Posts Tagged ‘publicity’
The following originally appeared on huffingtonpost.co.uk on June 2nd
In the run-up to the Jubilee juggernaut, the western media has become obsessed with the newfound brand success of the British Royal Family aka Brand GB – pomp and circumstance consolidated holdings. Whatever your feelings on Good Queen Bess and her spawn, it’s impossible to ignore the remarkable difference in public attitudes-particularly among younger demographics- to those you’d have found at a similar point in safety-pinned ‘77 or icily indifferent ‘02. However, is it all really so rosy? Or is this just another fad? Perhaps, arguably, the greatest PR turnaround for any institution.
The Jubilee is a time for nostalgia, so let’s look back. When Lillibet placed herself upon the throne in a docile fashion in ‘52, it was in uneasy shape. A collapsing Empire, a half-baked socialist zeitgeist and the ominous first tremors of the multifarious cultural revolutions to come were imperceptibly weakening the crown’s hold over the Nation. As an organisation, too, the Royal Family was troubled: a gaggle of distant siblings led by an increasingly remote matriarch.
Her initial decade or so in power saw a golden period with the public. Over the subsequent 50 years, however, the Royal Brand’s PR fortunes waxed and waned. The overall trend was destructive. The rise of the tabloid press, the growing disruptive iconoclasm associated with late 20th century youth culture and some ridiculously poorly judged behaviour on the part of key figures culminated in a post-Diana brand ground zero. The monarchy barely figured in public attention at all, other than when the media got it together to disinterestedly spit some bile at Harry’s latest sartorial nasty or nightclub fumble. Not a great idea to dress up as a Nazi for a night of revelry.
Here at Borkowski towers, we’ve just finished wrangling a media call to out a wonderful story.
Once upon a time, Jeremy Paxton, owner of our client the Lower Mill Estate, received an earnest letter from the son of a prospective buyer. The letter, sent by six year old Leo Park, enquired politely as to whether the new house being designed for he and his mother, Jade, would have a chimney large enough to accommodate the weighty personage of a certain Santa Claus come holiday season. We persuaded Lower Mill that, as a self build service, it was their duty to fulfil his request.
What’s more, all parties involved agreed to appear before the media to bring this heart-warming Christmas tale to the eyes of the world. We helped Lower Mill and the media to capture the moment at which the chimney was taken for a test run, with a cheery Santa lowered into the chimney via a crane. Lower Mill were prepared to go that extra mile to sell the house and raise a few smiles. As the old saying goes, you get the publicity you deserve.
From the Daily Mail and the Telegraph to Emirates 247, from CBC America to the Times of India via Radio 2, The One Show and plenty more along the way, the happening captured the imagination of reporters and audiences alike.
Ah the double-edged sword of technology: yesterday I managed to spark a very interesting debate during a Skype interview for Radio 5’s ‘Double Take’ regarding the Leveson inquiry. However, just as things were getting interesting- and before I could voice some of my key points- the connection was cut and I was left stranded in my home office.
The debate proceeded, the media machine turned, and I was powerless to change or influence it, or to explain my true point in any audible way. See any analogues?
The problem that the hacking scandal and the Leveson inquiry have thrown up is that, for most people, the media acts in just this way but writ large. It tantalises the average person as it touches on their daily lives, yet it is ultimately a mysterious and unalterable process to them. When Jane Garvey asked me to clarify what it was I do this was brought home to me- would she ask the same of a solicitor or accountant?
The squabbles between the media and the famous are elevated to epic battles in the eyes of the public, who witness them through a filter. The reality is that this is a procedural question as complex and unromantic as its equivalent in any business. With tabloid journalism now largely driven by showbiz, and the public’s appetite for stories as ravenous and insatiable as ever, certain questions need to be asked and decisions made. However, they need to be made in a measured and demystified manner.
It would be better both for the media and for those in the public eye (who most often suffer the same banal problems as the rest of us) if the voodoo was stripped away.
