Our Own Story

Exciting

Dangerously intense

Challenging

Rewarding

Talented

Dynamic

Enriching

Passionate

These are the key words that make the story of the MA in Public Relations class of 2013.

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The acceptance letter from the University of Westminster was the ticket that allowed me to embark on an incredible journey that has enriched my career beyond measure. The fast-paced intense rythm of work and the professional practical approach to the course content has made us challenge ourselves to become the best versions of professionals, ready to conquer our dream career path.

It has been incredibly inspiring to be able to devour the knowledge, skills and qualities of a very talented and ambitious group of people. The stress, the nerves, the deadlines, the essays and reports, the hours of research, the all-nighter library campings, the presentations, the debates, the campaign pitches, the press conferences; through it all we supported each other and grew together, delivering wonderful results untill the very end.

Some of us used to say that if our class were to rent a small basement and buy a few computers (and yes, fresh flowers would be mandatory), the combination of our varied talents, experience and skills would make for the most extraordinary PR firm that London would ever see.

I’m very grateful to my parents, my teachers, my classmates and friends for all their support, hard work and patience that helped us achieve our goals. And Juhi, I’ll always remember the hours and hours, days and all-nighters of PR studying and creative brainstorming; every second  we invested was worth it.

To all of you; We made it.

Pat

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FireMe!? So you’ve read my tweets? #noway, #woups

I hope no one is naive enough to think that reputation doesn’t matter. Oh it does. Companies are well aware that their reputation conditions their success, and that they need our brilliant PR services to guide them.  For the CIPR, reputation management is intrinsic to the definition of the profession. “Public relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you”.

It seems to me that the development of social media has led many people to fall in the trap of oversharing. I can’t count the number of times when I read tweets, facebook posts or see images that make me want to shout TOO MUCH INFORMATION: REPUTATION MUCK UP ALERT!

The fact is that from time to time,  all of us could use sensible PR advice and this must have been what inspired PhD Ricardo Kawase and his team to develop the FireMe! app at the University of Hannover. Kawase and his team picked up on people’s habit of using twitter as a therapeutical outlet to vent their frustrations with bosses and jobs and they decided to create a  reputational guardian angel to protect the land of Twitter.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Masters of Media

FireMe! scans Twitter in search of negative phrases about bosses and jobs, and alerts the chatty posters that they are playing with fire. It’s like this, when the app tracks the undiplomatic tweets, it automatically sends another tweet to the user urging them to reconsider their tweet and attaches a link to their  FireMeter! score. This is the result of a witty rating system that evaluates the likelihood of the comment getting the chatty poster fired based on the perceived negativity towards the job and the frequency of the boss trash-talking outbursts, considering the user’s  last 100 tweets.

My PR advice for you today is this: There are certain thoughts that are best kept in your diary and there is a reason why generations and generations before you have been hiding it under the matress.

Where’s the joy of beer without a good story?

If you’ve been faithful to my EsPResso stories, you’ll know by now how I feel about the importance of storytelling in PR. If you are a new reader; welcome, you’ll soon find out.

On that note, it’s a good day to tell a Carlsberg story.
The famous beer brand has entrusted the Lexis agency with a content-driven brief for an international campaign believed to be worth a six-figure sum.

The agency must cultivate Carlsberg’s redefinition of the brand’s positioning that blends heritage with adventure. If I say Carlsberg, you say… tradition, quality and the rush of excitement that comes from making good choices.
That’s what the company wants and that’s what they have begun to achieve thanks to their good choice of tagline “That calls for a Carlsberg” and their entertaining “Carlsberg puts friendship to the test” online campaign.

What works so well in this video is their ability to blend the brand’s story with an entertaining, exciting story that combines the best elements of fictional and reality audiovisual content.

By the time you finish watching the video, you feel like you’ve been part of a narrative experience, that has entertained you and fueled your imagination with exciting and creative ideas and afterthoughts worth sharing.

Lexis is planning on brewing unforgettable content-rich experiences for this international campaign which is set to launch within a month and will run until the autumn; a period of time long enough to give consumers the opportunity to drink in the story, the brand… and the beer.

Dancing a PR waltz with the stars

Recognize her?

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PHOTO CREDIT:ijpc.org

So do millions of fans… and so should the finance directors of all universities offering PR courses, as believe it or not, Samantha’s role in Sex and the City as the glamorous PR, queen of the “fabulous  lifestyle”, is responsible for many student enrolements in PR degrees, according to authors Morris and Goldsworthy. In their book A Persuasive Industry, they refer to her as a highly effective international ambassador for PR, who has contributed to PR’s popularity, more so than any other PR organization. Such is the power of celebrities, but hang on… her character ISN’T EVEN REAL.

