PR roll

Greggs On A Roll

Fast-food chain Greggs is on a roll. A good PR roll. We so often comment on companies and people that get into a mess by failing to use some basic and well-known tenet of PR, that it is nice to instead focus on a company that seems to be sure-footed. While not doing anything amazing, it is just doing PR well.

Good Results – And a Staff Bonus

This month Greggs announced a phenomenal growth in sales which allowed them to award 19,000 employees a £300 bonus at the end of the month. The numbers are even more impressive when you consider that in May 2018, 18 months ago, Greggs issued a profit warning due to subdued sales that knocked 17% off the share price. This year’s bonus and positive results were widely reported, giving heaps of great publicity to the humble high street chain.

The Vegan Sausage Roll

The jump in sales was widely attributed to the success of last January’s launch of the vegan sausage roll. This in itself was another great PR success.

There really is nothing to beat catching the zeitgeist. Veganism has gone from a dusty forgotten cupboard to the limelight as ethical consumers vote with their pennies, not just to protect the welfare of the animals but also to protect the planet. (The link between veganism and climate activism is an interesting one that we may return to later. It is in itself a PR success that may yet fall apart.)

Greggs Social Media – A Case Study for Modern Marketing

But what really turbo-charged sales was the reactive Twitter campaign. Piers Morgan, who has seven million, followers tweeted ‘Nobody was waiting for a vegan bloody sausage, you PC-ravaged clowns’. To which @GreggsOfficial responded ‘Oh hello Piers, we’ve been expecting you’.

PR roll

There were a number of other witty responses to those who took aim at the sausage roll. All of which greatly helped sales.

In June Buzzfeed helpfully pulled together 19 occasions when Greggs was unexpectedly brilliant on Twitter.

PR roll

As noted at the beginning of the blog, the combination of all these things had led to a raft of coverage about how well Greggs is doing. Here are pieces in The Telegraph, The New Statesman (broadly positive), Reuters, The Independent, There are many more. Hats off to the marketing team and particularly the person who decided to allow the Twitter team to step outside standard corporate responses.



Pegidas spokesperson image

Pegida’s spokesperson falls into the negative framing trap

If you are an organisation or group with an agenda that could easily be misconstrued by public opinion then you need to work hard to make sure your PR is spot on and doesn’t backfire against you.

Earlier today, Pegida,  a German group which is campaigning against the ‘Islamification of the West’ held their first march in the UK (others have taken place in Germany).  They stress they are not anti-Islam, only anti-extreme Islam. And, according to media reports (and Pegida itself) they had deliberately picked the city of Newcastle (which has a small Muslim population) to avoid attracting the kinds of far-right groups that previously would have been attracted to similar marches in Bradford or Leeds (which have far larger Muslim populations).

One of Pegida’s proof points  that they aren’t racist is that they had Muslims taking part in their march.

Pegida's anti-Islamification stance

Pegida’s ‘anti-Islamification’ stance is classic negative framing

A spokesperson for the group, Marion Rogers told the BBC

“We are not racist, we are not fascist, we are not far-right and we’re certainly not anti-Islam – we’ve got Muslims here with us today.’

All of these negative statements i.e. ‘anti-Islamification’, ‘we are not’ etc are classic examples of negative framing.  Once the interview is over the listener will be left with the denials and the powerful associations conjured up by ‘we are not anti-Muslim’. i.e. they will be left with the impression that Pegida IS anti-Muslim.  A parallel from the corporate world would be a media interview with a CEO in which he or she is quoted as saying ‘we are not in a crisis’ and the reader automatically assumes they are because the word ‘crisis’ sets alarm bells ringing.

Either way, strategists at Pegida almost certainly haven’t read  ‘Don’t Think of An Elephant’ by George Lakoff, the Berkeley professor and cognitive linguist who wrote the handbook on how not to conform with and reinforce people’s negative ideas about you.

Some people might ask what Ms Rogers should have done when pressed with this kind of question. Quite simply, if Pegida is being honest when it says they are anti-extreme Islam then from a PR standpoint they should have run a positive campaign which they didn’t have to defend. But she certainly should not have opened herself up to being quoted in media interviews saying ‘we are not x, we are not y, we are not z’. Not only does previous experience of negative campaigning (e.g the No campaign on the Scottish referendum) tell us that they generally not as effective as they could be, but they give the media powerful and potentially damaging quotes which are hard to distance oneself from in the weeks and months after an interview.