Greenpeace’s Darth Vader attacks Volkswagen while Johann Hari has a mare

Hello readers, Rich here, back in the hot seat after a month off with a new addition to our family. It’s safe to say I’m at least B-plus standard when it comes to urine dodging at nappy time – with a few points taken off for the little blighter tagging me a few times. Aren’t kids fun?

Right, on to the reason I’m here.

Good PR of the week

Usually, I’m not one for do-goodery. My bank statement is resolutely donation direct-debit free. I go out of my way to avoid chuggers and I’ve never, to my shame, hugged a tree. This isn’t to say I don’t accept my individual ecological or charitable responsibilities as a privileged member of the global society. But the guilt we’re forced to feel when it comes to charity giving winds me up.

However, loving a good integrated stunt as I do, I’ve got to give it to Greenpeace this week, which has taken to targeting multi-nationals to highlight improper corporate conservation policies.

Greenpeace recently targeted Barbie manufacturers Mattel, accusing the toy maker of causing deforestation with a fantastic “Barbie, you’re dumped” online and offline campaign. This week, in the second such effort, it staged a Star-Wars-inspired aggressive campaign against Volkswagen.

As this one doesn't work any more, here is the French version, which oddly enough, does (for now!):

The stunt began at 7am on Tuesday at London’s Old Street roundabout, with climbers subsequently unveiling large banners sending up Volkswagen’s online Mini Darth Vader ads over five billboards across East London.

Storm troopers patrolled the area with flyers, providing a fantastic visual opportunity for the press and encouraged people to visit a site Greenpeace has developed – – where they can “join the rebellion“.

It’s a well thought-out effort for the environmental organisation and although (at the time of writing) Volkswagen is yet to respond, I am keen to see what the company has to say. It’s easy to suggest that Greenpeace shouldn’t have proceeded with the protest, but from a PR perspective it has gained awareness.

Bad PR of the week

As if to rubber stamp the general public consensus that the media industry is full of liars, a storm in a Twitter cup has been raging, causing Independent columnist Johann Hari to become a top trending topic. In fact, the hashtag #interviewsbyhari was the top trending topic in the UK on Tuesday – and the third top trending topic worldwide.

The reason?

Hari, an Orwell Prize-winning journalist, was outed for quoting interview subjects not by what they said when talking to him necessarily, but by including both past quotes and quotes even from the interview subjects’ books.

The issue was highlighted by a number of journalists, including Toby Young of The Telegraph, who claims that Hari is “guilty of shoddy journalism“.

The fact that Tweeters sought to use the issue to have fun at Hari’s expense is unfortunate, but often quite funny nonetheless – my personal favourite Tweet using the hashtag being – "So, Sooty," I demanded, "is it true you sold guns to Saddam in the 1980s?" His silence was deafening – from Chris Applegate of We Are Social.

Hari did write a blog explaining his side of things, saying, and I quote, “it’s quite common that [interviewees] will express an idea or sentiment to me that they have expressed before in their writing – and, almost always, they’ve said it more clearly in writing than in speech.“ Hari’s response wasn’t particularly well received, and not nearly well enough distributed to combat the snowballing argument against his actions. The official Orwell Prize even ominously Tweeted this, saying it is both aware and following a process in relation to what it calls the “Johann Hari controversy”.

Do I personally think it is all that bad? Well, perhaps controversially, no. As our MD at 10Yetis PR Andy Barr mentioned last week, Twitter both aggravates and magnifies issues in what he calls “The Twitter Factor”. Online commentators love nothing more than a good victim, but the focus is only ever fleeting. Duke Nukem’s former PR agency would vouch for that.

In the cold, hard light of day, Hari will still be in a job, he’ll be better known (name me one publicly well-known and successful journalist who hasn’t scraped through a controversy or two) and the masses will move on to their next target. That’s not to say I agree with what he did. I don’t, at all, hence his being my Bad PR for this week.

Have you seen any Good or Bad PR?

Contact PR Rich Leigh with it by emailing or by Tweeting him @GoodandBadPR 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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