Adidas score own goal with Brazil 2014 World Cup tee-shirts


A pair of 2014 World Cup tee-shirts has landed sportswear giant Adidas in hot water after Brazil objected to the sexualisation of its image in the run up to the sporting event – of which Adidas is a major sponsor. Cue PR crisis and uproar on social media!

I’m not sure what makes you a PR Crisis Expert, however I do have that tee-shirt from BBC 5 Live and in recent months have spoken about problems as diverse as the Co-op’s ‘Crystal Methodist’ Paul Flowers, the NHS and today on the breakfast show it was Adidas.

There is a certain inevitability of stories like this and with the enthusiasm for the Winter Olympics at Sochi thawing the focus will soon switch to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and Adidas has made an early run for most spectacular own goal by creating these woefully predictable and stereotypical tee-shirts.

I was chatting to BBC 5 Live Sport presenter Adam Parsons and recalled that back when I was at school Adidas stood for ‘All Day I Dream About Sex’, which is presumably what the designer who created these tee-shirts was doing.

I suspect they went through on the nod from some small department and were anticipated to sell in sufficient numbers to make it worth manufacturing them. If they sold they’d make more and if they didn’t they would bin them. No-one considered this might happen.

And what has happened? Brazil complains, Adidas withdraws the tee-shirts and everyone gets briefly excited, but not convinced this will capture the imaginations – not least as the tee-shirts were not being worn by models or anyone famous.

I think the BBC may have been hoping I would predict this will be The Next Big Thing in social media disasters, but honestly I do not think it will and honestly, I cannot see Adidas losing much sleep over this own goal and a quick search on Twitter doesn’t show this has been embraced in the way some problems are. Of course, it could soon be trending as it does have the ‘sex’ factor which does excite many of those adept at making the most of 140 characters.

What is the lesson here? Swift action has mitigated the fallout for Adidas for sure and they haven’t at this stage put up a spokesperson, which is why the BBC is talking to a PR Crisis Expert such as myself. Nor is Brazil so while it is not necessarily wise to only issue a statement, in this circumstance it has limited the story.

A word of caution and one that I shared on air; Brazil is fighting hard to combat its sex tourism image which is why it challenged these tee-shirts. However, in doing so it raises interest in looking more closely at how the country prepares for the World Cup and a quick Google search reveals plenty of stories far more damaging than these tee-shirts for Brazil’s reputation.
What do you think about the Adidas tee-shirts? Tell us in the comments below? 

Facebook reviews… turns out you cannot have your cake and eat it

(UPDATE: In the wake of this blog The Shed sought to retain Morgan PR to manage this situation. It is significant that at no stage has the client asked for this blog, or critical comments we made on social media,  to be removed.)

There is an interesting social media car crash spinning in the carriageway of the web traffic, with a bistro in Bath objecting rather strongly to a customer’s negative comments.

A negative review on The Shed’s Facebook page from a paying customer, which still gave the venue three stars (the average is three-and-a-half stars based on 46 reviews) prompted an astonishing foul-mouthed response from the venue.

You can see the screengrab right where Helen Forsyth, a sales consultant from Bath had coffee there on Friday, but was clearly a little worried about the cakes…

“The cakes looked amazing and I wanted to try every single one BUT the cakes were on very open display with every customer essentially leaning over them to order. So all the cakes were getting breathed on (or worse) by every single passing person, plus the staff. Which is a crying shame as they really did look extremely good. And at £3 per standard sized brownie, they really do need to be good too! But due to the above, we just had coffee.”

Fair enough? Sure it is going to smart if you own the joint, but does it warrant this nuclear response to a mosquito bite? A response that singlehandedly guaranteed that this tale would go viral.

The Shed responded:

“Please don’t come back – your feedback is b****cks ! You would need to be a midget with a neck of a giraffe to be able to breath (sic) over them – stupid woman!”

(Those expletive undermining stars are ours by the way, they actually swore at paying customer on Facebook!).

