Communication winners and losers #11

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

Communications #fail of the month

Education isn’t normally a fertile arena for undercover reporters. What nooks and corners of this upright sector could possibly be worth an investigation by news hounds equipped with hidden cameras, disarming smiles and faux-naif questions? 

Education PR

Well it turns out the select world of education consultancy catering to the global super rich for one. Courtesy of headlines like “How to buy a place at a top school” and “Top schools rocked for pay-for-places scandal as they’re caught accepting six-figure sums ‘to influence admissions’” we learnt that a co-director of consultants Bonas Macfarlane and the registrar (now ex-registrar) of Stowe boarding school were prepared to advise wealthy supplicants that a child’s admission might be eased with a ‘donation’. 

Helpfully, William Petty, the Bonas Macfarlane director caught on camera, warned that greasing palms in the sector could be “eye-wateringly expensive” and that the unnamed school he was referring to was “ruthless and could push for five [million pounds]”. 

Adding to this charming picture of our public schools, the former Stowe registrar was described by the Telegraph thus: “Sitting in the bar at Claridge’s, drinking a glass of wine, David Fletcher admitted: ‘OK, everything I say is going to start sounding a bit dodgy.” You think?

Unsurprisingly, Mr Fletcher and Stowe have since parted ways and the school has said he made “inaccurate and inappropriate statements”. Mr Petty meanwhile claimed Bonas Macfarlane “have never facilitated acceptances in return for donations”. It doesn’t, however, prevent him being our communications loser of the month. You can view the videos here.

Communications #win of the month

Education PR

Last month’s winner is the University of Central Lancashire, which somehow persuaded the vice-chancellor, academics, students and assorted worthies to pose as mannequins during the graduation ceremony. 

Uclan’s version of the ‘mannequin challenge’, the internet craze that requires people to remain frozen while being filmed, was striking enough to be aired on the BBC. How many takes it took to achieve such Zen-like harmony is unknown. Given the renowned placidity of students and academics my guess is the best part of a day

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.