Since I last penned a brief note on the St Pauls occupy London shenanigans, it seems there’s been some new story almost daily. The resignation of two senior church officials, the alleged 48 hour deadline, the declaration that the protestors are here to stay, the threat of legal action by the city, comments from both sides of mainstream politics (including Jonson’s memorable exhortation ‘In the name of God and mammon, go’) and now, finally, a silence-breaking Observer article by Ed Miliband.
In between the possibly hypocritical condemnations by the Tories, the possibly equally hypocritical support offered by Labour, the regulations of the City of London and the public dithering of the Church of England, there’s enough fuel here to keep the media busy for as long as the camp remains in place, and probably longer.
Dr Rowan Williams’s comments last week, in which he acknowledged the inequality inherent in the financial sector and called the protest ‘a real focus for people’s feelings and their imagination,’ were perceived by many as an antidote to the church’s infighting. In fact, they confuse matters further by acknowledging the ideological alliance between the church and the protestors while smartly avoiding the legal conflict.
The whole affair’s like a messy divorce case: the issues are being ignored because everyone has a claim to being a victim- a problem the media has taken it upon itself to sort out. The entire confused, irrational mess was summed up by the Daily Express last week in an unintentionally genius bit of satire: a reporter camped out in front of the house of a protestor, armed with a tent and a sign reading ‘how do you like it?’.
It’s an interesting quandry: it’s hard to think of a recent protest of this scale which has earned itself so many column inches, and arguably, visibility is enough. The rational, we might argue, will draw their own conclusions. However, my fear is that the temptations of a juicy bit of finger-pointing will obscure the issues at heart far more effectively than a thrown fire extinguisher ever could.
The performance of Alex Hall, Jeremy Clarkson’s now-infamous-once-gagged ex, on ‘That Sunday Night Show’ last week was a classic example of the dark underbelly of the kiss and tell process. Your publicist finds an op, you do it no matter what, and you end making a quick facial omelette. It’s like Faust’s pact with the devil except even more boring to watch as it’s acted out.
Hall was somehow savaged by a panel which contained, amongst others, professionally ineffectual wall hanging Louis Spence and Chiles himself, the world’s least threatening man. Even worse: she has achieved the exact opposite of her presumed aim. Following her constant, whining ubiquity over the past few days, the only sane response is to actually feel sorry for Clarkson. She’s unlikely to make the money she wants, but even if she does, it’ll be pretty tainted now.
Rumour has it that Hall has fired Clifford following the debacle. It’s fascinating to me that this is the conclusion people have drawn: much more likely he’s quietly given her the shove. He sat next to her, blandly besuited like a court-appointed attorney in a police drama, ashen faced as she shot herself in the foot time after time. An attempted gag in which she turned the initials used to refer to her case under the injunction (a.m.m vs h.x.w) into a faux-provocative acronym fell flatter than Spence’s washboard abs. ‘Adulterous Motor Mouth vs. Hurt Ex Wife’, if you’re interested. Cue slow clap.
The video of Polish politician Katarzyna Lenart stripping for votes has generated the kind of online buzz that other party political broadcasts (and I use the term in its loosest sense) could only dream of. Shot on what appears to be a pretty low grade camera and featuring a swivel chair that wouldn’t look out of place in the head office of a packaging company in Slough, it looks a bit like something you’d find on Babestation at 3am. Still, at least she doesn’t stoop to airbrushing.
The knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss this out of hand. It’s not just crazy, it’s obvious. Surely even the voyeuristic, big brother guzzling, internet porn fed, fetid mess of a world we live in wouldn’t fall for something so desperate. It may be getting watched, but it won’t win votes.
Having said that, futurology is a tricky discipline, especially in the fad happy world of politics. Perhaps Lenart’s dance is so mad that it works. Lord knows we’ve been waiting for something to kick off the ‘digital elections’ repeatedly promised- and denied- through campaign strategies over the past few years.
Somewhere in the heart of New Zealand, the England team will be shaking off hangovers, disengaging themselves from the arms of dwarves and former family friends, and getting psyched up for training prior to their all-important clash with France.
