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Good and Bad PR: What do Mike Ashley, Uber and Twitter have in common? Answer - They all win Bad PR of the week

Ladies, gentlemen and everyone in-between, please may I formally welcome you to another round up of the Good, the Bad and the Mike Ashley of public relations from the last seven days.

Good PR

Government departments

Dare I say it, but the wider Government departments (outside of Dishy Rishi) have had a strong comms week. The first sliver of Good PR goes to The Treasury, via an Office of National Statistics report. The ONS announced that the Hunt in Number 11 had actually spent £13bn less than expected in 2022.

In a week where Jezza H got savaged for the seemingly baseless claim that the UK economy was “brighter than expected”, it turns out, he had maybe seen the ONS report ahead of its release and knew what was coming.

Well done Team Bean counters.

Sticking with the Government having a good week in comms and we have to mention the testing of the new national alert system. It didn’t work on every network and model of phone as planned, but the story was everywhere and you would have to live under a rock to have not heard about it.

Combine this with the new Digital Markets Unit announcing that it now had a mandate to fine and punish tech companies found guilty of using fake reviews or “subscription traps” and all in all, I am fearful that the Gov’t PR machine has used all of its 2023 good news in just one week.

Bad PR

Twitter

Next is Bad PR and it spells the return of one of the most frequent receiver of brickbats; Twitter. This week saw the end of the legacy Blue Tick brigade, or so we thought. Elon and co had a bit of a last minute rethink though and decided some could keep their blue tick for free.

This caused mayhem, much social media whining and a plethora of negative stories popping up around the globe. Some who kept their blue tick spotted that the hover-over description implied that they had paid and subscribed to Twitter Blue, which was not the case.

Big names such as Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Andy Murray and Stephen King (an odd mix I know) made it clear that whilst they were delighted that their blue tick was back, they had definitely not paid for it.

What followed was the most unconvincing line ever said since that time I claimed I was actually 6ft 1ins. Elon’s team put out a statement saying that he had personally paid for a number of the blue ticks. What a disaster and it caps off a tough week for Musk given he also lost one of his Space Teslas to an explosion.

Uber

Uber got taken out by a global poke thanks to a story in a Belgian newspaper that no one had heard of, until now. Derniere Heure discovered that, in a small, identical journey test, Uber will charge more for a person with a lower battery level phone.

God only knows the who, what, why, where and when of how this happened, but the global media lapped it up and Uber was left trying to pick up the pieces and cursing the media from the land of waffles, chocolate and NATO. What a very odd story.

Mike Ashley

The return of another regular Bad PR pantomime villain occupies our next story. Step forward Mike Ashley. In another move towards wanting to be seen as a true Bond villain he got publicly lambasted by 41 politicians from the UK political elite (and former Brexit Secretary David Davis - again, thanks for Brexit DD).

Turns out that Ashley’s Frasers Group has been installing facial recognition cameras in a number of its stores and then allegedly using them to build “watchlists” of potentially dodgy customers. Of course, Frasers maintained at the time of announcing this move that this was just to protect staff and customers.

I fully expect this will be plugged into a CRM database in his evil lair and customers who have historically spent the most will be targeted by savvy sales assistants. Cynical? Me? Maybe. The brand refused to comment on the political battering, Frasers Group comms 101 right there.

Good and Nice PR

RSPB, the Environment Agency, Natural England

Why not end on a beautiful story and a great example of Good and Nice PR. It is story that comes from the hard work of the Environment Agency, Natural England and Bill Oddie’s fave crew, the RSPB.

There is a river in Cumbria called the Swindale Beck. Over 200 years ago a section of it cut a jaunty and tangled route through farmland, but the locals back then thought it a wise idea to mess with its route. They made the river straight, in the hope of increasing the footprint of the farmland that it would serve.

In a prime example of “the good old days” being not actually so good, the move killed the fish that had happily swam up and down the river up until that point. The straightening had made the water flow faster and the sediment and flow speed of the river increased to a level where the fish could no longer survive.

In 2016, the groups mentioned at the start of this segment realised the mistake of what 200-years-ago-us had done. They started an epic journey to “re-wiggle” the river. The project to do this finished some time ago and now, shock horror, the fish have come back and nature is at one with itself once again.

A beautiful story to end on and our dear friends at Meltwater have been in touch to put some data behind this PR wonderfulness:

Data supplied by Good & Bad PR's data and insights partner Meltwater.

Got it right or wrong? You know where to find me.

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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