The PR Guru

September 12, 2012


I’ve been working on a presentation this week, which I’m giving to members of the FSB in Stafford on Monday.

As part of that I’ve been considering which people/companies in the spotlight have good PR and which have terrible PR.

In no realm of society is this more relevant than politics and over the past couple of days we have seen examples of both.

There are things we, as business owners, can all learn from those on the corridors of Westminster (and across the Pond).

In my view, a skilled politician will show strong leadership, maintaining courage in the face of opposition and conviction in their beliefs.

They will have a track record of delivery, and experience in their field.

And they will have excellent timing, being able to capture the mood of the country and exploit the weaknesses of their rivals.

Take Boris Johnson, for instance, and compare him with Nick Clegg.

A YouGov poll in today’s papers says that if Boris was PM, the Conservatives’ poll ratings would be six points higher than they are now, putting them virtually level with Labour.

This is despite the economic climate and the mood of the country before the Olympics and Paralympics.

Boris has played a blinder, let’s be honest, and even though he appears to be a bit of a buffoon it’s only because he allows himself to appear that way.

His stock has risen dramatically and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in Parliament when his stint as Mayor of London ends.

But why is he so popular at the moment? He ticks all the boxes for me – he’s shown courage in his convictions, taking the PM to task after the reshuffle and the third runway at Heathrow last week, for example.

He has been in politics for many years and now has the reflected glory of London 2012 helping him.

And with his various speeches (including at the parade on Monday), he’s been able to engage with us and make us smile – something David Cameron struggles with.

By contrast, Nick Clegg had to change a speech after a draft, describing opponents of gay marriage as bigots, was leaked.

This made him look weak and indecisive – if that’s what he believes he should have the courage to stick to it and deal with any controversy which follows (which in my view would have been minimal).

He also appears to have some enemies within his own party – someone leaked the original draft to the media – and again that undermines his leadership.

He is suffering, more than Cameron, and more than the likes of Vince Cable, from compromising his beliefs to rule in Coalition with the Conservatives.

That’s not to say Cameron and the rest of the Government don’t look weak – in fact the opposite is true, and the situation gets worse with every U-turn.

And this is not a partisan blog either – Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have exactly the same problem.

They either suffer from perceptions of weak leadership (Miliband) or a poor track record from the last Government (Balls).

So what can we learn from this in our own businesses?

Well, good PR is about strong leadership – showing confidence in our decisions.

It’s also about demonstrating experience and a good track record, so talk about your successes, and take pride in them – it shows you know what you’re doing!

Have a strategy in place – the most successful companies know exactly what the mood of their target market is, and develop a product or service to suit.

And above all, don’t take yourself too seriously – add some humour to your marketing and you will engage more with your audience.

Develop a PR and marketing plan which follows those basic guidelines and you won’t go far wrong.


December 2, 2011


Giant super-idiot Jeremy Clarkson has this week caused a media storm with his ill-advised comments about striking public sector workers.

For those of you who have been living under a rock for a few days, here’s the film, which has been watched almost 90000 times since Wednesday.

It’s generated lots of negative media coverage for Clarkson and the BBC over the past couple of days, and it’s still coming. Today’s line is the comments were approved by The One Show’s producers before Clarkson made them.

So who are the main winners and losers from the gaffe?


Clarkson will do pretty well out of this. Let’s face it, he’s no stranger to controversial comments, and it’s almost expected of him these days. My first thought on hearing the news was how cliched and hackneyed his opinions are beginning to sound. He’s got a Christmas DVD to plug and he’s done a very good job of it – and as Brand Republic says here, his publishers are rubbing their hands.

Perhaps we should stop giving his ‘gaffes’ the publicity he’s so obviously looking for?


As of 9.30 this morning, more than 21000 people had complained about the comments! 21000! In two days! Only Sachsgate – the prank calls to Andrew Sachs from Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand, which drew 27000 complaints in 2008 – has brought in more complaints, and they came in over two or three weeks. 

While I can appreciate the offence this broadcast caused to the strikers – surely the 21000 could find something better to do with their time?


The One Show, quite rightly, doesn’t get much media coverage and only hits the headlines about once a year, like when Jason Manford quit as presenter in 2010, and the controversy about dog trainer Jordan Shelley in September seemingly used up their quota for 2011.

So they’ve massively increased their coverage in one fell swoop, and will probably see an initial ratings boost too.


