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Good and Bad PR: HSBC and Government get the Good PR nod, the Bad PR head shake goes to Royal Mail and Hermes

Hello hello, missed me after my week off? I thought so.

In the time since my last article, the digital PR community has continued to beat itself up, with the great and good of the authority link-building world passing comment and judgement (think the Samuel L Jackson speech in Reservoir Dogs) on the tactics behind a certain campaign that went global.

This has been notably “piggybacked” by the more traditional public relations practitioners (or should that be “newsjacked” – a PR tactic that I believe was invented by the digital brigade?) who are keen to do down the online-PR-outreach ninjas and, dare I say, push their own agenda of cleaning up a “Wild West” landscape that many of them helped to create in the first place.

If this is the state of our own sector, may the Good Lord Robert Fowler himself protect the rest of the business world.

Anywho, ignore my rant and let’s move on to the good and bad PR of the world.

Good PR


In a great PR move, HSBC has announced a £300 one-off payment to its 1,200 UK call centre staff who are largely all going to be working from home going forward. Unite, of the Union fame, has made all the right noises of supporting the move, so far, but one interesting statistic is that only 70% of the workforce has agreed to take up the £300 bonus.

One-quarter said they would prefer to work flexibly and work from both home and an office space (not at the same time you wally) and 5% said that they would prefer to return back to the office full time. I am presuming these 5% are the ones who had to home school – I jest. This is, so far by my reckoning, the first large company where there are actual figures showing what a workforce wants to do, post Covid-19 restrictions easing, and if 30% is the general benchmark then the government plans and PR campaign to get everyone back to their offices in order to kick-start the high-street economy is going to be dealt a huge blow.

Government comms

Sticking with Good PR, there seems to be a real “feel-good” factor return to the UK business community since the long Easter weekend. Even most PR agency owner gossip groups on WhatsApp that I am part of seem unusually buoyant and I tried something rare for me (deep thinking) to try and work out why this is. I went through the usual suspects when it comes to positivity that can grasp a nation; a new Greggs product (nope), the John Lewis Christmas advert (far too early), Piers Morgan’s fake retirement (nope) and dare I suggest; it is down to government communications.

OK, so at the time of writing we are awaiting a report into the risks associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine (of which I too have had my first dollop of), but apart from that, the overall government messaging feels like we are on the golden path out of Covid-19 gloom and the business community has responded accordingly. The FTSE is up, new business leads are up across the board and the service industry is said to be recovering faster that was originally forecast. All this and we are only in the first week of April.

Bad PR

Hermes and Royal Mail

Back to earth with a bang for Hermes and Royal Mail though. They have got themselves embroiled in a bad PR storm through really, no fault of their own. For the second time in a short period, a story has popped up about “clearing houses” selling off postal items and parcels that are unwanted by the customer or sent to the wrong address.

The unwanted post is then bundled together and sold on Ebay by the “clearing houses”, a totally separate company from Royal Mail and Hermes etc. Royal Mail has made it clear that it returns the parcels to the addresses that it is told to by the original sender and in most cases this is because the goods are from overseas and it is not worth the shipping value to send them back.

The murky bit is about confidential customer information on the outside (and inside) of the parcels falling into dodgy hands because the parcel companies have no duty, nor desire to remove the said data. This is very quickly going to have to be an Ofcom job, not least because the shipping companies are entirely innocent.

There is a good PR opportunity here for one of the delivery companies to take a stand, go the extra mile (so to speak), and create a policy or process to address this. However, this will be costly and given the margins are already very tight thanks retailers trying to compete with the mighty Amazon beast there is little incentive to do so. Until one of the big logistics companies does something though, this story is going to rumble on.

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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