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INFLUENCER MARKETING – LESSONS FROM MARCUS RASHFORD

It’s fantastic to hear that the AQA exam board is looking to use Marcus Rashford as a case study on how best to use social media to instigate social change in society.  The 23 year old “black man from Wythenshawe” is not only a role model for many but a brilliant example of what an influencer can really do.

Marcus’ campaign to raise awareness of the issues associated with child poverty is rightfully textbook stuff, illustrating how best to use influence to raise awareness and deliver tangible changes to behaviour.

Within two weeks of launching, more than a million people had signed the petition calling for the government to extend free school meals through the summer holidays of the Covid-19 pandemic.  This was only the 5th time that a petition to parliament raised more than 1m signatures.

His success as an influencer is down to several reasons.  The first is that he has ‘lived experience’ and can relate to the issues he supports.  As a child, it’s well reported that Marcus Rashford had experienced significant poverty and could personally share the role that free school meals had played in his own life.  This meant he was not ‘preachy’ but honest and relatable based on his genuine experiences.

The footballer also has a significant profile on social media with more than 11.8 million followers on Instagram and a further 5 million on Twitter.  His personality shines through his posts and he remains consistently on message, relating to issues and topics that are important to him.  Marcus’ audience also relate to him on several levels whether football, as a young black man or as a role model in delivering social change.

He used his support well and his work was quickly amplified by cafés, takeaways, shops, and other outlets across the country who supported the campaign by pledging free meals to children during the holidays (in defiance of the government’s decision not to).  The campaign quickly built momentum at all levels of society and helped deliver the changes needed.

Marcus Rashford’s influence has been tangible.  He’s not only the youngest person to top the Sunday Times Giving List after raising more than £20 million in donations from supermarkets for groups tackling child poverty, but he’s also actively changed Government policy.

Last summer, Rashford managed to get the government to make a policy U-turn and agree to give free school meals to vulnerable youngsters during the Covid-19 impacted summer.  Later in October he secured a further £170m winter grant to support low-income families struggling with the continued impact of the pandemic.

Although he claims not to have ‘the education of a politician’ it’s clear his messages are simple and, like all good influencing campaigns or PR strategies, designed to engage with his audiences, encourage people to support the cause or even to take matters into their own hands.

This recognition, along with an MBE in the delayed 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, are just some of the accolades he has achieved in his young life.  Let’s hope that Marcus Rashford’s great work continues to shine on the football field and in the fields of positively influencing equality, diversity and inclusion in today’s society.

A Summer Of Sport & PR Disasters

It’s been a fantastic summer of sport with the Olympics, Euros and a Lions series in South Africa, let alone all the smaller sporting occasions that take place every week across the country.  All have been achieved despite the global restrictions and regulations in place to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s been an amazing feat of organisation and also a welcome opportunity for brands to leverage sponsorships and get their products in front of a pent-up audience looking to spend their cash that’s been accumulated in lockdown.

However, it seems that for many, the promise of PR gold did not quite materialise and in many cases, PR disasters were never far from the surface.

The Coca Cola x UEFA Blunder

Let’s start with Coca Cola multi-million pound sponsorship of the UEFA European Championship.  On one hand, this could have been a fantastic opportunity to promote the brand to a young, vibrant and global audience. However, it ended up being a complete disaster when the tournament’s leading star Cristiano Ronaldo moved two promotional bottles away from the cameras at Portugal’s pre-match press conference, urging viewers to drink water instead.  The action led to Coca Cola’s share price dropping by 1.6 per cent and $4bn being knocked off the company’s share price.  Though rectified in future conferences, the debacle made headlines all over the world, and it’s fair to say that in this instance – the publicity isn’t exactly what Coca Cola were looking for.

Toyota Throws Its Money Down The Drain

When it comes to the Olympics, title sponsor Toyota won gold when it comes to PR disasters after the company decided not to air any of its advertisements that associated the brand with the games, for fear of a backlash by concerned customers who did not want the games to go ahead due to the fear of spreading Covid.

