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Good and Bad PR: No good words for Rio Tinto, but plenty of praise for Costa, Stagecoach, OpenAI and Unilever

We are marching into February and the world of public relations continues to deliver in terms of Good and Bad PR. Join me as I take a gander through this week’s fails and victories.

Bad PR

Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto is a brand I dislike so much that it delights to be able to give it Bad PR once again. It is no great surprise when I tell you that the company was, ultimately, responsible for a chunk of radioactive material going missing in Australia.

The minuscule amount of radioactive material was being transferred from one place to another, on a road that is the equivalent length of Britain. It was thought to have been safely moved and received, but when staff opened up the package, 10 days after it had arrived, they found the enclosing capsule was broken and parts missing.

A massive search operation began, involving Australia’s nuclear safety agency and, fortunately, it was found at the roadside. Rio Tinto is the same company that once included in its annual company report that it had achieved zero employee deaths. Let’s take that in for a moment, a company was keen to highlight and celebrate it had not killed anyone for a year. What a world we live in.

Terrible PR, but it has to be noted that the comms team managed to reduce the mention of the brand to the last few lines in a large chunk of the media stories about the loss.

Good PR

Costa Coffee

Speaking of nuclear levels of energy, the high street coffee brands got a nice prod from them lovely people at Which? this week, although I think it was actually Good PR for Costa.

Which? outlined which drinks had the most caffeine in and Costa came out with the most and Starbucks the least. The collective media loved the story with even the BBC creating its own table of the heaviest and lightest caffeine levels by store brand.

Over on the whining social media platform of Twitter though, the muggles generally seemed nonplussed. If anything, it has helped the likes of Costa because people now know they will well and truly get the morning pick me up they need if they choose that brand.

McDonald’s lay accused by one consumer of serving coffee so strong that they needed a nap after the caffeine crash. McDonald’s, quite rightly in my mind, refused to answer the BBC’s request for a comment. In fact, only Costa replied to the BBC’s questions and its statement was very jolly and light, so I think, overall, it was Good PR for Costa.

Stagecoach

Sticking with Good PR and Stagecoach (the bus company) got global positive news this week thanks to launching the world’s first self-driving bus service. The 14-mile route in Edinburgh is part of a UK Government project that will no doubt have striking transport workers looking on with a certain element of panic.

The service has been on trial since spring 2022 and whilst there is no driver, there will be two support staff onboard to keep an eye on passengers and ensure they have a smooth and stable ride. I fully expect that the two workers will be reduced to zero in a few years’ time and this will trigger the Mick Lynch crew all over again.

As someone who has worked in comms for that industry, I found it very interesting that there were no opinions from the unions in either the announcement release or the resulting coverage. Great PR Stagecoach.

OpenAI

With any AI getting a mention in the media at the minute it was only fair and fitting that OpenAI, the brains behind ChatGPT, got Good PR this week for announcing that it was launching a tool that helped teachers and lecturers spot if assignments contained or were created by an AI tool.

It will give academics a “likelihood” rating of the text having had the AI touch from “highly likely” down to “not very likely”. It won’t stop virtual dogs eating virtual homework, but it will help teachers in the battle to stay one step ahead of the kids. When I sent the link to my kids (all in secondary school) there were gasps of horror.

Unilever

Ending this week on another high and Unilever seems to have seen the light in terms of realising muggles don’t care about the higher purpose of mayonnaise or Marmite and appointed a new CEO who is numbers driven. You may remember that last year a hedge fund manager questioned the FMCG (and more) brand over its search for a higher purpose for every product and this, combined with a failed GSK part-acquisition, seems to have got the previous CEO the Spanish Archer and a new guy in place called Hein Schumacher.

The markets and global city analysts have reacted positively to the news and this is a big positive given the tough time the brand has had recently. Great PR for Unilever.

Dispatches

This week’s mention in dispatches sees life insurance company DeadHappy get a negative nod for that campaign, alongside Paypal for being the latest big tech co to announce big job cuts. The FCA gets a nod of PR approval for the positive city reaction to the announcement that it will set out the robust rules that the crypto currency brands must stick to in the UK. A rare positive swathe of coverage for a UK government department right now.

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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