Julian Bray writes: The classic sting set up by The Sunday Times featuring several highly decorated retired Generals and Chiefs of Staff seemingly offering access is nothing new. If the newspaper had only bothered to go through old printed copies of the then Institute of Public Relations Members handbook, they'll find scores of pensioned off service personnel and others on shorter military contracts all listed as associates or following an exam process a full Member of the Institute. Indeed one former President of the IPR, Lex Hornsby CBE had a string of Generals, as he put it 'on tap.'
The PR consultants act as the legal buffer, and our retired solider or airman simply an advisor to the PR firm, and nowhere is it more obvious than the hospitality suites at the Farnborough Air Show or any of the social calendar events helpfully listed by Debretts. As for access to Ministers, the route is usually through their office and parliamentary private secretary or through the MP's constituency organisation.
An interest in a mutual charity or cause also works wonders, a modest cash donation or the supply or long term loan of equipment or 'no-fee' consultancy service is also another route. In just about every case where this has happened access has bee granted or an introduction made to an enabler who will complete the trickier parts of the process.
As to actually profiting from the deal, as so many public organisations now use fee earning interim staff, the interim will naturally rely on his own networking system such as the Executive Grapevine and like organisations where the sole aim is to put 'networking' and 'access' on a professional basis.
The retired military men were clearly part of this networking process and as the Sunday Times will have edited parts of the video tape,the full discussion would not have been reflected. Simply until the contract is signed sealed and delivered the law hasn't been broken, some loose talk and bit of bravado might have taken place but no more than one fisherman taking to another about the size of the last carp they each caught but had to put back. "It was hug, honest!, they might have each exclaimed.
The late Sir Ernest Harrison, then the boss of a small firm Racal making military radio systems, was however a master at gaining access and indeed on one such Government sponsored sales visit to his firm in 1972 with a visiting foreign power, he urged me to 'put a few bob' into a tiny business he'd just floated, it was called Vodata and the shares just 10p. Following a name change and also a change of direction from making military radios Vodafone was born, the rest is history.
|Sir |Ernest: Trust me this is worth a small punt..|
So although the news media likes a good story, in this case it really is better in the telling than in the execution. Nothing to see here, move on!
Contributor: Media, Cruise &Shipping, Aviation, Politics & Travel Expert, Broadcaster & Journalist Julian Bray NUJ, EQUITY UK Landline: 01733 345581 Mobile: 07944 217476 ISDN2 downline +44(0)1733 555 319 (UK HOME ISDN 017 33 55 53 19) G722/APT-X Dual Codecs Glensound C5 SKYPE: JULIAN.BRAY.UK