I’m fairly sure that when Jeremy Corbyn boarded his Virgin train from London to Newcastle on 11 August he didn’t envisage it would make headline news.
Unfortunately for Mr Corbyn, he only has his PR team to blame for the strength of this story. A visibly annoyed Jeremy was still fielding questions about this journey some two weeks later when he was trying to launch a new health policy this week.
It all started when seeing a PR win, Corbyn’s team released a video to the media showing the Labour leader sitting on the floor of a “completely ram-packed” train. In the video he laments the lack of available seats, saying: “This is a problem that many passengers face every day; commuters and long-distance travellers. Today this train is completely ram-packed.”
Corbyn’s spokesman even sought to tie it into the Labour leader’s wider transport policies. “Passengers across Britain will have been in similar situations on overcrowded, expensive trains,” he said. “That is why our policy to bring the trains back into public ownership, as part of a plan to rebuild and transform Britain, is so popular with passengers and rail workers.”
Yet Virgin, not known for doings things quietly, were having none of it, releasing their own footage showing Jeremy Corbyn walking past rows of empty, unreserved seats. The truth it seems is that Jeremy could have had a seat in the train but not one sitting next to his wife. Later on in the journey he was offered a first-class upgrade, which he refused, and shortly after he got a seat with the rest of his party, thanks to the endeavours of Virgin staff.
By being selective with the truth, the Corbyn team have been shown to be untrustworthy, manipulating a situation unfairly at the cost of a great British brand to make their leader look good. A pretty amateur approach by all counts. As has been shown countless times before, the truth will out. Jeremy’s team might have been better highlighting the helpfulness of staff on a busy train to get seats for the group sitting together but I guess that didn’t fit in with his public ownership message.
Sarah Ogden, corporate director at 3 Monkeys Zeno, told PRWeek that Corbyn was unwise to take on Branson and Virgin in particular. "Anyone stepping up to this challenge needs to be fit for the fight and not naive to the consequences," she said. "As exemplar PR operators, Branson and the Virgin brand typically respect and engage the media with the professionalism expected of their position. Virgin Trains’ quick response is measured, factual and formal. Hitting both social and more traditional media formats. It clarifies the brand’s position with visual and written evidence." Read more at http://www.prweek.com/article/1406708/traingate-corbyn-team-amateur-virgin-first-class-say-pr-professionals#JZyHSe8gL1hoQQ5v.99