Margaret Thatcher was a PR dream
There are a number of reasons why I loved Baroness Thatcher. In my early life she was the main focus of my A-Level Politics classes and so inspired me that I bought her diaries (I was not a spod at school, honest).
Thatcher understood PR
In my working career, I worked for a few companies that were truly throttled by trade unions and her words and policies from her books were always going through my mind during every stand-up argument (and in some instances fights) I had the displeasure of witnessing.
Setting politics aside, she was a great and iconic leader. One of her greatest traits was her ability to identify and execute brilliant public relations opportunities.
Here’s my Top 5:
When Argentina invaded the tiny Falkland Islands in 1982, many world leaders doubted that the UK would have the resource or stomach for a battle to take them back. Thatcher was not having any of it. Winning back the Falklands was a huge victory for the UK and Thatcher, not least because it united the country and she was seen as the spearhead figure fighting for our rights on the global stage.
Telecommunications, gas, electricity, airlines and coal: Thatcher oversaw the privatisation of it all. She stuck resolutely by her plans and fought her way through year-long strikes to persevere and reach her plans.
In today’s flip-flop world of policy reversals and gaffes, Thatcher’s results speak for themselves and her privatisation plans are a great testament to that.
She wielded that handbag like it was a weapon and, to many world leaders, it truly was. Many have told the tale about how she used it to move her fellow global leaders out of her way so that she could be at the front for the pictures.
We are led to believe that inside it contained notes and figures about every potential question she could be asked. This is probably where companies got the idea to create A-Z documents of every potential negative question that they could be asked.
Soundbites – “The lady’s not for turning”
18 months into her first term the country was fighting to get out of its economic gloom, the cuts she had implemented were hitting people hard and the opening battles with the unions were not going to plan.
Thatcher knew that her credibility was key at this low point and to keep it she had to remain on course. The turning-lady phrase was another iconic moment; it demonstrated her willingness to lay it all on the line to make sure that she got the job done.
She knew her weaknesses and adapted
Thatcher paved the way for a new type of politics in the UK. No doubt she would have been horrified at where it has now ended up, but the record books will show that she was the first politician in the UK to get style and presentation advice from her PR advisors.
Don’t let that mislead us into thinking that she was a puppet, no chance - all the ideas were her own. However, how she communicated them was down to a carefully crafted PR machine that made sure she was positioned in the best way possible.
She became a global icon, she had as many haters as she did fans, but no one can deny that the UK is in a better place because of her and that she set the PR benchmark for today’s politicians.