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Good and Bad PR: Pantomime villain Musk does good! Unilever, not so much …

Well hello there and how was your Easter? I enjoyed mine very much, thanks for asking. Here we are again though, back to the world of public relations, specifically the good, the bad and somewhere in the middle.

Good PR

Elon Musk

Let’s begin with the pantomime villain that everyone seemingly loves to hate, Elon Musk. Just a few weeks after he switched the logo away from the blue bird for shits’n’giggles he was actually demonstrating a smart comms move.

When you are a brand up against it, the comms team will often advise to do one big interview to get back out there, rather than doing a load of smaller fire-fighting interviews and this is what Musk successfully did, albeit in his own unique style.

He took part in a BBC interview that was held on Twitter Spaces and it actually went very well for the billionaire. The Beeb journo, James Clayton, came in with a few clear agenda points around his own perception that hate speech had risen since Musk took over and the platform labelling the official BBC Twitter accounts as “state owned” rather than there much preferred “publicly funded”.

Clayton didn’t really land a punch. Musk said Twitter was to get it right re the BBC label and when he asked Clayton to give him examples of the hate speech, the man from Auntie didn’t have any of merit and quickly moved on.

Yes, Musk is an eccentric, weed-smoking, fire-from-the-hip kinda guy, but it is clear he has as many fans as he does haters. Combine his successful BBC interview with the fact his space business is well on the way to hitting its travel-to-Mars-plan for NASA and he really has had a great week on the PR front.

Bad PR


Another brand that has had quite a few mentions in this column over the years is Unilever and this week it was back in the Bad PR books thanks to shareholder activism kicking off again. The bottom line, Unilever has had a very hit-and-miss few years.

If the FMCG giant had successfully pulled off its attempt to acquire the GSK consumer healthcare division, I would imagine that any shareholder revolt would have been nipped in the bud. But it didn’t get the GSK deal over the line and the bigger shareholders are kicking off.

Shares have not recovered from that collapsed deal and it now stands accused of not actually getting a strong ROI from a number of its recent acquisitions, although it does not help itself by not really disclosing the prices it has paid for several brand purchases.

Unilever also doesn’t help itself by refusing to comment when approached by the big media titles which are asking for reaction to the growing revolt.

The brand, (which I actually love having worked for it early in my career) is a massively successful beast of a business, but unless it gets on the front foot from a corporate comms perspective, it risks being split up and slowly being shrunk down, just to satisfy shareholder greed. Bad PR this week, but I cannot help but feel it is a gnat’s hair away from returning to greatness.

Good PR

Michael Jordan

Moving back to Good PR and looking at another brand with a hugely positive legacy, we turn to Michael Jordan. This week not only did a pair of his basketball trainers sell for £1.8m, but it was also revealed that he earns circa $400m in “passive income” from his brand tie-up with Nike.

Whilst he has all the sporting talent, it is clear from the newly released film “Air” that it is his mum who has all the commercial tekkers. It is her hard negotiation skills that drove the deal with the trainer giant that changed the way top-level athletes “earned” revenue from their clothing and footwear endorsements.

Air is a strong feel-good movie and I urge you to get down to your local movie-hall and give it a watch.

Bad PR

Dalai Lama

Whilst Jordan is soaring high, the Dalai Lama crashed down to earth from his lofty religious position courtesy of a very strange interaction with a pre-tween boy that ended up with a formal apology being issued by Team Buddhism.

Before the Catholic Church starts yelling “see, it is not just us”, it looks like, in this case, the Tibetan cultural tradition of “sucking tongues” has been taken out of context. Very oddly though, the Buddhist comms team did not make any reference to this and just issued a flat ‘apology and move on’ statement.

It took the Lama’s own fans to make it known that tongue-sucking was a Tibetan tradition, so maybe Matt Hancock was just channelling his inner Buddhist when that footage emerged of him in a cosy embrace in his office. I jest.


Let’s end on a very sad potential brand death. Tupperware, the iconic brand from the 70s has announced that it is circling the drain and needs investment to survive.

Best known for “keys in the bowl” parties of the 70s and 80s and most recently, for being the butt of comedy sketches around it being one poor stacking incident away from spilling out of kitchen cupboards and flooding houses, the brand has been with us for years and surely it won’t be left to die.

It was a brave move for it to admit just how much it is struggling, but if it helps it live to come back stronger then it could also be a great PR move.

Got it right or wrong? You know where to find me.

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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