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Brick by brick, the #StopFundingHate campaign builds

5 months ago
natalie by natalie

This is not a Christmas ad

Founded back in August, the Stop Funding Hate campaign was created to stop brands placing their advertising with newspapers that, in their words, promote “hatred, discrimination and demonisation”.

After just four months, the Stop Funding Hate Twitter account has amassed over 62.5k followers, as well as a slightly eclectic handful of high-profile supporters including Alistair Campbell, Gary Linekar and Lily Allen.

Earlier this month, amongst the noise of this year’s Christmas ads, the campaign founders also launched a thought-provoking video targeting big brands and posing the question, “What if goodwill to all wasn’t only meant for Christmas?”

Despite the surge in support for the campaign, many brands have been reluctant to take any action. Co-op is reportedly ‘reviewing’ its media buying but Walkers and John Lewis have both been quoted as saying they don’t make advertising decisions based on a newspaper’s editorial stance.

There’s only one brand that’s taken the leap to agree to the campaign’s requests, and that’s Lego.

Announced earlier this month, Lego made the decision to end its promotional agreement with the Daily Mail, claiming that it had no plans for further activity in the future.

This came off the back of growing social media pressure and a letter from Lego customer, Bob Jones, which went viral.

In a statement, a Lego spokesperson commented: “We spend a lot of time listening to what children have to say. And when parents and grandparents take the time to let us know how they feel, we always listen just as carefully.

“We are both humbled and honoured to see how much consumers all over the world express their care for our company and our brand. And we will continuously do our very best to live up to the trust and faith that people all around the world show us every day.”

My only question is – where does it stop? It’s all very well pulling your advertising with the papers directly. But, if the department stores which stock your products take a different view, what impact has really been made?

Nevertheless, the announcement from Lego was a brave and clever PR move which really couldn’t have come at a better time, as we start gearing up for Black Friday and the start of Christmas shopping mahem!

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OMG – you won’t believe this!

8 months ago
natalie by natalie

Clickbait. We’ve all fallen for it. And now Facebook has declared war on it.

Facebook’s research team announced last week that users will be seeing fewer clickbait stories in their News Feeds as it cracks down even further on misleading content and spam.

The new system will identify phrases that are commonly used in clickbait headlines and links posted from or shared from Pages or domains that consistently post clickbait headlines will appear lower in the News Feed.

So, what is clickbait? And when is it an issue to those of us working in the media industry?

Facebook defines clickbait as a headline that withholds information required to understand what the content of the article is and if it exaggerates the article to create misleading expectations for the reader.

Having been accused in the past of using clickbait to lure readers, Buzzfeed’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, believes the practice of clickbait is often misunderstood and incorrectly labelled.

Smith says, “The best way to ensure your readers won’t choose to share a story or a post is to trick them.”  He added, “Anyone who has spent the last 20 years online knows the specific disgust that comes with a headline that doesn’t deliver on its promise.”

He argues that clickbait headlines might be able to trick a user into loading the content but that increasingly angry readers would never share it, therefore arguing his case that Buzzfeed doesn’t indulge in the practice of clickbait.

Crafting the perfect headline and attracting people to your content is a skill. Journalism and the online world have long relied on curiosity to create interest in a story. However, whilst it’s tempting, it’s important that your headlines – whether they’re for social media posts, video titles, blog posts, e-shots – don’t become exaggerated and manipulative or misleading.

You might get people clicking on your content but chances are, they’ll soon realise it doesn’t bear any resemblance to the headline and click straight off – thus negating the whole point of using clickbait in the first place.

By the way, if you haven’t clicked off this article already in anger at the clickbait headline, make sure you read my previous post – it will leave you stunned!

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As one paper folds, another one opens

10 months ago
natalie by natalie


Not too long ago, I wrote a blog post about the UK’s new national newspaper, New Day. Just nine weeks after it launched, the paper quite literally folded, with circulation at a measly 40,000 rather than the predicted 200,000.

Now, I don’t want to curse this in the same way, but it appears that another publisher has taken the brave move to launch a newspaper despite ever-declining print figures.

Priced at 40p, the paper – called 24 – is published by Carlisle-based CN Group with 95% of its content, including news, lifestyle, features, celebrity gossip and puzzles, provided by the Press Association.

