Interview: Jack Neill-Hall

The senior press officer at the Campaign to Protect Rural England talks about the charity's campaign against the government's planning reforms

Jack Neill-Hall
Jack Neill-Hall

- Has dyslexia affected your career?

In my first job at a PR firm a senior manager said: "We need to sort it out or we can't promote you." But when I went for a job at the youth charity Catch22, a panel of young people interviewed me. They found it inspiring that someone in a posh office job could be dyslexic, so they recommended me.

- What tactics have you adopted in your campaign against the government's planning reforms?

There is an element of carrot and stick. At first you try to be a friend to government, but if government ignores you, your stance becomes firmer. We have certainly become very strident and are now almost in direct opposition to the government.

- Why has it been so difficult?

At first it was almost impossible to get any meetings with ministers. To his credit Greg Clark, the planning minister, has tried to engage with the issues, but he and Communities and Local Government have been undermined by the Treasury. It shows how powerful the Treasury is, particularly in this government.

- How have you responded to this?

We have changed our audience and the journalists we talk to and reframed the argument. We are speaking a lot to The Times and the FT. It's not so much about planning policy now; the Treasury is completely uninterested in that. We have to engage it on its terms, so we have done things like publish a report on the economic consequences of the planning reforms.

- Which campaigns have recently caught your eye?

The Kony 2012 video one was really powerful, even though it backfired. The charity, Invisible Children, hasn't appeared to stand up to scrutiny, but the film was incredibly popular.

- Which other charities' PR impresses you?

Shelter is absolutely superb. It does interesting, creative stuff. The NSPCC mixes celebrities and powerful case studies well.

Jack Neill-Hall is senior press officer at the Campaign to Protect Rural England

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