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POLITICS is like a business where the job is to set objectives, define strategy and decide on tactics. Addressing marketers at An Post's Early Bird breakfast, Tony Blair's former press secretary Alastair Campbell (pictured) said the media talk a lot about 'spin', but strong communications means getting consistent messages out there.

When Campbell was in Downing Street, Blair was determined to get to grips with the Northern Ireland problem -- that was his objective. His strategy was bold -- to have unconditional talks with Sinn Fein.

Campbell says media has changed hugely. People no longer trust the old institutions, they tend to rely on friends and work colleagues. The reason direct mail is on the rise is because of trust. Direct mail is based on the relationship between sender and receiver.

Marketers should stay calm in a crisis, listen but lead. When involved in a campaign, visualise the victory. Hired by Clive Woodward as media consultant for the 2005 Lions Tour of New Zealand, he recalls Ireland's Donnacha O'Callaghan playfully doing the rounds with a movie camera.

The Munster lock followed him to the toilet while commentating: "We're about to discover if Alastair Campbell washes his hands after taking a pee." He then asked him if Blair washed his hands after going to the loo. Before Campbell could reply, O'Callaghan cried: "No, he doesn't, that's your effin' job!"