Archive for Twitter

British Gas – “Freezing pensioners not prices” – the WPR view

Posted in PR with tags , , on October 18, 2013 by Tom Leatherbarrow

British GasYesterday British Gas held a Twitter Q&A with Customer Service Director Bert Pijls. Carrying out an activity such as this on the day they announced a 9.2% hike in heating prices might be considered by some to be naïve. BG later came out and said that the Twitter Q&A was held because of the price hike, rather than in despite of it. Therefore we’d suggest that rather than just naivety, British Gas showed extraordinary arrogance too.

The Social View – Stephen Graham Account Manager

Almost 11,500 tweets were sent yesterday using the hashtag #askBG, as the Twitterati mob mauled British Gas in 140 character blow after blow.

Perhaps naivety could have been forgiven. We’ve seen many a big brand come a cropper on social media before. However, the belief that a 9.2% hike in energy prices could have been argued out of on Twitter was misguided. When a public backlash is anticipated there needs to be a well-rehearsed PR crisis plan in place, and more often than not it shouldn’t include a Twitter Q&A – certainly not in this instance.

To make matters worse, BG ignored a lot of the tweets. It would always have been impossible to respond to the hoard of messages they received but rabbits and headlights do come to mind. Certainly, if the majority of questions are not answered in a Twitter Q&A, it’s also hard to deem it a success, or useful at all.

Too often big brands will trip up on social media when it comes to a PR crisis but there is more to this story than just mistaken tweets. Whilst I’m not sure that British Gas will be able to fill their social media manager role any time soon, there is a Corporate Communications team at British Gas HQ that need to hold their hands up…


The Political View – Tom Leatherbarrow Head of B2B

The most extraordinary thing about yesterday’s social media car crash was not that British Gas took to Twitter to defend themselves, but that the decision seems to have been taken without any regard for the macro-political environment in which BG is now operating.

Like it or not Ed Miliband has put energy prices front and centre in the whole cost of living debate and it isn’t going to go away. Maybe a year or 18 months ago you could have used social media to appear open and engaging but not now.

Yesterday, BG made themselves look foolish, the Prime Minister weak, the Energy Secretary pathetic and Ed Miliband look like the Champion of the People. Not bad for one day’s work.

Sometimes in PR, the best tactic is to say nothing and yesterday was one of those days. I suspect there will be many in BG who are just keeping their heads down today, confident this will all blow over when EDF and EON announce their rises in the next week or so. Well they’d be wrong.

British Gas is still the dominant gas market player and winter is coming on. Every OAP death which has even the whiff of an old person turning down the heat or turning it off is going to be crawled over by the media now.

BG may think it has weathered the storm, but this may only be the beginning.


How not to handle the media!

Posted in Media, PR, Sport with tags , , , , on May 26, 2011 by Tom Leatherbarrow

Can people change? I’ve always taken a charitable view of human nature and have chosen to believe that individuals can turn their lives around, learn a little humility and begin to act a little differently towards their fellow humans. But, I have to say, Tiger Woods is sorely testing this theory!

His post-round interview at the US Masters in April was a monument to stonewalling. It went like this:

Q1: Do you feel you played well enough to win? Answer: “One stroke back. We’ll see.”

Q2. Do you feel you are back in the swing now? Answer: “One stroke back. We’ll see.”

Q3. (Interviewer clearly getting flustered) What are your plans now, are you going to the driving range? Answer: “Gonna eat. I’m starved.”

Thank you Tiger for that in-depth analysis. OK, maybe he was deeply disappointed in his performance (if he’d have made a few more of the putts he used to make he’d have won at a canter) but a little civility towards the poor interviewer and some information for the viewers would not have gone amiss.

Anyway, all of this almost pales into insignificance compared to tweets from Mr Woods and entourage this week.

Firstly, Greg McLaughlin, head of the Tiger Woods Foundation. “Tiger Woods arrives in Philly for AT&T National media day tomorrow. Puts the % of media questions re injury & US Open at greater than 50%”. Ha ha ha!

This was followed by Mr Woods himself a day later with: “Almost press conference time. I’ll donate $1 million to the TW Foundation if no one asks about the leg” and “Press Conference time. Off to visit with my best friends”.

There are several points here. Firstly, Woods is still clearly very angry at the media and seems unable to distinguish between golf writers who bizarrely want to write about golf and The National Enquirer who want to write about his ‘indiscretions’. As any decent PR person will tell you, never ever put an angry person in front of the media and don’t give them access to a Twitter account.

Secondly, Geoff Shackelford, the American golf blogger, made this point on Tuesday: “It really is remarkable that at this point they call a press conference after everything that happened – namely the lies – and hope to get nothing but fawning softballs.” Well yes exactly Geoff, the idea that professional golf journalists are going to go to a press conference and not ask about the #1 subject in golf at the moment, namely Woods’ leg, is extraordinary!

One final point. There was much discussion at the time of Woods’ car accident about his need for professional PR support. Personally I was doubtful and the train wreck of the stage managed press conference in Florida confirmed my instincts that he doesn’t listen to anybody.

Now I’m not so sure. Somebody, somewhere has to try and get through to him because we are watching a career, an image, a brand and, most importantly, a life go from very bad to even worse.

CNN Twitter sacking raises difficult corporate questions

Posted in Media with tags , , on July 9, 2010 by Tom Leatherbarrow

The sacking of CNN journalist Octavia Nasr, the editor responsible for the network’s Middle East coverage, over a Twitter post on her own page, in which she expressed her sadness over the death of a Lebanese cleric she described as a ‘Hezbollah giant’, raises some difficult questions for all companies whose staff like to communicate via social networking sites.

Now if there is one place in the world where a journalist (or for that matter any of us) needs to tread carefully it is the Middle East, rife as it is with claim and counter-claim. It is often exceptionally difficult to get the bottom of what is going on or who started what – witness the recent boarding of the aid ship which attempted to breach the Gaza blockade. Journalist impartiality is therefore a vital currency.

It was unquestionably an error of judgement on Nasr’s part to post what she did, in the process compromising her journalistic integrity and almost certainly terminating any possibility that she can be regarded as impartial on Middle Eastern issues. However, sacking her, after 20 years service, seems a draconian measure when a more thought-through response would possibly have been to move her to another region or assign her to other duties.

As one of my colleagues has just pointed out to me, it is often corporate policy, at Sky News for example, for journalists to have Twitter pages and encourage them to air their instantaneous views on the breaking news. For that matter, many of us working in PR now have our own Twitter and blog pages upon which we regularly give vent to our own thoughts and opinions.

There are certainly people far more qualified than me to comment on corporate best practice in this area, but I can’t help thinking that organisations are asking their employees to try and walk an increasingly difficult line between the personal and professional.