Every Little Helps? Not in this case

With a horse meat scandal, a departure from Japan, a significant drop in sales, profit warnings, profit overstatements and a series of high profile resignations, it's fair to say that it hasn't been the best of times for supermarket giant Tesco of late.

Tesco is not having its best year
Tesco is not having its best year
In fact, in terms of bad PR, it has had an absolute trolley full.

After delaying the announcement of its interim results by three weeks, it seems that there has been no news bad enough to bury the story in over the past fortnight. 

Much, it’s safe to assume, to the dismay of the board.

For those trying their damndest to restore the brand, the arrival of the company’s new corporate jet, a £30m Gulfstream 550, just days after the company revealed a quarter-billion pound deficit in its accounts, will not have been welcome. The fact that sales dropped by 3.6 per cent in the 12 weeks to 12 October, reducing its market share to 28.8 per cent, really is the icing on the cake. 

Despite this, Tesco is taking more of a bashing than it deserves. 

The headlines today shout about Tesco’s sales being the worst among all the supermarkets, when in actual fact, sales figures for the past four weeks showed an improvement for it, with sales down two per cent, compared with a 2.8 per cent fall for J Sainsbury and a 4.9 per cent drop for Morrisons. 

It’s all about the way a story is presented. 

Let’s face it; the popular media love to kick someone when they’re down. We’ve seen it all before with Co-op which, we could cynically suggest, is enjoying having the heat taken off it today. 

Generally speaking, presenting a positive story is an effective way of counteracting negative PR, but the press are out to get Tesco right now. Any attempt by it to issue a positive story at this stage would be deemed transparent and suspicious by journalists up and down the country. 

Where, you might ask, is the coverage of Tesco’s pledge to improve opportunities for young people in Indian tea communities to reduce their vulnerability to trafficking and exploitation? 

Tesco set up the collaboration between supportive agencies last month as part of its commitment to improve conditions across its supply chains to little applause. 

Is it just that it is easier to make a good story out of bad news than out of good news? 

Felix Spencer is a consultant at crisis comms agency Rampart PR

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