Not only did Toyota pull its adverts, but the sponsor was also banned from the opening ceremony and opted not to attend the games in any way. This all comes despite Toyota becoming the first car company to ever sign up as a worldwide Olympic sponsor in 2015 in, an eight-year deal reportedly worth nearly $1bn.

Toyota Chief Communications Officer Jun Nagata said: “There are many issues with these Games that are proving difficult to be understood.”  It seems a bit late in the day for such comments.

Vodafone Falls Short Of Positive PR

Finally, as a rugby fan, I should also mention the Lions rugby series in South Africa.  An occasion that only comes up every 4 years and every 12 years in South Africa.  The on field scraps and poor criticisms of the referees have left a bitter feeling towards the event with many feeling that the occasion is heading towards its sell by date.

Although title sponsor Vodafone did well in engaging with fans at home, for its estimated £6.5m sponsorship fee, the company was unable to capitalise on an event that is typically enjoyed by thousands of travelling fans.  The games had to take place behind closed doors and the opportunities brands had to associate themselves with positive PR projects in the host country were dramatically reduced (despite an 1800% increase in the sponsorship cost they incurred when compared to their initial sponsorship in 1997).

In previous years, we’ve seen support in townships and deprived areas of the country which allowed for the brand to build its image and illustrate its CSR credentials.  This time around, players were sadly required to lock themselves in isolation bubbles in some of the country’s finest hotels.

The Risk & Reward Of Big Brand Sponsorships

So what’s the answer?  For me, there seems a growing disconnect between the cost / benefit to supporting such occasions.  There’s also a growing potential for a PR disaster if a star snubs your product or the public turn against the event that you have spent millions of pounds supporting and associating yourself with.

From a public relations perspective, winning hearts and minds is most important. So, before entering the agreements, consider the ‘what ifs’ and have plans in place to mitigate the issues or crisis communication challenges should they emerge.

The real opportunity comes from leveraging the sponsorship through campaigns and initiatives within the target communities.  Of all the marketing mediums, PR is best placed to build relationships with consumers and to help brands share their values through engaging and meaningful communications.

So for a marketing gold medal, talk to us and let us devise a PR campaign that is effective and engaging – rather than spending thousands on product placement or relatively worthless brand associations.

How Will July 19th’s “Freedom Day” Change The Way We Communicate?

On Monday 19th July, England is expected to enjoy the end of all Covid-19 induced restrictions. This means nightclubs can open, unlimited numbers can meet both indoors and outdoors, bar service at pubs and restaurants will resume and events such as festivals can get underway for the summer. One of the most anticipated and discussed decisions of the years so far, the opinions surrounding July 19th is truly a mixed bag. As PRs for a number of hospitality clients, this change in the rules is huge for us. So, today, we wanted to talk about how the so-called ‘Freedom Day’ next week will change the way we PR.

Using This Opportunity For Comment Placement

Firstly, July 19th brings about a huge opportunity for businesses, especially those that might have been closed or operating under tight restrictions up until now. We’ll be leveraging these opportunities to get our clients in the press, plenty of journalists will be doing live blogs and frequent articles on ‘Freedom Day’ – how can you join in on the conversation? Only recently, we got one client, the owner of an esteemed wedding venue, in the BBC thanks to being quick-off-the-mark with a reactionary comment to the extended restrictions.

Positive But Mindful Comms

One of the most important things to remember next week, is that although many of us are excited to see the end of restrictions, there are also many who aren’t. Some will still feel hesitant about re-entering normal life and may be still cautious about the virus. Communications should naturally be very positive and enthusiastic, but it might not also be a bad idea to continue communicating about safety restrictions that may be remaining in place for your clients, for those who are more anxious about the situation.

Capturing & Communicating Moments

July 19th is a date that will no doubt go down in the history books, it’s important to capture and communicate special moments from the day. Perhaps you’re a new pub or restaurant having your first ever person at the bar, or maybe a wedding venue hosting your first celebration in 12 months? Whatever it is that’s happening for you or your clients on July 19th, be sure to celebrate it on social and with the media. So many people will be talking about all the various (and hopefully positive) changes to life as we know it, you want to make sure you’re a part of that conversation too.

