Blog

May 26, 2017

When will the likes of Walkers learn that people do not love brands? (Drum)

The hijacking of Walkers’ Champions League promo – which asked fans to tweet selfies to be included alongside Gary Lineker – begs the question: how did no one see that coming? As ever in new media land, the idea would have gone through countless planning sessions and stress tests. Each time bearded Dalstonian (apologies) creatives no doubt slapped themselves on the back. What a great idea to give folk the opportunity to been seen by millions next to crisp-chomping icon Gary Lineker. Everyone loves Gary – apart from all those Twitter trolls. So ...

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May 19, 2017

Boo Netflix all you like, it’s here to stay

Second to the Palm d’Or the greatest achievement a filmmaker can hope for from a trip to Cannes is a good old booing. A very special kind of cacophony is rewarded to a film that succeeds in irritating le bon goût of French cineastes- it’s less of a boo and more like the mooing of an over-excited cow. Pulp Fiction received the full force of Gallic baying as have most of Lars Von Trier’s films. This year the honour falls on Okja, not so much for the film itself as who is distributing it. The row over the presence of Netflix on the croisette had b ...

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May 11, 2017

Corbyn’s Labour manifesto: when is a leak not a leak? (The Drum)

Jeremy Corbyn has always insisted that Labour policy be decided by consultation and debate. With the leaking of a draft of the party’s manifesto, Labour has launched its most ambitious act of policy crowdsourcing. As a pundit pointed out, leaking the manifesto is probably the surest way of getting the media to seriously read it. Media indifference isn’t just a problem for Corbyn’s Labour. In twenty-first century elections – fuelled by big data, algorithmically-matched messaging and fake news – the manifesto is an increasingly irrelevant form. I ...

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May 5, 2017

Brad’s second coming

Antiquity had the crucifixion. The French Republic had the Guillotine. For us the arena for bringing down the high and mighty is the tabloid mud pit. Lucky for our modern Dauphins reputational execution is not as lasting as actual decapitation and a second chance is always on the table. In his tell-all interview with GQ Brad Pitt strung himself and spilled out his guts like a good mediaeval martyr. As if it wasn’t enough to speak frankly about a lifelong alcohol problem Pitt dons a dewy-eyed sad dad pose and midlife crisis rags. If public displ ...

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April 28, 2017

The myth of the vote winning slogan

Gallons of intellect, insight and idiocy are poured into election campaigns- all in search of a magic slogan that will catapult a candidate to victory. The amount of money sloshing around in the election market reflects the mythology that has been built around the campaign guru. The power of a phrase to win is often overblown. If you get your messaging right you can hope to tip the dial in your favour by a few notches- largely among those who are on the fence. Public cynicism of soundbite politics means anything that sounds inauthentic or wooll ...

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April 21, 2017

GE2017: A campaign of re-heated leftovers

If you’re looking for a good word of the day, try apanthropinization. It means to rise above or resign from one’s narrow concerns and worldly worries. Over the next six weeks of what looks set to be a dreary election campaign we will all be needing some of that. We’ve moaned about the lack of real choice in politics. Now we have one–between two very different personalities and two very different visions for Britain- yet our reaction is like BBC’s voice of the nation Brenda on being told of Theresa May’s decision to call a poll: “oh no not anoth ...

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April 14, 2017

Give corporate communicators a break- failure starts and ends with leadership

Cometh the PR crisis, cometh the troll. In the past week we’ve had an Easter bumper pack of public relations blunders for the twitterati to sink their teeth into. The mother of all has been the United Airlines fiasco which saw a passenger “re-accommodated” in a “de-planed situation” after he refused to be “auto-volunteered” off an overbooked flight. Linguistic trickery is of course one of the joys to be had from unpicking a PR response. The chief target of ridicule is so often the corporate comms team. Their carefully crafted statements buckle ...

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March 31, 2017

Pseudo news is no response to fake news

Each day Whatsapp and Messenger process around 60 billion messages. We’ve never been more communicative- and the burden for instant response has never been greater. It’s quaint then that the main news story of the week has been the delivery of a single letter. Since the declaration of Article 50 was signed by the PM at the start of the week we have had a series of breaking news updates, culminating in the handover to the EU council president Donald Tusk on Wednesday. It is impossible even to say ‘Article 50’ without the prefixed verb ‘trigger’- ...

