Good and Bad PR: PR saves people’s lives and money this week, but Santander needs a prod from BBC

In the week where Boris departed and we all got Truss’d up, let’s take a stroll through the world of public relations from the last seven days.

Shall we begin by celebrating a few of our own?

Good PR

DebtBuffer

The first Good PR goes to DebtBuffer via Tom (can I have a follow link) Johnson (the answer is no on this occasion). Tom is the PR for debt help website DebtBuffer.com. This campaign needs celebrating as it is the perfect mix of reactive/newsjacking, research via a Freedom of Information request and pure hard PR sell-in grafting. DebtBuffer looked to see what percentage of the money that consumers with prepayment meters were spending on repaying debt. The percentage was high, in some cases 90%.

The media, desperate for any angle that could keep the cost-of-living crisis story going jumped on this, and jumped on it hard. It is probably easier to identify which media didn’t run the story rather than listing who did. It got all the biggies. What also makes this story go in at the top of Good PR this week is that it also triggered a real-life policy change by an energy company and not many of us in this sector can make those sorts of career claims. Nice one to DebtBuffer and Tom!

Electrical Safety First

If Tom saved people money then Joshua Drew, PR legend from the charity Electrical Safety First (ESF) maybe pipped him by trying to save lives with his PR campaign. E-bikes are no longer the product of choice for just the lazy and as they have slipped into the mainstream they have also brought a dangerous by-product into homes; lethal e-bike chargers.

ESF found that a number of e-bike chargers being sold by the likes of Amazon, Ebay, Wish.com and AliExpress failed to meet UK safety standards. All the big brands dusted off their crisis communications playbooks and announced “urgent investigations” but only after the story had appeared across the likes of the BBC, Daily Mail, Metro, Times, various big ticket broadcast outlets and… you get the gist, everywhere.

This campaign has provoked change and once again demonstrates the power of PR. So the next time some muggle has a pop for your career choice, point them to these two kinds of campaigns that are making a real difference to society.

Enough of the love-in, it doesn’t suit me, and back to the brickbats.

Not-so-bad PR

Camelot

Ever since a famous PR industry bigwig complained to the editors of this fine industry news site about my putting Camelot in the Bad PR section a little while ago, I have strived to continue to highlight the sacked lottery operator’s issues. Petty? Moi?

This week’s Camelot mention is actually a good one though. Realising the error of its ways, it has dropped one of its legal challenges that was aimed at preventing the smooth handing over of the lottery licence to its competitor Allwyn. It is still going after The Gambling Commission for £500m damages for what Camelot believes was the wrong decision to hand the licence over to Allwyn, but at least the handover process can now begin.

The court case for the £500m claim is due to start in January 2023 at the earliest and this gives both parties time to come to a sensible agreement. The Gambling Commission cannot afford to lose such a pivotal legal battle, and this makes me think there will be serious behind-the-scenes pressure on Camelot to move on. The kind of pressure that surely only a PR industry bigwig can command.

Bad PR

Santander

Santander got itself embroiled in an embarrassing climb-down situation over the last week courtesy of a story that initially blew up on social media. A lady had her phone and bank card stolen from her Virgin gym. The thieves managed to use her banking app in combination with the bank card to go on a spending spree. Quite how, no one really knows or can explain, but it happened and social media did its thing.

The banking giant went into loss-making-prevention mode and declared shenanigans around the pin number being shared by the consumer and refused to refund the money spent by the thieves. Rather than doing the right thing and promising to investigate this further it would appear that Santander closed the virtual case leaving the muggle no option but to take to social media.

A BBC Radio 4 Money Box interview later and the bank had reopened the case, refunded the money and offered compensation. I can imagine that before the BBC and various other outlets got in touch the bank had ran the issue through its largely automated and AI driven software and arrived at the “computer says no” conclusion. Once a human with common sense actually took on the case, it became a different story.

Yet another example of our desire for business efficiency and automation trampling all over the opportunity for a successful, tried-and-tested, common sense approach.

Got it right or wrong? You know where to find me, @10Yetis


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.


ESG Awards The intersection of Data, Insight and PR Planning PR Analytics 2022 SUBSCRIBE NOW