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No such thing as bad press

The old cliche – ‘there’s no such thing as bad press’ is still banded around and often describes questionable headlines where it is hoped that the overall publicity will outweigh the negative connotations of the story.

However, there is such a thing as bad press. Mud can stick, even when it is something later proved to be unfair or untrue.

This brings us to Extinction Rebellion. Their campaign initially captured the headlines and a public now more aware of environmental issues was happy to applaud their cause.

But the group’s recent campaign of sever disruption is a questionable strategy. Whilst it is succeeding in getting the attention of governments, which is their stated objective, they are doing this by abandoning their public support. The distressing interview of the person unable to fly home to say a final farewell to a dying parent, solely because Extinction Rebellion chose to shut down an airport, was an awful watch.

As was the group member being dragged from the top of a train and set upon by angry commuters. Their is a perception among the public that the group are simply out to cause disruption and trouble, and in fact care little for their cause. A point underlined when they glued themselves to electric trains to stop them running – surely electric trains are part of the green transport solution?

Which brings me to the next cliche – ‘perception is reality’. Whilst many of us want to see a renewed urgency to tackle climate change and fear for the future, the perception that Extinction Rebellion are doing more harm than good is out there. Time for a rethink?

A remarkable individual

Whenever the Edinburgh Festival & Fringe comes around, I’m reminded of Mary Lou Quinlan.

Mary Lou is a remarkable person.

She was a trailblazer for women in business. From her senior marketing role at Avon Products, through her years as ad agency CEO for major global corporations. And her decade plus advising leading brands through her firm, Just Ask a Woman, Mary Lou knows women like nobody else. Leading brands including WellsFargo, SaksFifth Avenue, KAO, Westin and Kraft have turned to her for insights and answers that fuel success with women.

She is the author of three breakthrough business books, including What She’s Not Telling You, Time Off for Good Behavior, and Just Ask a Woman. She’s written inspirational features for Real Simple, O, the Oprah magazine, and a monthly career advice column for MORE. She’s appeared as a correspondent on the CBS Early Show, and as a judge on Simon Cowell’s ABC-TV primetime reality series “American Inventor,” among many media appearances.

However, her book ‘The God Box’, was something different. This was a really personal account of her life and her Mom. That book became a New York Times bestseller in just three weeks and birthed a global movement, The God Box Project, with books published around the world, a vibrant online community, a mobile app and a one woman play.

And this is where we come in. We worked with Mary Lou when she wanted to bring her one woman play to the Edinburgh Festival. Mary Lou is one of those people that inspires you just by being in the room with her. As anyone who has promoted during the festival will tell you, it’s damn hard work, however, it was worth it to see Mary Lou’s show do so well.

And now? She’s all over the place performing her play, including a sold-out Off-Broadway run and numerous performances in Ireland.

A remarkable person, a remarkable story, and the memories of working with Mary Lou still brings a smile to our faces.

We all make mistakes

Mistakes… we all make them. However, they don’t have to be the stressful nightmares that we sometimes let them become.

Whilst the moment immediately after a mistake is discovered can be the most difficult time to think with a calm head, often this is the most important time to pause and think rationally.

I’m reminded of the time (a few years ago now) when there was some mail merge training going on in our office for a new member of the team. As the person was talking the new member through it, they set up a Word document and inserted some sample text. In this case the words “blah, blah blah”. They then attached a sample file containing the recipients and it was good to go. However, jumping ahead one step, the trainee hit the send button. And off went an attachment to a significant number of MSPs with the words blah, blah blah in an attached letter.

Cue the panic.

However, with a calm head and adopting the principle that honesty is the best policy, we simply contacted all the recipients with a full explanation of the training session gone wrong. In the end, we received some light hearted responses back from all but one MSP (who we won’t name) that took our mistake as something more than it was. The rest were perfectly understanding, because as the headline says… we all make mistakes.

Go long, not short

Sometimes you just need a quick PR win, and that’s fine. However, your eye should always be on winning the war, not just the odd battle.

This is particularly true in public service comms. Trust is hugely important. Throw away lines and hollow promises might cure an issue in the short term, but chances are, lack of delivery in the long term will not only leave people feeling short changed, but they will trust what you say less because you couldn’t be trusted to deliver on your word first time around.

It always amazes me to see so many promises made that obviously can’t be delivered upon, or that won’t deliver the results people hope.

So go long with your message. Take people on the journey with you. Give them confidence that you have a plan, even where it is a plan that will take time to deliver. And never make hollow promises.

Humanise it

One of the best ways to get your message across is to humanise it.

We react more to things we can relate to and understand. For example a 3% earnings decrease could mean something entirely different to someone earning £100,000 to someone barely surviving on a lot less. So don’t say 3%. Give it a relatable human element.

The cut to Mary’s earnings meant she could no longer afford to heat her home in the winter.

Definitely more emotive, and lets people understand and assimilate the message you are aiming to get across.

But as with all comms, you should never create fictional or made up examples unless you explicitly advertise that they are such for advertising purposes. Keep comms real, truthful and relatable.