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Good and Bad PR: NYT, Thames Water, Kellogg’s and a Paris City Hall engineer are in the merde this week

Here I am again, back in your eye-peepers with my Good and Bad PR of the week. Sometimes this column is hard to write because of a lack of stories that I feel would fit. We never want too heavy, but we don’t want too fluffy either.

This week though, the media has been packed with perfect stories and it has been hard to narrow it down. Let’s start with an unusual Good PR winner.

Let the truth Shein through

Unless you are under the age of 15, everyone hates Shein right? Fast-fashion (tick), allegations of questionable employee working practices (tick), questionable carbon footprint (tick), you get the idea.

Now though, we are led to believe that it wants to turn around this negative reputation and what is the first step to redemption; making a gazillion pounds by listing on the UK stock exchange. Ok, putting my cynical tone to one side, there could be some real positives to the move.

First up, Shein is saying the listing will help it to become more transparent, not only on the financial side, but also on the ethics and environmental impact side too. This has to be good for consumers.

The UK media certainly seems to think so and is really talking up Shein listing over here. The fact that the brand wanted to list in USA to start with and has changed its mind because US regulators are not likely to permit it to happen, is being largely ignored.

If it helps the brand improve on the areas I outlined at the beginning of this waffle, good on it.

Bad PR for New York Times in its battle with OpenAI

In December 2023 New York Times start legal action against ChatPMT owners, OpenAI. It accused it of mass-scraping its content to help its AI brain machine learn how to write content. Everyone thought OpenAI would hold its hands up and take the penalty.

It didn’t, it came out firing. This week OpenAI called for the case to be dismissed after it accused the NYT of attempting to hack its servers to manipulate the content that it spat out.

OpenAI also dismissed the NYT claims that its software could bypass paywalls and that users of Chat123 were using it to read articles. A decision on the case going forward has yet to happen, but the global media is loving the story playing out in public.

Uranus has two new lumps - of the good kind

After over 11 years of writing this column, the stars have finally aligned to give me a nice Uranus related gag AND a Good PR shout.

Science stargazers had to double check their telescope lenses were clean after they spotted two grainy specs by Uranus. Astronomers were quick to reveal that they were just moons and not alien life forms (boring)

Apparently, these are the first new moons spotted in over ten years. Right now, the new Uranus moon has the catchy name of S/2023 U1, but it will be given a more traditional name. This is where it gets interesting. The planet’s other moons are named after Shakespeare characters. If Team Science has any sense of fun they will name the new Uranus moon, Bottom, from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Thames Water drowns out funding concerns

Thames Water

Another Bad PR for water companies this week. This time, Thames Water. It had hoped to address its funding issues by raising bills or lowering the value of the fines that it receives for leaks or environmental issues that it has been caught creating.

OFWAT was having none of its lobbying though and has told the leaky water company that it needs to find its own way of shoring up its finances. The company has now had to go back to shareholders to ask for money.

The UK Government is waiting in the wings, poised and ready, to take back control of the water company. Given some of the companies that make up the main shareholders for Thames Water, this could lead to a long and lengthy legal battle though. Organisations like the Abu Dhabi and China sovereign wealth funds account for roughly 19% of the total ownership and they won’t be happy to just write that money off. OFWAT won this round, but I feel more is going to leak out with this story.

Mums go to Iceland - for baby milk

Iceland is a brand that has enjoyed Good PR a fair few times in this column over the years and today is no different. Its CEO, Richard Walker has announced that it will be reducing the cost of baby formula.

Baby formula is not available from foodbanks, which is a campaign in its own right, so it took matters into its own hands. Already this year, Iceland reduced the price of branded baby formula which triggered its much bigger supermarket rivals to do the same.

It has now taken this a step further though. It is launching its own brand of baby formula and pricing it at the lowest cost for families possible. The media coverage has been fantastic, and I find myself saluting their comms team once again!

Kellogg’s and security officials are in the merde

It’s a tie up for the last Bad PR of the week. Could it be the Kellogg’s CEO for saying that the poor should just eat its breakfast cereal for dinner?

Or, should it be the French, Paris City Hall engineer who has lost a bag full of the secret ways the security services planned to protect the Olympics that take place in the summer of 2024?

I think it must be the French engineer, although the media coverage over the Kellogg’s story is far more vitriolic. The French authorities were keen to play down the seriousness of the situation.

It is unclear how the bag was lost or potentially stolen. All we know is that it happened at a train station. I am sure the athletes from the individual countries will have had their own security plans, but either way, it is not the best prep for a global sporting event.

Got it right or wrong? I don’t really care what you think, but do tell me anyway.

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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