Communication winners and losers #5

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

Education PR Baker Small

Communications #fail of the month

It was difficult for education stories to puncture near-saturation referendum coverage last month but one firm managed to, and not in a good way. Step forward Baker Small, a firm of lawyers based in Milton Keynes that specializes in helping local authorities fight appeals brought by the parents of special educational needs children. 

One of Baker Small’s solicitors thought it would be a jolly jape to taunt said parents with mocking tweets after they had lost an appeal. For reasons unknown, the unnamed lawyer decided that it would be a good idea to brag on Twitter about the firm’s recent success and deride the parents of disabled children for bringing the case to an Applied Behaviour Analysis tribunal. 

"Great ABA Trib win this week interesting to see how parents continue to persist with it. Funny thing is parents think they won;)" the charmer wrote. When asked to explain the lawyer replied: "Whenever someone thinks they have won and they have conceded 90 per cent of their case, it does make me smile." He or she then posted pictures of a luxury villa and a laughing cat to make sure the defeated parents knew who the winners and losers were and how magnanimous lawyers could be.

It didn’t take long for the inevitable backlash and for parents and press to point out that a firm that earns up to £600,000 from council clients really shouldn’t be swaggering around on social media trolling the parents of disabled children. At least one council cancelled its contract with the firm. Baker Small eventually apologized and the offending tweets were deleted. But one lawyer at least must be ruing the day he or she tried to boss it in the court of public opinion.

Communications #win of the month

Education PR Loughborough University

Take a bow Loughborough, Aston and De Montfort universities, which were the top three winners of a new ranking that sought to calibrate higher education institutions by their teaching prowess rather than their research record.

The ranking, compiled by the Times Higher Education magazine, used data that the government intends to use to grade universities on their teaching ability. No Russell Group university made it into the top 20, while Oxford University only made it to number 28.  

Poor teaching has become one of the main bugbears of undergraduates faced with course debts of at least £27,000 after three years of study. So any university that can show it can offer better value for money as far as teaching is concerned has a formidable proposition. Congratulations to all three.

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.