The PR Guru

March 22, 2010

PR Gaffes for March: bonus content :)

I know we added a post about March’s PR gaffes last week, but I could hardly contain myself from commenting on two big stories to come out since that post…

Everyone enjoys a little break from the hectic office schedule now and again and, with the added promise of a something sweet to nibble on, our urge to indulge is that little bit greater. However it came to light on Wednesday that our tradition of elevenses could be damaging more than just our waistlines.

Greenpeace reported that Indonesia’s largest palm oil supplier Sinar Mas is coping with the vast increase in demand by employing illegal deforestation techniques, and therefore destroying the natural habitat and source of food for the Orang-utan.

The report by the organisation also claims the company are treating the animals as “pests”, with workmen killing off younger Orang-utan in order to prevent them from causing a problem in the future.

This in itself is bad enough; but when you add Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage corporation into the mix, things are only headed for the worse.

With Palm oil being a key ingredient to the firm’s globally popular Kit Kat products (the company produces the equivalent of the height of the Eiffel Tower every five minutes) it is easy to see how demand for the Palm oil has almost doubled in three years.

Greenpeace UK (as expected) has taken an aggressive front on this crusade. With the cleverly sinister parody of the iconic Kit Kat advert floating around video sharing sites like You Tube as well as staging boycott campaigns outside the Nestlé’s offices in East Croydon which featured activists dressed as Orang-utans scaling the office building, you would have thought that Nestlé would of ensured the use of very contrite PR methods to rectify the potentially destructive situation.

However, eager to defend the company’s fair trade policies, Nestlé took an equally aggressive front, demanding that the video be removed from You Tube under the grounds of copyright infringement and unleashed their ire on Facebook and Twitter protesters.

When will corporates learn this is not the way to deal with a social media outrage?!

In response to whether the company was going to work harder in order to source palm oil from sustainable sources at a much sooner date, as opposed to the company’s original forecast of 2015, the reply was simply this: “as soon as quantities are available we will be doing that … but we are not going to promise things we can’t deliver.”

Again, not the humble, caring attitude expected from such a huge multinational company during such a controversial PR firestorm.

Secondly, this week’s media has still been under the barrage of the seemingly never ending British Airways strikes.

With day three well underway, it is increasingly hard to keep up with reports of who really is “winning” the war between Willie Walsh and the hundreds of cabin crew that are demonstrating their anger on the picket lines.

With numerous reports on The Guardian’s news blog showing that BA’s claims that strikes are barely affecting business as “pure fantasy” as well as a catalogue of cabin and ground crews views on the situation, it seems that the energy surrounding the epicentre practically bellows over any PR attempts that BA bosses utilise.

It seems that the disputes have morphed into a fact checking row that has somehow over taken the initial point in hand. Much like a school yard chorus of “He said, she said” it’s virtually impossible to distinguish the facts, let alone trying to focus on the underlying issue among the din.

BA has responded to the endless list of acquisitions with a very serious timbre, “As a PLC, British Airways is legally obliged to ensure that it does not release information that is misleading or inaccurate… Any suggestion in media reports that information we have issued is untrue implies that the airline’s management is acting unlawfully… Unite has no way of obtaining accurate figures as to how many customers are on our aircraft or how many crew are reporting for work.”

But, despite the tittle tattle and  inconveniences caused to tens of thousands holiday goers (the hook that regularly features in the media, that is presumably BA bosses main hope to swaying them back into favour), it is hard to ignore that “sick it to the man” element to the whole episode.

I think the vast majority of us just wish they’d get it sorted out.



  1. british airways is the best airline that i have been into, great crew and great service“*

    Comment by Wall Heater : — October 26, 2010 @ 4:12 pm | Reply

  2. you can always say that british airways is the best airline on the travel industry .:~

    Comment by Amp Accessories · — November 13, 2010 @ 6:44 pm | Reply

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