Communication winners and losers #6

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


Ice Cream Education PR

Communications #fail of the month

Nobody likes a killjoy, especially one that appears to delight in killing the joy of small children. So step forward the unnamed sales assistant at Morrisons supermarket who refused to let a local primary head teacher buy ice lollies for her children in last month’s mini heat wave because she hadn’t pre-ordered them.

Even though the store near Cheltenham had enough lollies for all 210 children, the sales assistant refused to allow head teacher Nikki Hill to buy them because it would have reduced stocks for other customers. The assistant was unmoved when she pointed out that there were no signs saying bulk buys had to be pre-ordered. 

A frustrated Ms Hill said: “I was just disgusted. I was doing it for the wellbeing of my children.” A spokesman for Morrisons later apologized and promised to deliver the lollies to the sweltering pupils as soon as possible. But not, of course, before the story had made damaging headlines in the press that did nothing to help Morrisons’ cuddly community image.

Communications #win of the month

Pokemon Education PR

At the other end of the publicity stakes are the folks at Leicester University, who never miss the opportunity to use a news event for their own purposes, and quite right too. 

Hence the incredibly resourceful “Pokémon Go could ease Type 2 diabetes burden”, according to researchers at Leicester University.  “If there is something out there which is getting people off the sofa and pounding the streets then this game could be an innovative solution for rising obesity levels,” said one Leicester academic. 

The inventive press team even managed to find a grateful punter. Tom Booth has become a regular Pokémon Go user despite suffering from acute social anxiety that has deterred him from leaving home. “I originally though it was just for kids, but I downloaded it to see what all the fuss was about and for the first time in years I’ve left the house and walked miles just by following what’s going on in the game.”

Well done, Leicester. You’ve done your bit for the community, your university and a Japanese multinational and managed to make us smile.


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. GKP offers education PR, marketing, consultancy and communications management to UK schools, universities and business.