of a lot better now than it used to be. Having got to know a few of them, and worked with them on a few things, I am very sympathetic to their position. They are to a man, genuinely passionate about selling what defence does, and why it matters, and why it is important to the taxpayer. They are dealing with a wide range of people from the keen friendly and just grateful to get column inches local newspaper, all the way through to the seasoned reptiles from the press pool who will quite happily shaft us in order to get the headline they all crave (seriously, speak to any journalist and the one thing they crave is that elusive front page headline and they will happily shaft you and their firstborn to get it).

Its not an easy job, its not one I'm sure I could do, but its one that if we didnt have, I think the whole coverage of defence, popular support for what we do, and the associated positive benefits would be far more lacking.
 
#4
Jim

Well said. I have a question. Do you know if the "Counsellors" MoD employs in Washington DC are part of this PR cadre? One of them is a 2 Star civvy whose cv on linked-in is the fluffiest sh!t I've ever seen. What on earth does a "Counsellor" do? Hold hands with his US equivalent?
 
#5
Jim

Well said. I have a question. Do you know if the "Counsellors" MoD employs in Washington DC are part of this PR cadre? One of them is a 2 Star civvy whose cv on linked-in is the fluffiest sh!t I've ever seen. What on earth does a "Counsellor" do? Hold hands with his US equivalent?
No they are not PR gurus, although the guys I knew previously in those roles were pretty media-savvy. One deals almost exclusively with the defence technology cooperation and FMS liaison with the State Department. Certainly good eggs in my time, earning a little more than a Major...
 
D

Davetheclown

Guest
#6
most PRO are a waste of space, the DMC is populated by people thinking they are in the meedya, when compared to other comparable organisations ie shell, ICI, BP they are strictly amateur. There is a lot of nepotism and empire building going on in that building. Mostly civil serpents they cannot be sacked, there are one or two poachers turned gamekeepers that are in the system these are pretty good operators. There are senior officers in the system that are not media orientated and only have a short course under there belt who muddle through.

The whole system requires ripping out, and replaced with journalists, editors that are young, hungry and have a proven track record in the business.

The current model is wrong, and has been for a long time, and get rid of the empire builders. Replace it with a MoD media corp that thinks and acts exactly like the contemporary organisations it has been sadly trying to emulate. Media is often seen as a non skill set career that you can join and fudge your way through.
 
#9
A little more;

Hammond Surfaces.

which links to;

Think Defence(Oh look, there's Jim30)


Winning post by Brian Black(near bottom)

I guess it’s all about the job descriptions, and whether these are full time tasks or additional duties.
Until we have those details it’s impossible to say whether these numbers are excessive or not.
I’m not sure how you would go about getting that information… if only there was some kind of external communications officer at the MoD that you could ask.
 
#10
The whole system requires ripping out, and replaced with journalists, editors that are young, hungry and have a proven track record in the business.
I'd suggest that 'young and hungry' and 'proven track record' don't always arrive together.

I'd go more with your 'seasoned operator' approach. Not to maintain any status quo but because they'll be better placed to play the chess game that media ops often are, particularly where defence is concerned.

That doesn't mean superannuated types who're happy to coast over the line to retirement. It means having individuals who manage to look like more than keen amateurs working with those who are technology-savvy - although age doesn't necessarily mean 'Luddite'; don't assume that the young 'uns are the only ones with a grasp of what new media can do.

Most of all, don't expect to be as slick as a big conglomerate - you ain't paying nearly the salaries, for a start.
 
#11
Its all very well calling for a MOD media corps, but how much do you think that would cost? Its a point I've made time and again, but the civilian salaries on offer are simply not going to entice the average private sector applicant to come over to the MOD.
If you were to join MOD as a C1 civil servant (most likely entry point for a press officer) you are offering a starting salary of roughly £37,000 plus London weighting. Knowing what friends who are pretty senior in PR for private sector firms earn, you are expecting someone to take a 30-50% paycut at a bare minimum to get someone good. There is no real career progression from this point, beyond a slim chance of moving into the wider Govt news network at some point, but it is a very chance of promotion, and again for not very much more money.

The problem the MOD has got is that it cant pay the going rates in the private sector to get the good talent, and the requirement for media is so small (say under 30 full time military officers across all three services) that there isnt enough room for a credible career stream.

