Friday, 24 September 2010

The Power of PR

Unless you have been hiding under a stone recently (sorry, couldn’t resist…) you will no doubt be familiar with the latest war tribunal involving supermodel Naomi Campbell who was called to the stand in August to testify her acceptance of blood diamonds from ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor.

Whilst this headline story may have come as brand new information to most of you, interestingly enough, it has in fact been going on for many years – it was merely not considered newsworthy enough to cover!

Could it be that in order to generate widespread interest around the case, there was the demand for something or someone high profile to stir up attention? In the words of Naomi Campbell herself; “This trial has been going on for how many years and no-one cared to write about it? You bring Naomi Campbell to the stand and the whole world knows. I was used as a scapegoat."…and perhaps she is right!

As we PROs know better than most, if you want to grab the news headlines, you need to offer the media something meaty! Send a bog standard release and the only place it will be fighting for space will be within the recycling bin.

Although, whilst many of us can sympathise with Naomi for having to undergo such a rigorous tribunal, dragged through the press for what seemed like weeks in order to settle the case, I notice she was quick to promote her other fund raising activities including drumming up support for victims of the Pakistan floods whilst defending her involvement.

So whilst she may criticise the works of the judiciary system for using such tactical methods in order to grab the attention of the media, it seems she too knows how to put the PR wheels in motion as and when is needed!

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Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Online: Rise to fame or fall from grace

This year’s X Factor is proving how influential social media can be on generating support from the public. Last year Simon Cowell introduced live audiences to the audience process, bringing the public closer to the judging panel to have their say. But with social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter the ‘judging’ goes beyond the audition.

The contestants that have got it right are the ones that already have Twitter accounts and fan pages before their audition appears on TV. Those that saw them in the live auditions have already become Facebook fans and are following them on Twitter, so by the time they appear on our screens they have thousands of followers. The support they get through social media is obviously seen by the producers of X Factor and help them realise which contestants are of interest to the public. Last year’s finalists all had Twitter accounts and Facebook fan pages and kept the public up to date with their experience throughout the show.

Looking at an example from this season, Cher Lloyd (or mini Cheryl Cole as you may remember her), on the night of her audition she became the most popular trend on Twitter in the UK, possibly ensuring she makes it to the live finals.
But for those contestants that have a past (and lets face it many of them do) the world wide web does everything it can to show them in a negative light, giving them their five minutes of fame, but perhaps hindering their chances of ever making it past boot camp.

Take Chloe Mafia for example, the 19 year old was put through even after a not so great audition (judges decision, not ours!), but the media has done its research, found out about her criminal past and splashed it all over the front cover of every tabloid newspaper since her audition. With the backlash she has received on Twitter and Facebook her future as an X Factor contestant looks like its about to come to an end.

And moving away from the X Factor, look at the David Beckham rumour that is running around Twitter today. The journalists have heard a rumour from the American press. Although they can’t reveal what the story is just yet (I’m sure the lawyers are trying to stop it) but they can certainly get their followers guessing and gossiping about the story simply by posting the words “If the Beckham rumours are true he’s in serious trouble”.

Since I first started writing this post the story has in fact been revealed by In Touch magazine and the whole Beckham story is spreading like Wildfire. We here are split in the office by those tweeting and those not as to who knows what’s going on and who will find out a few days later when the UK press finally print the story.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Day Break – Tuned In or Turned Off?

It sounds a bit like the title of a blockbuster movie, but alas, it’s the new replacement for GMTV. The sparkling new, reformatted ITV breakfast show aired for the first time last week with a brand new set, presenters and structure. Personally, I’m still trying to get used to seeing Adrian and Christine whilst eating my cornflakes and getting very confused when I tune into the One Show and wonder why Christine suddenly has a Welsh accent!

The new Daybreak show is certainly different. Long gone are the bright yellow and orange colours and the comfy sofas that made you feel like it was an extension of your living room. Instead we have a rather dull and dreary set that even Christine’s smile cannot brighten! But I have to say, that’s the only negatives I have noticed. GMTV has been on our screens since 1993 so a complete overhaul was definitely in order to bring the show up to speed. The new ‘Something Cool Before School’ feature is particularly fun and interesting, yet surprisingly educational, and will definitely attract a younger audience who probably never watched GMTV. They have also moved to more serious stories and interviews with people such as Prince Charles and Tony Blair as well as having the regular entertainment sections, so they are clearly catering for all tastes.