Society thrives on the cult of celebrity. They feed our craving for escapist entertainment and our unquenchable thirst for glamour, even if it’s lived through the lives of completely unreachable strangers. We want to follow them, know about them (and their wardrobes), be them, and as good PR’s we are AWARE of this intriguing psychological condition, and we have been using it to our advantage for many years. Today, globalization and the unlimited power of Internet enable celebrity culture to flourish on  a global massive scale.

A celebrity is “a well-recognised person who commands a high degree of public and media attention” (Tench &Yeomans 2009). Throughout history there have always been famous personalities who have stood out from the masses, but it was the rise of the mass media in the 1850’s  that lead to the creation and popularization of the ‘celebrity concept’. and the stars’ spotlight is fuelled by the joint work of editors and publicists.

By the 1920’s, the magazines were contributing to the construction of the star system by promoting key figures from the world of leisure and entertainment; and so the (sometimes bumpy) marriage between media and celebrities came to be.  Ultimately, media fascination with “celebrity news” has had a clear impact on the PR industry.

In the 1920’s  we can find one of the first examples of a PR’s use of celebrity endorsements ; the Torches of Freedom campaign, by the legendary Edward Bernays. He was hired by the American Tobacco Company to break the social taboo against women smoking in public, which would increase the sales of Lucky Strike cigarettes.

Bernays hired a group of young models to march in the New York City parade; his stunt involved having the models lighting the cigarettes   (torches of freedom) all at once, as a proclamation of women’s independance. He made sure that this dramatic symbol was covered by the media.

Successful celebrity product placement and sponsorship tie-ins have flourished in the consumer  PR sector. Let’s talk about the glitter effects of celebrity endorsement. Brands use celebrities to borrow the authority of fame, glamour, or acclaimed expertise and attach this excitement to their product and image.
Successful endorsements help forge relationships between brands and people by capitalizing on the audience’s trust on the endorser. It’s a persuassive tool that can greatly influence the way people think and feel towards the  brand as well as affect their purchase decisions.

Borrowing stars spotlight for the good of the brand can sometimes be a double-edged sword, as celebrity scandals can be very harmful to the brand’s image. Brands run away from the celebrities-gone-bad, such as recently disgraced Lance Armstrong, for without credibility, the endorsement is worthles.

Nowadays, the social media revolution has enabled a cheaper form of celebrity endorsement; the rise to stardom of ordinary people. Direct engagements with consumers are making celebrity intermediaries less necessary. Many digital PR strategies are focused on inviting users to “share the digital spotlight” and make them feel like celebrities of the brand’s micro universe. In this wat, they generate a community style endorsement which is a lot more doable, given the increasingly reduced budget.

However,  PR will always recognize the power of glitter. Regardless of the democratization of media, our love affair with celebrities will endure; the voice of stardom will still be loud and clear and will always want to be heard. And that, my PR friends is showbiz.

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Farewell, Fearless Margaret

Margaret Thatcher’s presence was not to be taken lightly. Whether loved or loathed, she transformed Britain’s political and economic history beyond measure. Her fighting spirit, fearless attitude and her tasteful blend of composure and strength made her into one of the most influential political figures of the 20th century. No matter what political ideology one belongs to, it is undeniable that she was an extraordinary woman  whose footsteps will always be remembered at number 10.

The media is paying tribute to this iconic woman by reminding us of her political milestones and gathering her most famous quotes. Rather than going into politics  let’s talk about the PR side of her political image-making. What’s remarkable about Margaret is that she maintained her invincible self-belief and personality throughout her leadership; immune to acid criticism, never did she succumb to social pressure. She grasped the fact that people respected authenticity and integrity and that a decent and respectable lifestyle and image travelled further than fake smiles and kind words. Many of today’s bland, weak, malleable puppet  politicians would do well in taking a few lessons from her strong personality.

Having said that, as every  other public figure, she had a little help sweetening up her image to the palate of the audience, though she was firm about sticking to her identity and style and, quite adamant when it came to pearls: She could lose the fussy hats but the pearls, a gift from her husband , weren’t going anywhere.

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PHOTO CREDIT: uncyclopedia.wikia.com

Former television producer Gordon Reece,  was the one entrusted with the PR-ization of her image. Charming, sharp and perceptive,  he had what it took to blend Margaret’s sense of style  and conservative identity with a softer and more relatable televised image. His experience in entertainment inspired him to hire a National Theatre coach to teach her to lower and deepen her voice  and speak more slowly and closer to the microphone to make her voice husky and intimate.  Warm water, honey and lemon was one of advertising genius Lord Bell’s prescriptions for her, as it soothed her vocal chords and kept her from adopting a shrill tone under pressure.

Reece had Laurence Olivier teach her how to project her strong personality through her speech. He also steered her towards appearing in friendly entertainment programmes that would appeal to a broad audience , such as Jimmy Young’s Radio 2 show, rather than more aggressive political programmes. Thatcher’s famous picture of  her doing the family washing-up was cleverly staged to be released before the leadership election.

