David Walliams and a messy dinosaur from M&S win this week’s good PR, but 9/11 Tweets were a mistake

Good PR of the week

The perfect charity PR campaign
 
David Walliams is proof that, in order to get the public behind a charity campaign, all you need to do is convince a famous comedian to don a tight outfit and swim 140 miles over eight days in dirty water.
 
As much as the Nike Back to the Future trainers story of last week (happened after I’d already written the blog, annoyingly) was a masterclass in consumer PR with a charity spin, the Thames swim by Walliams, raising more than £1m for Sport Relief is a lesson in how to conduct the perfect charity campaign. Fantastic work and a brilliantly connected effort – the story was rarely out of my Facebook and Twitter feeds, almost never off my TV screen and always within a click or two whenever reading news online.
 
M&S dinosaur gets people smiling

And here’s one you’ll all like, if you haven’t seen it already (reminiscent of the Tiger Bread effort from Sainsbury’s back in June). A customer was overcharged for a sandwich and complained. When he hadn’t been compensated with a gift card, as promised, he asked them for “a hand-drawn picture of a smiley dinosaur“.
Guess what? The obviously PR-savvy Steve Jones of Marks and Spencer replied with a great apology letter (read about the incident here) and – yep, a hand-drawn picture of a smiley dinosaur!

I first saw this when PR Chris Owen Tweeted it, but was also sent it by Steff Lewis-Sabey, from my home city Gloucester’s rich cousin Cheltenham.
 
Bad PR of the week
 
Well-meant, but inappropriate 9/11 Tweets
 
For an organisation so normally bang on when it comes to social media, I think the Guardian got it wrong this week – and what a day to get it wrong on.
 
Somebody had the idea to Tweet the events of 9/11, as they happened in 2001, ten years ago.
 
Within minutes, the account – which was branded as being from the Guardian (in the bio) – was rubbing people up the wrong way. The Tweets appeared to be scheduled, as stated by freelance travel journalist David Whitley and very factual in tone. Fashion blogger Kellie Hill Tweeted me saying that she thought it was “a bad move” with “good intentions“, while BBC Three presenter (remember, his views, not the BBC’s) Matt Cooke agreed that the idea “wasn’t being received well at all“. Iain Hepburn posted a good blog here about the account and thinks the backlash was inevitable, saying: “the outrage it sparked, from both sides of the Atlantic and beyond, was huge, utterly predictable, and entirely justified“.
 
The account lasted just an hour before it wisely Tweeted: “this account of events is now ending“. Smart idea in my opinion – just 3,600 were following it and it was best to nip it in the bud as quickly as possible (which must have frustrated the person who scheduled the Tweets no end, if it was indeed scheduled).
 
So, why did it cause such a fuss, when the History Channel aired “102 minutes that Changed America” and other news outlets dedicated the day to it?
 
Personally, I think it’s a simple case of using the wrong medium.
 
The general Twitter user can, as I’ve stated in this column in the past, be fairly vehement in their hate when they get going, capable of “look at this cute cat” to foul-mouthed rage in 3.2 seconds. For every right-minded, balanced point made, there are hundreds of reactionary knuckle-draggers slamming their faces into their keyboards in a bid to articulate their thoughts, clinging onto every angry bandwagon with short-termed gusto before heading back to the bathroom cabinet and their medication.
 
As well as these rebels without a clue, you have the people who probably do have the right to be upset with the account, who may have been affected by 9/11 personally and probably don’t want their feed packed with automatic ReTweets from people they follow who decide to share the minute-by-minute account of the horrific happenings of that day.
 
If watching TV, you can change the channel. If using Twitter, there are some elements you can’t avoid, unless you avoid the service completely – and therein the problem lies. Social media editor at Haymarket Gordon MacMillan also believes that the Tweets “read strangely” and said that the exercise was one in which the Guardian “tried to stuff that square peg in a round hole” in his blog here.
 
As I’ve mentioned a few times now, sensitivity has a huge part to play in what makes good or bad PR.
 
Have you seen any good or bad PR?
Contact PR Rich Leigh with it by Tweeting him @GoodandBadPR or by emailing rich@10yetis.co.uk 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.


Creative Moment Awards 2020