Offering a Creme Egg to great tenants probably seemed like a great idea at a team meeting.
Housing association Valleys 2 Coast wanted to say thanks to its residents who’d kept up to date on their rent despite the tough economic times.
It all sounds perfectly reasonable – so why did it end up as a knocking story on the front page of the Metro?
Journalists like to write stories that take the view of the ‘man on the street’, the consensus and the commonly held belief because that’s how we make sure what we publish or broadcast is relevant to our audience.
Seen from the media’s perspective Creme Egg-gate had all the hallmarks of a great ‘out of touch powers-that-be’ story. At a time when many social housing tenants were feeling the impact of the so-called bedroom tax, welfare reforms and the cost of living crisis, being offered confectionery by your landlord seemed a bit inappropriate.
By the time a keen journalist and story-hungry news editor had finished with the story it was a splash (newspaper parlance for a front page story).
I imagine that the South Wales housing association was at first perplexed, and then angry, over the story. They may have felt that they’d been turned into the big bad wolf when the sentiment behind the gesture was genuine.
From the media’s perspective it was absolutely fair game.
When we run media awareness or crisis communications training for clients this is one area that we always cover – how would this sound to a journalist? Your chief executive’s five star trip to the Maldives (to attend a global conference) is his business unless it coincides with you sacking 100 staff on a Friday afternoon… by text message.
You might get media coverage out of that situation – but it’s unlikely to be about how well received the boss’s keynote speech was.
During training we ask delegates to identify something newsworthy in their business and then come up with the most damning newspaper headline they can think of – and consider whether they could live with that.
It’s a great way to get them into the habit of thinking about the PR consequences.
After all, no one wants Creme Egg all over their face.