The PR Guru

January 18, 2010

The PR gaffes just keep on coming…

Hello everyone and happy new year to all of you.

Well it’s been a great year already for PR gaffes. Snow has done its reputation no favours by making its presence felt over the past couple of weeks. And how many companies have shown how ill-prepared they are for a bit of the white stuff?

I won’t have a rant about snow though because the makers are unlikely to hire a PR man.

My favourite gaffes so far have come from the Government (didn’t they pride themselves on their presentation in the old days?) and the owners of Liverpool FC, who have shown between them how (not) to present a united front and how (not) to address your customers.

Let’s start at the top. Merely a few hours into the first working week, Labour MPs Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt joined forces to try and force good old Gordon Brown out of his job. I think the voters are about to make a pretty good job of that without your help, thank you very much.

They claimed their efforts to set up  secret ballot of MPs on the party leadership was not an attempted coup. Of course not! How could a vote on the Prime Minister’s leadership but anything but a vote of confidence?

All they’ve achieved is to drive more voters away from the party, and show how little they care about what’s going on in the real world. They would much rather fight their internal battles.

Shouldn’t Labour’s PR machine be showing us why we should vote for them at the moment?

So after that shining example of how to run a political party in election year, we turn to a classic demonstration of how a company should address its customers.

The relationship of Liverpool FC’s American directors, George Gillett and Tom Hicks, with the club’s fans has never exactly been harmonious. In fact it’s so bad the fans would rather stick with a clueless manager!

But just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, Tom Hicks’ son (the imaginatively named Tom Hicks Jr) decided to launch a foul-mouthed rant in an email to a fan.

Now we don’t know what was in the original email, of course. Sender Stephen Horner has been described as ‘a fan with genuine concerns’ by his fellow supporters. Whilst that may be true, we have no idea how he expressed those concerns.

Whether he expressed them politely or not is not the issue though. For Tom Hicks Jr to launch into a tirade, and call Horner an ‘idiot’ and much worse, is unacceptable. Can you imagine a Starbucks or McDonald’s director abusing customers like that?

Liverpool’s directors need to appreciate there is no football club without its fans. Yes, football clubs are not like other businesses due to the loyal support they receive from their fans. But they are still businesses and fans are their customers.

Thankfully, Junior has done the decent thing and resigned, but the damage has been done and if it wasn’t irreparable before that incident, it certainly is now.

I’ll be back again next month with more gaffes.

In the meantime, make sure you tune in on Friday for our interview with Staffordshire entrepreneur Mo Chaudry, the man dubbed the Original Slumdog Millionaire after leaving humble surroundings in rural Pakistan and building a £40m fortune.

Have a great week everyone!

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