Her wardrobe was submitted to her advis0rs ‘ critical eye. Besides Reece, Margaret trusted her friend Dame Guinevere Tilney, who became her stylist and adapted Margaret’s unique style to a harsh political stage in a man’s world. Tinley discarded the hats, chunky jewelry and fussy bows in favour of  elegant sober high collars and elegant yet bold power suits. She was also advised to subject her hair to a political hairdo, and a softer shade of blond.

Margaret King also worked as a wardrobe adviser for Thatcher and continued to perfect her political wardrobe. When journalists caricatured her iconic, sturdy, sensible Aspray bag as a power weapon and came up with the witty concept of “handbagging” her opponents, King suggested that she should avoid being photographed with it and recommended a clutch bag instead. Finally with the help of a neat and structured filing system and the organizational skills of her personal assistant Cynthia Crawford, her outfit choices were classified in index cards, so she could keep a detailed record of what she wore, when and how it looked on television.

While her image advisors did give her lessons which she learned from,  the best PR she ever had was herself. She was a remarkable, strong, charismatic woman who was a brilliant performer, politician and promoter of her fearless identity. Every speech, every look and every  decision was faithful to her values, personality and identity and there wasn’t an opponent, journalist or enemy in the world. who could ever make her courage and strength falter.

CSR for breakfast

There is something very interesting about PR’s appearance; There is a dichotomy between the invisible and visible manifestation of the profession. Third-party endorsement tactics are an example of strategies that still make use of the invisibility cloak, however CSR initiatives ditch the cloak for spotlights. CSR activities are becoming increasingly more important  to companies and the more visible, engaging and involving they appear, the more successful they are likely to be.

Kellogg’s is a great example of a company who executes wonderfully complete CSR initiatives, and as for visibility, you can’t get more visible than your breakfast table.  For the past decade, in cooperation with ContinYou, their famous Breakfast Clubs have been providing underprivileged children with nutritious breakfasts before school. It is a solid initiative that th ey have kept alive over the years, showing their commitment by strengthening the campaign via different tactics.

Recently they have pledged to give away 15 million breakfasts by 2016. Their CSR portfolio is very wide, as they also cooperate with Food Banks, and charities in Third World countries, committing to the betterment of  childrens’ health and wellbeing, all of which has naturally been feeding their own reputation as a conscious company.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Kellogg’s

What works really well in their strategies is their ability to integrate a wide range of both internal and external stakeholders in the delivery of their campaigns. Communication departments generally put a lot of effort in reaching out to audiences and using social media as a window display for the company. Yet many times, there is a lack of sharing this output between different departments of the company.

I think it’s vital to create a collaborative and converging workplace, so  all employees can share their knowledge and expertise and have a taste of the company’s projects and initiatives, no matter if they work in Finance, Marketing, PR or HR. Kellogg’s employees are encouraged to follow the campaigns via internal communication efforts and are also invited to get involved  with the Food Banks and breakfast club initiatives. By making their staff  part of their initiatives, they create a positive and nurturing work environment that fosters employee loyalty and engagement and strengthens the corporate identity.

Kellogg’s new UK corporate affairs director Paul Wheeler is planning to carry on this strategy. He is planning to involve 200o employees with the company’s CSR initiatives. In an effort to spread the corporate story, the legendary cereal brand is considering the implementation of an employee volunteering programme managed by Wheeler’s team. He clearly has room at his breakfast table for corporate reputation, brand PR, CSR and internal communications.

And they all pitched happily ever after

In the previous post we covered the importance of displaying confident body language in order to engage with the audience. Another key factor in pitching towards success is the mastery of storytelling. Needless to say, a strong pitch must be supported by good content; Assuming that’s covered let’s focus on how to get the audience to listen to our content.

In every presentation there is a story to tell. Now people tend to relate stories to fantasy and to informal occasions or a childish audience; this is a great mistake. The best speakers are storytellers. They craft captivating stories that draw the audience in from the moment they start speaking.

After watching a good movie or reading a good book, we might forget the details and figures but the memory of the story always lingers. We have become so reliant on computers that we grasp our data-clogged powerpoints and hold on to them for dear life, hiding behind them and hoping that the screen will tell the story for us.

A good story travels further than facts; it has the power to stir up the audience’s emotions and push them to action. If they are not devouring your story, your oral communication skills could use some polishing up. The Dollarshaveclub.com video campaign is a great example of how good old entertaining compelling storytelling does the trick every time.

I also want to stress the importance of simulating the real world outcome of your ideas. Our teachers have emphasized the value of this pitch tactic. The more you can visually recreate for the client, the better the ideas will sell.

Mock-up videos and mock-up pictures are an excellent tool to give your client perspective and make him believe in your ideas. It’s that extra push that helps weaken the client’s protective shield and makes your story into something real.