Media training tip: how to have your pies and eat them

its boss gave a masterclass in how to turn bad news into a great media opportunity
It’s not something you could have predicted – a serious discussion two evenings running on the BBC’s Newsnight on the price of warm bakery products. But that’s what we got last week, as the row about George Osborne’s budget ‘pasty tax’ hotted up. As a large national bakery chain, Greggs could be hardest hit by the imposition of VAT, but its boss gave a masterclass in how to turn bad news into a great media opportunity. Ken McMeikan used his moment in the spotlight to ensure the nation licked its lips and longed for a hot pie – I’m sure the company’s sales have risen significantly over the past week. In a series of high-profile media appearances, he explained clearly why he thought the tax was a nonsense and could lead to job losses and closures, coming over as reasonable and articulate. Challenged by Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman over the fact that Greggs is actually highly profitable, he said: “we’re the largest bakery retailer in the UK with a great reputation for value, and we actually build those profits because we deliver for our customers great product, great tasting, freshly baked, and we do it well, and we try and keep the price of food down low for customers.” A lot of CEO’s would just have got defensive, but instead he took it as a great opportunity to remind us of all the good stuff the company does – and this didn’t get challenged by Paxo at all. A good lesson for other organisations – ensure any key spokesperson is well media trained like Mr McMeikan, and has a clear, compelling ‘elevator pitch’ explanation of its strengths and ‘raison d’etre’ which can be pulled out of the hat whenever needed.