Who is your PR hero? For one comms person who has left the industry to return to journalism its the unlikely face of a supporting character from a BBC satire.
When you think of The Thick Of It, Armando Iannucci’s peerless satire of a Government department, it’s nigh on impossible to get away from the character of Malcolm Tucker.
Played superbly by Peter Capaldi, Tucker is the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications or, in reality, his henchman. A vicious enforcer who spits, snarls and terrifies ministers, officers and the media through four series and three specials.
But while Tucker is undoubtedly magnificent, the real gem to emerge from the whole show is senior press officer Jamie McDonald, expertly played by Paul Higgins. Jamie is Tucker’s right hand man. The other half of the ‘Caledonian Mafia’ which runs the comms operation in Downing Street.
Jamie is similar to Tucker. Only he is angrier. And scarier. And seemingly more violent. Jamie is essentially the senior press officer I wish I could have been!
Anyone who has ever worked in PR and Communications for a politically-led organisation would have secretly wanted to be more like Jamie. I certainly did. Show me a council press officer who didn’t want to scream personal insults at a politician or senior officer who has dropped an epic PR clanger and I’ll show you a liar.
We have all felt like pinning some of these comms-illiterate types to a wall before telling them that it’s a travesty that they were even born. We have all wanted to threaten to shove dictaphones up journalists’ backsides in the hope of keeping certain issues out of the news. And we have all wanted to unleash fury and vitriol at incompetent colleagues to the point of making them want to resign in tears. Jamie would do all of this.
Sadly, I could only fantasise about it due to my love of those little wage slips they handed me at the end of each month. Plus, being the nice diplomatic guy that I am, I simply didn’t have it in me. But those daydreams I often had where I channelled my inner-Jamie and went all psycho on the world sure got me through some real testing days!
I have now left council communications and gone back into journalism. Fortunately, I’ve so far managed to avoid angry Scottish senior press officers threatening to shove my notepad where the sun don’t shine unless I spike a story I’m working on. But the fear of that phone call is always there. Jamie McDonald - I salute you. Mainly out of terror, but I salute you nonetheless…
My top Five Jamie McDonald lines (parental advisory version)
- “You don’t deserve to live!”
- “Shut it Love Actually! Do you want me to hole punch your face?!” - Jamie to Ollie Reader shortly after meeting him
- “Are you a horse?” - Jamie to Cliff Lawton as part of a motivational speech
- “You know me Malc. Kid gloves…made from real kids.” - Jamie after being told to “go easy” on his victims
- “It’s just vowels! Subsidised, foreign vowels!” - Jamie’s review of Opera
Gurdip Thandi recently left public relations to return to journalism.
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