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March 21, 2017

Social media giants need to bulk up narrative in questioning times

Next week Theresa May will be writing to the European Council to declare her intentions to initiate Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. The resounding message of last year’s referendum –for right or wrong- was the country’s desire to ‘take back control’. The message was an alluring one. We have long been told we live in a world of untameable forces. Globalisation cannot be stopped. The internet is simply too vast to be policed. The robotisation of the labour market is inevitable. Where once we may have obliged to this narrative, there is now a wi ...

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March 13, 2017

Unfriended: What Facebook tells us about PRs and the media

Search current articles on Facebook and you’ll find pages and pages on its exciting new messaging app. What is clearly a Snap Chat rip-off, the app allows users to share photos and videos that vanish in 24 hours. That this news itself comes little more than a day after a BBC report into the social network’s shambolic response to a investigation into its tepid policing of paedophilic images is surely less than coincidental. The example speaks volumes for the current state of PR. It began last year when the BBC found that paedophiles were using s ...

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February 28, 2017

Best Picture mix-up is the best PR stunt Oscar’s ever pulled

In a night of surprises the greatest revelation of the 89th Academy Awards was that Pricewaterhousecoopers plays a leading role in counting voting. If anyone ever queried the involvement of accountants in Hollywood the Best Picture mix-up has provided sufficient ammo. The knee-jerk statement of regret from PwC, coupled with the obligatory promise to investigate how the wrong envelop came into the hands of Warren Beatty, comes as no surprise. But shouldn’t it be the Academy that is thanking PwC? What happened last night is in a long tradition of ...

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February 10, 2017

Brands all over the world are praying that Trump attacks them

Donald Trump may have only been in office for three weeks, but he’s already started to work his entrepreneurial magic. Taking to Twitter to lambaste Nordstrom for withdrawing his daughter Ivanka’s clothing line, he unleashed an outpouring of consumer love. The store’s stock finished the day up 4%. Meryl Streep’s performance in “Florence Foster Jenkins” is not her best work, but a high-profile spat with the US President has likely helped secure her a record 20th Oscar nomination. But perhaps the greatest benef ...

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February 10, 2017

Brand Beckham will take more than a minor email leak about knighthoods to bring it down.

No one likes a show-off. Even if you’ve won 19 major trophies in a 20 year football career and have reinvented yourself into a $1bn empire spanning fashion, music and film, it isn’t a good look to cry out for recognition.   Yet any obituary of Brand Beckham in light of the email leak is staggeringly premature. If the brand were a publically listed company its share price would be having more a wobble than a tumble. David Beckham has constructed a vehicle infinitely bigger than himself. The revelation that not all of his charitable endeavou ...

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February 3, 2017

The Truth Behind the Beyonce Pregnancy Photoshoot

Above all else an iconic image is an expression of power. Think of Korda’s photo portrait of Che Guevara –starting life as propaganda for a dynamic young radical it wassucked into the incredible merchandise mill of capitalism. When Korda first photographed the Argentine radical we were exposed to at most 500 images a day. In the twenty first century that figure is well over 5000. It has never been harder to produce those iconic images that become entrenched in the cultural memory. Yet as the release of Beyonce’s pregnancy pics on Instagram over ...

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January 20, 2017

2017 exists in an augmented reality

La La Land –the new musical by Damien Chazelle that has got audiences feather stepping out of cinemas- opens with a traffic jam on a freeway ramp. For a glorious moment the honking drone of commuters is suspended for a sequence to rival great dance numbers from Top Hat to Thriller. What makes Chazelle’s film different is that its flights of fancy exist side-by-side with the mundane reality of the daily commute, of folk scraping by and making ends meet. Its appeal isn’t that is it pure escapism but rather than it presents an augmented reality (A ...

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January 16, 2017

Who killed the newspaper critic?

Newspapers have been shedding their arts reporting for decades, relegating reviews to dispensable supplements and buried middle-pages. Depressing reports such as last week’s piece in the Columbia Journalism Review on the disappearance of full-time arts staffers are a familiar sight.  If the professional reviewer is an endangered species then the rise of the blogging geek and the entitled opinionators of social media are its Walter Palmers. The recent deaths of giants of the form, John Berger and A A Gill, seem spookily prescient. We are witness ...

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January 4, 2017

PR in 2017: buy a bunker

In PR we talk about reaching out and cutting through. We craft messaging that will engage that poised and docile mob we call ‘the public’. In 2016 –a year of Trump and Brexit, outrage and division- this pursuit has never seemed harder. The year will be remembered as one where the mighty fell, the great passed on and the rest of us were left scratching our heads in disbelief. In a time when pollsters are discredited and experts derided, anyone flaunting their future-gazing creds should be treated like a purveyor of quack medicine. Last year, whe ...

