Many companies struggle to get their brand into the spotlight, and a few column inches on your business or organisation can do wonders for your marketing. But the old saying ‘‘all PR is good PR” is probably a myth.
That point is no doubt rapidly crystallising for Addison Lee chairman John Griffin, who announced last week that all his drivers should use bus lanes (normally just the privilege of black cabs), and that the company would cover the cost of any fines they received for doing so. This naturally piqued the interest of Transport for London (TFL), which threatened legal action over the incitement.
However, things stepped up a gear when Griffin – in his company’s staff magazine – seemed to take aim at cyclists, saying: “You want to join our gang – get trained and pay up”. The Add Lib piece added: “Should a motorist fail to observe a granny wobbling to avoid a pothole or a rain drain, then he is guilty of failing to anticipate that this was somebody on her maiden voyage in the abyss.”
It didn’t take long for many London cyclists to unite against Addison Lee and demand that companies stop using the private hire car firm. A Facebook group was set up to organise an ‘Addison Lee Die-in’, and around 250 people protested outside the firm’s offices on Monday. Just a few days later, an online petition calling on the government to withdraw Addison Lee’s license had clocked up more than 5,000 signatures.
On 27 April, the petition’s demand was fulfilled. ‘The only existing cross-government contract with Addison Lee will expire at the end of this month and is not being renewed,’ announced the Cabinet Office – then shifted to wording that seemed, under the circumstances, unnecessarily diplomatic: ‘The contract has come to its natural end. Departments are using taxis less and reducing travel expenditure, which means we no longer need this type of contract.’
Anyone else hear the ‘…well, certainly not with this firm’ that may have been trimmed from the end of that sentence?
With many people still very angry with the firm, and possible TFL legal action still in the pipeline, Griffin himself stated that the tone of his article was “perhaps a little too inflammatory”. He might be able to get a taxi whenever he wants – but it appears that he’s not much good at making friends with other road users.