Ditching The Old Messaging

One of the biggest ways that July 19th will change the way that we ‘PR’, is that most of the messaging from the last year will go out of the window. Though it’s still important to communicate any safety measures where applicable, you’re also going to want to drop most of the Covid-19 messaging from your comms. Many establishments will undergo huge operational changes over the next few weeks, as PRs it’s our job to effectively relay those to audiences and make sure that we’re all on the same page as we enter this next step together.

Embracing Changing Content

Over various periods of lockdowns, home working and ongoing restrictions, the content you would have gotten through from clients would likely have been different. Now that England is opening up again, this is likely to change again. Work with your clients to create the kind of content you wouldn’t have before, whether that’s photography with people enjoying your establishment and your services, or even utilising newfound freedom to create more interesting content such as TikTok videos and Instagram Live updates.

Supporting Others With PR

Finally, one thing we’re planning to consider in our future communications strategies, is that people have suffered throughout the various lockdowns and restrictions, we want to support them with our clients anyway we can. Only recently, with our client Miller Homes, we supported a primary school local to their development who had struggled with fundraising over the past year. This is part of our ongoing CSR activity for our client, and something we’ll consider across the board. Showing you’re helping those out who might’ve been less fortunate than yourselves over the last year, is a great way of reinforcing a positive brand message.

At Source PR, we have a number of clients that will benefit from the July 19th opening, and we’re excited to be supporting them in this next phase. If you’re a business looking to get the most out of the new (or rather, lack of) restrictions, please do get in touch with our friendly team – we’d love to have a chat and get the creative juices flowing.

Crisis Communications & Why You Should Have Plans In Place

An organisation’s reputation is intrinsically linked with its ability to secure sales, attract top talent or even to charge a premium. Well regarded business also benefit from loyal customers who buy a broader ranges of goods and tell others.  So if reputation is all important why not ensure you have you crisis communication plans in place?

As Benjamin Franklin said; “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Sadly however, most organisations do an inadequate job of managing their reputations, only focussing their energies when a problem has already surfaced.

So what should companies do to protect against reputational damage? The answer depends on the type, complexity and size of the organisation but there are some basic rules of thumb.

Firstly; have a crisis communications plan in place. Organisations should ensure they have the capability and capacity to  respond to negative press, social media or customer complaints. Issues can move quickly but can often be predicted – having a crisis communications plan allow a company to be responsive, co-ordinated and consistent in what it wants to convey, to who and when.

Secondly, be honest.  An organisation that communicates honestly can even build greater trust with its stakeholders in the long term, while one that appears dishonest can undermine confidence and prolong a problem.

Thirdly, get support.  When a crisis hits it can be all consuming.  Customers, suppliers and employees will all need reassurance as well as the media and/or any public authority.  All should be included in the crisis communication plan but business leaders should focus on what they do best and seek professional support to help in other areas.

Identify the members of the crisis communication team and can allocate roles and responsibilities.  This can include simple actions like who should act as spokesperson and whether more than one is needed depending on the enquiry?  Also consider who will field media calls, monitor social media and is there back up required for each role?   The plan should include contact information for all team members including personal mobile phone numbers.

A crisis communications plan shouldn’t predetermine what to say and don’t script the responses – instead focus on developing the key messages you can plan in advance as well as key company information.  Where possible anticipate what the questions may be and how the organisation should respond.  In preparing the responses, consider the who, what, when, why and how and the below offer a useful guide:

  • What was the cause of the crisis?
  • A brief description / understanding of what happened
  • Provide a timetable for future plans and actions
  • Communicate compassion for any victims of the crisis
  • Involve supporters and any emergency service responses

Although many crises can’t be planned in advance, there’s no excuse not to have a plan in place for when one crops up.  The old adage stands true that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, often with devastating consequences to an organisation’s name and all important reputation.

To help develop your crisis communication plan, contact a member of our experienced team and let us support you through the process.