Unison, the UK’s biggest trade union, has lead the complaints this week, with general secretary Dave Prentis calling for Clarkson to be sacked and even seeking legal advice on whether to sue and/or involve the police!

Wouldn’t they be much better off concentrating on negotiating with the Government to stop another general strike happening?

And one final loser…

David Cameron. Does anyone really want to be ousted as a friend of Jeremy Clarkson’s?

December 22, 2010

The new FA Chairman David Bernstein oversaw French Connection’s controversial FCUK campaign and LHR manager Colin Matthews has given up his Christmas bonus due to the LHR’s bad handling of the snowy conditions

David Bernstein has just been appointed the new Chairman of the FA.

The same man who was responcible for giving French Connection its controversial FCUK (WARNING: swearing on external link) name.

However, many are saying he is a safe choice because he is known by members of the board – which is why they chose him – but this may stop him from making the radical changes that are needed in order to keep the relationships maintained.

The Advertising Standards Authority said the use of FCUK for French Connection “caused problems for parents trying to explain to their children what it was about.”

It was deemed offensive, but all right when commas were used – as in f,c,u and k. “French Connection Me” attracted similar criticism but profits went up, although they did backfire among those who thought them ridiculous.

What is the message here? Is radical PR good PR and will Bernstein be able to use his controversial tactics whilst keeping in with the board?

Only time will tell….

In other news, that is to give Heathrow Airport some good PR, airport manager Colin Matthews is foregoing his 2010 bonus following the recent disruptions caused by the snow.

Mr Matthews said: “We’ve had a crisis here. I am responsible and I have decided not to take my bonus.”

The media had speculated that he was receiving a secret bonus but he denied these allegations.

BAA would not say what Mr Matthews’ 2010 bonus would have amounted to but his salary and bonuses in 2009 came to £944,000.

Mr Matthews has been heavily criticised for his handling of the air travel chaos, which saw thousands of passengers stranded at Heathrow after heavy snow fell on Saturday.

Many have had their Christmas holiday plans ruined.

Prime Minister David Cameron expressed his “frustration” at the length of the disruption at Heathrow.

The EU Commission also criticised Europe’s air travel disruption as unacceptable and urged airports to “get serious” about better planning for bad weather.

Matthews added: “It’s not just two runways we need – we need every other link in the chain to be fully up to speed and it’s going to take some time to do that.”

December 16, 2010

Zai Bennett moves from ITV to BBC, hotel is getting publicity from having the most expensive Christmas tree ever and Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress was a PR triumph and has been voted Fashion Statement of the Year

It is hard to know what to think when someone goes from one company to its competitor, but that is exactly what has been making headlines today…

Zai Bennett, the ITV director of digital channels, has been appointed the controller of BBC3.

Bennett succeeds Danny Cohen, who became the controller of BBC1 in October. His BBC start date is yet to be confirmed.

BBC3 had an £88m budget in the year to the end of March. But BBC3’s budget is likely to be cut next year as the BBC deals with the licence fee settlement. With the licence fee frozen for six years, the BBC is facing a 16% cut in funding.

So was it really a wise move for Bennett then? And it begs the question of why de decided to move from ITV in the first place…

He started his TV career in the post room at Carlton Television in 1995, occasionally delivering David Cameron’s post to him when the prime minister worked as the ITV broadcaster’s communications director.

In other news, vying for publicity today, is the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi, which has a jewel-encrusted Christmas tree it says is worth over £7m.

The idea came the hotel’s marketing team. The hotel has a tree every year but this year they wanted to do something different.

Items of jewellery studded precious stones are draped on the tree’s branches, along with more traditional baubles and lights. It is the jewellery that dramatically increases the value.

The bracelets, necklaces and watches which adorn the 13m tree contain 181 diamonds, pearls, emeralds, sapphires and other precious stones.

The tree sits in the lobby of the 302-room hotel.

Previous publicity-seeking efforts by the hotel include the creation of a $1m Valentine’s Day package and the installation of what was said to be the world’s first gold vending machine.

Finally, the famous meat dress worn by Lady GaGa at the Video Music Awards (VMAs) back in September has been named as the fashion statement of this year, by Time Magazine.

The magazine said, “If making fashion statements is your primary raison d’être, it’s easy to get bored. Exploding bra? Flamed out. Dress made of bubbles? Please. Using your hair as a bow? Not again. But a dress made of meat — with shoes, hat and purse to match — well, that’s fresh.”

