Communication winners and losers #3

Every month GKP identifies who has scored in the education PR stakes and who has had a communications malfunction.

Communications #fail of the month

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It must have seemed such a good idea at the time. In a fury over an Australian youth group’s plans to hold a formal ball for gay youngsters, conservative campaigners hit upon a surefire wheeze to sabotage the evening. The Stop Safe Schools Coalition urged its followers to buy up all the non-refundable, non-transferable tickets because “the more tickets sold to us, the more youth we protect”.

The Safe Schools Coalition that the protesters wanted to ‘Stop’ is a government-backed initiative to foster an inclusive environment for LGBT students in Australian schools, or as the Stoppers put it “madness” that is “indoctrination NOT education”.

Their efforts to scupper the fundraising ball did indeed lead to increased publicity. So many contributions were made to the ball’s organisers that they were able to put on the event for free, thereby obviating the need for paid tickets, non-transferable or otherwise. 

All of which goes to prove that there is indeed no such a thing as bad publicity –it’s just that the beneficiaries may not be the people who created it in the first place.

Communications #win of the month

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April’s winner has to be the University of Leicester’s geological sciences department. “How can the university leverage the success of our local football heroes?” the memo from the university’s communications team must have read. “Leicester winning the premiership is global news, where are we?”

So the imaginative folks in geology promptly installed earthquake-detecting equipment next to Leicester’s stadium to measure the effects of the crowd jumping up and down when the home team scored. 

When Leicester bagged an 89th-minute winner against Norwich City the geologists duly recorded a magnitude 0.3 quake. And the headline in The Guardian read: “Leicester City fans causing earthquakes with celebrations, study claims”. Genius.


Gerard Kelly is the former editor of the Times Educational Supplement and Times Higher Education.  He is the founding partner of Gerard Kelly & Partners (GKP), a communications consultancy specialising in education PR.