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December 9, 2016

What’s the value of values?

Whether it’s a burka ban in Germany or Trump’s plan for an overhaul of America’s trading relationships much in politics is justified on the ground of ‘our values’. They can be liberal or American, Enlightenment or corporate- what matters is that they are ours and we have to defend them. As analysts of political discourse will tell you the word is a classic semantic ruse- it assigns the audience a share in the matter at stake without specifying the content of the matter. The greatest part of the rhetorical trick is that it assumes a history- and ...

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December 2, 2016

What now for the liberal elite?

Between the shock of Trump and the likely pummeling of the Italian establishment in the country’s constitutional referendum on Sunday the metropolitan liberal elite have received a small boon in Richmond Park. While the defeat of a Tory former wunderkind is an odd platform for restoring order, the bi-election had become a proxy war between the well-to-do 48% and the self-righteous Brexiteers. We’re still a long way from seeing a liberal elite fightback. There will surely be more upsets to the world order. A Lib Dem win in Richmond Park –the cou ...

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November 23, 2016

Theresa May would be missing a trick not to make Nigel Farage our next man in Washington

Is the thought of Ambassador Farage really beneath contempt for Theresa May? Undoubtedly, the interim Ukip leader would be a live wire. Foreign Office mandarins, already on tenterhooks about Foreign Secretary Johnson, would be livid. But the potential benefits outweigh the risks. If Trump has transformed politics once and for all into reality TV, then diplomacy by selfie and proclamations in less than 140 characters is the foreign relations equivalent. Read further at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/22/theresa-may-would-missing-trick-n ...

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November 21, 2016

Fantastic Lies and Where To Find Them

The response of the established media to reports that the majority of stories shared on facebook during the US election were stonking great lies has been the predictable bellow of I told you so. According to the holier-than-thou op-eds this is clearly the fault of the news gathering public for shunning proper paywalled journalism. Yet this stern lecture from a dying breed misses a greater truth. The distinction between fact and fiction hasn’t so much blurred as morphed into one big post-truth blob that has long since gobbled up all news outlets ...

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November 7, 2016

The excellence of festive campaigns should teach us that brand engagement is not just for Christmas

PR is deployed to whet consumer appetites by leaking morsels, as if we couldn’t picture what is in store for us. An adorably toothless child in a well-furnished house befriends a fantasy figure with a particular cause for sadness. The figure is a metaphor for the magic of childhood refracted through a wistful gauze of adult memory; we know this because the soundtrack is a popular song from 10 years ago, covered bitter-sweetly by a breathless chanteuse. Beneath the confident festive formula, there is nervousness among top brands. Read more at ht ...

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November 4, 2016

The Algorithm of Influence

Influence isn’t what you have, it’s what you can convince others they need. Every time a product is launched we are persuaded not only of its desirability but that it has rendered everything that came before redundant. To cling onto the old is to live in the past. This was played out last week when Twitter announced that it was closing down its short-form video service Vine. Despite having 200m active users the social media giant had decided that it was to be consigned to the past. Cue news of Twitter and Apple further investing in augmented re ...

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October 28, 2016

HyperNormal: PR in a post-truth world

As we gaze on the latest stunt or cracking campaign for a new talking fridge we miss out on the darker side of the industry. Too often PR does not question the larger informational frameworks in which we communicate. That’s where Vladislav Surkov comes in. Surkov remains semi-invisible and anonymous, lurking in the shadows. He gets on with it away from the public glare. According to Adam Curtis’s visceral new filmic essay HyperNormalisation Surkov is the author of a new kind of post-factual politics. Under Putin he has held portfoli ...

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October 21, 2016

From Paddy to the Donald- the Economic Bubble of Outrage

Spare a thought for Panama. They want to be known for their high levels of literacy, their traditional straw hats and their eclectic cuisine. Yet thanks to the famed leaked papers this country of less than four million continues to be synonymous with Dickie Roepers swigging their Crème de menthes on their untaxed island getaways. It comes as no surprise that this week it has been revealed that the Panamanian government has brought in Bellwether Strategies, the firm that gave us the acceptable face of China for Beijing ‘08. If Bellwether’s job i ...

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September 29, 2016

How does Sam Allardyce ever come back from this?

