Piggy Back PR Can Go Too Far

November 25, 2010

I’m all in favour of a little creative PR – but I’ve just come across one example more likely to bring the perpetrators into disrepute than provide them with any extra media coverage.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of piggy-back PR its something you might want to consider from time to time – but don’t go mad!

Basically, piggy-back PR is  taking a major news story, big event or something everyone’s talking about and using it as a valid excuse to promote your company via a spin off story or different angle.

Anyone in the wedding industry for example – from bridal gowns to jewellers;  suppliers of champagne to honeymoons, flowers and floral hats – should be able to use William & Kate’s big day next April to provide some creative PR for themselves.

The same goes for regular annual events such as the Grand National; the last night of the Proms; Easter, the BAFTAs; Crufts; School Holidays; Wimbledon or even the X Factor grand finale.

Don’t forget the changing seasons  …and, of course, Christmas.

Which brings us to the press release that’s a really turkey!  It certainly knocks the stuffing out of me. Who were the three wise men – or women – who dreamt up this Yuletide cracker? (that’s enough – ed).

Here’s the exceptionally tempting intro for journalists:
Britain’s Christmas Carol season is in crisis as record numbers of Britons battle to keep mid-winter coughs, colds and flu at bay.

Carol Singing Crisis?  Carols? Its still November. They’re only just testing out the town’s Christmas Lights round our way.

Is there ANY basis of fact, in this?  Who nose? (Don’t sniff, that’s my Christmas joke for the year).

The ‘story’ continues:
But help is at hand from Fisherman’s Friend who today launched a nationwide helpline in a bid to rescue singers who are finding it difficult to sing.

Really? Tell Wagner, quick.

And there’s more – trying to justify this codswallop:
The company is offering a free packet of Fisherman’s Friend to carol singers across the UK. It is well known in the singing community that sucking a Fisherman’s Friend lozenge can help to keep voices in tune. In fact, even tenor Pavarotti used them to help keep his airwaves clear.

OK. Let’s stop there. We’ll ignore the rest of it. As will every journalist who gets a whiff of this menthol-drenched rubbish. Shame that Pavarotti isn’t around to check out his reliance on FF before each performance of Nessun Dorma.

If anyone sees this replicated in any newspaper and magazine (in any context other than for a very merry yo-ho-ho) please let me know.

Piggy Back PR is a legitimate PR tool which can work wonders. But, like Sainsburys stocking shelves with Christmas Puddings in mid-September, or inviting your neighbours in for a seasonal drink on Christmas Eve, you can go too far.

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One Lord-a-Leaping

November 19, 2010

And another one bites to dust. Exit Lord Young back to his very comfortable retreat and regular daily allowances for popping into the House of Lords now and again.

Presumably he got confused. Actually HE’Ss never had it so good. And the daft old coot told us so.

It is quite impossible to understand the mentality of politicians (and many others) who step headlong into the media-led cauldron of daily life without first engaging their brain.

But this episode merely highlights the vast gulf between Honourable Members (in both Houses and of all persuasions) and we mere mortals who comprise the electorate.

I think Lord Young gave the game away. Recession? Not in my street, dear boy. Not sure what you’re talking about. Pass the port.

From overclaiming on expenses; wallpapering grace & favour homes with the dearest stuff you can get;  to hiring a personal photographer at our expense –  the privileged few seem hell-bent on providing us with more than enough reasons to consider staging a revolution (Wot, in Britain? Never).

When you think about it, we have a quite peculiar set of ethics regarding our politicians & their behaviour.  And the behaviour of their wives, husbands too, come to that (porn movies at our expense).

Man decides to drag enitre country into illegal war –  we’re all puzzled, angry, aghast – but re-elect him.

Man charges taxpayer for toilet rolls and new TV in 2nd home and we demand an apology and pay back.

Man tells us we’re better off than we know we are  (just words, no money changed hands and nobody died) and he’s a candidate to be burnt at the stake.

But then, if you’re so out of touch with us common folk, we wouldn’t expect a Lord of the Realm to understand such bizarre anachranisms. He’d have faired better declaring war on the Isle of Man.

And clearly he can’t fathom why we are a little miffed at :
a) losing most of  our pensions b) facing higher bills for gas, electricity & travelling by train c) heading towards a hike in VAT rates d) the impact of public sector cutbacks on our lives and e) redundancy, rising inflation, bankers bonuses, double-dip recession, unemployment, motorway gridlock, working until we drop, negative equity, and yet more casualties in Afghanistan.

But hey, we’ve got a Royal Wedding to cheer us up. I bet Lord Young gets an invite and a pleasant day will be had by all.

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Will Prince Charles Do Better?

November 17, 2010

Given the modern history of the Royal Family & weddings –  from fairytale beginnings to adultery, divorce and tragedy – clearly the engagement of Princess Diana’s eldest son (and the future King)
would strike a significant and poignant chord with many.

And Prince William certainly plucked hard at that chord by announcing his bride to be will be wearing his mother’s own  engagement ring.

Cue the inevitable round of TV-doorstepped congratulations starting with be-suited David Cameron bounding enthusiastically to  microphones outside Number 10. All smiles and delight, naturally (well, it might divert the country’s attention away from lengthening dole queues next year).

Cut to a man, in heavy mustard brown overcoat, hands in pockets, slouching ponderously towards a doorway somewhere in Britain. A shout from the assembled media scrum: Your reation to today’s news Sir?

