Image isn’t everything

Tees Business co-editor Martin Walker on why Theresa May’s decision not to allow media access to her recent visit to Teesside came back to bite her…

You can imagine our excitement when an email arrived in the Tees Business inbox, about Prime Minister Theresa May visiting Teesside recently.

I prepared my camera and was ready to tell my colleagues we were about to get a fantastic story about the rejuvenation of South Tees and the former SSI steelworks.

The excitement, however, quickly evaporated into disappointment as I scrolled down the email from Number 10, only to see there was no media invite.

I replied, of course, politely asking if there was going to be any media opportunities. “No” was the reply.

At first I thought only Tees Business was being snubbed (how dare they?), but I later discovered we weren’t the only ones. Other media organisations, like us, had to resort to “lifting” images from social media. Good job Ben Houchen is so active on Twitter, I thought.

The PM’s office insisted on controlling Mrs May’s image by only issuing their approved pictures of her visit via Press Association. There were also no interview opportunities.

This decision clearly backfired. As most of you will now know, said images were subsequently ridiculed on social media. So much so, in fact, that one Tweet went viral.

“May’s visit to Teeside looks like the promo shots for a gritty new detective drama set in the North East”, from company director Dr Gareth Baines, was retweeted more than 32,000 times.

This isn’t the first time Mrs May’s insular outlook has bitten her on the backside – the judgement in her close clique of advisors during her dreadful General Election campaign earlier this year being the prime example.

Number 10 did eventually release the pictures to us mere mortals at Tees Business, and you can read more about Mrs May’s jaunt along the River Tees on page 69 of our latest magazine by clicking here.

But given the huge significance of the announcement surrounding her fleeting visit to Teesside, you’d think the PM would be keen to involve the local media – particularly for local Tory politicians, including Mr Houchen, who’d benefit greatly from the associated PR.

Martin Walker
Co-editor, Tees Business


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