Oh, the wretched topic of death, such a frustrating interloper, especially at Christmas, damn you. Alas, there is no point in pretending that we improve with age. In his colossal autobiography, Ben Hecht expressed the ageing process thus: “the years diminish us, time rots our body, cools our blood, darkens our brain, and, like a furtive embalmer, prepares our bodies for the winding sheet.” All too often, humans exit the process prematurely; on Saturday, the uber-agent, my old friend Addison Cresswell, checked out at the height of his power, just as Santa was coordinating the settings on his SatNav. Addi’s death was heartbreaking for his loved ones, sad for his legions of friends and acquaintances.
Bad news travels fast: Addison’s demise percolated through Facebook and Twitter like a ruptured reservoir of sadness. Folk etched moving epigraphs on a host of social sites, a community stunned into stupefaction. This unexpected shock unified the comedy universe, many finding solace celebrating his memory. Some were immobilised by a deepsense of loss; others recognised a more remarkable full stop to a significant chapter. These flickering chronologies passionately accumulated into a string of lyrical memoires about his largesse and contradictions.
Beyonce’s new iTunes record—the singer’s album broke a million sales in six days on Wednesday—should be a lesson not only to pop stars but to anyone with a message to get across. The singer released the album entirely without prior fanfare, tossing it onto iTunes with a casual insouciance. It was a masterclass in cutting through the general PR melee and of course, a conscious purpose of control.
Beyonce’s people have said the release was all about talking directly to the fans without interference from the media. A fun idea, but not likely to be of much use to artists who’ve not had millions of dollars spent on their promotion over the years. The more important point to draw from it for PR pixies is how shouting loudly just doesn’t work any more. Nobody can hear!
The sorry tale of Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi should teach us some valuable lessons about the climate we operate in these days as businesses and brands. In this story we have a clear example of how a 24/7 news agenda fuels turbo charged and emotional reactions from the crowd – #teamnigella – and enough sympathy (for now at least) to skew any real perspective.
Not only that, but we also see how quickly brands are able to react to the idea of being written off. A skill that is becoming increasingly valuable in the furnace of media opprobrium. Kate Moss, BP, Ryan Air, Elton John, Virgin Trains and Twitter are all example of “brands” who have recovered from attack and moved on. The vicissitudes of the age did not crush these mass market icons. Why?
Well we are a “transmissive” society. Consumers don’t look up from the mesmeric power of their devices, so many are onto the next brand or story after they have erroneously dismissed the brand in trouble. In other words, we actually don’t enter into a dialogue. We don’t look up. We fail to discriminate in the moment as we digest the mass of information. This lack of consideration and reflection results in the transmission of undigested information. It’s a never ending circle for a moment or two. Then momentum changes…
Get your story straight before you pick up the phone:
Always true, this one, but especially nowadays when a journalist might be live tweeting your conversation as it happens. A plaintive ”off the record, right?” just won’t cut it.
Get the right team for the job:
Today’s PR industry incorporates dozens of diverse skills. Make sure you wow clients at pitches with a few carefully selected specialists.
Catchy wording goes a long way:
Whatever you’ve heard, copywriting isn’t a dying art. In an age where consumers write more every day than at any point in recent history, a great line or memorable name can make all the difference to the way your message spreads.
Never underestimate the power of a freebie:
However sophisticated your audience might think they are, nobody can resist a freebie. With the growing popularity of the ‘freemium’ model first thrust into the mainstream by online games company Zynga, getting people to buy your product is increasingly about giving a bit of it away first.
You can’t hide your corporate ties:
When The Simpsons got Banksy to direct their intro, he used the platform to critique the shady practices of the US merchandising industry. Not everyone is an anti-capitalist megastar, but they do all now have platforms, and no matter how edgy you pretend to be, they’ll expose you for who you really are given half a chance.
Prepare your client before a live TV appearance:
Even the most boisterous boardroom warrior is capable of clamming up in front of the camera. Now that 24 hour news and online bulletins demand a near constant supply of pithy soundbites, be sure to run through likely lines of questioning and prepare a script before sending your boy or girl out there.
Numbers are your friend:
Word a survey carefully and it will say whatever you want it to.
Never underestimate the inspirational power of a maverick:
Your rival may be sloppy, derivative or unethical, but if they’ve got a charismatic frontman they may have the edge. Seek out inspirational individuals within your client’s business who can give their brilliance a human touch.