While Mike Tindall’s injury excludes him from the final team, his presence will be felt nonetheless. A little while ago, I posted a short note warning that, following reportage of an early wild night out across the tabloid press, the England team faced potential PR disaster should they fail to perform. This week that’s been stepped up and nailed down with the long-running tale of his ‘mystery blonde’.
After renewed interest in the story on Monday, the Mail outed the girl as old family friend, and ex-lover, Jessica Palmer on Tuesday. By Wednesday, she was gleefully reported to be going into hiding.
It hasn’t, by any means, been the worst sporting publicity disaster of all time. Even Ryan Giggs’s superinjunction scandal, itself surprisingly minor, far eclipses it as far as recent tabloid splashes go. What’s important, though, is that this coverage has well and truly brought the team out of the back pages and into the front.
It’s a great story for anyone who’s obsessed by the showmanship of selling: Arch West, the great Frito-Lay marketing exec and inventor of Doritos, has been covered with his beloved chips in his final resting place. West came from a long line of great retail mavericks who had the fire and the guts to tap into the popular consciousness and then harness it instantly and recklessly, with scarcely a thought for the opinions of shareholders and other boring considerations. I know my banging on about the golden age of showmanship is something you see a lot on this blog, but I’m increasingly worried that we’re not going to see his like again.
What is it with snack moguls? First Fredrich Baur, retail genius and inventor of the iconic ‘Pringles’ can, had his ashes buried in one of his beloved crisp receptacles back in 2008, and now this fantastic news item from West, presumably a sight that roughly resembled Doritos’ stoner student target customer after a big night in. The real genius of the retail surpremo is represented by these almost mythic funerals: these were guys who truly lived the brand, who integrated their lives and their behaviour into what they were communicating. There is something unimaginably inspirational about these two men, who know who to grab column inches even from beyond the grave.
Their heritage is rich. When Gordon Selfridge came to London, he made a fortune out of the women’s lib movement by promoting luxury shopping as a lifestyle choice, a statement of freedom: he was unafraid to be a huge character and to consciously attract huge characters. He encouraged women to look at his freedom, to look at that of his wife, and to demand this for themselves via the medium of their wallets.
In his Today programme interview with Justin Webb yesterday, Nick Clegg’s intended, unflappable nice guy image was showing the kind of serious wear and tear that can only result from a shortage of publicity muscle and back room support. By turns repetitive and needlessly confrontational (over the question of Italy, for instance, he veered back and forth before tersely interjecting that noting the difference between Britain and Italy was ‘a statement of the obvious’), he answered questions like a man in HomeBase asking after a product he’s forgotten the name of. When you’re getting rattled by Justin Webb, you know you really have a problem.
The conference as a whole seems to have been getting more coverage than any other party conference in recent memory. Journalists can sense the chinks and cracks forming in the lib dem PR armour. All this is fuelled by the #ldconf twitter discussion which is more overwhelmingly negative than even a cynic like myself could have predicted, with some particularly quotable intrusions from John Prescott, who recently responded to journalists irate at accreditation issues with the somewhat inflammatory tweet “Is the #LDConf accreditation crisis at a conference centre proof they can’t organise a p***up in a brewery?”.
We live in an age where we’re increasingly concerned with the methodology of publicity rather than its veracity; from celebrities Cheryl and Simon, to government bodies, start up fashion brands and particularly charitable causes everyone gets involved in publicity stunts. Stunts are the red cells flowing at blistering speed through media arteries, nourishing the media agenda off- and online.
They are the fastest means to create indelible brand infamy. Some of them are put under the microscope and picked apart by media cynics, myself included, but the greatest stunts are those which nobody spots as stunts. I should know, I wrote a book about them.
These days, the art of good PR is to generate captivating narratives, because the story has become far more important than the truth. Consumers are setting up information networks and are happy to be governed by social media connections. They expect the information to come to them in the instant – hardly anyone seeks out information elsewhere any more. They want it all NOW!
It’s too early to suggest whether the Bourne/Withers mother in law email leak was a stunt or not, but if it is, then it might be ill-advised. If you’re of the school of thought that all publicity is good publicity, then it has been a success because it’s embedded in the media psyche. But a wedding is an intensely personal, emotive event.
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