Sunday, September 11, 2005

His Master's Voice

This piece starts with a hat tip to Iron Angle in the Birmingham Post, who revealed that the council have appointed a head of communications in Alistair Morton, an alumnus of that college of management that was Rover. He was Management Development and Human Resources Manager, Business Programmes Manager before ending his career as Public Affairs Manager. This coincided with the demise of Rover as an operating company, so his track record of senior management isn't exactly great.

Nevertheless, Al has taken over as 'head of communications' at the council. The funny thing is that nobody seems to recall the post being advertised (there's nothing in the council newspaper going back to June). Some question his skills at writing press releases - Iron Angle mentions a 900-word masterpiece launching a European conference at the ICC, which reads like a management position paper (chock full of buzzwords) and not a clear, concise press release designed to get positive coverage in the press. Hell, I've written better stuff than that - and that's saying something. However, Al does manage to insert no less than nine references to Mike Whitless - devoting paragraphs to the pearls of wisdom that Mike sees fit to dispense before the swine of the press. Have a read and try to stay awake.

A well-written press release is manna from heaven to a lazy/hard-pushed (delete as appropriate) journo. Ideally, it can be slotted straight in to fill a gap in that day's paper and thus leave for time for the press to chase real issues/work on their drink problem or it might actually spark an interest in a genuine story. A badly written press release will be immediately binned because chopping it into a workable piece will take as much time as finding a real story and it is far easier to print a larger picture of Tibbles who got stuck up a tree yesterday and the firefighter who rescued him. It also helps if the press release has some relation to the house style of the target media, which this plainly doesn't. Not even The Independent on a bad day would carry something this poor. If Al can't manage that, then he should pass the job over to someone in his department who can (and there are a few there who CAN do it well) - unless they were all overcome with nausea at having to shoehorn so many references to Whitby into the text.

However, that production pales into insignificance compared to the 241 words used to record Cllr Whitby's presence at the 'Brands of China' Showcase - apparently on behalf of the Transportation portfolio for some reason - which gets five references to the great man.

Cllr Whitby joined Mr Shi Jianxin, Chinese Minister for Trade, plus officials from the Chinese and European embassies, as well as British and Chinese business leaders. Cllr Whitby said: “Everyone recognises the impact which the amazing growth of the Chinese economy has had on world trade. This exhibition is evidence of the remarkable range and quality of Chinese goods. It also provides a great opportunity to build links between British and Chinese businesses – to the benefit of both countries, and in particular this City and region.”

Cllr. Whitby has developed sound relationships with members of the Chinese government and the business community. He ventured into the new economic territory presented by China because he knows the potential it offers for Birmingham and the region. At a time when the economy is going global the vast market place of China is offers the opportunity to build a relationship of mutual respect and benefit to both countries.

To be invited to be the guest of honour of the Chinese Government shows the level of respect and trust in which they hold Cllr. Whitby. This is indeed an honour from a nation that is known for the high premium it places on good manners and trust. Cllr. Whitby’s good standing was further raised by the talks he held with the Nanjing Motor Company in order to advocate the cause of the MG Rover employees who have been the real victims in the company’s collapse.

Dear God. From this, we can draw one of two possible conclusions.

Mike Whitless could be a visionary of international trade in the mould of Edward Heath or Richard Nixon.


Alistair Morton could be so far up Whitless' rectum that he can brush his teeth for him.

Answers on a postcard please to the usual address.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From the BCC website

Birmingham City Council is committed to promoting and maintaining recruitment and selection practices that are:
•effective–providing enough suitable candidates and enabling the most suited to be reliably identified and appointed;
•efficient– timely and using cost-effective methods and sources;
•fair– ensuring that at all stages decisions are based purely on the merits of individuals linked to the requirements of the job;
•accessible – to all sections of the community including disadvantaged groups and under represented groups.


•Council jobs will be advertised widely so that they are accessible to all sections of the community. As a minimum our jobs will be advertised in
The Birmingham Voice and/or with the Employment Service. In addition, many of our jobs are on our


There will always be more than one person on the interview panel.