Well hello there my public relations friends (and foes!). It really does feel like it is week after week of negativity on the UK media landscape. I feel there are far wiser commentators than me to be commenting on the activities of the Metropolitan Police at the weekend so I will just leave it with a review of its overall communications approach and the response of the government, both of which can only be described as; abysmal.
Speaking of abysmal, that was the verdict of the digital PR community when hearing the news that one of our favourite follow-link-fodder news sites HuffPost, is to shut its UK news operation. I may jest about the link side of the fall out, but the fact we are losing more journalists is a real worry for news-hounds everywhere and generally for the overall state of the UK media. When you think that this follows Buzzfeed doing the same back in May 2020, you have to wonder who is next and where the next, original, exciting and sustainable digital news platform can come from.
On to something far more important, NASA has bounced back from the publicity low of being out PR’d by Roscosmos (see last week’s column please dear reader) and has stolen all the headlines this week with the news that it is eradicating flat tyres on push bikes. Pow! Done!
The moon-obsessed boffins have partnered with American start up, SMART Tire Company (ignore its branding typo), to pass on the technology behind the tyres used on its Mars Rover machinery. The Mars tyres never go flat and although it is not known if Mars has more pot holes that the average UK high street, the story goes that this could mean the end of seeing an aged, lycra-clad guy showing the world what he had for breakfast as he bends over to pump up his racer tyres. Thanks NASA, you deserve Good PR for that achievement alone.
Bad PR again
Back to the brickbats and Uber just can’t turn the corner on its reputation. The past few years have seen the brand dominate the media for all the wrong reasons; lost operational licences, general driver shenanigans and the latest is employee working rights.
The company was forced by the UK High Court to admit that drivers were employees and not self-employed and were therefore entitled to holiday pay, pension and overall, better working conditions. The company has now done the bare minimum in order to comply with the ruling and this has just angered their workers even further.
If Uber had gone that little bit further and given its (now) employees a little bit more, it could have turned the negative headlines around. Instead, it looks like sour grapes and it appears that workers are going to continue their battle for better overall working conditions. What really strikes me, from a former in-house comms perspective, is that the C-Suite is not listening to its public relations advisors who will have surely outlined the media risk of the approach it is taking.
Whilst I am handing out the Bad PR Badges, step forward Thorntons off chocolate business fame (although, I found out this week its heritage was in toffee and it pivoted to chocolate). A grand announcement was made that it is closing its shops (job losses!) and moving to online and supermarket retail only.
However, it quickly become clear that its online presence was also piss poor. Step forward Twitter ecommerce God (and I would call him a good friend, however he may class me as “weird internet stalker”), @DanBarker. Dan knows his stuff and by that, I mean, he really knows his stuff. His business related Tweets are so mainstream now that even my muggle (none-media-PR-type) friends send them to me and tell me to check them out… I always reply saying he is a friend… sorry Dan!
Anyway, Dan debunked a load of myths, some good about Thorntons, some bad. For example, who knew that Hotel Chocolat, the Gucci of the chocolate world is actually not really that Gucci after all, in that it offers more discounts than Thorntons and has a lower pricing point in many instance than its rivals, despite it being perceived as “high end”.
Finally, Great PR of the week goes to the P&O Cruises PR team. I would class its “every passenger needs to have had the Covid vaccine” story as a fantastic publicity stunt with little to no actual risk. Thinking about it, the vast majority of its (aged) customer base will have had the jab, and those that haven’t could probably not afford to go on a cruise anyway (“sweeping statement” you say? “Entirely” I reply).
The headline-grabbing stunt has done the trick and got the brand into all of its target titles and also reminded everyone who reads those titles (its core customer base) that it is soon to be open for business. Very well played indeed.
Got it wrong? Not the first nor the last time that I have, berate me on 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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