I’m still not sure exactly what the mumbled reaction was. Something (possibly)  about being ‘very nice ‘or ‘thrilled’. Or maybe not. Oh yes, and a little jibe: ‘about time’.

 His world-weary face hardly had a thrill about it. More that perfected and oft-practised Royal look of  superior irritation at being asked anything at all ! Damn these interruptions by commoners.

A few Royal chuckles followed (at his own jockularity). Yes, Prince Charles… you almost spoilt the party.

OK, this was always going to be a slightly tricky one to pull off . Options: 1. Nowhere to be seen  2.  Busy at official function alongside his own wife 3. Formal statement, smart code, a smile and brief message of congratulations (my choice).

Instead we got man alone (domestically, that is); a gent seemingly almost unaware that something was in the wind, and a few vague mutterings as he continued with his own ‘engagement’ for the day.

I wonder what his mother thought of his performance. And I hope his future daughter-in-law looked the other way. Fingers crossed  the act will be a little more polished by the time church bells ring out across the land.

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Well Done Dave

November 16, 2010

Dave sees sense – albeit a little too late.

The photographer & video artist go back on the Tory payroll rather than being the taxpayers’ burden. Can the Conservative Party afford £70,000 a year to keep them on? We’ll see.

So the specific story disappears. But  the question of DC’s judgement is likely to linger longer.

And there’s still the Coulson problem. That’s the next boil that urgently needs lancing. Standby for further announcements.

A Good Story Is ….A Good Story

November 14, 2010

I’m under fire again this week, in a friendly-sort of way, from colleagues at the local Rotary Club.

As appointed Press Officer (my background makes this a given) members frequently urge me to get us into the papers.

Why no mention of our £200 charity donation to the local hospice? Or the President’s Evening which was “thoroughly enjoyed by all”  And what about next week’s membership ‘award’ for long-service. Why isn’t the local paper sending a photographer?

My answer, in an equally-friendly sort of way – is to explain that its not actually a good story. 

Believing the contrary is a common misconception amongst many in organisations, charities – and very often within the business community in general.

It does no harm to think what they do deserves greater credit and recognition. Sometimes they’re right. But the mere reporting of the fact doesn’t make a good story. Not one that many journalists would consider worthwhile, anyhow.

So, what IS a good story in mediaspeak?

It’s the biggest, the smallest, the unusual, the unexpected, the unlikely. It’s the oldest, the youngest, the bizarre and the unexplained. It’s controversy, opinion.

It is one that prompts a reaction (for or against). It’s a snippet of information you would pass on to others by way of entertaining conversation.

Funny or serious it must also be of interest to those not directly connected to the source. 

And don’t forget good stories should involve people and (or) consequences & outcomes.

Finding an ancient Chinese vase in the attic is good. Who found it, how & why made it better.  £50m at auction turned it into national news. Now all we need is an expert to declare it a fake!

The best tip for those wanting to attract a journalist’s attention is to think about what they themselves read, watch on TV or listen to on the radio.

Which are the headlines that attract them to read on or keep watching & listening? Think about why is this so.

And, at all times, try to think as an outsider looking in. Which, afterall, is what journalists are. Just outsiders, looking for a good story to tell others.

To be honest,  I’m not really concerned about the local library opening a new crime section or that the head librarian (an old battleaxe) has completed 35 years in post.

But I am keen to know which authors are currently banned from the shelves (controversy).

I raise an interested eyebrow at the fact that the level of unpaid fines has now reached £100,000. But it turns into a really worthwhile story when the council says it’ll be chasing up all offenders (consequences).

And if the library staff  embark on a fund-raising event – then I suggest a two hour sponsored shout (get it?).  Far better than sponsored walks which are now so commonplace that they have almost lost any newsworthyness.

What you say and do may get noticed & quoted because of  who you are or who you work for.

Gerald Ratner (of crap jewellery fame) found that out.  And what  if the Archbishop of Canterbury announced he was spending Christmas in Barbados……or the local RSPCA Inspector admitted cats are a damned menace.

There’s no ‘trick’ to attracting extra media coverage.  But some understanding of the media’s daily mental process certainly helps – if only to curb the unfortunate habit of pestering the life out of journalists who’re looking for a real story.

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You’re on Candid Cameron

November 10, 2010

Ooops ! Has No 10 learnt nothing from Blair & Campbell?

Just when you might be forgiven for thinking there’s a new broom merrily sweeping away at No 10 – Cameron steps into a political PR puddle.  And it is still rippling.

While exhorting the masses to tighten belts for a bumpy financial ride, Cameron takes on a taxpayer-funded snapper to provide photos …..for what?  His autobiography in 2015 perhaps?

And as taxpayers are funding these happy snaps, do WE actually own them? There’s one for the legal boys to ponder.

All this while staunchly supporting his own Dr of Spin – ex News of the World Editor Andy Coulson – who, one assumes, either suggested it to his Master in the first place, or failed to caution against.

You would have expected the new boy on the block  to have made copious notes about where previous tenants at Downing Street have fallen foul.

Did he lose them amongst the pile of nappies at home in the kitchen?

As he approaches the milestone of 6 months in charge, Cameron  should wipe his notes clean and read them again.

Meanwhile, confronting honorable members opposite will no doubt continue to prompt Labour taunts of  ‘Say cheese’.

And the whole episode, like decomposing gorgonzola, leaves something of a rotten taste.

Where Journalists Find Experts

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