The difference this time around is that the paper has been specifically designed for the north as an alternative to the “south-dominated” national press. Its circulation will stretch from Preston in the south to Lockerbie in the north and Workington in the west to Hexham in the east.

CN Group’s editorial director, David Helliwell, is reported to have told the BBC that 24 readers will get “a great mix of all the best national news and sport content that is around, added with a northern flavour”. He adds: “There is so much that happens in the UK that only a fraction of it gets into our newspapers and it can be very south-dominated”.

I agree that newspapers tend to be quite biased towards the south but haven’t publishers learned their lesson from the disaster that was New Day? Only time will tell.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

11 months ago
natalie by natalie

The newspaper LATEST NEWS with the headline CRISIS AVERTED  and coffee

In life, it’s inevitable that something at some point will go wrong. And sometimes it’s our fault. And sometimes we need to say sorry to make it all alright again. It’s the same in business – people make mistakes which can’t always be controlled and these mistakes can be devastating to a brand. What can be controlled however is the way in which the business deals with that mistake once it’s happened.

I’m talking specifically about Old Trafford being evacuated last weekend after a bomb-like device was found in a toilet in the stadium just minutes before Manchester United were due on the pitch.

The device was left there following a training exercise by Security Search Management & Solutions Ltd (SSMS).

What followed, after the media furore had subsided, was an unexpected heartfelt apology from the security company responsible for planting the device. The company’s owner, Chris Reid, said in a statement that he was “absolutely gutted” that his mistake had caused such disruption saying: “The mistake is entirely mine, I have to take full responsibility. To say I’m sorry doesn’t seem adequate.”

Reid has been subsequently praised for the way he handled the situation and both PRs and journalists have taken to Twitter to express their admiration for his honesty and sincerity.

That’s not to say that fans and club owners aren’t still angry but from a general public point of view, Reid’s human approach to the crisis has paid off well for his reputation.

For every good response in a crisis, there are plenty of bad ones. Here are my top three examples of when spokespeople should have consulted their PR person before speaking…

  1. BP and the oil spill – CEO, Tony Hayward tells reporters that he’d like his life back –
  2. Protein World’s CEO and that ‘Bikini Body Ready’ ad –
  3. Ex-CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch and his response to only employing models to work in his stores –

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A brave move by Trinity Mirror

1 year ago
natalie by natalie


Last week, a brand new national newspaper called New Day hit the shelves. Running at a trial price of just 25p, New Day – owned by Trinity Mirror – is the UK’s first national newspaper for 30 years. The arrival of New Day comes just weeks after publishers of the Independent announced that the paper, including the Sunday edition, will cease publication at the end of March, only to be available online.

Bosses say that the New Day paper gives a ‘ruthless edit of the day’ for ‘time-poor’ readers and hope that its arrival will ‘arrest the decline’ in newspaper readership.

Initially, I was a bit sceptical. In my view, the whole beauty of buying and reading a newspaper is to discover more about a topic, read views from another perspective, and ultimately, broaden your knowledge and awareness of current affairs and issues in the world around you. If I need a ruthless edit of the day, I’ll go to Twitter and get my fix there.

Flicking through though, New Day is actually a quality paper, especially for the price. It’s easy to read, clean, colourful and covers a wide range of issues in a concise way. That being said, the paper has still dedicated space for more in-depth features on bigger topics. And strangely, its attractive layout even made me stop and read the sports section, which never usually happens.

Time will tell whether New Day will buck the current trend of newspaper readership, and whilst I’m not completely convinced people want to read a newspaper for their quick news fix, I’m willing to give it a chance!

Job description writers needed, apply within

1 year ago
natalie by natalie
Image source: Huffington Post

Image source: Huffington Post

A company in Canada has found itself in a spot of PR trouble recently after a job description on its LinkedIn page was deemed to be sexist, if not illegal.

The job description from web design company, Vestra Inet, all looks fairly innocent to begin with but it’s the very last line that’s been at the centre of the scandal. It says, “Please note that the position requires filling in the responsibilities of a receptionist, so female candidates are preferred.”

Understandably, people have taken to Twitter to express their disgust. Some have even referred to it as something from the Mad Men era and have crowned it ‘the most sexist job description of 2015’. Not a brilliant accolade for a company to be awarded. To make matters worse, it seems that Vestra Inet has refused to comment about the situation, which has only added fuel to the fire.

