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Good and Bad PR: Best and Worst PR of the Year

What a year it has been dear reader. Would any year be complete however, without an annual round up by a columnist? No it wouldn’t.

So here we are, me taking a look back through the last 12 months’ worth of columns on the good, bad and ugly of the PR year.

I started to collate a list of the some of the best angry messages I had received from muggles and corporate PR types who had disagreed with what I have said, but once I had run out of toes and fingers to count them all on, I gave up.

Let’s Go… as our US colleagues would say.

Worst PR

MPs

Politicians, not surprisingly, had the toughest year in PR. Boris finally announced he was stepping down as an MP in the summer, bringing a curtain down on years of quality Good and Bad PR columns. A huge loss to column writers everywhere. Fortunately, we have Trump and Musk to keep us going.

Brewdog

Brand wise, the likes of Brewdog kept us filled with stories of the negative kind through the year.

Best PR

Ofgem, Ofwat, Ofcom and Competition and Markets Authority

It is not all bad though. The various government “Ofs” have had a strong year. Ofgem, Ofwat, Ofcom and even the Competition and Markets Authority have had a great year in PR.

In these tough times consumers really need the government regulators and alike to stick up for us and all of these bodies have done amazing things to try and keep, fuel, electricity and food prices down. I doff my cap.

But let’s take a chronological look.

Diary of Good and Bad for 2024

January

The start of the year was dominated by Prince Harry (he was never far from the headlines throughout) for the launch of THAT book. You can’t help but give him good PR for increasing sales volumes of his narrative of events in Royal Life.

Brandalism took to the billboards in mid Jan for a spoof car advert campaign that raised eyebrows but won lots of positive column inches. M&S started what became a really powerful year for the high street brand by announcing new stores and job creation.

Royal Mail started the year badly thanks to an entirely unprepared appearance by its CEO at a MP enquiry. It came across as a bit clueless and it seemed to set a trend for other brands to struggle during the political interrogation.

Later in the year, the Asda-owning Issa brothers also got skewered whilst being grilled on fuel prices at its pumps. So easy to avoid through careful crisis communications prep!

February

The start of February saw National Grid’s first real push to get domestic electricity users to scale down their usage during peak demand times and the message really landed well. Over 1m end users agreed to use less electricity during the peak demand hour and were told they could earn up to £100 off their bill.

The reality of the bill savings were a little different. For example, I did this with my family two weeks ago and despite making an 85% saving on electricity usage, we got just £1.54 removed from our bill. The £100 saving must be for those who have a fully heated cannabis plant factory in the loft that you always see in the media.

February also saw Microsoft pump another, rumoured, $10bn into OpenAI, and apart from the CEO issue that plagued the AI brand in late 2023, it was a very strong year (no, it didn’t write this column, there would be less typos!).

Rio Tinto received my full ire again in February. This time, it lost a chunk of radioactive material over in Australia and took an age to admit it.

The oil companies waited until the very cold month of February to announce their record profits, against a backdrop of some households having to decide between warmth or food, the announcements didn’t go down so well.

Lidl also fired up its little book of legal PR gimmicks and took on Tesco because it felt its club card promo branding was too close to the discount retailer’s brand. M&S stroked the caterpillar (not a euphemism) and breathed a sigh of relief that Lidl had moved on to target another brand.

March

March brought us the launch of the world’s first powdered beer, which got all the media headlines, but no one has heard of it since. Gary Lineker angered the Tory and right-wing press, got dropped for his social media comments and nearly caused the BBC TV channels to shut down thanks to a staff walkout.

He was reinstated, told not to do it again, but the same story is emerging now, in December, too. Amazon and Meta announced some huge job cuts in March, and on the back of Zoom doing the same in February, it was a pretty bleak two months for the tech sector.

All the tech companies had “stocked up” on staff, thinking that Covid online use would be the norm. When the muggles were unleashed, we slowly turned back away from internet life and the tech companies became over staffed.

April

April was a fairly subdued month when it came to media hits and misses. Shrinkflation hit the headlines because Whiskas got outed for some sneaky cat food pouch size reduction, but keeping the prices high. This led to more brands getting a boot for doing the same.