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DOING A SOCIAL MEDIA AUDIT

There’s been an exponential rise in businesses using social media platforms to excite, entice and engage with audiences as more and more consumers turn to social media during the recent lockdowns.  To maximise performance and ensure you are on brand and have a strong message, now is the right time for companies to undertake a social media audit.

Research suggests that just under half of consumers (43%) said they were spending longer on social media because of the outbreak, and 19% say they’ll carry on spending longer on social media once restrictions lift. There has never been a better time to audit your social media than now.

The Basics Of A Social Media Audit

The good news is that a social media audit for businesses is not as painful as it sounds when left in the hands of professionals.  It’s a very worthwhile exercise to ensure brands are making the most of their opportunities, reflecting best practice and also keeping pace with the evolving social media trends and algorithms.

The basic role of an audit of all social media accounts is to help you better understand what’s happening on each network and to see at a glance the following key metrics:

  • What’s working and what’s not
  • Whether impostor accounts are stealing your followers
  • Which profiles you need to revive, repurpose, or shut down
  • New opportunities to grow and engage your audience
  • Are you being consistent and considered with your messaging

At Source PR, we’re often asked to complete company social media audits as it’s critical to understand the key elements mentioned above before embarking on developing an effective social media strategy.  To constructively move forward with an effective social media strategy it’s important to first know where you are before you determine where you want to go.

What Does A Social Media Audit Look Like?

Visibility

When undertaking a social media audit, first look at what @handles are you using, over what platforms and who has ownership or control.  Is there brand consistency across the platforms, what do the biogs say and where are you directing any subsequent web visitors?  Also, look at the imagery you’re using and check that the pages are verified to prevent imposters.

Needs & Wants

From this point you can determine what platforms and handles a business needs / wants as well as determine what’s working and what’s not.  Take the time to look at what are the most engaging posts, who is engaging with you and on what platforms as well as which networks your target audience is most active on.

Competitor Analysis

We would also recommend that you compare your approach and outlook to the competition, evaluating how you compare to them and whether you are missing any opportunities to engage with audiences or simply getting the best out of the platforms. At Source PR, we have social media tools that can track and monitor in-depth competitor activity as well as physically doing the legwork ourselves.

Identify KPIs

When auditing you social media platforms remember to stay focused on the key performance indicators (KPIs) that you want to measure.  Some of the more popular measurements can be increases in followers, link clicks, profile visits, likes / comments and other engagements.

Social Media Audit Services

Undertaking an effective social media audit for business helps determine where you are before you develop the strategy and pathway on where you want to go.  Get in touch with our team if you’re looking for support with your social media audit.  Once this is done, the real fun can begin with the development of an effective and fun social media strategy to better excite, engage and enthuse your audiences.  Watch this space and follow our social media accounts for future updates where we will share some of our social media success strategies.

PR & MARKETING STRATEGY – IS YOUR BUSINESS READY FOR LIFE AFTER LOCKDOWN?

As we approach the end of Lockdown Mark III, the government believes that the UK economy will bounce back like a ‘coiled spring’. The question is, are you ready for a return to normality, what are you doing to prepare yourselves and have you got their marketing strategy in place to maximise opportunities? If not, now is the time to take action before it’s too late.

The Bank of England suggests that consumer spending is set to surge with that the British public having saved as much as £250 billion while being locked up. Restaurants, pubs and bars are the likely immediate benefactors as well as UK holiday providers, but all these industries have suppliers and employ people who, who when earning again, will look to treat themselves after months of curtailment.

We have talked earlier about the importance of maintaining a marketing presence during lockdown and have an excellent case study of Combermere Abbey, one of the region’s leading wedding venues and accommodation providers, on how they managed it so well. The case study shows how the business was forced to close due to the Covid restrictions but rather than twiddle thumbs, took proactive measures so they were well placed to take advantage when the lockdown was lifted.

