Messages from the archive of Rutherford Hall, critical communications strategist
WhatsApp to Stephen: Aloha from Doha. I know some of the staff are angry at our involvement in the World Cup, but the Qatar deal is a big contract that is going to benefit everyone and could push us into the sporting space. I’ve sent you a photo of me wearing my rainbow wristband at the opening match, just to reassure everyone I’m trying to show solidarity. Obviously it came off about five seconds after the selfie was taken, but that’s the kind of granular detail it’s not necessary to share with the team.
From: [email protected]
First, it’s a joy to be here playing my small part in this fine advert for your country. The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy has done a wonderful job.
Thank you, yes, the Centro hotel is absolutely adequate. I do understand that there were a few glitches with the official Fifa hotel, and of course your point that the Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Marriott Marquis, Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton, Kempinski and Dusit were all also full.
I know some of the advance publicity has been upsetting but as I warned you, knocking stories are normal for all tournaments before the sport starts and the journalists don’t have anything to write about. As I predicted, once the football is in full swing everyone moves on. It will help if you can stop your security boys harassing broadcasters, though I know how tempting it is to give them a good thrashing.
We have prepared some powerful defence strategies which we are rolling out now to decision makers and thought leaders in Europe and making good progress. It’s important that we keep this going after the tournament so the debate is not dominated by critics. We still want to clinch the Olympics!
My favourite approach is an aggressive assault on western hypocrisy, racism and colonial mindset, which tries to impose western attitudes on a proud Middle Eastern nation. We really like this approach as it confuses the hell out of the liberal media. Our team has been phoning them up and telling them to check their privilege, which really scrambles their brains. We can also chuck in a few points about western nations looking to their own histories and failings on racism and mistreatment of low-paid workers. And how homosexuality was still a crime in England when it last hosted the World Cup.
For the rightwing media, which is more even-handed about human rights, we are playing up the line about virtue-signalling footballers. This works because those who use the phrase normally object to the virtue rather than the signal. We are using this approach with key thought leaders like Nigel Farage, Piers Morgan and Silvio Berlusconi. The point is that this event is about football not political protests, except for Iran’s team not singing the national anthem which is a “good protest” and so about something bigger than soccer. Underpinning that, we want to quietly contrast your modern forward-looking nation with other regional hubs that are rather less progressive.
Finally, we are quietly pointing out all the western nations queueing up to buy your gas who don’t seem to have a problem when the issue is heating their homes or securing their governments.
This is our five-point approach and we can already see it making inroads — a Four Seasons strategy on a Centro budget if you will.
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WhatsApp to Sally: Hi Sal, I know it’s tricky for sponsors but no one went to Qatar without knowing this. It’s a brief squall from the western colonialist media. You can remove the branding if you want, though facing both ways is often easier than it sounds. Our overall advice is that any damage is already done and any reputational hit will fade fast especially as you are sponsoring England not the Cup. But we recommend internal comms to calm staff. The key point is you are backing our boys. As we used to say in Downing Street, if you can’t snuff it out, tough it out.
WhatsApp to Hassan: I forgot to mention, we’ve been working quietly to stiffen the backbones of a few sponsors too. I was going to tell you at the reception but was overseeing the comms and didn’t have time to hike over from the Centro.
WhatsApp to Stephen: Just to let the team know, we’ve moved hotels. I’m now in room 634 at the Kempinski. Check out the view!!
WhatsApp to Stephen: WTF. Who tweeted out that photo of me in the wristband? I’m going to have to grovel like crazy if we are going to keep this account after the finals.
WhatsApp to Hassan: Hassan, let me explain . . .
WhatsApp to Stephen: Just to let the team know we’ve moved back to the Centro. Check out this breakfast buffet.