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Good and Bad PR: Matt Hancock and Elon Musk are the bad guys this week

Good morning public relations fans and welcome along to this week’s Good and Bad PR. Grab a hot drink, get comfy and take a walk with me through this week’s winners and losers.

Bad PR

Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock leads the way for Bad PR this week, seemingly on all counts. His book is not selling, his decision to set up a media company was panned and his biographer handing over 100,000 of his WhatsApp conversations to The Telegraph has not covered him in glory either.

To be fair, there is nothing that exciting coming out of the WhatsApp messages so far, but I suspect the best is being saved for last on that front. What is interesting is that the level and quality of the conversations mimics many other corporate WhatsApp chat groups. The boss (Boris) comes across confused and puzzled, the junior ministers (middle managers) are cringingly kiss-ass and the Spads (special advisers) are overly aggressive.

The messages don’t portray anyone in a particularly good light, not least the originator of the leaks, Isabel Oakeshott who gave media trainers some golden “how not to do it” material this week. Appearing on a Times Radio interview with Cathy Newman, she repeatedly declared that Newman asking her why she gave the messages to the Telegraph rather than the news organisation she was paid by, was not what the public were interested in. We are.

This “not what the public is interested in” is a defensive line used more and more by politicians and those up against it to avoid media scrutiny and awkward questions. Nine out of ten times the question is exactly what we are interested in. Anyway, Oakeshott terminated the interview and stropped off into the night. Social media gold for Times Radio.

Good PR

Network Rail and RMT

Network Rail and the RMT receive a joint Good PR this week for calling off the next rail strike that was planned for 16 March. The RMT has said that it is suspending the strike having received a new pay and conditions offer.

Both sides have also made noticeable movements to dial down the rhetoric in media interviews and it looks like positive steps are now being made. However, 14 other train companies are still subject to rail strikes on 16 March, but Network Rail has the biggest impact so this is a great move.

Heinz

Sticking with Good PR and a lovely story landed this week from Heinz of “sauce” fame. Remember the guy who drifted out into the Caribbean Sea and survived for 24 days on his boat by eating mainly ketchup to survive? Well, Heinz launched a massive social media drive to find him and have decided to buy him a new boat.

All it needed was a #FindTheKetchupBoatGuy hashtag to locate him and hey presto, Elvis the boat guy was found. Heinz is now in negotiations to hand the new boat over to Elvis and we can only hope that his media comment panders to his namesake and is simply “thank you very much”.

Greggs

Greggs of beige-food-heaven fame has had another great week on the PR front. It has announced that it will be opening 150 new stores over the next 12 months. After having another bumper sales year, it is all systems go for the bakery giant which first launched in 1951.

Some of the new stores will even be trailing a 24-hour drive through service which is equal parts scary and exciting. What does it say about the state of our nation when there is apparently appetite for a 3am vegan sausage roll? I jest, this is a massive, good news story for Greggs and rightly deserves to be heralded as one of the UK best business success stories.

Lego

Another brand who had a corker of a week is the toe damaging toy brand, Lego. Revenues up 17%, profits up 4% and the brand shows no signs of slowing down. Its focus right now is to transfer its offline success over to its digital platforms and it has exciting plans afoot.

A partnership announcement with Epic Games (of Fortnight fame) gave both brands a dollop of Good PR as did Lego’s commitment to making its products from more sustainable forms of plastic. The privately owned company also revealed that 48% of its sales in the last year came from new product ranges, which is an interesting stat in terms of understanding how much pressure its product development team must be under.

Last, and least good PR

Elon Musk

Ending on a Bad PR note and I have tried really hard so far this year to not continue to put the boot into Elon but he makes it so hard. This week he got embroiled in a public spat with a disabled Twitter worker over his employment status. The guy was confused as to whether or not he had been sacked and Elon seemed to enjoy mocking him for it (my take on it!).

Halli Thorleifsson sold his company to Twitter in 2021 and the structure of the deal meant that he become a Twitter employee. Thorleifsson tweeted about being locked out of his work system and asked Musk for confirmation.

Musk dealt with it in his usual, very aggressive way and in the end, when we was informed of the facts by his HR bods, he had to return to Twitter to apologise. Still, probably the first time I have seen Musk ever apologise for something, so that is progress at least.

Dispatches

Good and Bad PR mentions in dispatches this week leads with Horrible PR for the Government and its handling of the migrant crossing and asylum seekers situation. The policy itself seems inhumane but then the gloating nature of the Conservative Party marketing and newsletter machine just took the whole story to a new lower level. Good PR for the ear-wax cleaning company who got global coverage for launching some nearly $3k costing device that cleans your ears using water and sonic beams.

Got it right or wrong? You can find me on The Twitter @10Yetis

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 andy@10Yetis.co.uk on email

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