Time for some good news?

A new BBC TWO TV series is looking at ‘Business Nightmares’. The show, now two episodes in, is hosted by Evan Davis and so far has looked at advertising gone wrong, PR crises and bad customer service. The most recent episode gave us the familiar stories of Dansani ‘tap water’, Hoover and their ‘free’ flights, Gerald Ratner, Barclaycard and the iphone 4 (yes, we admit that many of these could have done with media training or at least some careful thought about potential damage to their corporate reputation).

While topics of this nature are fairly usual reading material for those of us who work in PR, media or communications it’s perhaps a little surprising that the BBC feel this is now a good subject to push to the wider public, on primetime TV. It’s no secret that shows like Dragon’s Den and the Apprentice have been a big success, but you could argue this was due, in part, to the reality show trend that has taken over much of what UK audiences watch. Does this mean we are going to see more shows on business and business mistakes? Is this a good thing? Does it highlight to the consumer what can go wrong or is it just, rather belatedly, jumping on the band wagon of ‘anti-big business’ in the wake of crises like BP’s spill and the banking meltdown?

The show’s description on the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b010tbnd) announces;

“Evan Davis uncovers the scarcely believable stories of how some of the world’s most successful businesses have made monumental mistakes… Evan reveals how product design and manufacture can go horribly wrong, leaving customers in revolt and companies in crisis… Evan extracts invaluable lessons from each misadventure in this riveting guide to what not to do in business.”

This indicates the rest of the series will do nothing to help rebuild people’s attitude towards big business. It is a shame that there aren’t a few more programmes which applaud business for getting it right and give the companies involved the right of reply rather than just offering an opportunity for   the presenter to point and tut.

Is it too much to ask that we support UK business a little bit more? The economy certainly needs the help at the moment and even with the occasional boost from events like the Royal Wedding, UK-Plc is still suffering from the downturn. Americans are much better than us when it comes to supporting and even championing their own brands and business, whereas we in the UK don’t like to make too much of a spectacle about our feelings towards a brand.

It’s actually quite difficult to find mainstream news stories that champion UK business (even if we accept that it’s bad news that sells). Bankers have again been ‘bashed’ in the media after giving up on the PPI fight – most of the quoted commentators were ‘anti-bank’ (one of the very few quoted from banking itself was the Barclays’ CEO Bob Diamond who said “We don’t always get things right: when we get them wrong, we apologise and put them right.”).  Oil and gas companies are given a hard time daily, construction firms only get headlines when associated with falling house prices and in fact about the only positive story we could find on the BBC Business pages a few days ago, concerned the success of Sunseeker in selling yachts to China’s mega-rich; you would be forgiven for wondering if this is a story about UK business succeeding or whether it’s just highlighting the success of the Chinese economy!

Sometimes Public Relations is about being reactive and fighting issues, but the team at Bluewood have got a bit tired of bad news. Surely it’s time for business to ensure they are generating some good news? Otherwise, it’s just up to us to do our bit to champion our own successes a bit better.

Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – May 2011

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