It generated so much publicity for the singer and helped her to become one of the most popular singers of the year.

Eight different waxwork models of the singer were unveiled in Madam Tussauds across the globe this month – all in the unique and spectacular outfits fans have grown accustomed to.

In London, GaGa is a dial icon with the Philip Treacy hat she wore on the Jonathan Ross chat show this year to plug her single Telephone.

December 13, 2010

Michael Dugher writes letter to Prime Minister condemning Tories for comments about the North

Today, Labour MP Michael Dugher has written a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, asking him to make a public apology because of a comment made by one of his party members at a recent meeting.

Not the first time Mr Cameron has had to apologise for his staff/unpaid consultants in recent weeks….

Councillor David Shakespeare, who obviously doesn’t have the same mastery over words as the playwright he shares his surname with, said “The north may replace the Romanians in the cherry orchards…. and that may be a good thing.”

Not only is this incredibly rude to everyone living in the North of England, it is also old-fashioned (something that the Conservatives have always been criticised as being).

Dugher said the comments were “out of touch, insensitive and insulting”, referring to the Conservatives as the “same old nasty party.”

December 7, 2010

The Sound of Silence released to show-up the X Factor

This year’s anti-X Factor campaign to get the winner off the Christmas number one slot has been called The Sound of Silence.

Madness star Suggs and dance acts Orbital and Pendulum were among those who did nothing in a recording studio.

They were recreating composer John Cage’s experimental work 4’33” – the sound of musicians not playing.

This follows the high-profile campaign last year when Rage Against the Machine beat X Factor winner Joe McElderry to number one.

Dozens of musicians were present and the campaign – dubbed Cage Against the Machine – currently has 69,000 Facebook fans.

Cage Against the Machine follows the success of another silent song that recently made the charts.

The Royal British Legion’s 2 Minute Silence video featuring Prime Minister David Cameron, actor David Tennant and Radiohead singer Thom Yorke, reached number 20 in November.

December 2, 2010

England World Cup Bid 2010

Today’s England bid to host the 2018 World Cup was unsuccessful despite it being similar to the one used for the 2012 Olympics.

The presentation was all about legacy and ideals of inspiration.

Eddie Afekafe’s speech, in particular, has been praised. Afekafe works with Manchester City on their community football programmes and gave a great presentation before famous faces such as Prince William, David Beckham and Prime Minister David Cameron spoke.

The two short video clips in particular prompted memories of the London 2012 bid with youth and the power to inspire the world playing a leading role.

Afekafe spoke of how his life had been transformed through football and tugged on the heart-strings of the FIFA executive committee members who believe in football’s transformative capabilities.

“Choose England today and England will deliver many more stories like mine,” said Afekafe. “Football United – it’s a new idea, a big idea, but one that everyone supports.”

Five years ago in Singapore, it was a young South African sprinter who was the focus of the video presentation, dreaming of glory and eventually competing at the Olympics in London in 2012.

It turns out Russia are the nation who will host the World Cup instead, with Quatar hosting in 2022.

November 29, 2010

#cablegate: Comments that could ruin the image of Prince Andrew, David Cameron and the British Military are set to be published on Wikileaks

In a previous blog entry, we mentioned how whistle-blowing website Wikileaks had come under criticism for releasing Iraq War Logs.

Well, today, US diplomats have suggested that inappropriate remarks made by Prince Andrew about a British law enforcement agency and a foreign country are also set to be made available online. Secret U.S. embassy cables are said to show the Prince, who is a UK trade envoy, caught in a scandal.

The Guardian, who get early access to the content, said that the website also included criticisms of David Cameron and of British Military operations in Afghanistan.

The criticisms about British operations in Iraq were said to be devastating, while remarks concerning Mr Cameron were described as serious political criticisms.

They were also said to disclose technical details of secret US-Russian nuclear missile negotiations in Geneva and US efforts to combat al-Qaida in Yemen.

The White House said that the disclosure of confidential diplomatic communications on the front pages of newspapers around the world would deeply impact US foreign interests.

The Foreign Office also condemned the leaks but insisted that they would not affect Anglo-American relations.

November 23, 2010

Publicising a uranium enrichment facility and Korea’s heir leads to Korean warfare, plus… Stoke-on-Trent likened to Afghanistan by pottery director

EDIT 25/11 – Sarah Palin made a PR Gaffe yesterday by saying Americans were going to “stand with our North Korean allies” so much to the shock of the world that it is not only trending on twitter in the US but in the UK as well. Her interviewer pointed out that in fact, it’s South Korea, not North Korea, that is the US’s ally.

