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Good & Bad PR: Heartless Clarks, fast food wars and classy comms in this week’s PR review

Summer is done and we appear to have fast-forwarded through to Autumn weather.

What a very British start to a conversation. Welcome to this week’s Good and Bad PR.

Work for a king, not a clown

This is not so much a media story from this week, but I think this brilliantly reflects McDonald's own approach to communications. Burger King is keen to seize an opportunity to poke fun at its golden arch-branded rivals, while McDonald's tends not to get involved. 

A good example is when a Burger King restaurant opens close to an existing McDonalds. Burger King tries to tempt McDonald's staff over to work for them by deploying large banners with slogans such as “work for a king, not a clown”.

Andy Barr

This normally triggers a slew of social media love and some regional media coverage at McDonalds expense. 

Fast forward a short period of time and this corporate shit-housery backfires on Burger King when they are forced to close the restaurant(s) that once goaded the clown crew.

These are not just financial results, they are M&S financial results

Another brand with historically classy comms is Marks and Spencer. This week was no different. Their turn-around plan is gaining pace and their results were good.

For several years, M&S's results have been inflated by its Gucci food range. Now, though, other parts of the business are stepping up, including a revival of the clothes range.

Outside of the fantastic results, and why they get a Good PR gong from me is the strong way in which they communicated the results. A FTSE company has to share its results with the stock market first but as soon as this was done the CEO, Stuart Machin, posted a video on his personal Twitter/X account that gave a brief explainer and really brought the results to life.

I love this and have long campaigned for more FTSE company CEO’s to take this approach. Even with bad results, this can work and can help brands resonate with their customers and shareholders.

Clarks HR team creates PR headache with soleless comms

Another traditional brand in the media this week, but for all the wrong reasons was Clarks. If you have kids that need school shoes, or ever dated a psychopath, you will be aware of the famous shoe brand.

This week it sacked a shop worker, because of a store closure, who had been with them for 68 years. They gave her five days’ notice and made absolutely zero fanfare to reward her for her considerable dedication. And her dedication was considerable.

She postponed her honeymoon to attend a training course and basically raised her kid in the store to keep the shop open. Could you imagine our own generation of snowflakes going to such lengths? They would be off to their social-media union quicker than you can say “Mick Lynch”. Whilst Clark's HR team showed a complete lack of human empathy, her customers piled into the store on the last day to thank her for her service.

Once again it was left to the PR team to try and turn the story around and I have to say their statement was incredibly nice for such a corporate brand. Too late though, the damage was already done, yet another reason to thank the corporate-busy-bodies better known as the HR team.

Shady second-hand car dealers top list of most-complained about industry

Citizens Advice gets Good PR for the amount of coverage it has garnered for a story about the most complained about industries. Second-hand car dealers get Bad PR for topping that list.

It turns out that a complaint about a second-hand car dealer comes into Citizen Advice every three minutes. These startling stats from the whole of 2023 makes for pretty bleak reading for the car industry.

Not surprisingly, no one from the car industry was put forward to try to defend the indefensible. We can expect a government inquiry to be announced very soon. This will probably mean the CEOs of the biggest second-hand car sales brands will be hauled before a committee of MPs for a gentle but effective skewering. It should be interesting to watch.

Got it right or wrong, you know where to find me.

Written by Andy Barr, owner of 10 Yetis Digital, reach out over on 10 Yetis: or @10Yetis on Twitter

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