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Good and Bad PR: A terrible week for Oxfam

Good PR  

Zizi is tops

Italian restaurant chain Zizzi has been one of the many brands to jump on board the Valentine’s Day PR wagon. As one of the key times of year for stunts, I’ve been on the lookout for any that the media has covered and this one kept appearing.

The brand decided to announce a move that aimed to temporarily ban bad dating etiquette. We’ve all been there; waiting in a restaurant for the food to arrive with your other half, nose deep in your individual mobile phones, not even acknowledging one another… let alone the grub that’s in front of you.

Zizzi introduced a ‘no phone zone’ in its Richmond branch in London on Valentine’s Day, so on Tuesday diners were required to hand their phones over to staff members for safekeeping whilst they gave their friends or lovers their full, undivided attention. Of course, there was also an area for those diners who didn’t want to partake in this movement (and I doubt many people did) but the announcement was enough to hit headlines.

If successful, Zizzi said it would roll it out across its 150 UK restaurants, but we all know that’s PR-speak for “it’ll probably never happen because we will have got the coverage we want from this by then.”

The story featured on the Metro, The Sun, Daily Mirror, Independent, Express and more, which was perfect for getting Zizzi in people’s minds around a time when they were likely to be booking a table for two!

Generous Greggs

Greggs also got in on the Valentine’s action by launching a fine dining experience at some branches, where couples could sign up for a £15, four-course set meal and a bottle of Prosecco. You could book through Open Table, but the slots went quickly thanks to some pretty impressive coverage levels: Cosmopolitan, Time Out (who reviewed the experience), loads of student press (a good target market), Express and plenty of regional pick up in the areas where it was taking place (London, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle and Cardiff).

Bad PR  

It has to be Oxfam

Oxfam had an absolute shocker of a week, which isn’t something you normally expect to hear about such a seemingly noble charity. It all came to light that aid workers at Oxfam had allegedly paid for sex during a mission in Haiti to help the victims of the 2010 earthquake that killed 220,000 people, injured 300,000 and left 1.5 million people there homeless.

The Times newspaper reported on the news after gaining information from a source, which pointed towards “serious sexual misconduct by a group of male aid workers”. Apparently, parties were thrown at a guesthouse that Oxfam rented, where prostitutes were present (some of which were apparently as young as 14-16 years old).

UN guidelines for aid workers and Oxfam’s code of conduct ban paying for sex and this scandal has massively damaged the charity. However, a staff training handbook published in 2006 has a FAQ section in which the question “In the frequently asked questioned section of the staff handbook, published in 2006, the charity answers the question:

"If Oxfam takes such a strong stance on gender equity, why hasn't it banned the use of sex workers?"

The answer?

"No, we haven't banned the use of prostitutes, but we strongly discourage it. We don't ban it, because we cannot infringe on people's civil liberties, and we know it would be impractical to think we could enforce a total ban. We also, in a number of countries, support partner organisations that work with sex workers to ensure their basic rights; so we are definitely not in any position to tell sex workers how to live their lives."

It has since come out that there’s some kind of issue with Oxfam CRB checking its volunteer workers in its charity shops, with claims of sexual harassment by staff on girls as young as 14 surfacing (123 allegations in total).

Actress Minnie Driver has quit her role as celebrity ambassador and Oxfam’s deputy chief executive Penny Lawrence has stepped down from her role amidst the scandal. More than 1,000 people have cancelled regular direct debit donations to the charity, so it’s going to be hard for Oxfam to recover from this.

Written by Shannon Peerless, 10 Yetis @ShazzaYeti on Twitter
Seen any good or bad PR lately? You know what to do @10Yetis on Twitter or on email

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