Don’t try and jump on every bandwagon that comes along:
If you don’t provide “innovative interactive solutions”, don’t say you provide “innovative interactive solutions” on your website.
Sometimes, simple really is best:
A great message speaks for itself.
Last week, the PR buzz was all around Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary and his uncharacteristic mea culpa. This week, another combative consumer brand is filling up feeds across the globe: Miley Cyrus and her encounter with some of Amsterdam’s finest.
Cyrus’s ‘outrageous’ awards ceremony performances are fast becoming a fixture in our lives. Regular, horrifying and compelling, they scratch an itch that some cultures tended to with a vestal virgin, a serrated knife and some geometric architecture. It seems as if Cyrus doesn’t do something a bit ‘youth culture’ every week, usually at a three-letter award ceremony you’ve never heard of before, the sun will cease to rise. This time, for those pretending they don’t read MailOnline, she lit up what appeared to be a joint during a performance at the EMAs on Sunday.
Props to the pixies behind her – it was well thought through. Where twerking with Robin Thicke was calculated to rile up the world’s lefties, this latest stunt taps into the grand old tradition of fuddy-duddy moral panic. Read the rest of this entry »
Malcolm Walker and Tom Reddy how we applaud you!
Being the subject of an observational documentary is not without risk, but Iceland emerges triumphant from their series because as an organization, they don’t perform. They don’t hide. Malcolm and his team remain unashamedly authentic whilst not taking themselves too seriously. How wise. Who would have thought that Malcolm Walker and Tom Reddy, the steady, old school ad man would be showing us the way?
We exist in a world where it is very hard to miss your own reflection. It is more vital than ever that brands know what they look and sound like! Multi channel media demands businesses can quell customer satisfaction and enquiry in real time. In this instance, only the truth is good enough. Read the rest of this entry »
Today could and should signal a new and better way forward for the Cooperative Bank. But to move forward now they must ignore the battering and negative comment from the media and create captivating narratives mined from their history and based on their true and original core values.
As they take this latest hit, the import of their founding story gets lost. Founding stories act as a guide when it comes to redefining a company’s identity.
Banks need to remember that the link between their brand and their organisation is closer and matters even more, because they don’t have tangible products.
Banks don’t make the actual money.
All they do have is a relationship about money with their customers. Quite a different notion, and one that can touch people profoundly. This relationship involves one of the most intimate, emotional and important things in people’s lives – their security. So customers want to trust, feel comfortable and a part of the organisation, not an irrelevance and worse an inconvenience. Read the rest of this entry »
The PR and marketing landscape has forever changed, thanks to the ever-present giant that is the internet – never was this more obvious than when I looked at my audience at the SearchLove conference, which consisted of a plethora of technophiles looking lovingly at their laptops.
Interestingly enough, I was there to speak about PR cut-through in a digital age – an age that sees the ‘scroll of death’ as a daily occurrence. However, cradled handhelds and retina displays aside; I aimed to impress that the power of story is not lost; we must simply learn how to harness the crowd within a ‘Now Economy’. Read the rest of this entry »
If Facebook shares had audio to accompany the multitude of posts, the latest commentary surrounding Russell Brand on Newsnight would be littered with loud, smug and triumphantly-toned exclamations from people saying, “Yes! Finally, somebody is speaking the truth! Look at Jeremy; he’s being rendered almost speechless!”
Fresh from his guest-editing spot on The New Statesman, Brand bounced into the recent Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman like the messianic man he is positioning himself to be. Brimming with energy and armed with a vocabulary that would rival the average person (and possibly journalist), Brand is a powerful figure and completely aware of his influence and charisma, especially when combined with his comic-laced verbosity. However, while many are applauding Brand’s impassioned efforts atop the political soapbox, it’s important to step back and shake off the utopian glitter, in order to completely consider the repercussions of some of Brand’s proclamations. Read the rest of this entry »
The marketing and exploitation of the female image as part of the fame trajectory – for good or for evil – has a very long tradition. I first encountered the detail of helpless blind-ambition of fame-hungry starlets, whilst researching my book the Fame Formula. The manipulative craft of the publicist can be detected in the shadowy recesses of the fame factory. Recently, the chatterati have been teeming around the various permutations of the Miley Cyrus ‘scandal’ and resulting stories for weeks, like it is something new. It isn’t.
Although individuals ranging from Sinead O’Connor to Charlotte Church have taken the story as an opportunity to highlight injustices in the music industry, the use of sexualised imagery to promote artists and celebrities is not an invention of the post-Free Love era. Read the rest of this entry »