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Communication is critical to your reputation. With the world watching, how do you get it right?

16th June 2020 by Kirsty Anderson | Digital PR, News & Events

At the heart of any communication, people want humanity, the truth and authenticity. They don’t want propaganda, spin, hype, lies or arrogance.

Never have these points been so important. Our screens are dominated with COVID and #BlackLivesMatter news; both hugely emotive worldwide topics that are shaping how we think, live and act. Opinions are vast and the news is fast, which is why how you respond to these topics is critical.

Amongst the media chaos, we have witnessed toe-curling broadcast interviews with leading UK Ministers and companies – the very people we expect to get it right.  On the other hand, we have seen brands rise to the occasion; support one another and manage to get people talking about them for the right reasons.

Let’s look at who we should and shouldn’t learn from…

Been there, done that, nailed it. The reality? It was a disaster!

Being able to come out of a sticky-wicket or indeed have an opinion on an important matter and say you’ve ‘nailed it’ is what everyone wants to achieve. But it often takes years of experience, lots of practice and the right advice to get there.

For anyone who has experienced media training, you’ll recognise the three Ps – Preparation, Presentation and Performance. Unfortunately, for these interviewees, the three P’s quickly fell apart. Even more unfortunately, it was in front of millions of viewers.

The disastrous unfolding of UK Minister for Care, Helen Whately’s interview on prime-time TV

In this first video, the Minister is accused of smiling and not giving a straight answer to the care home death figures by the ever-persistent Piers Morgan. I’m sure there’s not many of us that would like to be in the hot seat with Mr Morgan but is what he’s asking in this cringe-worthy interview too much to ask? People can respect the truth; however hard it might be to hear.

The run of bad interviews followed the Care Minister onto Sky News when she was accused of putting the blame on the scientists in the handling of the coronavirus in care homes before quickly retracting. This is a great example of how interviewees can be railroaded into saying something they shouldn’t when under pressure (and are ill-prepared) by a persistent interviewer.


Rolls-Royce CEO, Warren East, smirks as he announces 9,000 job cuts 

Picture the scene. The CEO of one of Britain’s longest-standing luxury car makers is on a prime BBC News slot to announce 9,000 job cuts. He is distracted the entire interview, isn’t giving viewers his full attention and smirks his way through the interview. Sounds like a disaster, doesn’t it? Well, it’s exactly what happened. He’s since apologized after being heavily criticized on social media, but the damage had already been done. He was talking about a hugely serious matter. His tone should have reflected the magnitude of his announcement.

Rolls Royce Interview

These brands really did nail it!

You’d be forgiven for thinking that representing a brand’s comms sitting behind a screen is easier than being in a hot seat with a camera lens shoved in your face. You’d be wrong. One wrong slip of the keyboard and you could be in crisis mode quicker than it takes to put your Cap Locks on. The careful balancing act of staying true to your brand’s personality and keeping your audience engaged takes hours of writing perfectly curated content. These social media fails offer up examples of when it does go wrong.

Sometimes, the best approach is just to do the right thing. That could be apologizing, or like these brands did, stand in #solidaritea.

A cup of tea always makes things better – at least it does if it’s Yorkshire Team or PG Tips 

After receiving a comment from a far-right blogger who praised Yorkshire Tea for not having voiced its support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the tea brand responded with:

Which was quickly followed by brand solidarity from PG Tips…

Yorkshire Tea and PG Tips may be rivals on the supermarket shelves but the greater cause of #BlackLivesMatter united them without competition.

And just like in broadcast interviews where you’d expect a comms person to be (correctly) advising a spokesperson, the tea brands probably had several PR/Comms people involved in deciding on the exact wording of their response.  And that’s great that they did. Why? Because with the right guidance, they judged the mood perfectly and hit the nail on the head. Over 100k Likes and counting…

Getting it right is hard

There’s no doubt that getting your messaging spot on is tough in today’s fast moving and hugely opinionated media world but keeping the three P’s in mind – as well as having an amazingly talented and on-point PR team can go a long way!

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