Crisis PR - Doorstepping utilities need real PR power to beat tabloids and old ladies

There is nothing the media love more than the story of an elderly lady complaining about pushy door-step sales tactics by the utilities giants.

Today’s Sun report on the topic has Consumer group Which? predicting a last-minute door-stepping sales-explosion from gas and electricity firms.

As a crisis PR team we’ve been here before.    As our former utility client said to us at the time, their door-to-door sales tactics were legitimate but they could be seen as deviating from best practice, when seen through the eyes of the aged grand-mother whose angry daughter vented to the BBC2 watchdog team of investigative reporters.

What to do in this situation?  The formula is simple enough but the devil is in the detail of the PR execution. The BBC gave our client a day’s notice to co-operate with the interview, and we advised full co-operation with meticulous support and planning.

We explained the company’s position to the BBC, scrutinised the interview mechanics and the possible lines of questioning with the BBC knowing that the programme tended towards a tabloid-style which could over-simplify things.

The client – who we’d already media trained – had a TV technique practice top-up session and was prepared to answer all questions – more than he was asked.

He conveyed his company’s genuinely ethical, responsible stance and how they would handle this going forward. The result was balanced coverage, and the brand was un-damaged.  The reporter was “impressed”.

Kay Williamson