Businesses preparing for the lifting of what is believed to be the ‘last lockdown’ should also consider how the economy has been permanently altered since March 2020. Consumer spending habits, lifestyles and trends have been shifted online, people have adopted new hobbies and outlooks, and it is hard to see how the high street can bounce back without innovation or embracing more digital opportunities.

It is not just the hospitality and retail industries that is expected to bounce back, but house builders and construction industries are also likely to benefit as people look to either move home or make renovations following months of being in lockdown. A report from our client Miller Homes suggests that lifestyles have been changed by the pandemic with more home working or a demand for more outdoor space. These new ways of living and working present clear marketing opportunities.

The use of social media has also grown significantly as users feel that they have a safe space to interact, be entertained, distract themselves, and find inspiration without any risk of contagion. July 2020 saw a rise of 10.5% in social media usage, compared with July 2019, according to a GlobalWebIndex survey. Some 46% of women and 41% of men said they’ve spent more time on social media during the pandemic, making it the second-most popular digital activity.

Businesses should alter their marketing approach to reflect this and have a marketing and social media strategy in place that maximises the opportunities presented. It’s likely that the space will remain competitive and it will be the brands that have relationships with their customers and who are able to excite, entice and engage that will come out strongest.

If you’re looking for a PR or marketing strategy, the team would be delighted to have a chat to understand where you are, what the vision is and to help pull plans together so you can get there. The end of the ‘last lockdown’ is fast approaching, make sure you are ready like a ‘coiled spring’ to take your opportunities.

IS LOCAL MEDIA COVERAGE JUST AS VALUABLE AS NATIONAL MEDIA COVERAGE?

At Source PR, we have plenty of experience gaining coverage for our clients, from the nichest of publications to some of the UK’s largest. From the BBC News to ITV, the Mirror Online and the Financial Times, we’ve got a track record we’re proud of.

 

But we’re no stranger to local media, either. In fact, a majority of our press releases go directly to local media journalists and publications. Forming good relationships with journalists and keeping up-to-date with the goings on of regional media is essential to our role in securing coverage for our clients.

 

But with smaller readership numbers compared to national media, is local media worth trying to get coverage in?

 

We say a resounding, loud yes: and here’s why.

 

1. A relevant audience

 

It’s obvious that directing a press release towards those who will benefit from the information most is the best course of action.

 

We work with Cheshire pubs for whom the target audience of their coverage is, naturally, local readers and viewers. While a viral Buzzfeed article or a national news story on BBC News is certainly not going to hinder their business prospects, it goes without saying that a pub first and foremost has to win over the local residents – and keep them coming back.

 

Targeting local media is the best way of helping them achieve this goal, both for online and offline coverage.

 

It’s not only smaller businesses that try for coverage in local media, either: national corporations that run campaigns and events in one particular area benefit from the local media’s ability to inform local residents, meaning they’re perfect to use for advertising and features.

 

Whether it’s a pub, a logistics company or a builders’ merchants, at the end of the day, it’s those local to the business who will be giving the business the most trade – so it makes perfect sense to reach them in their local media.

 

2. Trust is key

 

Did you know that, according to an American-based study by the Knight Foundation, local journalists are seen as more caring, trustworthy and unbiased in comparison to national media journalists?

 

The same study found that 45% of participants trust local news reporting either ‘a great deal’ or ‘a lot.’ Currently, there is a lot of mistrust for mainstream media from all sides of the political spectrum: from Donald Trump’s infamous rhetoric of citing news outlets such as CNN as ‘fake news’, as covered in our previous blog; to complaints in the UK of biased reporting from the big news outlets such as the BBC, sparking a national conversation about the need for a TV license fee.

 

Right now seems like the perfect time to invest time and energy into local media, which not only has the trust of its readership, but also keeps them informed of the most immediately relevant information to their day-to-day lives.

 

3. Keeping connected

 

Similarly, readers tend to feel more connected to their local media than to national media. A Government-backed study found that for every percentage point growth in a local daily newspaper’s circulation, local electoral turnout goes up by 0.37 percentage points. Informing readers of relevant local happenings leads readers to being more in-tune with goings on of their town or city, thereby making them feel more active participants in local democracy.

