PR is normally about cultivating relationships and generating a rapport with your audience. It’s not normally the right thing to do to assume a confrontational stance. But sometimes, if you need to create change or make a point, it is. Sometimes – as Alistair Campbell famously once did when he took on Channel 4 News in a live unscripted broadcast – it is in the client’s interest to go on the offensive and say what needs to be said.
Last year, the government launched an initiative called Make it in GB, aimed at promoting UK manufacturing. Certainly a worthy and much needed cause. As the PR agency for one of the UK’s largest manufacturing shows, we were pretty keen to offer our support – offering to make the show available as a launch venue for their campaign and giving them free access to our media activities. The response? "We’ll think about it." Regrettably, that’s about all they did do.
In fact, they didn’t even do that. After a sharp exchange of emails, I was called at the end of the first day of the show to be told that they were still "Having meetings" about participating. This was 3 months after the initial contact and when the event itself was already half over. I listened, open-mouthed, as I was told that we’d "Dropped off the radar". How could the one of the largest manufacturing events in the UK just "drop off the radar" of an organisation that exists solely to promote UK manufacturing? We were promised support – which turned out to be 2 tweets, neither of which contained a link to the show website – and the promise of a phone call after the event to discuss follow-up, which never materialised.
Frustrated? You bet. Not on our account, nor even on behalf of the show organisers, but on behalf of the hundreds of people we met at the show doing fantastic work, who had worked so hard for success. They deserve support from campaigns like MiiGB.
It is not the place of government-funded campaigns to support private commercial enterprise. However it is the role of government to support business in general, and as was pointed out to the Make it in GB team, our objective was not to support the event as such, but the 600+ businesses taking part. That was a fantastic opportunity for MiiGB to engage with 600 of the UK’s brightest and finest manufacturers – an opportunity totally squandered. This morning, having read another vacuous tweet from MiiGB about them "Looking for ideas how to support UK manufacturing", I thought it was about time we opened up the debate. Having Tweeted the fact that despite such fine words, they hadn’t shown much inclination to actually spend any time with manufacturers, I hope the message will hit home that there’s only so much you can achieve for UK manufacturers by Tweeting from your cosy West London office. I’m pretty sure there’s at least 600 people who’ll back me up.