It can only be what you’d describe as ‘smiles all round’ amongst the PR team at Marks & Spencer after they turned the artistic talents of one of its customer service advisors into a headline-grabbing news story.

When a disgruntled customer made a cheeky request for a drawing of a smiley dinosaur in compensation for being overcharged for a salmon sandwich, the high-street chain duly obliged and subsequently got valuable media exposure in the process.

The story started out as a mundane customer complaint when Bill Bennett wrote to the store requesting a refund after it mistakenly charged him £3.00 for the £1.90 sandwich at his local M&S branch in Taunton, Somerset.

Mr Bennett received an initial reply with the promise of a gift card. But when this failed to materialise in the weeks that followed he decided to write again requesting a hand-drawn picture of a smiley dinosaur in compensation for the inconvenience caused.

Much to Mr Bennett’s apparent surprise, M&S amazingly complied with his request and sent him a personally hand-drawn picture together with a £5 gift voucher.
Mr Bennett then published the picture on the internet, which then became a viral hit before eventually becoming focus of attention of the national press.

Without insider information, it is perhaps rather difficult to work out exactly when the PR people at M&S got involved in the story. And, for all we know, they may well have been behind the request for the dinosaur drawing right from the very start.

But what we do know is that this is a great example of identifying the news potential of a story and making sure it doesn’t go unnoticed by the editorial teams of the national newspapers.

And for just the sake of a few hand scribbles on a piece of paper, M&S will surely be at the forefront of many people’s minds next time they’re out shopping on the high street.