We reflect on the week’s events and lessons learned for PR professionals.
Bad PR week
This week marked the start of the party conference season and a critical one at that, given the approaching general election. With the Labour party first up, it was all eyes on Ed Milliband.
It was not his finest hour; his speech will go down in the annals of the Labour party more for what he failed to say than what he actually did. Meanwhile, his media interviews were equally taken up explaining why he hadn’t mentioned the deficit or immigration rather than spelling out his vision for the future.
In Milliband’s defence, he did take the opportunity to set out his stall as an honest politician, speaking from the heart, rather than his PR aide’s script. But it remains to be seen whether that will have been enough to reassure listeners as to why matters of national importance weren’t closer to his heart.
Could there have been a better way of handling things we wonder? Rather than a quick acknowledgement of the omission (easier said than done, admittedly), Milliband seemed to struggle to get back on track with his own agenda and was embroiled in a defence of his style.
It seemed to reinforce the general impression of awkwardness that beleaguers his attempts to establish himself as a national leader. And where things don’t come naturally, perhaps a little more rehearsal, practice and preparation may count for more than shooting from the hip.
Good PR week
In marked contrast, one man who fared much better in the week’s press was Richard Branson. Illustrating the adage that he who dares, wins, his announcement that Virgin employees could enjoy unlimited annual leave rights was enough to make worldwide headlines, including the home page of that venerable media bastion, the BBC.
And that was notwithstanding the caveats: it applies to his 170 personal staff – no doubt a loyal, dedicated and well rewarded bunch – who only need to be “100% comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!”
By his own admission, Branson isn’t the first to introduce such a policy; it was inspired by a similar one launched a few years ago at Netflix. But when it comes to PR, success breeds success, and Branson is certainly the man with the Midas touch in the media. Moreover, who can’t be impressed with a policy that is founded in trust?
The bottom line in PR this week is the simple but oft neglected truth that good ideas and actions generate the best results and feedback.