A piece in today’s Times:
For the seasoned PR executive and author of a book called The Bluffer’s Guide to Public Relations it might have seemed obvious not to insult the nation where your company has its headquarters.
However, blog posts and tweets ridiculing the Welsh by Keith Hann, director of corporate affairs at Iceland, have forced his employer to apologise to quash a threatened boycott of its stores.
The renowned City PR operative, who was born in Newcastle, described Welsh as “gibberish” and “a dead language that sounds uncannily like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat”.
He made the comments on a personal blog and also posted a tweet saying: “Inhabitants of the UK’s Celtic fringe loathe all visitors.”
A blog post read: “I’d like to say that I have never left England but regular attendance at an office about 800 yards inside Wales sadly precludes this.
“Still, I take pride in never visiting Scotland despite having a home within sight of the border.”
Iceland is headquartered in Deeside, north Wales. Another of Hann’s tweets said one “bonus” of lockdown was that he wouldn’t be “travelling from home in Cheshire to my office in Wales every day”.
The frozen foods retailer said it was dealing with the matter “internally” and Hann, 66, has apologised, saying the “humorous” views were all his own.
Hann wrote in The Bluffer’s Guide to Public Relations: “A key part of the in-house PR’s role is avoiding inquiries, whether from senior members of their own management about what they do all day, or from external nuisances such as customers, government bodies or the media. Particularly the media.”
In the book he also touched on the subject of “political incorrectness” and the “malign side-effects of the rise of social media”.
“It only takes one aggrieved customer, employee or mere passerby to make an unfavourable observation about a person or organisation’s lack of sensitivity on an issue for the whole of the internet to coalesce into a screaming mob, waving pitchforks and demanding retribution,” he wrote.
His Twitter profile states in capital letters: “All views my own and usually joking.”
After the criticism, Hann said: “Iceland is proud to be one of the largest companies based in Wales and a major investor and employer in the country.”
He said all of the posts “were written by me in a personal capacity and are not endorsed by Iceland Foods or reflective of the company’s views.
“I would have hoped it was also obvious that all of these were written with humorous intent.”
Iceland said: “Iceland is aware of comments made by our director of corporate affairs and the upset which these have caused.
“These comments are not reflective in any way of Iceland’s views or philosophy as a company and were not made on the company’s behalf.
“We are proud to be based in Wales, as a major investor and employer in the country. The matter is being dealt with internally and we apologise for any upset or offence caused.”
Comments from Andrew Moore:
There are places and times where this is funny, as in Blackadder below. Anywhere else, and it rapidly becomes weak, unfunny, and tasteless.
Blackadder may be best ever, though:
Blackadder: Have you ever been to Wales, Baldrick?
Baldrick: No — but I’ve often thought I’d like to.
Blackadder: Well, don’t. It’s a ghastly place. Huge gangs of tough, sinewy men roam the valleys, terrifying people with their close-harmony singing. You need half a pint of phlegm in your throat just to pronounce the place name! Never ask for directions in Wales, Baldrick; you’ll be washing spit out of your hair for a fortnight.
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