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Virgin Atlantic’s see-through publicity wins approval this week

4th April 2013

Good PR of the week

Well, having been April Fool’s Day, I can’t very well ignore it, can I?

I see the first of April as a day to have a bit of fun. For one day only, PR people the world over can get away without telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Snigger.

Quote-happy PR man and media commentator Mark Borkowski was vocal in his dismissal of April Fool’s Day 2013 from a marketing point of view, dubbing it a “poor year for the craft of the April Fool“. The Independent’s Andy West took an even dimmer view of corporate PR on the day, shooting all stunts down as “scrambling, attention-seeking desperation for hits, tweets and views“. Be that as it may (and it is), complaining about companies trying to sell a service or product through attention-seeking is a bit rich coming from one of many media outlets literally screaming at us as we read their product with ads and ‘partnered’ company links in a bid to stay afloat.

While I do appreciate where fellow-Glawwwstershurr man Borkowski is coming from, I do think a four-day bank holiday weekend in the UK diluted what might have otherwise been a better effort from brands and agencies. With that in mind, here are a couple of examples of stunts I liked.

See-through publicity

Virgin Atlantic (through agency Bray Leino) announced news and images of a new, glass-bottomed plane. The “innovation” coincided with the start of Virgin Atlantic Airways’ first ever domestic service to Scotland, according to this company blog by Sir Richard himself.

The stunt was a partnership with the Mirror, posted here, “offering every passenger the chance of a bird's eye view with an extra special opportunity to look down on the beautiful scenery of Great Britain as they fly”.



It seemed to be one of the most popular stunts of the year on the day, featured prominently in many of the media round-ups. announced that from April 1st, customers would be able to book the Belgian Suite in Buckingham Palace, at a minimum cost of £10,000, depending on whether or not butler service was requested.

Having previously been stayed in by guests including former US President Ronald Regan and most recently, President Obama, the Frank PR stunt was well shared and featured in the majority of round-ups I’ve read, even if the Indy’s Mr West did sarcastically describe it as “elfish PR ribaldry“.

Bad PR

Di Canio

I ummed and ahhed about including Sunderland football club and new manager Di Canio, despite the fact the two have quite clearly been the negative talk of the media town this week.

The reason I was unsure is that, despite the headlines, I was unsure whether there’d been a decision that could contribute to what I would usually class as bad PR for people and firms within this here column, or, whether the managerial decision to appoint Di Canio – a man with publicly stated fascist views – was simply one members of the public didn’t particularly take well to.

Paolo Di Canio is a man who has publicly stated that he is a fascist ‘but not a racist’. As a player, he famously lifted his arm in a salute adopted by the Nazis, with West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan stating in this Independent piece that fascism – and a ‘champion of an ideology like this’ – have no place in football, that fascism can’t exist without racism and that Di Canio should publicly renounce his views, a sport so publicly wanting to be seen to be combating intolerance.

When I asked on The Twitter whether those working in PR/the media believed it was bad PR or indeed just a widely-disliked managerial appointment, it was clear that many believed the apparent unpreparedness of Sunderland was to blame for the story becoming such a headline-grabber. Perhaps the club’s communications team felt the announcement would be received by a relatively muted response, given the serene –in-comparison response when League One side Swindon Town gave Di Canio his first managerial job in 2011?

Whatever their thoughts, the resounding belief of the PR community – or at least those that responded to me – was that the statement released on Wednesday by Di Canio and the club was too late.

Here are a few tweets from people in the industry:

“They should've released the statement they did yesterday on Monday morning”, said Tyne and Wear Sport’s Matt Briggs, claiming the club lost control of the story after a “refusal to answer questions put them on the back foot”.

Kindred’s Lorna Gozzard and Sam Holl were both adamant the situation was dragged out, with Sam tweeting to say “It's terrible PR. Di Canio had the opportunity, on day 1, to condemn racism in football in front of the press.”

Matt Peden, who heads up Hatch PR’s sport PR and sponsorship activation division thinks everything was rushed, “from the appointment to the press conference”, giving the club little time to consider a solid crisis communication plan.

Here are a few other responses:

@garyandrews: They should definitely been more prepared. Seems like the fascist line of questioning came as a surprise. It shouldn't have.

@MScorer: terrible PR - they seemed massively unprepared for a predictable reaction considering PDC's past antics! for a start they didn't send a member of the board into the press conference to support PDC and refusing to answer Q's on the topic only fuelled the media! The statement they issued yesterday should have been issued on Sunday night

@TomScott: I am no Sports PR specialist (yet) but was always going to provide media interest, stunned at how badly prepared SAFC were. Showed a complete lack of knowledge of their customer base (very socialist) but that is football for you, all money no brains.

@JoeFitz_Search: their statement on Monday was a car crash, far too long and just fanned the flames

@DM_Eyre: refusing to comment on it at all left SAFC open to criticism and on going questions about PDC's fascism

@TomParker: Failed to take control of a bad situation. Latest statement is clearly a sop; why take so long to say it otherwise?

Have you seen any good or bad PR?

Contact PR Rich Leigh with it by tweeting him @GoodandBadPR or by emailing throughout the week and we’ll happily credit you for your trouble.

Good and Bad PR is a feature on the blog of 10 Yetis PR Agency

Have you seen any good or bad PR?

Contact Rich Leigh with it by tweeting him @GoodandBadPR or by emailing throughout the week and we’ll happily credit you for your trouble.

Good and Bad PR is a feature on the blog of 10 Yetis PR Agency.

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