the dangers of cack-handedness

Seen the one about the pensioner who thought she could have a crack at art restoring? You should. There's a message there for comms people.

by Darren Caveney

It’s one of my favourite stories of 2012. The tale of cack-handed Spanish art ‘restorer’, Cecilia Gimenez and her attempts to tart up a century old mural of Christ in her local church, la Misericordia de Borja.

The mural had seen better days so Ms Gimenez decided to get out her paint brushes and give the century old piece a quick once-over.

You’ll be familiar with the story now, no doubt, unless you have been away on holiday and cut off from media – if so read all about it here.  It’s an absolute gem.

It made me think of a thousand bad case studies within local government where, back in the day, enthusiastic amateurs used to ‘have a go’ at marketing, communications and promotions. Librarians, leisure centre staff, managers, you name it, would have a go at promoting something in the absence of a central team to call upon. Or in some cases, a deliberate avoidance of going through the communications team.


Some of their efforts backfired spectacularly, causing reputational damage and a boat load of work for their organisation’s press office.

I believe this previous scatter-gun approach contributed so much to the perception legacy many public sector organisations still struggle to overcome today. And we all know that negative perceptions are hard to shake off. And if you have a negative perception then your customers are very much less likely to trust you. And without trust you’re on a hiding to nothing.

You’ll be able to reel off your own examples from the past I’m sure. Many of you might recall the time when Birmingham City Council ran a campaign promoting the city which was supported by print collateral carrying a shot of Birmingham’s skyline – the trouble was the shot was of Birmingham, Alabama. An innocent mistake but one which attracted a lot of criticism of the city. But as I understand it the print in question was not produced by the central team.

The concept of non comms and marketing professionals having a go would simply not be allowed in most private sector businesses.

And my fear is that the next round of sweinging budget cuts across the public sector will result in further cuts to central communications teams and a return to a re-emergence in underground service marcomms escapades.  

Of course, we all make mistakes, that will always be the case. But as any risk management expert will tell you, the best way of managing the risk is to eliminate the risk.

So whilst the tale of Cecilia Gimenez is really quite funny on one level, on another there actually lies within it a ruined piece of locally treasured artwork, a church and community sad at the loss and an amateur restorer the figure of international ridicule.

If only she has asked a professional to have a look at the job first.


Cecilia could be coming to a town near you soon as her next restorative makeovers are said to include whacking a roof and conservatory onto Stonehenge (well it is a bit drafty in the winter isn’t it) and having a knock at that leaning tower thingy somewhere in Italy.

Darren Caveney is co-creator of comms2point0

photo credit

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