Blog

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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August 26, 2016

Lynne Franks- master of PR bluff calling

They fuck you up, your sons and daughters. This was the lesson learned by PR legend Lynne Franks when she opened her Mail on Sunday to discover her grown up son lambasting her as “too selfish to raise children”. To be fair to Josh Howie, his description of the archetypal eighties career woman, “on the phone to the office within 20 minutes of my birth, [not getting] off again until I was 16”, is clearly a parody of the baby boomer elite. His account of the cut-throat careerist shirking her maternal responsibilities makes Ab Fab’s Edina Monsoon – ...

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August 10, 2016

Trump and the end of objectivity

Ask a reasonably clever ten year old what a journalist is and she will say someone who reports what is happening. While this impression may become more nuanced as we develop a greater understanding of how news is broken and spun this basic understanding still underpins our view of what the media is. How is the media to fulfil this duty when confronted by the blatant parody of political orthodoxy that is Donald Trump? To report on him is to provide a platform for a tone of politics that much of the media find objectionable. Professional reporter ...

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July 29, 2016

In praise of survival

This month marks the last time a brand new VCR will roll off the conveyor belt of Funai Electric in Japan. It is 12 years since most major shops in the UK and Europe stopped selling VCRs, relegating their bulky tapes to ever-decreasing shelf space at the back of charity shops. Someone, somewhere was still buying them a decade after the technology’s death had been pronounced. In our headlong rush to embrace the new we’re too quick to write off the capacity of the predecessors to cling on. Just because something should be eclipsed it doesn’t mean ...

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July 19, 2016

The lie that won

The comedy is that David Cameron believed his own lie. The tragedy is, so did the rest of us. The Conservative victory at last year’s election sent shockwaves through the media and political establishments. When the dust had settled and the pollsters had been pilloried, it was all so obvious why the Tories had won- or, more precisely, why Labour had lost. The Conservatives had a clear economic message, supported by the business establishment. They had the backing of business leaders and the tacit support from international bodies such as the IM ...

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July 8, 2016

Experts be damned: on post-factual communication

‘Post-factual’ is a phrase we’ve been hearing a lot of lately. Once upon a time you would have been discredited for calling the Bank of England corrupt. Now –as Rafael Behr quotes in his Guardian long read autopsy of the remains of Remain– you can plaster it over a bus and the BBC will give you a free ride. Post-factual is identification politics- it means understanding what it’s like to “walk in my shoes”. As Tony Blair explained, those irritating factual outcomes – non-existence of WMDs, failure to exhaust viable alternative to co ...

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June 27, 2016

Zen and the art of Cannes Lions

“What is this festival anyway?” asked a bemused Dave Grohl to an audience of star struck advertising folk. Few of the execs in the room –who had spent the last few days pickling their vital organs in Rosé- were in a fit state to respond. There are several ways of answering Dave’s question. Excess knows few limitations For many the festival is a marathon piss-up, circa 1987. You’d think Maggie was still clinging onto power and the referendum on the 23rd June was a vote to leave the Common Market. All those who sold their agencies for mega bucks ...

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June 24, 2016

Brexit and the end of the general public

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’. Well, if this morning’s result has shown us anything it’s that this pursuit is utter rubbish. Any illusion of commons threads that bind together our diverse country has given way to intractable division. Communicators speak of audiences as if they picture their publics as attentive theatre-goers sitting down to watch a show. In truth, they live in lead-encased silos through which no views contrary to their o ...

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June 18, 2016

Outside the Referendum Bubble

“Lost for words”. This was how so many of us reacted to the senseless, brutal murder to MP Jo Cox. After a frenzied week of last ditch campaigning for the upcoming referendum the tragic event in Birstall has catapulted everything into miserable perspective. Only on Wednesday the Dumbish Armada was descending down the Thames. Even by the low standards of the tat that gets floated down our noxious waterway this was an eyesore. Nigel Farage, looking like a poor man’s Alan Partridge, had his Brexit love cruise gate-crashed by Geldof’s ragtag band o ...

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June 4, 2016

Muhammad Ali: titan of the ring who invented a unique brand of showmanship

Muhammad Ali was a limitless divinity, touched by a tincture of madness. He was the showman beyond all showmen, conquering the decades with an all powerful chaos. When I was still in short trousers I witnessed his all consuming hype machine sweeping up all in his path. Nobody was immune to it: an intoxicating deity, an all powerful one man circus, beamed into our homes via a black and white analogue medium. What joy, what excitement. Ali was the enduring icon of my childhood: brash and ebullient, a heavyweight pugilist whose brilliance in the r ...

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June 3, 2016

A week of spin can’t save Top Gear from ratings slip

The spin and backtracking that have characterised Chris Evans’s steering of Top Gear have been more Downing Street press office than racing track. Last year it was “100% not true” that he was in line to fill Clarkson’s shoes; months later the BBC announced that they had signed him up for a three year stint. If the presenter’s people ever advised him against loose talk in the wake of this U-turn their caution wasn’t heeded. When pushed on ratings Evans stated that anything less than 5 million would be “disappointing”. Sunday night’s opening epis ...

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May 25, 2016

Jose Mourinho produced a PR masterclass to land his dream job at Manchester United

Jose Mourinho’s journey to Manchester United is the culmination of an impressive behind-the-scenes campaign of media manipulation. Assistant professors at Harvard Business School – where Sir Alex Ferguson has taught – would call it strategic positioning. It has been a masterclass in PR and playing between the lines. To read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2016/05/24/jose-mourinho-the-special-one-produced-a-pr-masterclass-to-land/ ...

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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?