Iceland sacks PR guru to ward off Welsh boycott

Keith Hann

Iceland’s director of corporate affairs has been left out in the cold after the retailer reacted to threats of a customer boycott following anti-Welsh comments on social media.

Long-standing PR advisor Keith Hann, who is the author of the Bluffer’s Guide to Public Relations, was sacked after the company took action in the wake of complaints.

Hann had tweeted: “Your periodic reminder that the inhabitants of the UK’s Celtic fringe loathe ALL visitors, in or out of lockdown, and that you should definitely bear this in mind when contemplating a summer holiday booking.”

His personal blog also contained other references, including calling the Welsh language “gibberish” and saying it is “a dead language that sounds uncannily like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat”.

Iceland, which has its head office in Deeside, said: “Iceland has taken action in light of recent comments made by its director of corporate affairs, resulting in the dismissal of Mr Hann with immediate effect.

“We would like to reiterate that these comments in no way reflect the values or philosophy of our business.

“We are a proud Welsh company, with a long history of investment in communities across Wales, and apologise for any upset or offence caused.”

Hann had an old-school approach to PR that was in tune with the more direct style of Iceland founder Malcolm Walker, but that can become more problematic in a world of social media and corporate sensitivities.

Before his dismissal was announced Hann had emphasised that he had been posting in “a personal capacity” and added: “I would have hoped it was also obvious that all of these were written with humorous intent”.

Hann would often take a tongue-in-cheek approach to communications, which is captured in his LinkedIn profile describing his 2017 appointment as director of corporate affairs: “After working for Iceland for 33 years, including eight actually based at their head office in Deeside, they finally got around to offering me a proper job.

“It is widely suspected that this is a ploy to find out what I have actually been doing for so long. The Thick Of It title reflects my many years of specialisation in all things Corporate, together with a wistful nod to my ancient interest in Affairs.”