That's a wrap! The biggest PR stories of 2021

Join Jesse and Mr Stephen Waddington as we revisit the PR highlights, pitfalls and downright disasters from 2021.

Its-s A Wrap 2021

This last year has been a ride, hasn't it?

Facebook going Meta, Burger King's astoundingly misjudged campaign, lockdowns, masks coming on and off. As it's almost New Year, this calls for a special episode.

Join us as we sit down with prolific PR legend and friendly geordie Stephen Waddington to look back on the most newsworthy events and pitfalls of this past year, and wonder aloud – or celebrate – what exactly these brands were thinking.

Prefer words over video? Good news – here's our write-up of the biggest PR stories of 2021.

This episode originally aired on 9 December 2021

Wadds Inc.

Stephen is a business advisor and troubleshooter who helps organisations with planning, strategic decision making and execution. He is the Founder and Managing Partner of Wadds Inc., a professional advisory firm, working with agencies and communication teams.

If you work in PR anywhere near the UK, you've probably come across him.

Stephen was Chief Engagement Officer at Ketchum (2012–18); provided lead senior counsel on integrated global accounts including IBM, IKEA and Phillips; is a Visiting Professor in Practice at Newcastle University; an external examiner for the CIPR; co-edited the fifth edition of Exploring PR and Management Communication, co-authored #BrandVandals and Brand Anarchy; and heaps, heaps more.

Perhaps most impressively of all, Stephen renovated and lives part-time in a beautiful houseboat on the River Thames.

Follow Stephen on Twitter @wadds and subscribe to his weekly newsletter on Substack.

Its-s A Wrap 2021

Show notes

02:18 Stephen’s overall impression of 2021 from a comms perspective (hint: it’s exhausting).

04:06 Jesse and Stephen discuss juicy UK drama around a leaked Christmas party.

05:38 “So it’s a completely bizarre situation at the moment. Politics in the UK is incredibly bizarre.”

06:24 Delightful internet meme video of the UK situation.

08:14 Why it is so difficult for Covid-19 measure to be consistently and clearly communicated by government officials and spokespeople.

09:54 “it's a fast changing situation. I think that that's the issue at the heart of it. We may have a public health issue where we're being guided by scientists, but then the communication is through a political lens.”

11:04 The Facebook Files and the whistleblower scandal

12:31 “Facebook has got to the stage now where it's too big to fail, and it's grown up in a regulatory environment where the law hasn't been able to keep pace with the platform.”

13:31 Facebook doesn’t allow for data or research which is a huge problem.

13:57 Facebook is attempting a rebrand.

14:11 “You can polish a turd but it’s still going to be a turd.”

17:58 How CEOs like Mark Zuckerburg and Elon Musk shape the public perception of a company.

19:03 Is it a good PR move to have the CEO be so public and communicative? Depends on the CEO.

19:25 Corporate communications is changing as everyone is now effectively in PR, for better or worse.

20:11 Lush cosmetics goes off social media in protest (again).

21:04 “If you're building your profile on rented land, someone else's media property, you've got to be concerned about that.”

22:02 “The challenge of organizations going dark on social is you need an awful lot of them to make an impact.”

23:33 Stephen Waddington’s newsletter as a way to connect directly with his audience without relying on social media networks.

23:50 “And that's absolutely the critical, I mean, you know, I I'd use social media and I'd recommend anyone uses social media to amplify. But own your own data and own your own media.”

24:10 Elon Musk Twitter shenanigans. He’s done a lot of great things, but he’s also ego-driven which informs his communications.

28:48 Elon Musk vs. the UN World Food Programme.

30:47 Contrasting the major tech industry leaders and their approach to communications strategy.

32:25 Burger King’s International Women’s Day blunder.

33:55 “Even if you excuse it as humor in poor taste, if there had been diversity around the table when they were talking about that as an idea, it wouldn't have ever seen the light of day.”

36:41 The Alec Baldwin situation.

37:59 “The issue is leaders, individuals, organizations, when they face a crisis, they've got to stand up and put themselves publicly front-and-center and hold themselves accountable.”

42:42 Stephen’s big recommendations for the year: This Week in Google podcast and the book Post Corona by Scott Galloway.

47:35 Stephen shares about Socially Mobile, the not-for-profit school he started with his wife to support diversity and inclusion in Public Relations.

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