Good and Bad PR: M&S win (and lose) with its vegetarian Percy Pigs!

Good PR  
I’m giving the good PR gong to M&S this week, for something that may (on the surface at least) look like bad PR, but which I feel is actually a positive move and a wise decision for the brand.  

You’ve probably seen that people are kicking off left, right and centre about the fact that the retailer will now only be making and selling the vegetarian version of its much-loved Percy Pig sweets.  

This news has original Percy Pig fans up in arms, because they say that the vegetarian version (which has always been sold alongside the store’s gelatine-containing offering) doesn’t taste the same.  

The texture may be ever-so-slightly different, granted, but the flavour is very much the same according to most (and a lot of those ranting about this stock change haven’t even tried the veggie ones just yet).  

Personally, I feel like it’s a bit of a sick joke that the original Percy Pigs contained actual pork gelatine; people wouldn’t really think about those boiled up bones and ligaments when they were chomping down on their sweets, but it was definitely in there.  

So whilst there are moaners and Piers Morgan has (of course) stuck his oar in and acted all outraged (just as he did with the Greggs vegan sausage roll), M&S has still been praised for the decision.  

The vegetarian and vegan movement is gaining momentum and shows no signs of slowing down, so this was a step in the right direction (even if the veggie Percy Pigs still aren’t vegan due to the appearance of beeswax in the ingredients list).    

Whatever the case, this has given M&S a bucket-load of coverage and raised the profile of these famous little sweets, which will no-doubt lead to an uplift of sales.  

Bad PR  
Ryanair has been slated this week after a mother alleged that the airline refused to let her autistic son fly with his comfort toys.  

The mum of eight-year-old Leyton Martin, who has autism, said that Ryanair told her she had to put a bag in the hold that contained her son’s iPad, medicine and sensory toys, that would’ve otherwise kept him calm and entertained during the five-hour flight home from Lanzarote to Manchester.  

The family had apparently paid extra for luggage, but a member of staff said that they wouldn’t be able to take the case on board because it wasn’t a priority bag. The mother has claimed that they weren’t even allowed to take just the items onto the aircraft, whilst the bag and items they did not need went into the hold; and that the female member of staff became aggressive with them when they tried to argue their case.  

Although they eventually got onto the plane, they were without the all-important bag and items and the young boy became distressed when the engines started to make noise on the flight. As a result, his mother said that he started to pick at his arms in a form of self-harming because he was so unsettled. To make matters worse, the family went on holiday to spend time together before mum Claire had to begin treatment for cancer back home, which the press are of course focusing on.  

Ryanair released a comment from a spokesperson saying that they hadn’t received a complaint from this family and that Leyton’s parents had not informed anyone at the airport about his autism and potential need for special assistance, but the news is already out there and it’s now a case of damage limitation.

 When the family got back to Manchester, to make matters worse, Ryanair had apparently managed to lose the bag in question, with Leyton’s iPad, belongings and holiday photos inside.  

Before news of this family’s ordeal broke, there had been another story covered about Ryanair’s poor treatment of a severely autistic 15-year-old boy who was returning home to Doncaster with his carer after a trip to Alicante in Spain. Leo Wakefied has the mental capacity of a three-year-old and was travelling with a small comfort doll, which airline staff told his carer she’d have to pay £25 to take on-board, because it qualified as hand luggage. After this, the boy had a meltdown, leading to him being surrounded by police officers and having to go to the airport doctor to be medicated.  

Ryanair apparently unloaded the pair’s luggage from the aircraft without offering an alternative way for them to get home. The carer approached rival airline Jet2’s staff and has praised their service and response to the difficult situation; as they helped the pair get booked onto a different flight home and treated Leo with dignity and respect, helping to calm him and the situation. All in all, a bad week for Ryanair… but when isn’t it these days? 

Written by Shannon Peerless, 10 Yetis @ShazzaYeti on Twitter. Seen any good or bad PR lately? You know what to do @10Yetis on Twitter or andy@10Yetis.co.uk on email.