British Gas, Pickles and other PR silly season stories

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By Andy Barr | Head Yeti

August 1, 2013 | 5 min read

How was everyone’s royal baby week? While I cooed at the little sweetie, I did wonder if he realised how much grief he had caused us poor, hard pressed PR folk.

British Gas has pulled a Jedi mind trick, writes Andy Barr

The royal baby meant our campaign plans were wiped for a week. Our clients were wondering why we were trying to shoehorn baby-related angles into their plans and most importantly, we faced the cold hard fact that the 24/7 media could not be jolted into action with a humdinger of an angle.

No, not even the desperation PR101 emergency plan, ie mention Facebook or Twitter in a release, could penetrate the Baby Media Firewall. Baby George, we salute your PR tekkers.

Moving on to another brand that is nearly as old as the royals and has just as good a PR machine, British Gas, which has had a great week in PR terms.

Two days ago the media had their axes out, ready to tear the utility company a new gas pipe. The story was all about how the sneaky so and so had popped its prices up shortly before the coldest winter ever recorded, a cunning move. The result was that it made more coin than ever before. Nice.

So, as mentioned, the media got ready to pounce and then British Gas carried out the ultimate Jedi mind trick. Before you could even say “those are not the droids you are looking for” BG released a story saying it may start giving electricity away on Saturdays.

While anyone who has ever worked in the utility sector facepalmed at this PR gimmick, it looks like the media has lapped it up. It dominated the news, which ran BG statements about how the plan may happen in its entirety.

BG says it is looking into offering these new free Saturday tariffs because of its success in the US and other vaguely green/eco reasons, but very much like the Eric Pickles “park on double yellow lines for free” story, I predict this will never happen.

These stories herald the start of the silly season (if that even exists any more) but also, looking at the Pickles story, the firing of the starting pistol for early general election posturing and point scoring.

Finally, a story from the world of the internets caught my attention today, if only because it is one to watch.

MoneySupermarket, for the second quarter running (if my memory serves me correctly) has mentioned a Google algorithm change in its list of reasons why performance was not as expected. It is specifically citing that the search giant is putting its own comparison tools at the top of the search engine positions.

With the exception of very few brands, Google algorithm changes affect every business out there so I find it odd that MoneySupermarket would be mentioning this again.

The only reason I could see for it to do this would be because it is paving the way for some form of future legal challenge. Where it would get it, I don’t know, but it would be interesting to watch, especially if more and more brands got involved.

You heard it here first - watch out for a business class-action against Google in the future around its use of its market dominance in one area to influence its revenues from another.

Gut instinct and history very much tells me that Google would win.

Got a story, want to give me abuse? Come at me on the Twitter @10Yetis

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