 

Some corporations have intervened in order to help keep local democracy thriving. To help combat the deficit in local news reporting, the BBC launched a Local Democracy Reporting scheme, which created up to 150 new jobs in local media throughout the UK. The reporters cover top-tier local authorities and other public service organisations.

 

In Facebook’s new ‘journalism project,’ the social media giant posits an initiative specifically for local news, stating that: “We will be collaborating with news organizations to develop products, learning from journalists about ways we can be a better partner, and working with publishers and educators on how we can equip people with the knowledge they need to be informed readers in the digital age.”

 

As Facebook has, in the past, come under fire for its lack of scrutiny of ‘fake news’, this is a great way for the corporation to step in and help make local news more accessible and verifiable.

 

Keeping it local

 

Some people think they have only made it in the world of PR if they’ve secured national media coverage. We say there’s a lot more to being successful in PR than only targeting the nationals. Targeting where your customers are reading is where it’s at, always.

 

Need some advice?

 

If you’d like some tips and support on the best ways of getting coverage for your business, you can get in touch with our friendly and experienced team via our website. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram – why not follow us?

 

 

PR ADVICE – CAN DEMOCRACY SURVIVE WITHOUT INDEPENDENT MEDIA?

Anyone offering PR advice to Donald Trump must have earned their corn attempting to manage his messages or even keep control of his diverging news agenda. The difficulty of offering PR advice to Donald was that, on average, the Whitehouse Director of Communications lasted just 150 days, barely enough time to effectively influence the strategy, direction or messages let alone establish working relationships with the media.

The Trump Effect On The Changing Media Landscape

During the latest presidency we have also seen a further dramatic shift in the media landscape with the emergence of ‘fake news’, direct communications through social media platforms such as twitter and a growing lack of trust in the media. This is a problem as a free and independent ‘Fourth Estate’, is supposed to hold power to account, an important element in democracy and debate.

The changing landscape has resulted in unprecedented scenes with the need for 20,000 troops to gather in the US Capitol to oversee the safe transfer of power in ‘The land of the free’. This issue has risen largely due to maverick communications and loss of control. Sadly, the storming of the Capitol buildings could therefore be a sign of things to come.

This ability to bypass an independent and regulated media has significant repercussions, particularly if the presiding narrative is that they are trying to steal the election, to not trust the media or the whole establishment. In situations like this where do you turn and who can you trust?

Would Trump Have Fared Better With Good PR Advice?

The need to be held accountable or to win an honest argument no longer applies, as communicating directly through social platforms is proven to be more effective. In Trump’s case he had more than 88 million followers on Twitter – considerably more than the readership of all the major US news outlets combined.

The net result however is illustrated by a poll in December that shows that 40% of Americans did not believe that the election was fair. This is further compounded as nearly 75% of those who voted Republican feel the election was stolen. This is despite the fact the mainstream media reported that 60 post-election lawsuits in multiple states all found that there was no fraud and that the result was fair. Logical debate is simply stifled by volumes of unproven and often unprovable claims.

It’s clear that the trust has gone and that the media are no longer seen as fair and independent reporters of the truth. The ‘lies and denies’ have gained traction and land on fertile ground particularly when communicating to an audience of followers who have built relationships with you online and who no doubt already replicate and share the same views.

Rebuilding Trust In A Post-Trump-Power World

The media also need to play their own role in rebuilding trust. There is a negative spiral occurring where media companies are not reacting to the changing landscape quickly enough or attracting the investment needed to support quality reporting. There is still a legacy of political influence or grudge bearing which needs to be overcome as it leads to poor journalism and subsequent declining influence / sales and so the cycle continues.

Social media platforms started introduced ‘fact checking’ tabs in Spring 2020 to try and manage the number of misleading claims sprouting on the platforms, but when the claims come from an historically credible source such as the President of the United States then the problems are clear. Again it comes down to who to trust – who do you believe? The large tech firms determining what’s accurate or not, the President of the US, commentators or the media?