TikTok had its CEO hauled in front of a US Senate panel for a grilling for, basically, accusations of spying on the good people of America. The CEO absolutely nailed all the politicians and made the rest of the world realise that maybe the short form video platform was not as bad as we all originally thought.

Greggs stole the show for me though. Britain’s best beige food supplier to the masses tried to apply for a 24-hour licence at its Leicester Square branch. The local council said no, saying it may encourage ne’er do wells to hang around (throwing pasties at each other). Greggs came out of it really well and compromise was eventually found.

May

May was a complete write off in PR land because King Charles got himself on the throne, officially. May was the month that also showed the first cracks in the Phil and Holly saga that went on to… well, we all know how that ended up.

June

June gave golfers a jaw-dropping month when LIV Golf and the PGA announced that, after much war, they were merging. At the time of writing, the merger has yet to happen and won’t hit its own deadline of December 31st 2023. Still, it all looked good on paper, although the warring has carried on behind the scenes.

Humans also collectively had a bad month in June. Scientists of the climate variety claimed that the Earth was slightly on the wonk due to fossil fuel usage issues, rather than cake eating. Then, on top of this, scientists of the history variety discovered that ancient humans used to eat each other. Wow, June was bad for the human race.

July

Threads arrived to much fanfare in July of this year. I don’t know how it’s looking nowadays but after going on it around eight times, I gave up. I mean, I love Twitter, warts and all, and the Zuck platform may emerge victorious, but right now, it's crap. Nothing ever came of the Zuck vs Musk fight either, sad times.

Australian cricketers also caused outrage in July with their entirely unsporting tactics for winning. They stumped one of our players and shit-housery was declared. It even caused the egg-tie brigade to nearly have a punch-up with the entire Oz team in the pavilion!

August

Britain’s polluted rivers were placed on the global map in August thanks to a water company standing accused of pumping raw sewage into the water path of an international triathlon. Something like 57 competitors ended up being ill. What a country we live in.

Fortunately, The Scout Association wiped the UK off the front pages thanks to its international Jamboree being a complete flop. Poor weather, accusations of sexual misconduct and a Covid outbreak ruined the event. Let that be an end to it, I say.

September

September saw this very own columnist go a little bit mainstream thanks to my highlighting Wightlink Ferry’s hilarious “Mercedes” advert. I shared it on Twitter and before you could say “Hashtag Funny”, it was getting millions of views, shares and making appearances in the mainstream media. Still laugh when I watch it now.

Amazon won major kudos in September too, just by bringing back Neighbours. I have not watched an episode since the day it was relaunched on the steaming giant, but that is not the point dear reader.

October

The electric car industry was set back by five years in October when a Scottish electric car owner claimed he was being kidnapped by his self-driving car. He called the police during his kidnapping, and they had to cause it to crash in order to rescue him. The car company didn’t comment, the Scottish car owner did!

October also saw the Captain Tom family finish off their Bad PR year with the news that they had to knock down the extension and sauna that they had built using some of the money he raised on his walk. The family tried to do a recovery interview to get their side across but stormed out of that as well.

November

November brought us the exciting news that KFC was changing up its recipe for chips. It unveiled the new taste with much fanfare and the UK media gobbled it up.

Finally, and a fitting way to end given the overall state of the UK right now, we finish with the story about Britain’s loneliest sheep getting rescued. Once rescued it was taken to a farm to recover/reacclimatise to having friends. Obviously, the animal bothering brigade could not have this though and they protested that the sheep would be overwhelmed.

The sheep was moved AGAIN, to a new, quieter farm and recovery venue. You could not make this up, could ewe?

That is the Good and Bad PR year in a nutshell. As always, massive thanks to Daney, the long-suffering editor of this column. I apologise for all the late filing and spellping misquakes.

I hope you all have a great Christmas and New Year and hope to you again in January 2024, when we start all over again, and maybe with a bit more positivity, from me at least.

I love you all, mostly.

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

For more terrible PR, read our Top PR Crises of the Year

Thanks to Meltwater, Good and Bad PR's data and insights supplier.

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