Tag Archive | pr

#BRANDFAIL OF THE WEEK: The BBC / TopGear / Clarkson ‘Fracas’

The BBC are having something of an annus horriblus. The mishandling of the Saville story. A hostile relationship with the ConDem administration (who seem increasingly keen on clipping their wings). I could go on. But the much covered Clarkson ‘fracas’? Well, they say a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money. And boy, is this one costing…

Pulling two filmedTopGear episodes from global schedules (and cancelling the final episode of the season before it went production), in my view, was a huge mistake. This helped tip the media scales in Clarkson’s favour fuelling his UKIP style, me vs. them namby pamby rhetoric. It added to the growing view that the BBC is run by legions of faceless managers. The only thing missing was Ian Fletcher a la W1A popping out and giving a rambling statement on the importance of ‘values’…

Despite taking the right action in suspending him for the alleged physical abuse, they seem to be losing the media battle. Were I advising Auntie’s finest, I’d have recommended:

  • Suspending Clarkson until the ‘fracas’ could be investigated and the appropriate action taken
  • Broadcasting the two filmed episodes at home and away (most of the projected revenue losses lie in the international division and may run into tens of millions)
  • Keep that British stiff upper lip and ensure ‘the show must go on’. Film the final episode in the series with either:
    • A celebrity guest host from the world of racing (guest hosts didn’t do HIGNFY any harm after Angus Deayton’s prostitute / drug scandal back in the day)
    • Recall a former Top Gear presenter off of the 80’s. Everyone loves a little retro and it could’ve been a televisual giggle
    • Bring back a popular star in the reasonably priced car to hold the fort
    • Let the Stig step in, and give him a computerised voice (with clear distinction from a Mr. S. Hawking)
    • If he’s not off filming, let Gambon himself take the helm. His stature could carry any sinking ship. And he does have a corner in his name, after all.

Whichever presenter option they went with (and this is where they really missed a trick), milk it for all it’s worth. Given the heightened interest / hugely engaged fan base, it was a golden opportunity to feed their PR, CRM and social programmes with content as quick as they ruddy well could. With such an engaged following, irrespective of Clarkson’s perceived popularity, they could’ve used this to their advantage, regained lost ground and acted to bolster their reputation AND boost viewing figures.

Instead, they’ve let Clarkson, a petition and a hostile press continue to give them a kicking. Rather than look strong in the face of the ‘fracas’, they seem week, outmaneuvered and outgunned by the mouth almighty himself. Clarkson. That said, whilst future contract negotiations for Top Gear presenters are on hold, Clarkson would do well to remember than not all talent that leaves the Beeb’s hallowed halls do as well over on ITV, Sky or Five. At least for now, no single star is bigger than the Beeb. And on that bombshell, I’m off for a gin…

Iain G. Morrison is a senior marketer in the third sector. And thinks Snickers totally nailed it… 


Staycation this summer? Or spraycation…

Firstly dear readers (well, Mum), apologies for having been a little quiet of late. Now that I’m settled in my new abode, normal service shall resume…

Easing in gently, I now share with you my favourite PR story of the year thus far. Our good friends over at Premier Inn were offering guests ‘spraycations’ for those canny stay at home holiday makers in August of 2010.

But what the devil is a ‘spraycation’ I hear you cry?

Just one more coat...

Head of Marketing Steve Conway said: “With our limited ‘spray-cation’ offer, there’s no excuse not to try a British break! With rooms from just £29, Premier Inn is all about offering guests great value and what could be better value than leaving us with a free instant Summer glow?

Britain has everything we need for a perfect break – everything that is, except guaranteed sunshine to give us a perfect tan when holidaying closer to home. As a result of the unpredictable British weather, the UK’s biggest hotel chain today announces it will be providing limited ‘spray-cations’ – free spray tans at selected Premier Inn sites across the country.

So,  next time your friends claim their healthy glow is as the result of a cheeky weekend break in the Balearics, do check if Premier Inn are running their little offer again…

Iain G. Morrison is a senior marketer in the British Tourism industry. And would just like to remind you, that pale is beautiful…

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Ryanair vs the free toilet brigade…


When was the last time you paid to go to the toilet?

If you live in London (where there are 40% less public toilets than 1999), you might benefit from pubs, shops and department stores joining the mayors toilet campaign.

I mean, why maintain the cisterns from the public purse, when the private sector will let you use their fancy facilities?

Marvelous cost efficiency…

Meantime in the private sector, the Ryanair toilet debacle rages on.

In recent months Ryanair has (in my view), conducted a textbook PR campaign, drip-feeding the press stories on their new cost cutting plans.