The Wider Impact On The World

When examining the issue in context of the coronavirus pandemic the problem continues. For example, currently opinion on the vaccine is divided – with some keen to take and roll out while others believe that it’s all part of a wider conspiracy as a result of information they have listened to online (ranging from Bill Gates to 5G conspiracies). The net result however is that nearly two thirds of Americans suggest that they won’t take the vaccine right away, presenting a significant health risk to the country and an even slower recovery and return to normal.

The answer however is not to ban certain users as tech giants themselves are not regulated enough to determine who has the right to opinions. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that anyone making comments on social media platforms should be held accountable but the right to the first amendment must be paramount. That does not negate the option to prosecute racist, homophobic or inflammatory comments or to give temporary or increasingly long bans if users continue flout the rules / laws.

By determining who uses their platforms sets a precedent that may come back to bite social media companies. What happens when they are pressured to ban individuals due to one off political or cultural views or even non-related actions – simply because they do not conform to the new normal. It would be a victory for the woke but a problem for debate and therefore ultimately democracy.

The consequences could ultimately put into doubt the future of an open and free internet. How can a handful of tech bosses make decisions on who does and doesn’t have a voice on the internet? If they do then surely they should themselves be open to more scrutiny?

Where does it all stop? The ‘wokeball’ effect is already taking place with other platforms being pressured into taking similar action with facebook, YouTube and Snapchat also banning Trump. What about holocaust or climate change deniers, devout religious groups, more extreme political parties or even celebrities pushing their own agendas…?

Is Senior Counsel And PR Advice The Answer?

So, what’s the answer? Debating and arguing over differing opinions are as old as humanity itself and are instrumental in a real democracy. Debate needs to be encouraged and media companies should share both the platforms and opinions, rather than ban people or get involved in personal spats where there is a risk they become the story. Media companies should have greater support or regulation in managing their newfound power (already enough to silence the ‘most powerful man on earth’) and commentators / influencers should be open to debate as well as scrutiny.

If offering senior counsel or PR advice to corporates or individuals the same principals should apply. We would always advocate the importance of being honest, to be able to look yourself in the mirror and justify your decisions but most importantly know what you or your business stands for and be consistent to the delivery.

JO MALONE’S MISJUDGEMENT – THE IMPORTANCE OF STAYING ON TOP OF CURRENT AFFAIRS

While some businesses have folded due to the impact of COVID-19, others have managed to find their feet during it. We’ve seen tongue-in-cheek advertising slogans emerge, such as KFC’s switch from ‘It’s finger lickin’ good’ to ‘It’s good’ as a reference to the importance of hand-washing and personal hygiene,  showing an increase of sense of humour in brand communications in the past few months – a far cry from how we were all feeling back in March.

 

Staying on top of current affairs has always been an efficient way of plugging into the latest trends and hot topics, from newsjacking in PR, to keeping your social media strategies relevant. Gymshark is particularly adept at this, whether it’s voicing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement via a $125,000 donation, or something smaller, such as using the latest Twitter meme format to generate a healthy volume of engagement.

 

 

 

But it’s not just important for brands to stay on top of current affairs for their own inbound marketing, it’s also an essential way of knowing what not to say and do.

 

Gently does it

 

Jo Malone (the brand, not the person – she sold the company in 1999) recently faced backlash for exactly this. The candle and fragrance creator changed an ad that previously starred, and was conceived by, actor John Boyega to include a Chinese actor instead. The use of Liu Haoran instead was to allegedly cater to its Chinese consumer base. The original advert explores Boyega’s beginnings in Peckham, London, with the ad even starring his friends and family. The slogan for the Jo Malone campaign was ‘A London Gent’. With Boyega’s London roots, it simply makes much more sense than when compared to Haoran, who was born and raised in China. Boyega has since dropped his partnership with the company, saying that he does not condone ‘dismissively trading out one’s culture.’

