Fresh eyes

Will businesses learn from 2010’s PR mishaps?

Will businesses learn from 2010’s PR mishaps
Ben Hewes Head of Video; PR & Comms Manager

Written by Ben Hewes,
Content Marketing & Video Production Manager at Freshfield

There’s been plenty for comms professionals to learn from what’s been a fascinating last 12-months.

Oil giant BP and its beleaguered boss Tony Hayward made schoolboy error after error, making his name forever synonymous with the phrase ‘I want my life back’.

The World Cup bid team was left red-faced when England was soundly thrashed to the prize by Russia, despite its brilliant presentation and a number of votes apparently promised. It’s difficult to fail in a more spectacular way, and lessons will inevitably be learnt from the ‘arrogance’ many feel the team displayed.

We will forever remember the wasted photo opportunity which saw the dream team of David Cameron, David Beckham and Prince William pose for what must have been one of the dullest shots of the year – a textbook case study for how not to set up such an opportunity.

The Government has been severely embarrassed by the Wikileaks scandal and the ongoing revelations. However, the whole affair will surely shape the way the internet is used for dissemination of controversial information for years to come, with newspapers and authorities alike learning the lesson that once on the internet, nothing is private again.

As usual the weather has played a major role, and the recent snow has made just about every local authority, airport and the Government look foolish. Similarly, the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland also left many airlines needing to review their emergency management plans.

But for every communications nightmare there have been just as many good news stories to tug on our heart strings.

Who could resist watching the television news when the Chilean miners began to emerge safely from deep under the earth’s surface? A response to a crisis that was almost flawless, superbly communicated to the wider world.

And all but the most hardened cynic couldn’t help but be ever so slightly interested by the ‘fairytale’ story of the Royal Wedding, and the sell-out £16 Tesco copy of the dress the future Queen wore during the announcement. Great publicity for the monarchy, which is being capitalised upon by the Government as well as retailers.

So what do the next 12-months have in store?

Wikileaks has changed the way many are thinking of the internet, and it is likely this won’t be the last we will hear of whistleblowers using the web to disseminate information. Once it’s out there, it’s out there – something governments seem only now to be learning.

Technological convergence is also likely to continue to be important over the next 12 months: the use of one device to perform many functions. With the success of the iPad, companies like Dell and Samsung are now powering away with their own versions, powered by Google’s all-conquering Android operating system. Apple could be in for a fight to remain at the top of the tree.

Finally, it doesn’t look good for newspapers. Pay freezes, strikes – the signs are that the industry is in the grip of some major changes, and 2011 could be the year when we find out what is going to replace the newspaper industry as we know it, be that hyper local websites or newspapers adapted for use on tablet computers.

One thing’s for sure, amid all of the great examples of communications gold, there’s likely to be many more PR own goals by organisations large and small. Undoubtedly, it will be those with the most robust crisis comms procedures in place that will come out best.

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