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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

GMPTA Gate - the response to the PR cover-up

How exciting can PR get when you can reference those days of Tricky Dicky, Woodward and Bernstein and it involves GMPTA?

Well I want to look at the reaction. I would like to state I have nothing personally or professionally against GMPTA, SKV or anyone else mentioned here although I am sure that I would not like the Busy Bee Bus.

Let's start with GMPTA. What was their crisis PR strategy regarding not playing fair on their communications?

The latest news story on their website is "Buzz around Bury on a Busy Bee Bus! Strong messaging there with the exclamation mark, so do as they say if in Bury! As for the impending crisis nothing, that is just playing it cool.

Roger Jones chairman of the GMPTA, said it had been put together "very quickly" to make sure everyone had a chance to learn the facts about a congestion charge.

"With more time, maybe it would have been better to interview proper families, but I don't mind if they are actors and actresses (pictured) as long as the information is correct. (So why not say they are not real people, but it gives an idea of a typical resident and how it applies to them)?

"I was one of the first to say a leaflet should go out to every house in Greater Manchester and I am really proud of what we have done." Apologise and show some humility.

If he was a weatherman I suspect he would be in trunks and an ice cream reporting from the local sewage works saying the weather was fine when it was pouring and expect everyone to come out and build sand castles.

Blogger David Ottewell of the MEN thinks it has done nobody any favours and will not alter the congestion charge debate. David gives SKV the benefit of the doubt and is quite generous in saying that SKV had to balance the egos and agendas of councillors, GMPTA and others as mitigating circumstances. Don't really buy into the last bit although I imagine it is a pain for the account manager.

He does rightly recognise that the blogger that revealed the American models posing as locals needs credit: Thomas McEldowney, a part-time photographer.

Manchester Evening News was factual in its reporting and not emotive.

The comments often are and show a wide range of opinion. However, cynicism about PR was reinforced. As Gavbad (I take it that this is not his real name) says: "PR companies and their methods DON'T make for a healthy and democratic public sphere. "

One thing is that people are not taken in by glossy leaflets and are more sophisticated than some politicians and marketers imagine. Commentator PW: " The pictures in the leaflet did make me want to bring back my breakfast."

Channel M did a spoof and as many ask, "how hard can it be to find a real person in Rochdale called Terry?" Well quite hard, it took 2 hours.

In conclusion, PR did not come out well and it reflects on all of us, which is not fair.

SKV will get over this even though they will have a little flack and I suspect they will not do this again.

GMPTA looks foolish, people will trust them less and we will still probably get the congestion charge. Whatever the rights of the charge it will be harder to communicate this from now on and so they will try to steam roller it in anyway. Opposition to the charge will get stronger and can use the "we cannot trust you" card at any time.

It all makes for a huge PR challenge; they are fortunate to have a PR agency in place.


Anonymous toast said...

Hi Rob,
thannks for the link -
I should point out that i *believe* that SKV are distancing themselves from involvement in this, as can be seen in the comments to this post and it would seem that they were not the company responsible for the brochure or the web page.


3:59 AM

Anonymous Rob Artisan said...


SKV does appear to be blmaeless, but why did they not make this clear early on?

Loyalty to their clients and associates?

It has been a disaster of Manchester City proportions


2:02 PM


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