 

Whilst the decision by Jo Malone was a mistake whichever way you look at it, it comes as an even bigger sting following not only the rise in protests in the last few months from Black Lives Matter, but also the actor’s own vocal support for the movement. The erasure of Boyega for seemingly no apparent reason is a reminder of the subliminal racism that is perpetuated by some within advertising industry. The Force Awakens brought in $124 million from China’s box office: though it fared much less strongly than the Avengers movies due to the lack of a nostalgia from Chinese viewers, there’s no doubt that he is known not just to Westerners, but Easterners too.

 

Keeping it current

 

If the powers that be at Jo Malone had their fingers a little more on the pulse when it comes to current political situations, would they have continued with the replacement of John Boyega for their Chinese advert? It’s difficult to say – many more factors must have been at play behind closed doors. But what we do know is that the company would have retained its partnership with the actor. There’s also no doubt that the Jo Malone will have lost the support of some of its British customers in the wake of the upset – something that could have been avoided with a little more planning and consideration for current affairs.

 

Whilst an outright support for Black Lives Matter is a risk some brands simply won’t take, many are. Some, simply to keep their fingers on the pulse, but for others like Gymshark, it’s a clear expression of their brand values.

 

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At Source PR, we always have our eye on the ball when it comes to all things digital. For advice on PR, digital marketing and social media, including working with influencers, get in touch with our team here.

BEN & JERRY’S SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT – VIRTUE SIGNALLING OR VIRTUAL POSTURING?

Throughout my PR career, the advice has always been for corporates to steer clear of politics, religion or criticising the competition in the belief that it’s better to lead by example than to criticise others for the actions they take.

It now seems that view is behind the curve when looking at Ben & Jerry’s latest tweet to @PritiPatel which challenges UK policy on the management of illegal immigration as well as the crisis that is currently happening in the Channel.

On the surface, it makes a lot of sense to raise awareness of the social issues and highlight the fact that we are all people living together on one planet.  It’s also right to raise the issue faced by people caught in wars and torture as well as the brutal realities of climate change.  But should an exclusive and pricey ice cream brand to be leading the charge?

In fairness, the messaging reflects the views of B&J’s customers, the hippy ideology of the founders as well as the brand’s long-standing social principles.  It’s also positive that a business with more than 450k+ twitter followers is using its might to raise awareness.  Even from a communications perspective, at least they are taking a stand and saying something rather than the bland, generic guff that many corporates are guilty of sprouting.

Virtue Signalling or Virtual Posturing

However, before being so bold you need to make sure your own house is in order as your actions will invite scrutiny.  This scrutiny will not, and should not, be limited to the topics the brand chooses to engage in – but all areas of its operations.  This could include; what is the company doing to support climate change, how can it justify the price / profiteering of its products, are they ignoring the critically high obesity levels in the population or even what action is it taking to actually support the plight of refugees?

This scrutiny could also be applied also to the parent company Unilever who bought the brand for $326m nearly 20 years ago.  Only yesterday, ‘Unilever’ was one of the top trends on Twitter throughout the day, as many pointed out that they have issues closer to home that such as whether they are guilty of marketing a ‘skin lightening’ cream to people of colour, the exploitation of vulnerable parts of the world or even tax avoidance – that indirectly leads to less money being made available to house refugees?

To gauge people’s views on the matter my colleague @jessicapardoePR undertook a quick twitter poll and found that two thirds of responders (75+) were in favour of the company’s stand.  Although just a snapshot, this is revealing as it’s clear consumers want the brands they associate with to reflect their own ideology.

With the growth in social media and more direct communications, brands are now better placed than ever before to manage their own messages.  Previously they would have had to use the media as a mouthpiece and face the additional scrutiny that this entails.

Social media platforms are however notorious for having a life of their own with innocent or well-meaning tweets often spiralling out of control when twisted by a ‘woke world’ or those with an axe to grind.

The virtue signalling of Ben & Jerry’s latest tweet has indeed attracted such criticism, but as with most effective PR strategies, this has just extended its message and helped to position the business as a champion of cause related campaigning.  It’s a risky route to take but in the case of founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, fortune seems to favour the brave.

 

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