Everything from charging to use toilets, passengers carrying their own bags to the plane, through to stripping out standard seating for bar stools to get up to 30% more people on board.

Whether or not you agree with the sentiment behind the stories, they have certainly kept Ryanair in the press, and generated a significant amount of free coverage.

But what impact does this have on their brand?

BrandRepublic recently commissioned some vox pops, that asked prospective travellers how they felt about charging passengers to use the toilet.

Responses (as you’d expect) range from, “its ridiculous” and “its horrific”, through to “I am not really bothered, they are no-frills, you get what you pay for”.

I don’t want to ramble on, but just a few things from me…

  1. Ryanair are a no-frills airline. You don’t expect free peanuts, wine, etc. If you have to pay to use most UK public conveniences, why should a toilet on board a plane be any different?
  2. Most flights are short haul, with plenty of opportunities in the airport to use free facilities. Given this, what’s the fuss about?  Go before you go!
  3. Like most other sectors, one brand tends to be bold, innovate, take risks. The others follow. How many other airlines will quietly adopt Ryanairs policies after a few months?

I can’t help but feel it’s a little too easy to knock Ryanair for this.

Ultimately, they are a no-frills airline; the business model has always relied on a totally different pricing structure in order to make / increase / maximise profits.

With the travel sector suffering across the board (and even BA reviewing their peanuts and wine policy), it’s going to be a tough year. 

But, I can’t help feeling that this won’t harm Ryanair significantly in the short / medium term.

Some people will never fly Ryanair as they simply don’t do low cost. Some will still go with whomever is cheapest, and others will base their decision on airport / ease of access to final destination.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough. And given the amount of coffee I’ve had this morning, I am off to spend a penny…

Iain Morrison is a senior marketer in the British Tourism Industry. And is wondering if there will be free loo roll, or will that be 20p extra? 

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Google strike back…

Go Google!

Go Google!

Seems Google understand the value of good PR

Their use of data has courted much criticism, provoked anger / fear in some quarters, and excitement in others.

But, they claim if they do need to user delete their data after the 6 months those Brussels bureaucrats want, it could affect their ability to spot potential pandemics (using search data) quicker than governments and health agencies.

This was nothing short of a PR masterstroke.

The public are worried about pandemics, but also how their data is used. By gentle hints that Google can help ‘the greater good’, perceptions on what they do with the data they amass may shift…

This can only be good news for Google, health organisations, pigs. And hopefully for marketers…

Iain Morrison is a senior marketer in the British Tourism Industry. And loving Goggle using a bit of old skool PR…

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Ryanair 1.0


Many brands (and marketers) struggle to grapple with the true reality of digital marketing. 

In a landscape that’s ever changing, with technology improving daily, consumers constantly seeking our new and exciting ways to interact with each other (and manage their relationships with brands), the pace of development to some can be daunting. To others, exhilarating…

For any of you reading this that work in marketing and feel as though you could do with dusting down your digital skill set, head over to the IAB  (Internet Advertising Bureau) who run some great seminars and training courses to help brand owners (and agencies) deal with the ever changing playing field. Best part, is they are free to advertisers and members…

One marketing department that could do with popping over for tea and biscuits with the chaps over at the IAB is Ryanair, who have two big negative PR stories in the press this week. A ‘so what’ for brands under the old rules, but as we know, the old rules of brand management no longer apply…

One Jason Roe (a web developer by trade), put a post on his blog claiming he’d found a way to cheat certain pricing elements on the Ryanair website.

The following chain of events could be categorised as unfortunate, but they do clearly demonstrate how certain brands simply do not understand how to engage with their customers in a relevant and meaningful way in the digital space.

As yet unnamed Ryanair staff responded (quite negatively) to his blog post. This included calling him a liar, telling him they could hack his site and do what they wanted with it, the list goes on.

Not the most customer friendly response…

In the olden days we had the old adage of a good experience being shared with two or three close friends, and a bad experience being shared by eight or nine. These days however, the potential for an irate customers to spread the word are almost infinite.

After being picked up in the press, the official Ryanair response was;

‘Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion. It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again’.

Again, a clear demonstration that the brand ands its stewards do not understand the potential of the web, and the damage just a few individuals can very quickly wreak on the brand.

What started as an innocent blog post first set the blogosphere alight.

It was then picked up by the press, the fallout from the official response picking up even more column inches. All the while there are tweets a plenty, facebook on fire. The list goes on, all adding fuel to the fire…

The blog was the tip of the iceberg.

As this grew, the negative perception of the brand travelled at speed with it. Jason’s blog alone has 450 comments at last count. Now, factor in the way this has travelled across the social networks, email, the wider media.

