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PR Payne’s

June 16, 2012

 

 

It is, of course, the PR story of the week. A young girl – Martha Payne – runs a blog, Never Seconds. On it, she covers her school dinners. It’s a sweet blog, intended originally for friends and family, but grown.

 

(My own son runs a blog, and I’m hugely impressed by the commitment she has shown to it. Despite his passion for the topic matter, my son usually finds something else to do with his time. Time must be the curse of bloggers everywhere, but the simple easy style of Never Seconds  – a photo and meal rating – is perhaps the reason it’s sustainable. Note for anyone thinking of blogging.)

 

But the success of the blog drew fire from Argyll & Bute council, who were upset that their school dinners came under such scrutiny, and TOLD Martha, via the school, that it had to stop. Martha’s father found out at the end of the day, after his daughter was taken from her class and delivered the news that she must stop.

 

Lots of people have made commentary on this, and the ensuing media and social media storm that ensued is well documented. (If you missed it, look on the hashtag #neverseconds on Twitter today, or simply look on Google for Martha’s name or Never Seconds.)

 

Argyll & Bute Council did the right thing eventually and backed down. The blogging has been reinstated, Martha had massive support, school dinners have again, albeit as a lesser part of the story, come under the spotlight, and the charity Martha supports, Mary’s Meals, has benefited hugely:

 

“The fact Martha has broken her target means we have been able to allocate her a school in Malawi, the African country where Mary’s Meals feeds more than 540,000 children every school day. As well as being able to build a brand new shelter, thanks to Martha and her supporters, we will also be able to feed all the 1,963 pupils at Lirangwe Primary School in Blantyre, Malawi for an entire school year!”

 

As results go, it’s a great one.

 

As results go, it’s a great one.

 

Underpinning it are three eternal PR principles:

 

1. If you don’t like what people are saying about something you’re doing it, either don’t do it or be prepared to take the criticism.

 

2. Never underestimate the power of an apology.

 

3. If you put a lid on on a boiling pan of water, expect it to boil over. Try and button it down, it becomes a pressure cooker. The same happens with ideas. (In the mainstream, who but a few  had ever heard of WikiLeaks before they made such a fuss?)

 

 

Being in the media glare can be really uncomfortable. I sincerely hope that the remoteness of where she lives, and the fact that she is a child, mean that the media – and others – are choosing to behave responsibly.

 

(I’d like to thank my friend and colleague, Sylwia Presley: as we are both passionate about both Freedom of Speech and education, we had started to take the images from Martha’s blog and post them onto Pinterest (Never Seconds, notstopping). I had been on a conference call all morning, so we started it late. And then the news broke in a Scottish national that the council had relented, so we stopped. Lesson: work fast and keep an ear to the ground. We could have carried on, oblivious, for hours.)

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