And so it began… News crews are probably coming back from the floods in Somerset to cover this debacle and while many people will hear of The Shed, how many who are local will take a view on whether to visit?

Twitter, far more than Facebook, is where this story is unfolding with @theshedbath seemingly responding to every tweet with gusto.

At Morgan PR we often have businesses come to us when negative reviews or online material has been published and the first thing we try to do is quote George Bernard Shaw.

“Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”

That usually gives them pause to think and honestly that is what you need to do if you get negative reviews.

How differently would it have gone if The Shed had thanked Helen for her feedback and mentioned displaying cakes in this way meets with food safety standards (everyone does it so it surely must?).

There is a trend for venues to go postal against negative reviewers and they nearly always make the headlines. Who is left the most dirty by this depends on the content of the negative review – if the response is proportionate it tends to come out in favour of the venue. However if as in this case when it seems somewhat over the top…

Incidentally, it is worth examining the law surrounding defamation as The Shed is making all sorts of threats relating to what is calls “libellous/defamatory comments”.

The Defamation Act 2013 came into force at the start of the year and has substantially changed the defences to claims of libel, chief among them is the ‘Requirement of Serious Harm’ – which would need The Shed to prove serious financial loss. Assuming such loss occurred I wonder how much would be deemed to be caused by their responses rather than the original comment?

The customers leaving a review also have the defence of ‘Truth’ if what they have said is actually true, however it may be more straightforward to rely upon

If it was an ‘honest opinion’ then they have a defence. This hefty protection replaced ‘Fair Comment’ but remains the reviewer’s friend. The defence of honest opinion will apply where the defendant can show that the following three conditions are met: 

  • That the statement complained of was a statement of opinion;
  • That an honest person could have held the opinion on the basis of any fact which existed at the time the statement complained of was published.
  • That an honest person could have held the opinion on the basis of any fact which existed at the time the statement complained of was published

So speaking as a journalist quick test based on the available facts: Yes, it is an opinion. Yes the statement is the basis of the opinion and if the cakes were on show as they are in photos on The Shed’s Facebook page, it is an honest opinion that it could be unhygienic, whether or not it actually is.

So today’s social media car wreck is tomorrow’s forgotten bookmark and it is way too early in 2014 to know if this will make the top 10 social media fails just yet… but it might!

So if you want some advice before you go nuclear at some perceived slight contact Morgan PR for some friendly, professional advice – and be prepared for us to quote George Bernard Shaw.

Could poor customer service be why Tesco is losing its sparkle?

Imagine… you are at the checkout in Tesco and have just bought eight bottles of Taittinger Champagne as gifts for clients… the scene is set for an excursion into poor customer service which we can all learn some lessons from.

So back to the till… As you go to put them in your various bags for life a Tesco employee skips up and takes six bottles, replacing them with some pink fizzy nonsense and by way of explanation says that someone had already bought the bottles online.

Actually the sorry episode I’ve just witnessed over the past painful few days was different, but the principle remains the same. My better half bought the eight bottles online, they were available and she paid and delivery would be the next day.

Two bottles of Champagne arrived… with six inferior bottles of pink Champagne as replacements and when challenged, Tesco’s explanation was that someone had bought the other bottles in store. So to be clear, bottles which had been offered for sale, accepted, paid for and promised were then actually sold to someone else?

Really? Is that what passes for stock management at Tesco? You are able to sell something and promise it to a customer and then take it away and sell it to another customer and replace it with an inferior product.

Naturally in the days that followed there was sorry excuse after sorry excuse and the next promised delivery didn’t turn up and various coupons and platitudes were offered, before it finally turned up in a remarkably allotted ten minute window on Sunday morning.

There is scarcely a day when Tesco is not in the news for some failure or another and all the time you just know it is haemorrhaging customers faster than you can mutter ‘Champagne? Bit of a first world problem surely?’

Rather than crying over the spilt milk in aisle three Tesco needs to get a grip for this kind of customer experience has as much to do with why the likes of Aldi and Lidl are thriving as does price.

The lesson is blisteringly simple. Do not continue to offer for sale something you have already sold!