However, reports so far have shown a dramatic fall in viewing figures losing one fifth of its’ audience in the first two weeks. I guess this to be expected given that it’s a turbulent time where loyal fans of GMTV who loved the old format and presenters will feel a little uncomfortable by the change and start to search for alternative morning TV. For me, the sticking point is the presenters as I just can’t get used to them! But I’m sure that with time I, and the rest of the nation, will be able to slip back into easy-viewing, breakfast TV.

What do you think about Daybreak? Have you tuned in or turned off?

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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Size zero Vs Men's Health hero

The size zero debate rages on with the queen of nil herself Victoria Beckham declaring she will only use size 6 models and above for her Spring 2011 collection. You’d think that by now this would be a matter of course and that the really skinny girls would no longer be booked but this is not the case. At a recent photographic shoot I overheard the stylist and make-up artist chatting about this very topic and how in the lead up to London Fashion Week they are still seeing size zeros turning up for casting from Milan and Paris. It seems that the UK and the US are getting it but the rest of Europe is yet to catch up. Working in PR it’s hard not to be affected by the gorgeous girls we see every day judging us from the covers of magazines. Most of us are big enough and bold enough to be happy as we are, but what of the likes of my ten year old niece who recently confided in me that she is going on a diet!

How refreshing then to attend the Remington Men’s Health Cover Model competition 2010 finalist dinner. The awards celebrate the perfection of not just a physique, but a great personality and a balanced lifestyle too. All the finalists were chosen for their passion to be in the best condition possible without letting their goal imprison them. A new female category was introduced this year and like the male finalists they all followed healthy eating plans and work out so that they can enjoy the good things in life – such as the champagne and posh steak dinner that was polished off by all with relish!

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Wednesday, 1 September 2010

All’s fair in love and work

I was recently asked to contribute a post to the Social Collective blog, which features a series of forward-thinking opinion pieces by those working with social media. I was very honoured to be in such good company, and I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have on the post I submitted, which focuses on client relationships…

A colleague recently described me as her “relationship guru”. By this she meant that I approach my relationship with love, patience and just a tiny bit of manipulation, resulting in a happy home where I get what I want 90% of the time. Just call me the man whisperer.

This got me thinking… can you apply the same principles to client relationships as you can to those of a more romantic nature? While I may be a competent communicator at home, I’ve always found client relationships to be more challenging, so by utilising years of pop psychology gleaned from glossy magazines, I’ve come up with four approaches that work just as well on clients as they do on men:

Make them feel important: When you have a partner, it can be easy to spend all of your time with them and ignore your friends. It’s a real skill to make everyone feel that they are equally important to you, but it’s crucial to happy, healthy friendships – and client relationships. No, you can’t just drop everything every time someone asks you for a favour, but you can respond to them quickly and tell them when you will be able to help them. You can check in regularly to show that they are on your mind, and you can spread your activities out so you are often in touch. By treating your clients with respect, you can ensure that they always feel loved.

It’s good to talk: We all have friends that we only talk to on Facebook, but my guess would be that they’re not your closest confidantes. I’m also fairly certain that you wouldn’t communicate with your partner exclusively through the internet, so why do it with your clients? Email is a great tool but it’s very difficult to build up a meaningful relationship without talking. Pick up the phone, talk around subjects, ask questions. If you can build up a dialogue with your clients, they will enjoy working with you more, and be more likely to listen to your advice.

Be helpful:
You probably don’t have anything to do with your partner’s place of work, but that doesn’t mean you don’t offer them advice on work-related dilemmas. Likewise, you may not be involved with your clients’ personal lives, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take an interest. Just as you would help them out in the workplace, keep their personal interests at heart as well. Are they moving house? Mention you’ve seen a sale at Cargo. Getting married? Tell them about an upcoming wedding exhibition. You don’t need to be obtrusive, just interested.

Make them think it’s their idea:
Decades of advice from women’s magazines tells us that if you really want something, the trick is to make your man think he’s thought of it himself. Clients are no different. Offer suggestions, present plans, drop hints – but treat feedback as if it’s the smartest thing you’ve heard all week. Of course, clients (like men) can be wrong – but if you’re usually supportive, they’ll be more likely to listen to your advice when you have a better idea.

Finally, the best advice I have ever been given is to treat your partner like a friend. When you’ve invested so much in one person (or one client), it’s easy to be hard on them when they fail to live up to your impossible expectations. Always remember that boyfriends and clients are just people – treating everyone with respect and kindness is the best way to build lasting relationships in and out of the office.