Co-op turns the tables on idiot commentators (ahem) with fine crisis PR management


By Andy Barr, Head Yeti

June 7, 2013 | 4 min read

Did you miss me during my week off? I thought not.

Grace under pressure: Co-op's comms team

Anyway, I am writing this week’s column sat at the back of a lecture hall at Manchester Met Uni, listening to the founder of Wordpress talk about how it came to be. Yep, it’s SASCON conference time. How lecture halls have changed; this one looks like something from the movie Star Trek (the set, not all the techies that are sat in here resembling alien creatures). LOL.

Back to the grindstone though, this week appears to be all about big companies fending off attack.

Our good friends over at the world’s most ethical (cough) bank, The Co-Op, have announced a raft of new senior hires. A new chairman and a new finance director is a great PR move by Co-op.

This demonstrates they are doing all they can to plug the supposed £1.8bn gap in its capital finances. In my eyes, it’s working. They are slipping down the news agenda, the write-ups are largely positive and this is another fine example of great crisis communications management by their comms team.

When you think that around a month ago, idiot commentators like myself were speculating that there may be a rush on the bank, and it could be the end to where they are today, I think it’s time I ate some humble pie and tip my hat to them.

How have they done it? Well, it’s consistent communications, serious messaging, and senior level buy-ins and actions, such as this week with the two new appointments.

Another FTSE that is fending people off is Severn Trent. I think most analysts reckon a deal will go through eventually, but at the moment it is all very flirty and in Facebook relationship terms they would say “it's complicated”.

I knew a few people over at Severn from my time spent in the world of Utilities (a great sector to work in by the way) and I get the impression that staff are worried about the job implications of being taken over, given what has historically happened to the sector.

This tells me that, whilst the external messaging is spot on - they got their most senior person doing the doorstep to media, being robust in their replies etc - the biggest challenge could be managing the internal messages.

OFWAT have said very little of importance so far, just the usual “play nicely everyone” but I think it will only be a matter of time before the government position on the potential sale is briefed out. I think this is when things could move quite quickly in terms of, if supported, it will go ahead, if not supported, it will quietly die.

Agree, disagree? Let me know, @10Yetis on The Twitter.


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