There is a PR lesson too… when you mess up like this today there is every chance it will be lived out on Facebook and perhaps someone will blog the sorry story and share that widely. Gone are the days when a snafu like this could be hushed away with platitudes.

Surely good customer service should be borne of a desire to help and provide a great experience, therefore engendering loyalty. Failing that, surely you should recognise that sloppy customer service is the bread and butter of social media rants and how many customers does that alienate?

I suspect the beleaguered Chief Executive Philip Clarke will be getting a letter about this very soon and no doubt the response will be informative…
Have you had an interesting customer experience with Tesco? Or any of the other supermarkets? Do share, good and bad examples are welcome as are tales of what you do to provide great customer service. 


Michael Gove does PR homework over return to O-Levels

Michael GoveDo you go misty-eyed over O-Levels? I was in the final year to take them back in the summer of 87 and they already felt as if they’d been dismissed by the new kid as GCSEs were ushered in.

Fast forward a quarter of a century and students, teachers, unions and politicians were up in arms as Education Secretary Michael Gove effectively dismissed them and called for a return to O-Levels just as the latest crop of 16-year-olds were sitting those exams.

He was lambasted from all sides and criticised for, among other things, not recognising that many students, often from poorer backgrounds, were not able to flourish with the traditional O-Level exam, but had with GCSEs. It appeared to be quietly put to one side as we got excited about Jessica Ennis and GB team mates instead.

Fast forward to the exam results and those critics were in uproar over inconsistent marking and threats of legal action and it was a sorry mess… step forward Michael Gove today, a man tipped to keep his seat at the cabinet table in the imminent reshuffle, and he condemned the GCSEs as not fit for purpose and pledged an O-Level style exam most students could take by 2014.

Listening to him on Radio 4’s Today Programme, he said of the exam problems:

“It reinforces the case for reform in GCSEs. My heart goes out to those who sat their exams this summer because I don’t think the examination was designed in the most appropriate way. There were inherent problems with the system.

“In fact, what we need to do is replace GCSEs with new exams. I think everyone who sat the exam was treated in a way that wasn’t fair.”

Master stroke. The criticism is more muted this time. Partly because schools are not quite back in session and nor was Parliament, but crucially, much of the powder spent on taking pot shots at Gove has been left damp by criticism of the very exams he wants to replace.

Now, Machiavelli would be proud of Gove. It was trailed the marking of the exams would be tougher this summer and in that knowledge he attacked GCSEs, albeit with crass timing for the students. The results came and his critics took aim at the exam marking and up steps Gove to agree with them and push forward his nostalgic agenda for O-Levels. Clever eh?

If by some mishap in communication he didn’t anticipate the criticism of the results, he has still been nimble enough to let it play out and then step in and capitalise on the opportunity to push his agenda.

So what PR lessons can we learn from this? Clearly if you are setting the agenda and have some knowledge of future announcements you can play this game to mitigate criticism for a project or scheme that may be unpopular. Or at the very least recognise that when the news agenda switches to support your own aims you might be able to ride the coattails to success.

Do you need help with your public relations? Whether you need the ninja-like moves of a Government Minister, or some coverage in your local paper or online, contact Morgan PR today on 01635 812069.

Many thanks to Regional Cabinet for the photograph.

Prince Harry, strip billiards and the stable door school of PR

Prince Harry and stable door PROnce upon a time the delusional mantra went ‘What goes in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ and more realistically now goes ‘What goes in Vegas, stays on Google’, or Facebook, or Twitter – something Prince Harry now realises.

Anyone with internet access has probably seen the photographs of the naked Prince Harry surrounded by equally undressed young women during a game of strip billiards in Las Vegas, but you will not have seen it in the British newspapers, well, not yet anyway.

Why? Well, by sabre rattling at the post Levenson British media the Royal PR machine has managed to stop the photographs being published in the UK… but if you search on Google images for ‘Prince Harry naked’ you will find the images published on gossip website TMZ and hundreds of other websites too.

