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Friday, 18 October 2013

PR fails: British Gas

Yup, a massive 'PRfail' by British Gas on Twitter yesterday. 
At root is the bogus notion touted by MD, Ian Peters, that the company was seeking to engage openly and transparently with customers about its DECISION (note not a proposal or recommendation), to raise energy prices by an inflation busting 10.4%.
In 'PR-speak' Twitter is what's known as a medium for 'two-way communication'. It's a rubbish place for institutions like British Gas that appear only to be interested in talking-down to audiences.
Hubris is what possesses firms like British Gas to take to Twitter. Hubris, over-bearing pride, presumption, arrogance, lack of self-awareness, take your pick. A total, almost wilful, ignorance of public opinion.
In defending the decision to take to Twitter, Ian Peters, the Managing Director of British Gas said:
I would not describe this as a PR disaster. We have made a commitment to be open and transparent. These are tough decisions we have had to take in tough times and it would not be right of us to hide away and not explain ourselves.

Are people really expected to feel sorry for these mega companies (and government's) in their incredulous bleats about how 'very hard it is form them to take tough decisions' that, in reality, are tough for ordinary people only. Those poor British Gas executives, they will be scarred for life by this terrible, terrible austerity.
What is Mr Peters being open and transparent about anyway? Open and transparent about an unpopular decision that had already been made, it seems.
It's not as if British Gas's openness and transparency extends to listening. A genuine effort at two-way communication would be to ask Twitter for views about the intention to raise gas prices. I dunno, how about:
Hey Twitter, we are thinking about putting up gas prices, what do you think? We will take on board what you say before deciding what to do. Ta!
Not likely eh.

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