We end up with military officers doing the job for one tour as a promotion or career enhancing post, and we end up with civilians paid well below commercial equivalent rates who are stuck in a role which is not very career enhancing for them. The way to fix this is throw serious money into recruiting a small number of private sector PR types who know their stuff, and back them up with civilian and military expertise - this would come at a very large price though, and I suspect people here would be outraged at the sort of salary that would need to be offered to get the very best talent.
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#12
Its all very well calling for a MOD media corps, but how much do you think that would cost? Its a point I've made time and again, but the civilian salaries on offer are simply not going to entice the average private sector applicant to come over to the MOD.
If you were to join MOD as a C1 civil servant (most likely entry point for a press officer) you are offering a starting salary of roughly £37,000 plus London weighting. Knowing what friends who are pretty senior in PR for private sector firms earn, you are expecting someone to take a 30-50% paycut at a bare minimum to get someone good. There is no real career progression from this point, beyond a slim chance of moving into the wider Govt news network at some point, but it is a very chance of promotion, and again for not very much more money.

The problem the MOD has got is that it cant pay the going rates in the private sector to get the good talent, and the requirement for media is so small (say under 30 full time military officers across all three services) that there isnt enough room for a credible career stream.

We end up with military officers doing the job for one tour as a promotion or career enhancing post, and we end up with civilians paid well below commercial equivalent rates who are stuck in a role which is not very career enhancing for them. The way to fix this is throw serious money into recruiting a small number of private sector PR types who know their stuff, and back them up with civilian and military expertise - this would come at a very large price though, and I suspect people here would be outraged at the sort of salary that would need to be offered to get the very best talent.
We would also run the risk of the tail wagging the dog even more than it does now. We would not want a Malcolm Tucker wannabe running the MoD and defence policy.
 
#13
Which have got more use in the last couple of decades?
 
#14
I suspect people here would be outraged at the sort of salary that would need to be offered to get the very best talent.
Wouldn't they just! And often the very same people who complain that the services and servicepeople are misunderstood. People are very quick to hold forth about Hearts & Minds in a COIN setting but forget that there's a media campaign which must (not should) be fought at home, too.

We would also run the risk of the tail wagging the dog even more than it does now. We would not want a Malcolm Tucker wannabe running the MoD and defence policy.
Indeed.
 
#15
No they are not PR gurus, although the guys I knew previously in those roles were pretty media-savvy. One deals almost exclusively with the defence technology cooperation and FMS liaison with the State Department. Certainly good eggs in my time, earning a little more than a Major...
Thanks for the reply Crash. I guess things have changed a lot since our times. What made me blink was the one I spotted is well known for having a finely "tailored" cv, with half day seminars counting as vast experience.
 
#16
Its all very well calling for a MOD media corps, but how much do you think that would cost? Its a point I've made time and again, but the civilian salaries on offer are simply not going to entice the average private sector applicant to come over to the MOD.
If you were to join MOD as a C1 civil servant (most likely entry point for a press officer) you are offering a starting salary of roughly £37,000 plus London weighting. Knowing what friends who are pretty senior in PR for private sector firms earn, you are expecting someone to take a 30-50% paycut at a bare minimum to get someone good. There is no real career progression from this point, beyond a slim chance of moving into the wider Govt news network at some point, but it is a very chance of promotion, and again for not very much more money.

The problem the MOD has got is that it cant pay the going rates in the private sector to get the good talent, and the requirement for media is so small (say under 30 full time military officers across all three services) that there isnt enough room for a credible career stream.

We end up with military officers doing the job for one tour as a promotion or career enhancing post, and we end up with civilians paid well below commercial equivalent rates who are stuck in a role which is not very career enhancing for them. The way to fix this is throw serious money into recruiting a small number of private sector PR types who know their stuff, and back them up with civilian and military expertise - this would come at a very large price though, and I suspect people here would be outraged at the sort of salary that would need to be offered to get the very best talent.
Does the TAPIO pool still exist? Most of the TAPIOs I ever knew were professional corporate relations folk, predominantly in defence-related companies, and all of them knew which way was up. The added advantage was that they were already well known to the defence correspondents. They were also pretty good at the hospitality side of the business which they would then bill to their own corporate budgets!
Does the Defence Correspondents Association still exist? There was serious opposition to this group being set up - along the lines of the Pentagon Press Corps - until Malcolm Rifkind said 'make it so' to the then-head of MoD PR. The one thing about them was that they were specialists in the field and were not out to grab the splash by any means possible.
 

mercurydancer

LE
Book Reviewer
#17
Wow - Guido is becoming ever more innacurate - although to be fair, he does seem to like being the story rather than breaking the story these days.

The harsh reality is that there is a small cadre of military (and I stress military) corporate comms types in Main Building who do everything from speaking to the press through to coming up with gizzits to hand out to people. They generally speaking do one tour then bugger off on promotion, which may explain why so much PR is 'less than optimal'. There is also a small central press office, who do all the defence news stuff ranging from the website through to press releases.

