Good and Bad PR: A big win for Prince Harry this week, a fail for Virgin Orbit and UK MPs
Hello public relations fans and welcome along to my weekly ramble about Good and Bad PR. Second week of January and it is a big week for retail land as the supermarkets start telling us how well they did, or didn’t, from the Christmas trading period.
Before we get onto that though, let’s look at the wider goings in PR land.
The biggest commercial story of the week has to be the launch of Prince Harry’s book. Setting aside the trivia and revelations and looking purely at the PR campaign and the resulting sales, he more than wins Good PR this week.
The pre-launch media tour has been a huge PR success with coverage spanning the globe and triggering the book going to the top of the charts before it was even released. Despite the UK media’s best attempts to try and water down its success by doing outside broadcasts with bookshop owners looking glum that there were no queues to buy the memoir, the publishers were far more upbeat.
On the evening of the launch (Tuesday), Penguin Random House announced that it was the fastest selling non-fiction book in history. In fact, “the only book to have sold more in their first day are those starring the other Harry (Potter)” said a spokesperson for the publisher using a quote that has been up its PR (wizard) sleeve for months in advance, the jolly japesters that they are.
Put your feelings on the Royals and Harry aside (positive, negative, or otherwise) and look at the commercial success and few can argue that this will be viewed as one of the best PR campaigns of 2022/23. Good on ya Harry. Shall we have a small wager on which hotel chain is the first to put out a story saying that Harry’s book is the most “left behind” by muggles in hotel rooms?
Sticking with the theme of people trying to escape Britain and Virgin Orbit tried to make the ultimate getaway by firing a rocket into space. Unlike Harry though, this was a PR fail.
Read more here: https://t.co/9l1h82OsXY pic.twitter.com/RvBjMu9a5R— Virgin Orbit (@VirginOrbit) January 10, 2023
The aeroplane took off from Newquay(?!) ok but sadly the rocket on its back did not fire correctly and the mission failed. The spokespeople had clearly previously worked for Anthony Joshua because they trotted out lines about “getting up” and “going again” but it really was a huge disappointment for British space travel and exploration.
The mission was trying to put a number of satellites into orbit for as yet un-named companies and also an effort to prove that operations like this could be carried out from Britain. Oh. A huge blow for the British Space Industry.
Several politicians wish they could have been launched into space this week after SkyNews and Tortoise joined together to release an investigation and revelation into the flow of money into the UK political scene via donations.
Whilst there is nothing illegal about politicians receiving donations and topping up their salaries doing so, the general consensus is that there needs to be more transparency about the motives behind individuals handing over cash to our leaders. Sir Keir Starmer topped the list with £750k of donations, who knows why given he is trying to protect his lead in the polls by deploying the age-old political tactic of saying nothing… as Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said: “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt”? I should get that on a tea towel to replace my current “Tucker’s Law” quote.
Obviously, ‘cos we all know he and his family are short of a few bob, Dishy Rishi came second and the Queen of Lettuces came third. Great PR for both news organisations.
BrewDog has started the year as it left off, with another dollop of negative PR, this time over its Golden Can marketing competition. I won’t bore you with the details, but the boss of BrewDog (James Watt) did the right thing and, in my opinion, deserved better headlines by personally paying out nearly £500k to disgruntled customers from the competition, but it once again starts the year off with bad press.
I stick by my 2022 prediction that BrewDog will eventually be bought by a mass-market drinks brand and over time, quietly left to go past its sell-by date. Watt must be fed up of the constant abuse and criticism and who could blame him for wanting out?
I told you so PR
Sticking on the predictions theme and I am delighted to announce my first “I told you so” of 2023. My PR spidey senses were tingling last week when I read that Sainsbury’s was announcing, a full week before its Christmas trading update came out, that it was upping its wage structure for its lowest paid members of staff.
We’ve brought forward our annual pay increase for our front line colleagues, investing a further £185m in colleague pay and benefits to increase the base rate for our retail colleagues to £11 per hour nationally and £11.95 in London from February #JSQ3 pic.twitter.com/5ZOkuNKb2M— Sainsbury's News (@SainsburysNews) January 11, 2023
This was a big story and it made me think that the upcoming trading update must be good as it didn’t want to use this to distract from its results. If the results had been bad, similarly, it could have used the wage story to deflect attention away.
Anyway, two great stories by the Sainsbury’s PR team and both timed perfectly for maximum impact. A huge win for the orange supermarket giant and its first Good PR from me for the year (I am sure this is the gong it has been waiting for).
A few mentions in dispatches from the week. The first goes to the Competition and Markets Authority who some of you will remember received Good PR in late 2022 for its angry missive at the UK petrol industry for its collective pricing strategies falsely inflating the prices at the pumps. This week petrol prices fell to the lowest they have been since the war in Ukraine began. Nice one CMA, finally, a government (but non-ministerial) department we can celebrate. Maybe we need more non-ministerial government departments.
OFCOM also announced this week that it is seeking consultation around online safety for kids. Given all in our industry have a role to play in this, may I suggest you give it a Google and get involved.
Finally, allow me a bit of self whoring if I may. For the seventh
year on the bounce we have launched our entirely free Days of the Year
Calendar. Every one of those silly and not so silly awareness days and
it now includes key FTSE newsjacking dates for the digital PR crew and
is fully interactive. Thank me later…
Written by Andy Barr, owner of 10 Yetis Digital. Seen any good or bad PR lately? Abuse and contradictory points welcomed over on The Twitter @10Yetis or andy@10Yetis.co.uk on email
If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our twice weekly event and subscriber alerts.
Currently, every new subscriber will receive three of our favourite reports about the public relations sector.