Alastair Campbell

Tony Blair's director of communications and strategy,

Consultant, Strategist, Communicator, Campaigner and Best-Selling Author

Alastair Campbell speaker, keynote speech
English

A defining figure of modern political history, Alastair Campbell changed politics and campaigns forever when directing Tony Blair’s three general election wins. He now applies the lessons learned then, and since, to helping governments, parties, businesses, charities, sports teams and individuals to turn bold objectives into real strategies that work. Alastair Campbell is one of the godfathers of modern strategic communication. He also specializes in crisis management.

Described by Tony Blair in his memoir as “a genius,” Alastair Campbell is also the man Bill Clinton sent to NATO when the Kosovo war was going wrong. A former journalist, he was hired by Blair in 1994 and built the campaign and communications machine that led to a huge landslide for New Labour—a phrase coined by Alastair Campbell according to Blair—and became a model for modern political campaigning. At the heart of the approach was an understanding that the pace of media and technological change was shaping a new form of politics and the need for a new style of communications.

For over a decade, Blair dominated the political landscape in the UK, winning two landslides, and a third victory even after the Iraq war. Alastair Campbell was alongside throughout, and when he finally left under pressure from his family, the best-selling newspaper The Sun headlined the story, “Blair loses his brain.”

Alastair Campbell remains active in politics, working for several governments as a consultant, notably in the Balkans, and is also a globally acknowledged campaigner on mental health, using the skills honed in politics to change attitudes toward mental illness. This has been a passion since he overcame a psychotic breakdown in 1986, about which he has made an award-winning documentary.

Alastair Campbell has written eleven books, six volumes of diaries, including the bestseller “The Blair Years”, three novels on themes of mental health and a memoir on depression.

His latest book, to be published in February 2015 in the UK and in September in the U.S., is called Winners. Mixing his own experience of politics and interviews with a vast array of global leaders and winners in sport, business and politics—in that order—Alastair Campbell analyzes what it takes to win in the modern world, arguing that politics has much to learn from the best of business, and both have much to learn from the best of sport.

As a speaker, Alastair Campbell is lively, entertaining and hugely insightful about the past and the trends of the future.

Winning

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.

Strategy

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.

Campaigns

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.

Strategic Communications

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.

Crisis Management

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.

Mental Illness

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.

All in the mind

Friday was a very bad day in the life of Martin Sturrock, a brilliantly successful psychiatrist with a less-than-successful home life.

All in the mind

Winners: And How They Succeed

How people succeed - and how you can, too. Alastair Campbell knows all about winning. As Tony Blair's chief spokesman and strategist he helped guide the Labour Party to victory in three successive general elections, and he's fascinated by what it takes to win. How do sports stars excel, entrepreneurs thrive, or individuals achieve their ambition? Is their ability to win innate? Or is the winning mindset something we can all develop? Drawing on the wisdom of an astonishing array of talented people - from elite athletes to top managers, from rulers of countries to rulers of global business empires - Alastair Campbell uses his forensic skills, as well as his own experience of politics and sport, to get to the heart of success. He examines how winners tick. He considers how they build great teams. He analyses how they deal with unexpected setbacks and new challenges. He judges what the very different worlds of politics, business and sport can learn from one another. And he sets out a blueprint for winning that we can all follow.

Winners: And How They Succeed