The word on social media and especially Facebook is favourable towards the Prince; he is a young guy who has fought for his country and he is simply letting off steam! I mean, which of us hasn’t cavorted with strippers in Vegas? No? Okay… moving on, the British media would have probably echoed this given the chance, but instead they are posing up faked photos and highlighting interference from the Palace, who claim any publication would invade his privacy.

So the Palace, which has apparently been rehabilitating the party-loving Prince in the eyes of the media, now looks as out of touch as married footballer Ryan Giggs did hanging on to that injunction which stopped the media from naming him as having an affair with Imogen Thomas, even though we all knew via Twitter and the like.

The web has changed crisis PR and this approach of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted and written its memoirs of a life at stud is nonsensical. Faced by a widely known crisis, keeping quiet is rarely an option, but trying to prevent further coverage simply isn’t an option and the Palace PR should have known better.

If you’ve been caught with your pants down, literally or figuratively and need some crisis PR advice, contact Morgan PR today on 01635 812069

Photo Credit: With thanks to Vix_B via Creative Commons on Flickr

Firewalk PR crisis deftly handled by Tony Robbins press team

Tony Robbins PR CrisisThe media are getting hot and bothered over claims 21 people were burned at a recent firewalking finale to one of lifestyle guru Tony Robbins’ ‘Unleash the Power Within’ events in California. Whatever the truth it reveals how PR savvy the team behind Robbins are at dealing with PR crisis management.

Pausing for a moment to read the thorough stories in America, such as the San Jose Mercury and the Washington Post do reveal that of the 21 only three needed hospital treatment and that the most dramatic eye-witness was a passer-by rather than an injured participant or involved witness. That of course doesn’t stop the story!

Firewalking has been around for millennia and is as much a matter of physics as it is mind over matter and it works tremendously well in a motivational setting as anyone who overcomes there fears of strolling over the coals will emerge the other side energised with a sense of self belief that has the considerable potential to serve them well beyond the few seconds firewalking.

It is the big name of ‘Tony Robbins’ that made this an international news story rather than a nib in the local paper, and the PR team at Robbins Research International recognised this and issued a statement that kept the man himself removed from the unfolding drama. Had he taken part the story would have been even bigger.

They were widely quoted as saying:

“We have been safely providing this experience for more than three decades, and always under the supervision of medical personnel … We continue to work with local fire and emergency personnel to ensure this event is always done in the safest way possible.”

If Tony Robbins himself had said this it would have had more currency, so it was good it was a spokesman, even an unnamed one. However, did you notice it has been abbreviated?

Promptly on request, Robbins Research International sent Morgan PR the full statement:

“On Thursday, July 19, as part of the “Unleash the Power Within” seminar, more than 6,000 attendees participated in the traditional Firewalk across hot coals. We have been safely providing this experience for more than three decades, and always under the supervision of medical personnel.

“A small number of our participants experienced pain or minor injuries and sought medical attention, both at the designated facilities on site and later in the evening. We continue to work with local fire and emergency personnel to ensure this event is always done in the safest way possible.”

The media dropped the date hiding the fact the story is older than headlines might suggest, and the fact 6,000 people firewalked – making 21 less than one per cent of those taking part. The media also omit the explanation of how the pain and injuries were minor and treated on site, with some people seeking medical attention ‘later’ in the evening – further suggesting the minor nature.

Even with these omissions, the media were probably tempered by the facts, which sometimes do get in the way of a good story. It is a good example of a comprehensive statement, which addresses the facts without adding too much information.

Still, the media will always feel free to cherry pick from statements and in PR crisis management it takes the kind of finesse developed as a journalist and refined representing the police or within politics to ensure the mitigating message is not lost and putting forward a spokesman to deliver the message would mean it is communicated in its entirety on any broadcast media – of course in this instance it was more important to minimise coverage rather than mitigate.

If you have a problem that risks turning into a crisis and do not have the resources of Tony Robbins at your disposal, contact Morgan PR or call on 01635 812069 and discover how we can help you manage a PR crisis.