As Sam Allardyce jets off to his Spanish villa, he will have ample time to reflect on how he became the shortest serving England manager of all time. It is no surprise that Big Sam says he has not ruled out returning to football. Nor should he. No one wants a crisis but once it has happened there are ways of making the best of it. To read the rest, follow the below link to The Daily Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2016/09/28/how-does-sam-allardyce-ever-come-back-from-this-first-he-should/ ...

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September 27, 2016

Corbyn- PR Revenant?

Jeremy Corbyn goes from clinging on to gripping the Labour party by the neck. Forget the Revenant this year’s great survival story belongs to the softly spoken radical for Islington North. A year in to the experiment, and two successful leadership contests later, we know any attempt to school the ragged trousered socialist in the ways of media handling and spin would be to defy a force of nature. But, vice versa, could there be any PR lessons for us to glean from Corbyn’s endurance? Nestled in the latest PR Week dispatch from the Labour party c ...

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September 7, 2016

Hiddle-split: PR lessons from a shomance

It was a romance worthy of a bard, a ballad to rival John and Yoko. Only the most cynical of PRs would dismiss the star-crossed lover affair of Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift as a stunt. Well I am a cynical PR man and from day one the pictures of the well-groomed couple canoodling on a coastal nook had as much gritty authenticity as a Nicholas Sparks novel. The news of the Hiddleswift split has confirmed that love is, after all, little more than a tennis score in the cut-throat world of celebrity. Reports have spun the story that Swift had gro ...

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September 2, 2016

PR fails to catch em all

Pokemon Go has entered the decline stage. This is the fad phase after the belles-lettre stage that sees a flurry of pretentious musing on how said fad  is changing everything and the one before the stage where your parents get into it. Meteoric popularity followed by equally dramatic trailing off is nothing new. The Washington Post quotes a psychologist Robert Bartholomew who posits that digital living has accelerated the spread and decline of fads- Pokemon is only the most current example of this phenomenon of extreme effervesce. Where Pokemon ...

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August 27, 2016

Showmanship- the common factor

In a striking number of folkloric traditions the number 13 is synonymous with excess and things coming undone. ITV is hoping those folks are wrong. As the 13th series of X Factor streams into our handheld living rooms the rumour mill once again begins to whirl. This time the big name in line for a potential one-series guest stint is Calvin Harris. Post-Swift you can see why his people would be jockeying for that kind of exposure. A succession of novelty faces –Kelly Rowland, Rita Ora, Mel B, Katy Perry- has been and gone, and in doing so the si ...

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A FORMULA FOR STUNTS?

A FORMULA FOR STUNTS?

How to avoid Idea Porn Never before have so many believed in the power of PR. The Holmes Report now estimates the PR industry is a $12.5 billion sector that employs 80,000 people worldwide. In the UK there are 55,000

Damage by dilution Thoughts on #piggate

Damage by dilution Thoughts on #piggate

The twitterati hadn’t even reached their second earl grey of the morning and there were already several hashtags jockeying for pole position in the ‘Cameron gets intimate with a pig’ trendathon. Eventually #piggate was the chosen rallying cry of the

Corbynmania- who’d have thought it?

Corbynmania- who’d have thought it?

A recent rally in Glasgow for the unexpected favourite in the Labour leadership race, Jeremy Corbyn, had to be moved to a larger venue because it’s 1000-person capacity wasn’t big enough. A message was sent around to all supporters: “the

The Cumber-down

The Cumber-down

“I’m going to try my hardest not to scream the minute he walks on stage” revealed one of the many Benedict Cumberbatch superfans to a WSJ reporter at last night’s first performance of Hamlet. I’m sure the Gielgubitches said the

The meaning of Cecil

The meaning of Cecil

Cecil was not a lucky lion. First being named after the unreformed imperialist who invented the concentration camp; then to be slowly killed, skinned and decapitated; and finally, to become a meme of the moment and plundered worldwide –from stuffed

Mudslinging on twitter

Mudslinging on twitter

She is considered the most influential female rapper of all time. He is has less sheen than a dog-eared copy of The Ragged Trouser Philanthropists. But it turns out that Nicki Minaj and the Labour leader hopeful Jeremy Corbyn have

Flacked Off

Flacked Off

What do you get when you pack a room full of PR folk and journalists – with the former outnumbering the latter 4 to 1? The result is less a confident face-off and more a joint session in existential angst

On Standby

On Standby

Local Television was meant to be a cultural revolution, empowering communities and discovering new talent — why isn’t it switching on?