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Good & Bad PR: Another week, another Tory scandal, but Uranus headlines cheer us up

Another week and another Tory scandal, and I find myself getting bored of writing “and surely this is one that Boris cannot survive” but he does. So, let’s move on from the obvious elephant in the room and just take a casual stroll through the rest of the losers and winners in the amazing world of public relations.

Good PR

NAS probe Uranus

The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS to its friends) wins the first Good PR of the week for managing to convince the mighty BBC to write a “Uranus” based comedy headline. NAS has told NASA (both science folk, the space ones can afford more vowels though) that it should better explore Uranus so that us humans can better understand other goings on in space.

The story went global, and subs and headline writers everywhere went to town. My personal favourite was Wired magazine which went with “scientists want to probe Uranus with a new spacecraft”… well played.

NASA didn’t formally reply, but if it did, it may have told NAS where to stick its idea.

Manchester Airport

My second Good PR goes to an unlikely source given all the goings on at its offices of late, but in terms of crisis communications, Manchester Airport had a solid performance in turning around news about consumer delays. As we all know, crisis communications is about getting ahead of the story and moving fast. In this case the airport CEO did both.

As media hysteria reached what I call Peak KB (Kay Burley) the airport moved quickly to offer a sacrificial lamb in the form of its MD, Karen Smart, being dispatched to spend more time with her family. I am sure that we all agree that it was her choice and she was in no way encouraged, however the CEO then issued a follow up statement that made the comms industry look on with pure joy in its eyes.

It hit the perfect tone, conveyed the seriousness of the situation and yet left enough wiggle room for future issues to come to light and be brushed away with “ah, I told you this could well happen”. Manchester Airport could become a case study for crisis communications lecturers in years to come, great work.

Bad PR

Starship Technologies

On to the first Bad PR of the week and a Starship Technologies delivery robot in Milton Keynes was accused of “going rogue” and running into a child whilst carrying out its daily duties. Starship is used by the likes of the Co-op and Starbucks to deliver goods, and whilst the story makes for a good headline, the detail makes for slightly less dramatic reading.

The child that was pushed “in front of his mum” by the robot, was aged two and having raised three kids of my own, I know what a lurching-grabby disaster they can be at that age (as does an unnamed penguin at Longleat Safari Park who was once viciously assaulted by one of my twin-toddlers when the flightless creature committed the evil sin of refusing to be fed). I also know how attractive a moving shiny white thing can be in the eyes of a two year old, so I suspect there is more to this story (which was generated entirely from social media posts by the mum) than meets the eye.

The evil robot apparently even carried on with its delivery round without stopping to say sorry and goodbye to its new friend, which also annoyed the parent. Starship announced an inquiry where I think we can all guess the outcome of no further action being required.

More good PR

Department of Transport

Sticking with auto-bots, the Department for Transport won some great headlines this week with the announcement that users of self-driving cars will not face prosecution if their car has a crash. Even better, changes to the Highways Code means that driverless car users can also watch TV whilst being chauffeured about.

The losers in the crash situation will become the insurance company of the car and not the user themselves. The Conservative Government has always been keen to be viewed as a global pioneer of the driverless car industry and whilst moves like this lead the way, you cannot help but feel that having a seemingly driverless government is maybe taking it a step too far.

Final Bad PR

P&O Ferries

The final Bad PR of the week goes, once again, to P&O Ferries, offa “evil employer” fame. You would think that the powers that be at the boat co would have briefed everyone in the company to be on best behaviour. Furthermore, you would also think that it would have given special instructions to the agency staff it has brought in at a cheaper price to replace its proper workforce to really be careful and behave like model citizens.

Clearly not. A load of agency staff hired by P&O Ferries went on the piss and came back to do their jobs in a state “not within company guidelines”. The staff were sacked, the unions had an open goal, and I can only assume the ferry PR team went apoplectic at the C-Suite. That brand is lucky that people don’t have much choice but to use it or it would have been out of business the day after the staff announcement debacle.

Ending on a good note…


Let’s end on a high note though and the final Good PR goes to the globally loved brand Guinness. This week saw the launch of its new Cold Brew Coffee Beer and as you would expect, the media coverage was next level.

This was helped by a simple but super-slick social media activation that resulted in the media hits landing at the exact same time as the social media success. Would you expect anything less from such a phenomenal brand? The golden froth on the top of the drink had the media highlighting in many of the stories that Guinness was one of the success brands of the lockdowns, with sales increasing by 30%. Nice one you legends, and all freebies gratefully received at <address redacted by the editor>.

Have a great week everyone.

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 on email

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