How to turn a piece of bad timing into a public relations disaster

Nigel FaragePhoto by European Parliament

UKIP Leader Nigel Farage
Photo by European Parliament

It shouldn’t have been difficult to spot. Every hot button was pressed – racism, welfare, politics, the State and immigration – so surely they should have proceeded with care?

Last week in the UK, a powerful human interest story became entangled with a political event in a PR disaster which exemplified some fundamental truths on message management. Until then, it had been a relatively un-newsworthy parliamentary election in Rotherham, northern England, where the UK Labour Party had held the seat in every election since 1933. So far, so boring. Continue reading

Michelle Obama has had a good Presidential election

Michelle Obama
Photo by Obama for America

Remember the summer of 2010 and Michelle Obama’s holiday jaunt to Spain with her two daughters and a select group of friends which unleashed a storm of criticism, with accusations of jet-set living at taxpayer expense even as millions of Americans struggled to make ends meet in a lagging economy.

“Michelle Obama seems more like a modern-day Marie Antoinette…than an average mother of two,” drummed  Andrea Tantaros in The New York Daily News, gifting headlines like ‘Let them eat Tapas’.

Well, Michelle Obama has had a good presidential election in 2012. And the French, home of that same Marie Antoinette, absolutely adore her. Continue reading

Are apologies overworked in PR? IKEA versus Apple

IKEA, founded in 1943, and one of the most successful international retailing companies, is undergoing a practical lesson in crisis management after admitting last week that political prisoners in the former East Germany laboured under cruel conditions to produce its furniture.

In May, a documentary made in Sweden – the home country of IKEA – made claims that the company had used the forced labour of political prisoners suppressed by the former head of the German Democratic Republic Honecker and his ubiquitous Stasi police to make its furniture. Continue reading

Prince Philip’s humour saves ‘his grace’

Official portrait of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh taken in the Centre Room at Buckingham Palace in December 2011 © Royal Household/John Swannell

In the 65 years since he married Queen Elizabeth II, consort Prince Philip has built a reputation for his caustic wit and politically incorrect gaffes.

And he has hit on one of each in the space of a week:

At the end of last week, he endeared himself to every spouse by berating an award-winning silversmith over the time-consuming problem of the jewellery clasp. You know – Queen comes in wearing full evening ball gown, as you do… “Those infernal clasps are absolutely impossible. You fiddle with them for hours, then they suddenly come undone and they fall on the floor but you have no idea why”…. Continue reading

Social media takes a real bashing in the UK

The nice Guardian review of his new book just wasn’t enough for author RJ Ellory. Amazon users Jelly Bean and Nicodemus Jones reviewed his A Quiet Belief in Angels online as “truly a modern masterpiece” and Ellory himself as “one of the most talented authors of today” – except Mr Bean (sic) and Mr Jones were later outed as indeed Mr Ellory.

Pseudonymous reviews, known in the media as “sock puppets” where the author reviews his own work, TripAdvisor thrashings, restaurant eulogies on the internet are viewed more and more with scepticism by the discerning public. Continue reading

Petraeus’ tactical retreat: an almost flawless execution

Gen. David Petraeus
Photo by Hector Alejandro

Normally, nothing provokes more ludicrous and hysterical behaviour from our public figures than sex scandals. Bill Clinton famously queried the definition of the word “is” to defend his contrary statements on Monica Lewinsky. Newt Gingrich used allegations made against him by a former wife to launch an uncharacteristically terse attack on CNN.

The Petraeus affair, in contrast, has so far managed to stay relatively clean-cut – at least for Petraeus himself. Continue reading