CAMPAIGNS: Judge and Jury - Why Scottish Homes’ sense of humour was judged a failure

Government housing agency Scottish Homes showed great naivety and insensitivity when it tried to pull an April Fool’s stunt, says independent PR consultant Gerry McCusker.

Government housing agency Scottish Homes showed great naivety and

insensitivity when it tried to pull an April Fool’s stunt, says

independent PR consultant Gerry McCusker.



April Fool’s Day is traditionally a time when PR bods and the media

loosely conspire to bandy about pseudo-news stories. But when Scottish

Homes sent out an official release announcing plans to remove empty

inner city housing stock and reinstate it in rural communities to

address housing shortages, the move raised no laughs but instead, a

storm of protest.



First point: did Scottish Homes not think to ’loosely conspire’ with

friendly journalists who, I’ve found, are usually open to acting as a

sounding board for stunts of this ilk?



Generally speaking, the idea behind sending out an April Fool’s story is

to show a more light-hearted aspect of organisational or product

personality which can, in some instances, be good for business, or can

help to communicate or reinforce corporate or brand qualities.



Second moot point then: does a national housing agency, whose core

business involves serious social issues, really need to exhibit a sense

of humour?



Unfortunately for Scottish Homes, their attempted rib-tickler turned

into a kick in the ribs because the joke touched, not a funny bone, but

a raw nerve. The ’humour’ was judged to be not mainstream, not creative

and not particularly funny.



The furore created does overshadow the fact that some of the contents of

the release - the uprooting of lampposts and pavements for example -

were palpably jocular and absurd.



What cannot be hidden is that to assist credibility, Scottish Homes said

that the new initiative was unveiled in Easterhouse, the Glasgow housing

scheme long-associated with poor housing conditions, poverty, crime and

high unemployment.



Although rearguard PR activity - in the shape of a formal apology -

following the outcry was quick and totally genuine, a joke on any of the

aforementioned social ills would be considered off-colour in many

quarters, not least the damp, cramped and even temporary accommodation

quarters of those people for whom tolerable standard shelter is an

elusive goal.



So when Scottish Homes sidled up and asked ’Did you hear the one about

the ...?’, they got an earful of retorts from the media, pressure groups

and even political parties who, in defending the position of the

homeless, all managed to emerge with a bit of positive PR for

themselves.



So, at least for some, this April Fool’s Day joke eventually created a

reason to smile, but not to laugh.



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