Who do governments listen to? Some intel from the Oxfam GB media team

March 9, 2009

     By Duncan Green     

Oxfam GB’s media team is a class act, and has just done some useful research on ‘influencing the influentials’, interviewing senior figures in Whitehall, journalists and other ‘influentials’ (wonder what qualifies them for that?). Here are some of the headlines:

The Today programme (BBC radio drivetime morning news and current affairs show) remains key to defining the news agenda

Aside from Today, print is much more effective than broadcast. The advent of Blackberries has actually increased the influence of print, as ministers now receive the daily cuttings on them

Ministers are mainly influenced by editorials and key columnists, more than news reporting – the ‘commentariat’ is becoming ever more important as the interface between politicians and public opinion. This includes a small number of elite political bloggers – interestingly, the Conservatives are more effective in the blogosphere, perhaps because the medium lends itself more to parties in opposition.

Relationships between politicians and editors remain crucial, with Gordon Brown’s contacts with major players such the Daily Mail‘s Paul Dacre even more vital as a general election looms

Some broader learning points:

Media work on its own does not necessary equal influence
It is most influential when it complements a broader campaign
It is no substitute for personal contact and good individual relationships
Celebrity endorsements raise awareness but real influence is from international and political “heroes” – one Mandela is worth a thousand rock stars
Former Ministers generally retain the ability to generate strong interest

Levels of trust and respect for Oxfam are high, thankfully, with some useful ideas for increasing our impact. But I’ll keep those little trade secrets to myself, if that’s OK……

March 9, 2009
Duncan Green