Danny Rogers on PR: Coulson likely to return with a low profile
Monday 24 January 2011
Andy Coulson's love affair with the PR industry was brief and tempestuous.
But this dying flame could yet be rekindled.
A tabloid hack by trade, Coulson became a PR professional in July 2007, when David Cameron made him his director of communications. The improvement in the Conservatives' reputation was so dramatic that, by October 2008, the PRWeek Awards named him PR Professional of the Year.
The admiration was not universal. As an editor, Coulson mauled a number of celebrities and their PR advisers. He made close friends of leading publicists Alan Edwards and Gary Farrow, others – including David Beckham's adviser Julian Henry – bore grudges. Coulson's success in helping Cameron become Prime Minister last spring won him further allies. By then he was working alongside powerful uber-networkers Matthew Freud and Roland Rudd. Importantly he gained respect for instilling discipline within the coalition's cobbled-together communications operation. With Coulson's help, Cameron's media performances were adept and decisive; he helped the Old Etonian connect with the man on the street.
Today he is looking for a new job. But Coulson's contacts and operational prowess make him an attractive hire. He is still respected by many journalists and, in person, is far warmer than often portrayed. But while the legal cases against the News of the World roll on, it is unlikely a big brand would risk giving him a job. Most likely is a discreet role within a big consultancy such as Brunswick or Finsbury. Privately, their bosses sound lukewarm. Freud's agency – with its maverick and tabloid-focused reputation – is a wiser bet. Coulson will land another senior job in comms, or the wider media, but he has stormy seas to navigate before his career returns to an even keel.
Danny Rogers is editor of 'PR Week'
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