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Good and Bad PR: Uber messes up, Simon Cowell triumphs

Good day to all you public relations professionals. Andy Barr (40 years old, Capricorn) reporting in with this week’s dose of brickbats and backslaps from the world of PR. It goes without saying that those responsible for the weather here in the UK should get the highest praise, although the crowds embarking on tube journeys may not be as happy.

Bad PR

Uber mess
Let’s get the bad stuff out the way first. The world’s largest taxi-but-not-a-taxi-but-is-a-taxi-co has had another bad week with some in the PR industry* saying its reputation is Uber-fucked. Travis Kalanick (excellent potential for a Bond Villain name) has had to step down as the CEO of Uber because, well, he is more gaffe-prone than a UK MP, a tough goal to beat. From derogatory comments about women, pinging company-wide missives about who staff can and can’t have sex with, stealing other companies technology (allegedly) and generally running the business in the same way my seven-year-old son approaches his negotiations with his younger siblings (fear and terror tactics).

 After months of negative stories, he really had no option but to step down. It will be interesting to see if the brand reputation can now start to recover, although the wide geographic nature of the business means this is going to be super hard to turn around.

Rage against rage
Next up, a controversial one. I get the reasoning behind “Day of Rage” in London but I personally think that its timing is pretty poor given that the emergency services in London have had unprecedented amounts of work to do in recent weeks, and quite frankly, they need a bloody break. This protest is in addition to three other protests that are planned on the day I write this (21 June), no doubt stretching the operation capacity of London’s emergency services even further. Coverage across the media has been mainly factual with very few news outlets coming out either way to show support or criticism for “Day of Rage”, but a quick check of social media platform comments (always a fun barometer of public opinion) shows that many would agree that this week is not the right week for this..

Good PR

On to the far more positive stories of the week.

Cheers for Cowell
He often gets berated for his surly nature, but Simon Cowell deserves a massive pat on the back for co-ordinating and releasing the Grenfell Tower charity single, and doing so in double-quick time. Against a backdrop of slow activity from government and council departments, political mud-slinging distracting people from the real issues and, most importantly, a lack of overall support for the victims of the fire, Cowell has stood out like a beacon of positivity and action. The song was released on Wednesday morning on iTunes and Spotify and went straight to number one on the “Top Songs” section on the Apple platform. At the time of writing, over 180 news outlets have written up this story and got behind the song; what an amazing piece of work. Nothing but praise for Simon Cowell and him using his public relations machine for the power of good.

Hooray for Huw
Given the sad goings on of the last few months, let’s try and end on a lighter note. Big PR kudos goes to news presenter Huw Edwards who styled out sitting in silence, staring at a camera, on BBC News at 10 for a whopping four minutes, a lifetime in the world of TV. This was down to a technical glitch according to the Beeb. It spawned all the usual Twitter hashtag funnies with my favourite being @HuwsAtTen (spoof account) posting a screen grab of the error message being displayed to viewers with the caption “still better than ITV”. Huw eventually came back to life and settled us back in with the understated line, "A few technical problems tonight for which we apologise”. Huw, you are a legend and the PR community salutes you.

Written by Andy Barr, head of 10 Yetis
Seen any good or bad PR lately? You know what to do @10Yetis on Twitter or on email

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