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Good and Bad PR: Dirty PR awards go to UK water authorities, the Environment Agency and the Scout Movement

Here I am again, back with the latest hits and shits from the world of public relations. Poo is definitely a strong feature in this week’s Good and Bad PR.

Bad PR

UK water authorities

Our starting story is about a bunch of professional triathletes who travelled from all around the world to compete in sunny Sunderland. 57 of the 2,000 entrants in the World Triathlon Series got the runny bum treatment after the race.

The suspected cause? The amount of human waste being pumped into the sea near where the swim element of the triathlon took place. The Environment Agency tested the water before the race and found 39 times the normal amount of E.coli in the readings. Sadly, it didn’t report its findings until after the race had took place.

Chief suspect in all of this is Northumbrian Water but it has said it has nothing to do with it. It certainly had zero record of discharging anything it should not have anywhere near the stretch of the beach where it happened.

Anyway, global elite athletes are now ridiculing the UK water quality across social media and we in the UK now look like a right bunch of dirty wallies. Who gets bad PR for this?

It’s a tough one but I think it must be the Environment Agency for not flagging it sooner and Northumbrian Water for not doing more to ensure it has a more accurate reading on these types of things.

Scout Movement

Sticking with filth, the World Scouting Jamboree has had a shocker over in South Korea. Storms, downpours, heatwaves, monsoon, Covid outbreak and accusations of inappropriate behaviour towards the kids that that the Scouting movement is fighting accusations about globally anyway.

As you can probably tell, I am not a fan of the Scouting movement. All I am going to say is that my Akela was a (court proven) wrong-un.

All in all, it has been a disaster for the Scouts and what it is more, it has even led to some criticism for Saint Bear of Grylls who has had an unfair rep bashing just by his association with the youth organisation.

The South Korean scouts all withdrew themselves entirely after a male member of the Thai scouting team “accidentally” wandered into the ladies showers (uh-huh, that old chestnut). The South Koreans said that not enough was being done to protect female scouts. I mean, you could not make this up, right?

In the end, the jamboree had to up-tents and move to a new site but by that time the UK, US, Singapore and New Zealand woggle wearers had all removed themselves anyway. Terrible PR, on the global stage, for the Scouting world.

Good PR


Wow, I need to get off my soapbox and find a positive story. Over we head to the usual bearers of light and positivity (checks notes) it is of course Tesco.

The £753m profit making supermarket giant has announced that it is making the discounted and reduced priced food it sells more visible in store. In addition to this it is trying to convince muggles that just because it is reduced in price, does not make it bad for you.

It unleashed the catchy slogan “Reduced in price, Just as nice”. It works and the UK media loved it too. Food waste is a serious issue in this country and anything a brand like Tesco does is not only a positive move, but will also be copied by the other food retailers (because they will want the media love as well).

A great move by Tesco and brilliant to see during the cost-of-living crisis that we are all facing.

Back to Bad PR

Crooked House Pub

Back to the bad and Dudley Council is, so far, the only winner to be coming out of the Crooked House Pub fire and demolition story that has turned into a terrible saga.

The pub has successfully survived everything that was thrown at it (war, economic uncertainty) since it was built in the 1760s. Less than a week after a developer bought it and planned to apply for an “alternative use”, it burnt down.

These convenient fires happen a lot in the UK, especially around newly acquired buildings where developers want a change of use. How do I know? I have worked with developers previously who have been faced with this problem. More often than not, vandalism, or people just cocking about are the cause, as is so often the case with any empty building.

In this case though, everyone is outraged and declaring shenanigans. The council is particularly miffed that less than a day after the fire, when it attended a site meeting with the new owners and seemingly agreed it should not be knocked down, it was then knocked down. This move itself does seem very odd.

The new owners have not been outed yet, nor has the application for the change of use. This means that there are more than a few more elements to this story that will keep fanning the flames, pardon the pun.

The baddies in this? So far it is the unnamed developers. My bet is that block of flats or houses will end up on the site at some point… it is a story to keep an eye on.


A few mentions in dispatches this week. A few of you may remember my recent deep dive into Boris Johnson and his chequered media history. I think I am getting close to doing the same with Drax.

Its recent global scrapes are worth a Google. It is doing lots of successful campaigns to try to counter some of the bad press of 2022, but try it might, it can’t stop the bad news coming. It is going to be a great case study for future generations of PR people, in how a big brand corporate machine tries to keep its reputation in the green). As a comms professional, I really admire its attempts.

Also, a mention for Cornish Lithium which secured a £53m round of funding to grow its lithium mining operations in Cornwall. A great boost for the region and a great bit of positive news for the UK as a whole.

Got it right or wrong, you know where to find me… just not on Threads please.

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

UK water authorities image courtesy of: Environment Agency

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