Whether we like it or not, an organisation which collectively employs roughly a quarter of a million people, spending £36 billion of public money a year, and which does a lot of things ranging from the extremely cool to the terrifyingly controversial is going to attract public interest and media attention.

Now we have two choices - we can go for option a, which involves sticking our head in the sand, singing 'lalalalala we cant hear you' and not engaging with the media at all. This is not particularly sensible, nor is it an option favoured by politicians of any persuasion, who naturally want to sing about what MOD is doing, because usually committing HM Forces is a career enhancing means of winning an election...

Alternatively we could go for option b, which is to employ a small cadre of people, to handle all this stuff and ensure that when HM Forces hit the news, that there is a reasonably cogent argument to put forward, that we dont end up being ambushed by journalists intending to make us look stupid, and that the MOD side of the debate is listened to. At the same time they can do all the engagement needed to keep on generating goodwill, public support, recruits and so on.

Part of Option b means that we need people to do press stuff - this is where this supposed 600 press officers comes from. Dig a little deeper and you'll find it really means that there are 600 people across the whole of MOD&HM Forces who have, as part of their wider duties, a PR role. This can range from doing a once a year press release, through to doing a bit more when time permits. This work usually does all the local fillers, which help keep the local newspapers sweet, and also updates unit websites and so on. We may be cynical about it, but don't underestimate the genuine desire by the public to learn more about what we do, and what we're up to.

Part of the advantages of the information age is that its much easier to broadcast internationally from a local vicinity. We're now much more easily able to get messages out using more means than before - but this does mean that where previously PRO was a job given more to make an OJAR look vaguely impressive, now the means exist to do something about it. Thats why we focus so much more on it now than before.

Do we get it right? My own view is that MOD PR is a hell of a lot better now than it used to be. Having got to know a few of them, and worked with them on a few things, I am very sympathetic to their position. They are to a man, genuinely passionate about selling what defence does, and why it matters, and why it is important to the taxpayer. They are dealing with a wide range of people from the keen friendly and just grateful to get column inches local newspaper, all the way through to the seasoned reptiles from the press pool who will quite happily shaft us in order to get the headline they all crave (seriously, speak to any journalist and the one thing they crave is that elusive front page headline and they will happily shaft you and their firstborn to get it).

Its not an easy job, its not one I'm sure I could do, but its one that if we didnt have, I think the whole coverage of defence, popular support for what we do, and the associated positive benefits would be far more lacking.

I love Jim's posts. Total common sense, pragmatic and witty too.
 
#18
Its all very well calling for a MOD media corps, but how much do you think that would cost? Its a point I've made time and again, but the civilian salaries on offer are simply not going to entice the average private sector applicant to come over to the MOD.
If you were to join MOD as a C1 civil servant (most likely entry point for a press officer) you are offering a starting salary of roughly £37,000 plus London weighting. Knowing what friends who are pretty senior in PR for private sector firms earn, you are expecting someone to take a 30-50% paycut at a bare minimum to get someone good. There is no real career progression from this point, beyond a slim chance of moving into the wider Govt news network at some point, but it is a very chance of promotion, and again for not very much more money.
The lead for PR at Abbey Wood, and I suspect for DE&S as a whole, is a C1. Her staff consists of a couple of C2s and some D-bands doing graphic design.

Given the size of Abbey Wood and the amount of press attention the organisation (or at least, its outputs) receives I was amazed when I realised just how small the team was. Fortunately they are all very capable, useful people who work bloody hard. I suspect they could easily be earning a lot more elsewhere if they didn't have that somewhat perverted job satisfaction that comes from being vilified by the nation just for trying to help.

I note the comments section on that blog raises the whole "two civilians to every serviceman" argument again. It's just yet more uneducated bitching from people who genuinely don't have a clue what they're complaining about.
 
#19
Well said Bruno. Long time since I did my stint at ABW but the vast majority of jobs there are unsuitable for military without many years training, and many posts that are filled by the military have a civvy minion in the background who actually does all the work because he's trained for the job. Requirement Managers and ILS Managers are the most obvious. But I understand this gap is closing fast because of the uneducated campaigns you mention and the pressure to "improve" the Mil/Civ ratio. What they don't understand is that buying, say, 50 vehicles requires the same manpower as buying one during most of the programme.

But what was always obvious, at least to me, was the vast difference in competence levels across a given civvy grade. I could never get my head round the concept of one C2 managing a Cat A programme (£400M+) by himself (and doing it very well), and the C2 next to him being no more than a glorified tea boy. The obvious question regarding the PR C2s you mention is, which of these levels of competence are they closer to? In general, the military don't have this problem on such a scale.
 

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