There was no provision for a PRO in the budget - Tony Cunnane's Autobiography

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There was no provision for a PRO in the budget

The Internet and e-mail, not to mention what today we call 'the social media', were unheard of in 1989 except by  so-called 'geeks' - and I was one. I gathered together the huge backlog of mail I found in the Team's admin office and took it to my office. The most frequent of all the questions asked in letters from members of the public was, "What do the Red Arrows do in the winter months?" So, I wrote two articles: one called "What do the Red Arrows do in the winter?" and the other called "20 things you never knew about the Red Arrows." I ran off copies as required, using my own printer and inks but on RAF paper. My technology had not reached the point where I could include images in my documents but I made a point of always putting "Red Arrows" in a bold, red typeface. Word quickly got around the national media and the Red Arrows' fan base and within just a few weeks those two documents, so easy to write and, more importantly update, proved to be by far the most popular items requested in letters and telephone calls to the Team. (Red ink cartridges for my printer became one of my regular monthly outgoings - something else the RAF would not pay me for.)

The RAF element of the MoD PR organisation seemed not to bother about the Red Arrows: as far as the RAF was concerned, no news was good news. In spite of what we had been told on the MoD-sponsored PR course at Sunningdale, the RAF did not 'do' PR at all as we know it today: they reacted to events when they had to, but did not advertise, rarely publicised anything in advance, and rarely told success stories afterwards. One DPR(RAF), a serving air commodore, told me when we met for the first time in his ground floor office in MoD Main Building, "No-one tells me anything about anything. I have no power. I simply wait here for the summons to the 6th Floor when something goes wrong and then I hope the lift is working; it usually isn't. At least this job keeps me quite fit!" I added that statement, surreptitiously, to the notes I was making during the meeting. The 6th floor was where the Defence Minister and the top military commanders had their offices.

So, after a frustrating first month, I made my own rules without consulting or informing anyone! I visited all my local newspapers and regional radio and TV stations as far afield as Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Hull to introduce myself in person. I was welcomed and given tours of newsrooms and studios wherever I went. It was patently obvious from many comments I received that there had never been any PR contact between the media and any part of RAF Scampton - except when, in the months before my arrival, there had been two serious flying accidents involving the Red Arrows and even then reporters had to prise information out of anyone they found willing to talk. I had to use my own car for all my visits because, I was told, "There's no budget for that sort of thing". However, I started submitting my monthly mileage claims direct to the appropriate Civil Service department at Command HQ in Gloucester - and they were always paid promptly and without question. What a good job I am honest!

Next I went to find the Information Technology Manager. IT was a new term to me at that time; it turned out that the incumbent Manager was a friendly flying instructor working in the CFS Ground School and he looked after IT as a secondary duty. He was in great demand because he held the budget for new equipment and software. He told me that he had a free hand to spend his small budget on whatever equipment he fancied but, as the new boy on the block, I could get nothing from him because no-one had made financial provision in his budget for any equipment for me. I never met him again. I had little choice but to use all my own equipment, as I had done for the very same reason throughout my three years working for the Air Training Corps.

I took one of my two home computers, together with associated bits and pieces, and installed them in my office at Scampton. The PC was state of the art in 1989 but primitive by today's standards: it had a 486 processor with 1MB of RAM and it could run only one programme at a time - this was long before Windows came on the scene. If I wanted to incorporate some data into a document or access my list of contacts, I had to shut down the computer in order to open the database (dBase III) - and then re-boot again to get back to the document.

I continued to buy and use my own IT equipment until the day I retired in 2001- but at least that meant that I always had the most up to date 'stuff'!

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