Though his background is in politics, Alastair Campbell has brought his campaigning skills to bear in a number of fields. After losing his best friend to leukaemia, he has fronted charity efforts to raise funds and research into cures and better treatments. He has won awards and plaudits home and abroad for his work on mental illness. He has taken his campaign skills to different issues. British radio presenter Nick Ferrari said: “When Alastair Campbell picks a fight, the chances are he is going to win that fight.” But how do you campaign? What are the essential elements needed to separate a great campaign from a good one? From experience and analysis, he has those answers, and they can help any cause, charity, business, party or government trying to make change for the better.
Alastair Campbell made his name as a tough, no-nonsense media operator that earned him the title “the world’s best spin doctor,” and a job offer from Bill Clinton. But spin, he says, is doomed to fail unless underpinned by real principles of strategic communications. As the media world becomes more atomized, as old certainties die, how does a modern brand—human or organizational—communicate a message? How has technology changed the way that leaders communicate, and the led listen? And given how much change there has been in the last decade, how much more is to come, and what are the threats and opportunities presented? Campbell has ridden the waves of these changes by adhering to certain principles of strategic communications, which can be applied by any organization or individual who understands that in a world where the pressures are to be more tactical, strategy and strategic communications are the answer.
Sport As A Metaphor For Life
Alastair Campbell is a sports nut. His latest book was inspired by his insight that too many politicians pay lip service to sport when in fact they can learn from it. A man who counts Manchester United’s former manager Sir Alex Ferguson as a close friend, who has played football with both Pele and Diego Maradona, been out on the bike with Lance Armstrong and met and worked with sports leaders around the world, Campbell hoovers knowledge of sport and tries to apply it to the other worlds in which he moves. What can a political campaign learn from the way Jose Mourinho leads Chelsea FC? What links Billy Beane to Formula One to global business brands? What lessons in life can we take from a Joe Torre or a Tiger Woods, and what lessons could they take from the way other winners operate? Campbell is a marathon runner, triathlete and soccer fan whom rarely misses a game played by his lifelong team, Burnley FC. Partly that is because sport is his passion. It’s also because sport is where he finds lessons in winning, and lessons in life.
When the conflict in Kosovo was going wrong, Bill Clinton had a message for Tony Blair: “Send Alastair to NATO.” Clinton got to know Blair’s right-hand man in the early days of the New Labour government, when the President was engulfed in scandal, and found great support and strategy coming from Blair and Campbell. As the Milosevic regime started to win the propaganda war, Clinton and Blair realized that until communications were fixed, the military strategy would continue to struggle. So Campbell was seconded to NATO to oversee a complete overhaul of the entire Alliance’s communications. Campbell says the first rule of crisis management is that it is probably not a crisis. He believes that in a decade with Blair, there were only five—Kosovo, Iraq, 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan, and two domestic crises, massive fuel price protests and an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease. Drawing on lessons from what went right and what went wrong, and analyzing examples of good and bad crisis management in the private sector, he lays out simple lessons to help anyone who is hit by a genuine crisis.
Alastair Campbell knows all about mental illness. At 29, the youngest national news editor in Britain, he had a drink- and pressure-induced nervous breakdown, was arrested and hospitalized and diagnosed with depression and addiction issues. He rebuilt himself and his career and went on to take on one of the toughest jobs going—running the media operation for Tony Blair in Britain’s highly aggressive media and political environment. He is now a global campaigner on mental illness, fighting to break down stigma and taboo and also to urge business to better understand mental health and mental illness, and to see the advantages of doing so. Campbell’s latest book, Winners, has a chapter on ‘the extreme mind,’ setting out the great figures of history, from Lincoln to Churchill, Florence Nightingale to Charles Darwin—and great winners of today—who have had what doctors define as mental illness. He argues not just for better understanding but better appreciation of what people living on the edge have to offer.
Alastair Campbell is a proven winner, obsessed with others who win. His latest book is called simply Winners, and looks at winners in sport, business and politics—in that order—to see what makes them stand out from others, and crucially, what all of us can learn from those who win. He sets out all the things needed of a winner—strategy, leadership, teamship, boldness, innovation, the ability to handle setback and failure. In looking at the best of the best—from Clinton to Merkel, from Brady to Beckham, from Lincoln to Churchill, from Anna Wintour to Arianna Huffington, from Branson to Buffett—he explains how mere mortals can learn something from all of them.
Alastair Campbell is commonly referred to as the architect of the New Labour New Britain strategy that led to Tony Blair’s three general election victories. But what is strategy? How is it shaped? How can it be executed in a faster, more complicated and more aggressive media landscape? Campbell draws on his experience of winning with Blair, and the work he does now in business and sport, to answer those questions. He brings his forensic skills to strategies that work and strategies that don’t, and leaves audiences with simple messages that can benefit any individual or organization seeking to be more strategic in an ever-more-tactical world.