This comes on the same day that it is revealed campaigners accused The Prime Minister of breaking the law by jokingly comparing Commons Speaker John Bercow to one of the Seven Dwarfs; and on the day that Mr Cameron disowns remarks by MP Howard Flight, saying welfare changes would encourage ‘breeding’ among those on benefits. These high profile politicans need to learn to watch the way they phrase things.

Mr Flight was named by David Cameron last week as one of more than 20 new Conservative peers, after having previously been sacked as Tory candidate ahead of the 2005 election for suggesting the party had secret cuts plans. The MP, who is yet to take his seat in the House of Lords, was commenting on the government’s plans to axe child benefit for top rate taxpayers.

South Korea says two marines have been killed and 16 others injured in a North Korean attack on a South Korean island near the western sea border.

South Korea returned fire and launched fighter jets in response.

The skirmish came amid tension over North Korea’s claim that it has a new uranium enrichment facility, and just six weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il unveiled his youngest son Kim Jong Un as his heir.

In South Korea, people initially responded with shock and various celebrities have expressed their concerns and feelings via. Twitter.

Jay Park wrote on his personal Twitter, “I just heard the news. Please be safe.

Simon D of Supreme Team said, “I hope that the issue does not escalate and there are no more casualties. NO WAR”.

T-ara’s Eunjung added, “I know. This is an extremely serious matter. I’m worried”, while actress Park Shinhye wrote, “My heart aches. All the people who wished for peace had their hopes ruined in a second. Please no more injuries.

Comedian Park Kyung Lim tweeted, “I just finished filming and what is this. At a time like this, we must have accurate news and unite to comfort each other.”

It seems that Korea’s decision to release this information to the world was the wrong decision and launced severe carnage. Let’s hope the fighting ends soon.

In more local news, Stoke-on-Trent has been likened to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province by Matthew Rice, director of Emma Bridgewater.

Referring to city planning as “feckless”, he called on the local council and developers to use historic buildings and former factories during regeneration rather than to knock them down.

He said, “If you go around Stoke these days there is lots of bare land where things have been demolished. I’ve no idea what it looks like in Helmand Province but I get a feeling it would look a little like here. There is always this idea that we have got to demolish everything to put things right. A blank canvas they call it. But I’d rather see people use the buildings in regeneration and development.”

Stoke was once the site of the country’s biggest pottery firms including Wedgwood and Royal Doulton. However, the decline in manufacturing the 1980s and 1990s saw dozens of factories, mines and steelworks closing and historic buildings left to fall derelict. At its height, Stoke housed 2,000 bottle kilns and 200 factories. Only around 30 factories now operate.

November 19, 2010

Jason Manford quits The One Show after admitting he shared sexual messages online with fans, and Lord Young resigns after saying we’ve never had it so good

Last night on Twitter a lot of people were upset with the BBC because Jason Manford has quit The One Show.

The presenter admitted that he shared sexual messages online with female fans.

It is only three months since the comic took over the show with Alex Jones after the departure of former presenters Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley to ITV.

The 29 year old comedian handed his resignation to the show’s bosses, saying he wanted to leave to ease the situation surrounding newspaper allegations.

In an interview with The Sun, Manford said: “I have only myself to blame. I have never felt so low.”

BBC bosses are expected to hold talks over the weekend to find Manford’s replacement.

The presenter apologised to fans and his family at the beginning of the month after he was accused of exchanging a series of Twitter messages with a 22 year old female fan.

Manford took over presenting The One Show in August. He was an avid user of Twitter and had more than 200,000 followers – but has now removed his page (for obvious reasons).

Another story, making headlines today, is that the Prime Minister’s enterprise adviser has resigned after making a PR Gaffe. Lord Young apologised after saying most Britons had “never had it so good” despite the “so-called recession”.

He told The Daily Telegraph that the Bank of England’s decision to cut the base rates to 0.5% meant many homeowners were better off.

Following this, he wrote a letter to David Cameron apologising for his remarks, but has since resigned.

Other comments he made include his belief that the forecast of 100,000 public sector job losses a year was “within the margin of error” in the context of the 30 million-strong job sector.

Further to this, he suggested that the coalition government had overemphasised the impact of the cuts to “protect” the value of the pound.

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