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Good and Bad PR: DfE looks inept, Loch Ness scientists look like fools but Sky Sports looks great

Have you missed me? I didn’t think so. I hope you all had a glorious summer of fun and frolics. We are back down to earth with a bump and the kids going back to school has triggered the media machine to fire up once again.

Bad PR

Department for Education

We start with school and the concrete story. To be honest, the story is nothing new. It came via an earlier review into hospital buildings being identified as having the same issue several years ago.

The fundamental issue is not the fault of this Government. It likely stems from over 30 years of a lack of investment in the buildings and dare I say it, cost cutting from the very start of the buildings being built.

The area that triggers the Department for Education receiving Bad PR is the way the message was communicated. Knowing some of the fine people who work in comms for the DfE, I firmly believe there were outside pressures that caused the message to be rushed.

The most likely reason is a media outlet threatening to go live with the story before the DfE was ready. Simply put, the department should have put the full list of affected schools out from the start. It would have killed one of the major talking points that the 24/7 media dwelled on.

The fall-out from not doing this was that the likes of the BBC, especially across regional media, were calling round schools and head teachers to try and find out what schools had this concrete in place. This put unwanted media pressure on already stressed school workers who were racing to get the schools open in time for the new term.

I am not saying that putting the list out would have killed the story dead. I am saying that it would have certainly kept the media focus on the DfE and its comms team would have handled the fall out far better than the school and local authorities.

I am not even going to address the Gillian Keegan, mic left on “accident”. I think that it will have helped her personal brand. It made her look human (everyone slates their bosses right) and made more of the general public aware of who she was.

Good PR

Sky Sports

Sticking with having a mic on, Good PR goes to Sky Sports and the body who look after Premier League football referees (PGMOL). The pair have joined forces to do a joint show, presented by Michael Owen, that reviews referee and VAR decisions, where the in-game recordings are played back.

Suffice to say, the players involved in the incidents shown so far have really put the bleep machine to the test, but apart from that it is a great move. It is brilliant because there needs to be more transparency about the decision-making process, especially given the financial cost of wrong decisions to the teams who lose games because of errors.

I also love the move because I think it will have a positive effect on the grass-roots game. My gut feel is that the players will be far more careful about their interaction with the referees and their assistants if they know they are being recorded. After all, most players have their own brand to protect and grow.

If professional players start watching their language and behaviour, then I hope it will float down to the kids leagues too. I coach and referee my own kids’ football team games. The swearing from the 11-year-olds is horrific (and I don’t just mean my own kids!), as is the rolling around, kissing the badge when they score, covering their mouths as they leave the pitch (like Sky Sports is watching and recording). This has to be a good move, right?

Last Bad PR

Loch Ness ‘scientists’

I am going to end on Bad PR for the assembled group of (self-appointed) science bods who carried out what was billed as the largest hunt for the Loch Ness Monster in recent weeks. What a shower.

What could have been a fantastic media story for all the right reasons, became something like a comedy film.

They clearly had zero media advisors. The camera crews of the world’s media turned up on the banks of Loch Ness to find a group of jean-clad boffins who seemed a tad disorganised to say the least.

If I had been advising them, they would have all had white lab coats on, regardless of them being pointless for sitting in a boat, they need to look the part. Some of their clothes looked home-made at best. If I had to guess, I think they would have also smelt of Malted Milk biscuits. At least have a shave lads!

Anyway, not only did they not look the part, but they also biffed up several key elements. They reported that mysterious sounds had in fact been heard from the waters of the Loch whilst they were doing their “science”. Sadly, not one of them turned the recording device on. Bad weather was blamed and to be fair, it was very bad weather!

There was then a hastily released image of a suspect creature that was captured on the banks of the Loch. It was captured using a thermal camera and although I am not formally trained in the art of spotting mythical creatures, the very grainy image looked suspiciously like a cow staring at them from very far away.

All was not lost. Just when they were packing up their flux-capacitor and kryptonite safety devices, they were saved. It wasn’t through any of their own work though.

A lady who originally hailed from Japan revealed that she captured 15 pics of a strange creature bobbing around in the water when she visited in 2018.

She did not want to come forward before now as she feared she would be ridiculed, but the global story of the scientists doing their thing made her stand up and be counted.

We shall ignore that “experts” claimed the pics were just a massive sturgeon (of the fish variety) and instead celebrate the scientists for triggering the revelation in the first place, nice one Team Science.

Got it right or wrong, you know where to find me, @10Yetis on The Twitter.

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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