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Good and Bad PR: Avanti West Coast steams into first place, whilst Southern Water sinks to the bottom

Well hello there public relations fans and welcome along to another wander through the crazy world of good and bad PR campaigns. The “silly season” is in full swing and the stories that may not have seen the light of day in more serious news times are creeping through, and, like every other digital PR, I love this!

Good PR

Avanti West Coast

First up, for the Good PR of the week is the train company Avanti West Coast for its “marriage on a train” campaign. Once again, the simplest campaigns are the best. Team Choo Choo launched a competition where a lucky couple and 20 of their guests could get married on one of their trains. I love these kinds of campaigns because they give you multiple bites of the PR cherry. The competition launch got good pick up and then the wedding itself got great pick up to.

All the content that the media used looks like it was prepped and packaged by the rail company and all in all I think this will go on to become an award-winning campaign. Kudos to Avanti, some rare positive publicity for the rail industry and it certainly puts it top of the class in this week’s Good PR.

Sort of Good PR


In a first for this column, I am giving a kinda good and kinda Bad PR of the week to Twitter. Everyone’s favourite micro-blogging platform identified (and outed itself) that its image cropping algorithm was favouring attractive faces and predominantly white people. That is the bad bit. On the Good PR front though, it launched a paid competition for web-boffins to try and fix the algo, and they ruddy did it as well. Ace work all round for Twitter, great catch and great fix.

Bad PR

Southern Water

If Twitter was a soft Bad PR, the following is a hard Bad PR. Southern Water is in the shit, literally. It recently got fined £90m by OFWAT for dumping the brown stuff in the sea. OFWAT was then in the unusual situation of having to help Southern Water find a source of funding that could help the company get its water infrastructure up to scratch.

That source of funding turns out to be Australian investment bank Macquarie, the former owner of Thames Water, which it sold for £1.35bn in 2017. On face value, this seems like a smart move by Southern and OFWAT, but the media hauled Macquarie over the coals this week and revealed a number of issues around how it ran Thames Water. Allegations of removing billions of pounds via dividends, paying zero corporation tax and Macquarie was even in charge during a period when Thames Water was polluting the Thames river, for which the company was eventually fined £20m. This led to one analyst saying that this was the equivalent of “asking an arsonist to put out a fire”.

Southern Water is showing no signs of getting out of its current negative PR spiral and the latest move looks like it is only going to generate more negative publicity in the long term.

Let’s end on good news


A few final gongs for Good PR goes to Halifax for its least and most expensive cities to live in index. I loves a good City-Index I does and this absolutely flew out and was lapped up by the likes of ITV and BBC. Hats off to all the banking PR brains for landing it so well.


Similarly, after a rocky post-floatation few months, kudos to Deliveroo for a great set of results that got it some rave reviews from the city and positive press all round. Revenue up, average order value up and signs that this was not just a pandemic hit with sales continuing to go to plan!

You heard it here first!

Finally, word reaches me from “informed sources” that two of the biggest digital PR powerhouses of “The North” are swapping the air-kissing for daggers over the fact they may both end up having offices in the same building. Can you imagine the scrutiny that the reception visitor book will receive to try and understand who is pitching to who. One to watch and as your loyal gossip columnist, I will keep you informed.

Have a great week PR fans.

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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