This week Ovo Energy found itself in hot water, and rightly so, for sending out a quite extraordinary marketing message to its clients.
Ovo crassly advised its customers to keep warm by cuddling their pets and eating porridge. With the nation facing massive rises in energy bills, and the cost of living, this advice is insensitive in the extreme.
So how did this happen?
It seems a link to a blog was sent out to SSE Energy Service customers (this provider having been acquired by Ovo in 2020).
We can only assume this was an old blog, because it beggars belief that a marketer or web copywriter would have thought this a good way to cover the topic in the current climate.
The blog – which has now been deleted – looked at ways to keep warm other than turning up the central heating, and included “10 simple and cost-effective ways” to stay warm and keep bills down.
The advice included wearing extra layers and to keep moving by “cleaning the house, challenging the kids to a hula-hoop contest, or doing a few star jumps”.
Alongside stopping draughts, SSE said people could find “extra heat” by leaving the oven open after cooking and by having “a cuddle with your pets and loved ones to help stay cosy”.
At any other time, a blog with tips on staying warm would be a decent post: useful advice for the reader, plus key words to help with SEO.
But against the context of rising fuel poverty, it was terrible timing and a real PR own goal for Ovo Energy.
The supplier has since told the BBC it is “embarrassed” and has offered an apology.
There are three key takeaways from this debacle
- Think carefully about the audience and what they are experiencing when writing any marketing, blog, or PR material
- Make sure you review any old blogs before you send them out. Are they still relevant, accurate and appropriate?
- Act quickly if you do make an error of this kind. It does appear, at least, that by removing the post and apologising Ovo has mitigated this PR disaster to a certain extent (although it didn’t stop it making national news – not the sort of publicity the company was after).
If you would like help with PR, blog writing, or perhaps need some advice in the face of a PR crisis, do get in touch because we can help.