I’m sure Tesco’s chief executive Philip Clarke has had media training.
But this week, when the supermarket announced its latest sales figures, it was clear Clarke still has some way to go to really connect with the audience, including many customers and shareholders.
Unfortunately it would take a brave PR person to tell him. So let me save them the trouble…
Dear Mr Clarke
You strike me as a decent chap, who is truly passionate about your job and your business. Why wouldn’t you be – after all, you’ve been at Tesco all your life and I believe your father worked there too!
But that’s part of the problem – it’s in your DNA. But it’s not in your customers’ genetic make-up.
You speak retail; they talk pub/school-gate/bingo-hall/rugby-club-speak.
The media interviews you did this week were always going to be tough – the sales slide is what journalists love: bad news, and you could not control the questions. But you could control the answers and all those other utterances you made to shareholders or customers.
So, Mr Clarke, what did this mean?:
“We are pleased by the early response to our accelerated efforts to deliver the most compelling offer for customers.”
I bet if you stopped 100 shoppers in your aisles, 99 would not have a clue.
If you meant something like, “We’ve already noticed a 10% sales boost where we’ve slashed the price of our customers’ 50 favourite products,” then please say so.
I even looked at your recent Tesco video, where you would have had 100% control over the questions and answers. Although you came across as friendly and committed, you were still using phrases that I doubt customers will either understand or be interested to hear, or you failed to illustrate them with examples that are meaningful to shoppers, such as:
“…refresh over 600 of our stores” – do you mean widen the aisles/increase the number of check-outs/add more colourful signage?
“…make it applicable to the local demographic” – sorry?! Please Mr Clarke, say something like, “so, for example, we’ve added more freezers in our Brighton stores, because we know the ice-cream sales go through the roof there in the summer/we’ve increased the choice of chilled drinks in our Stratford store, because the Olympic Park there is so popular with runners and swimmers….”
“What am I looking forward to most? I think the launch of our new current account from Tesco Bank” – who cares? Tell us why customers should be looking forward to it – will it offer great rates, will it be unique or at least different in any way?
“…the Eurozone, where we’ve got strong market positions” – ordinary people (and ordinary shareholders) don’t talk about markets, they live in countries.
So please, Mr Clarke, speak your customers’ language and don’t listen to anyone who ever advises you to give a message that includes the words “footfall”, “markets”, “volumes” or “compelling offers” to a consumer audience – sorry, I mean to shoppers.
You might think I’ve been overstating the importance of communication here, but the reason all this matters is Tesco will only improve its bottom line when shoppers flock back and the best – and cheapest – way to achieve that is through effective media interviews.
After all, whether it’s a small matter or not, every little helps!
All the best