Good and Bad PR: The worst PR award goes to BoJo this week (no surprise there)

Well hello there public relations fans. In stark contrast to last week, where I was able to easily ignore the Bad PR side of things, this week it has been impossible to ignore.

Bad PR

Boris Johnson

We have to start with Boris and we have to talk about that party. For probably the first time in this recent slew of Bad-Boris’ing he probably wasn’t, technically, in breach of the Covid rules because the bash was at his house, and in his garden. Both are places where he was allowed to be. What he has not done though, is prevent the party from happening and this was his mistake.

It is a mistake because millions of people were adhering correctly to the rules that his team had come up with and possibly doing so because they felt everyone was in the same boat. A mistake because thousands of people were dying and their relatives were not able to attend either the funerals or even more heart-breaking in many cases, be with their loved ones on the run up to their passing. It was a mistake because, and this could be the most upsetting and frustrating aspect for many out there, many of us had put our lives on hold, with severe consequences, whilst those in power felt they did not need to hold themselves to the same rules.

Everything about this story screams wrong and this is why Boris, for probably the first time, looks on shaky ground. In fact, in political terms I think he is actually a dead man walking. The Tories will now pin all the negative stories they can on him, and they are considerable, before finally getting rid just before the next election. These bad stories will be tax rises, fuel cost increases, energy cost increases, interest rate increases, PPE contract mismanagement and probably and most notably, the poor Brexit trade negotiations and subsequent deals.

A new broom will then be promised, to sweep away the failures of BoJo and this is where the real public relations battle will begin, to see who controls that new broom, Dishy Rishi or Liz Truss. It will be interesting to watch the image-management teams from both sides try and slowly manoeuvre their candidates away from their respective public-perception weaknesses. 

Either way, Boris has had it and it’s back to Have I got News For You, where he may get a ton of abuse, but it will be better than what happened at this week’s Prime Ministers Question Time.

Ovo energy

It is hard to sneak any Good PR in this week, especially when you see the furore that Ovo energy and its SSE “hug your cat” blog post created. Yes, this is 100% Bad PR for the energy company but, from a pure PR perspective, the comms team at Ovo deserve huge credit for the way that it handled the crisis. Quick to apologise, quick to promise action and quick to get statements out, if the team is brave enough, a Crisis Comms Award entry beckons.

Ovo was hugely unfortunate with the timing of the story and also the fact it became an easy target for our dearest politicians to piggyback on. It gave politicians a welcome distraction from dealing with secret party allegations, Covid management and Brexit trade deal abuse. Nonetheless, it was Bad PR, and something that could have easily been avoided if one of the Ovo content sign-off team had taken a moment to think about how it may have played out in the eyes of its less fortunate customers.

Good PR

Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce gets my first Good PR of the week because of its business turnaround success in terms of a spike in sales. How Rolls-Royce communicated the reasons behind the spike were, maybe just in my mind, in poor taste I felt. I paraphrase but it sounded like the luxury car brand was saying “people died and that made us money”.

This is not the first company to have come out of Covid having seen an uplift in sales as a direct consequence of the pandemic, but as a luxury brand, well, I would expect something far classier in a media statement. In essence, Rolls-Royce said that its customers realised, because of the pandemic, that life was for living, and buying one of their cars was part of that living. Amazing work on the business turn-around though.

Good and Bad PR

Terry Smith and Unilever

The gloopy world of mayonnaise was thrust into the spotlight this week as Terry Smith, the manager of a £29bn investment fund, single handedly created Bad PR for Unilever by attacking the company’s “ludicrous” obsession with social and green issues. The catalyst for the attack seems to be Unilever’s announcement that its stable of brands such as Hellmann’s mayonnaise needed “higher purpose”.

In possibly the funniest quote to come out of The City since a banker said “that Theranos looks a good bet”, Smith commented “The Hellmann’s brand has existed since 1913 so we would guess that by now consumers have figured out its purpose (spoiler alert - salads and sandwiches)”.

There is a serious point to be made on both sides of this, but Unilever’s trading performance has been down and its dabbling with geo-politics, such as refusing to sell Ben and Jerry’s in regions that it considers to be “inconsistent with its values” is surely a distraction from its own higher purpose of, shifting products. Good PR for Terry Smith, Bad PR for Unilever.

Got it right or wrong? Let me know over on the Twitter, @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 and will be automatically entered into a monthly prize draw to win a PRmoment t-shirt!


PRmoment Awards 2022 PRmoment Patreon