The potential for this single negative brand experience to be swiftly shared with many and prolong the damage to the brand is truly enormous. We’re certainly talking a lot more than the eight or nine people we used to share a negative experience with in the ‘good old days’.

Smart brands engage. Provide a forum where irate customers can vent. But what separates the wheat from the chaff? The brands that use that very forum as a space to deal with the issues presented.

Turning that negative into a positive, ensuring angry consumers don’t ‘do a Jason Roe’, instead re-invigorating their love for your brand / product, ensuring they remain a true brand ambassador. And preferably spreading the good word.  

With a little careful management and a considered response from HQ, this could have been dealt with very, very quickly.

However, it was closely followed up with the negative press surrounding the possibility of people having to spend £1.00 to use Ryanairs’ onboard toilets.

Another PR clanger.

And as such, the Jason Roe story rumbles on, all the while leaving the hangar doors open to more negative brand exposure. I think it’s fair to say this hasn’t been the best week for Ryanair…

Iain Morrison is a senior marketer in the British Tourism Industry. Whilst his personal views don’t reflect that of his organisation, I can’t imagine there are too many of us out there keen to spend a pound in order to spend a penny.

Idiot blogger signing off… 

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Copywriter vs. Virgin Atlantic

Mmmmmm, slop.

Mmmmmm, slop.

So. A witty WCRS copywriter had a very bad food experience on Virgin Atlantic. Incensed, he complains. Extoling  the virtues of long copy, he writes for some 6 pages!  

What happens next? Why, the great Sir Richard Branson himself replies of course!  The way this story has rumbled on for well over a week points to two things. 

Firstly, the power of PR. This complaint has travelled the world over gathering pace (and collumn inches), as it goes.  Had Virgin Atlantic not responded and simply buried their hands in the sand, they would have done so at their own peril given the way the unhappy customers of today can broadcast their opinions far and wide at the click of a mouse…

Secondly, it shows the power of engaging with customers, especially when it centres on their negative experiences.

Brands that offer customers an outlet to complain generally favour better than those that don’t (try finding the contact us button on amazon, that’s all I’m saying).

However, those that provide a real forum, respond to the feedback and deal with it in a transparent manner; engaging in a meaninful dialogue, may well have the opportunity to stop that complaint from turning into a potential PR disaster (e.g. the ‘Stop the great HSBC graduate rip off facebook group), instead turning it into something very, very  special indeed.

Rising from the ashes, a positive brand experience; ensuring that  the once angry consumer swiftly returns to being a true brand advocate…

The cynics are claiming this is totally stage managed, and is nothing more than an attempt to generate some positive spin during Virgin Atlantic’s 25th birthday year.  Red hot indeed…

On the flip side, there are those who feel that this is simply Virgin doing what it does best; responding to an unhappy customer and moving heaven on earth to ensure they fall back in love with the brand.

Either way, it’s a bloody good story.

Spin or genuine, just read the letter and have a chuckle. And the next time someone tells you long copy doesn’t work, just have them read this…

Iain Morrison is a senior marketer in the British Tourism Industry. And will most likely believe in long copy until his dying day…

Did Evans just get cool?

Standing in the way of control?

Standing in the way of control?


A good friend of mine works at Topshop. And she’s disappointed (I can’t print the plethora of expletives she actually spat out), that the worlds coolest rock chic , is NOT designing her first collection of oversize clothes for Topshop…

Following in the footsteps of Kate Moss (Topshop), Lilly Allen (New Look), and a host of other celebs, Beth Ditto (she of the anthemic ‘Standing in the way of control’),  is designing her first clothing collection for Evans.

Even though her stick-thin bessie mate Kate has a well-established relationship with Topshop, the fact that Topshop  never had any clothes in her size was something of a problem.  So, rather than face extreme cries of selling out, she’s signed on the dotted line with Evans.

Evans has never had a reputation for being fashionable. They are best known for providing practical, hard wearing clothes for women over a certain size. How much control Ditto will be given over her collection (given her love of the loudest clothes made from the tightest fabrics),  is anyones guess, but I for one cannot wait to see the outcome of the partnership!

On paper, this should help Evans stuffy image significantly.

The PR coverage alone will be worth thousands. I have no doubt they will also be hoping that in a world where we seem to be ever-growing around the waist, Evans clothes become the acceptable norm / trendier choice. Leopard print spandex from Evans?

Being overweight suddenly just got that little bit trendier…

Iain Morrison is a senior marketer in the British Tourism Industry. And he is a fan of leopard print, but only on weekends…

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