FRIDAY 31 JAN 2014 10:07 AM


The latest speaker in London College of Communication and Lissted’s PR Guest Lecture Series was Starbucks UK’s director of corporate affairs, Simon Redfern. Speaking to 130 LCC students and industry guests Redfern outlined his PR philosophy, talked candidly about his past experiences and future plans for the sector – as well as dealing with reputational crises.

Following on from previous guest lecturers, Redfern explained that he believed storytelling to be the primary goal of a the contemporary communications professional, telling the audience “stories stick.” Good PR, Redfern argued, can generate engagement through creating compelling stories that are real, meaningful and make people want to talk about them.

The difficulty of this was highlighted as he explained that, unlike advertisers who can simply tell their audience something, PR practitioners must convince the audience. This must involve sweeping them up with a narrative and taking them along for the ride. It would seem that Starbucks has been fairly successful in this however as he went on to describe some of the projects that have captured the public imagination in the US, such as employment schemes for US war veterans.

Redfern discussed how a storytelling approach to PR is well suited for managing issues. For someone who joined the organisation months after it was found to have not paid corporation tax in the UK since 2009, this strategy may have appealed to Redfern as he attempted to reduce the reputational damage and public resentment toward the brand. Thus, although he advocated disruption, disorder and creativity as vital PR tactics, he made it clear that any Starbucks communication must also be handled very strategically.

For this reason, good crisis management is of utmost importance. The narrative must be established very quickly so that the company is in control of the story.

This story was written by Kate Holvey, an MA Public Relations student at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London.