Just when I thought I could not like John Lewis any more than I already do it goes and takes part in my favourite hobby, annoying the French. Our work-shy, sheep-burning neighbours have got their culottes in a knot over a few off-the-cuff and very tongue-in-cheek comments by John Lewis managing director, Andy Street.
From a public relations point of view, this should be easy for the comms office to bat off, and it looks like they already have. These were comments made in jest at an awards night where he was clearly having a bit of 'banter'. Some media wag has picked up on them, most probably from a competitor of John Lewis leaking it, and hey presto, the story has run.
Add in the fact that John Lewis is about to launch a French language version of its website and it looks quite the tale. If I got in the papers for every off the cuff and accidentally offensive comment I made at a public event, well, I would not be writing this now; I would probably be working in a burger van and enquiring if you “want any sauce with that”.
That is the kind of world we live in now. Every word is analysed, every media appearance is judged and every joke said in jest looks rather bleak when written down and circulated on paper.
My main fear is that John Lewis, a company that for many years has been shrouded in a smidge of mystery and not that forthcoming in terms of controversial campaigns, will now batten down the hatches and withdraw from the business scene in terms of talking about itself in public.
This would be terrible! John Lewis is one of the real jewels in the British business crown. It has consistently performed above and beyond, its communications strategies put the rest of the high street to shame and its employee-partner initiative makes the Virgin staff benefits scheme look like it is being run by Mike Ashley.
In short, John Lewis has plenty to shout about and plenty that someone like me, a guy with his finger on the pulse of the British business scene, can learn a lot from. I want it to speak openly and freely without fear that some scamp will snitch it up.
Back to the cheese-eating surrender monkeys and their response to our Andy’s comments and true to form, they replied far too late for anyone to care and according to the Daily Mail ,made some jibe about Brits needing to stick to eating Fish’n’Chips. Quite the riposte!
John Lewis, you and your comms are a perfect 10 in my eyes and I hope you let your managing director continue to roam free with his comments. Next up for Mr Street, Turkey and their grabby shopkeepers…
Ps. Last time I wrote about zee French in a Drum column I got lots of abuse…bring it sweet cheeks!
Andy Barr, founder, 10 Yetis