BrewDog brewery

Big-name independent brewer BrewDog faced a storm of negative publicity last week after an appearance on BBC show “Who’s The Boss?”.

The show, which basically aims to crush an entire series of The Apprentice into the space of an hour, adds a twist to the format by replacing Alan Sugar with a popular vote amongst the company’s employees.

Founder James Watt admitted the programme was “a bit of a disaster”. As the face of the company Watt was a prominent figure throughout, offering largely despair and a stern voice. He’s subsequently been described on social media as a “professional arsehole” and his company as “coming across horrifically” in a “PR disaster”.

While I’m not necessarily a fan of BrewDog’s aggressive and hyperactive expansion, it’s clear to me the bad PR is largely undeserved, and a result of being set up for a fall by an awkward programme format and an appalling failure at the recruitment level.

Matt Buckland, a recruitment executive with a permanently arched eyebrow, put together a wildly inappropriate shortlist for this unique and interesting company. Faced with a company who proudly state their “punk” ethos and passion for craft beer above all else, Buckland’s shortlist comprised three people who had never worked in hospitality and had no real passion for beer. The die was cast in those first five minutes when we cut from a shot of the staff all agreeing they didn’t want “someone who wears a suit” to a shot of a candidate putting on a suit in preparation for his BrewDog interview.

While Watt’s decision to change the job spec halfway through the process smacked of control freakishness, I’m not sure, in his position, I would have acted differently. For a company that prides itself on risk-taking it might seem like Watt was being risk averse, but the three candidates were so amazingly unsuited for the job it would have been a “TV hire”, an employee only there because it was the result of a reality show. Rather than have an unwanted employee foisted on them in return for a bit of free publicity, Watt clearly chose damage limitation, much to the dismay of the show’s producers no doubt, but for the long term interest of the company.

If you put yourself forward for a show like this, you are placing an awful lot of faith in a production company to portray your company in a positive light, and quite often they’re more interested in creating car-crash TV (or “buzz” as they would probably put it).

Watt was set up for a fall, and he took it. I’d have less respect for him if he stood meekly by and let it happen. His decision to subvert the expectations of the “Who’s The Boss?” producers was the only “punk” thing about this cringeworthy debacle.