Opinion

Jeremy Corbyn's Virgin train stunt compromised Labour's values and ethics

4 min read

30 August 2016

The PR team of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could learn something from the way businesses go about communicating with the public after his attempt to showcase the "crowded" nature of British trains backfired.

Image: Shutterstock

In an industry such as plumbing, it can be difficult to differentiate yourself from the pack – we need to invest the time and money necessary to create a valuable brand.

To paraphrase Phil Knight, former chairman of Nike, you can have the best product in the world, but if not enough people know about it, you’re never going to succeed – you can in fact end up losing out to a competitor with a much poorer offering.

At Pimlico Plumbers we embrace all forms of communications, whether that be with customers, the general public or the press, we’re happy to share what we’re up to, and I mean everything.

If you were to take a look at our social pages you’d be privy to pretty much all the goings on at Pimlico HQ, right down to what the team had for breakfast, which was, obviously, a good old bacon sarnie and a cup of tea if you were wondering.

I’ve invested in plumbing related number plates such as BOG 1, 7OILET and W4TER, been involved in PR initiatives addressing the trades’ gender imbalance, promoting apprentices and older workers, the list goes on.

Our 200-strong vehicle fleet, like red buses and black cabs, are synonymous with the capital. We’ve carefully crafted a strong corporate identity that embodies the character of the business.

But my desire for column inches and TV interviews is always driven by a genuine passion to the make the industry I joined as an 15 year-old boy, one that creates employment and training opportunities for all people, regardless of age, race or gender.

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If my marketing team wasn’t flush with work last week they might have had a few choice words for Jeremy Corbyn and his cronies, who cobbled together a stunt that gave PR professionals a bad name and left a bitter taste in the mouth.

On 11 August, the Labour leader and his entourage attempted to tarnish the reputation of a bastion of British business, Virgin, by fabricating a story that questioned the company’s ability to meet the demands placed on its service. 

Corbyn has clearly gone too far and needs to stand back, well behind the yellow line, which he crossed when he tried to deceive us and unfairly tarnish a respectable company in order to further his own political agenda, whatever the cost.

It’s only a matter of common sense that small and medium businesses, especially ones operating in saturated markets, should be encouraged to engage marketing and PR professionals. However, the latest political gaffe should serve as a stark warning never to compromise the values and ethics at heart of your business.

Charlie Mullins is the founder and CEO of Pimlico Plumbers – and a regular contributor to Real Business.