It just goes to show how important every single piece of your company’s communication is – whether it’s web copy, press releases, or simply a LinkedIn post. The world we live in means bad news can spread like wildfire so it’s important to be extra cautious with anything which the public will have access to.

Clearly, this specific company is stuck in the 1950s and that’s something they need to resolve internally. However, the situation does raise the question – should PR and comms people oversee job descriptions? And should there be a contingency in place in the case of potential backlash? My answer would be yes.

Trust me, I’m a PR

2 years ago
natalie by natalie


Rightly or wrongly, there are professions out there that we’re taught to be weary of from an early age; bankers, lawyers, accountants, estate agents…the list goes on. And, according to a recent study, PR seems to have found itself lumbered in with the ‘bad guys’.

The study, carried out by research firm Reputation Leaders, found that 69 per cent of the general public does not trust PRs.

On the one hand, it’s no surprise. With the likes of Edina and Patsy from Ab Fab and BBC spoof W1A highlighting the somewhat negative traits of a PR ‘luvvie’, and the likes of Jeremy Coulson drawing attention to the sleazy side of comms, you can understand why the general public may have these pre-conceptions.

On the other hand, for us ‘normal’ PR people, it’s completely untrue. As PR professionals, our purpose of existence is to not only manage the reputations of our clients, but also to build relationships with journalists, clients, members of the public and stakeholders. Relationships are built around trust and if there is no trust, there is quite simply no relationship.

Quite often we’re faced with extremely sensitive issues which have to be handled or diffused in a careful manner. In some ways, we act as trusted advisors to our clients, who know they can approach us with any issue and it will be handled confidentially and professionally.

As communications manager Kate Humphreys succinctly puts it in her article on Guardian: “Public relations is a highly strategic profession built on trust, knowledge, relationships and good judgment – skills I’m not sure Edina ever boasted.”

So believe me when I say, we’re honestly a very trustworthy group of people…

A new dawn for regional media

2 years ago
natalie by natalie


Regional newspaper sales have been on the decline for a while now but it seems the situation has reached tipping point, particularly here in the Midlands.

Last month, Trinity Mirror sadly announced plans to cut 19 editorial jobs in Birmingham (Birmingham Mail, Birmingham Post and Sunday Mercury). What’s more, journalists at Trinity Mirror have been told they will be personally responsible for growing online audiences. In other words, journalists will be given targets based on article shares and if they fail to deliver, they could face disciplinary action.

Now more than ever, journalists will be on the lookout for content that’s engaging, interesting and shareable. In some ways, regional journalists will become more like national journalists as their priorities shift from reporting on hyper-local community news to wider issues that are more likely to provoke an online reaction. More and more of them will demand exclusive stories and interviews, as pressure to reach targets mounts.

This change will clearly have an impact on businesses who rely heavily on regional media for their exposure. From a PR perspective, it means continuing to be strategic in the way we approach journalists. It will also be more important than ever to ensure that content creates a real impact and encourages shares.

Read more about the Trinity Mirror restructure here on Press Gazette –

Size does matter

2 years ago
natalie by natalie


We’ve all heard the saying ‘good things come in small packages’ and never has this been more appropriate than when it comes to PR agencies.

A recent article published on the Guardian’s website talks about how being a small PR agency is a real strength and how global brands are actually rejecting ‘big and generic’ in favour of something ‘small and specialist’.

We haven’t just seen this trend in the PR world either – it’s happening everywhere. Independent shops, bars and cafés are opening at their fastest rate in years as customers shun big chain retailers.

It seems both consumers and brands are opting to spend their money with businesses who can offer them something specialised, different and bespoke.

As someone who is 5ft 2”, I’m all for championing the more petite things in life. Here’s why I believe smaller is better when it comes to hiring a PR agency:

  1. You get to know the team on a personal level. Trust and rapport are crucial in a client/agency relationship and working with a smaller agency makes it easier and more likely for these relationships to flourish.
  2. You get access to senior members of the team and their knowledge, expertise and support when you need it – an added benefit you probably wouldn’t get with a larger agency.
  3. Smaller agencies often become an extension of your marketing team and can subsequently offer advice on other areas of your business. Working with a smaller agency also means that you can match your company objectives to those of the agency meaning you’ll work more coherently together.
  4. Internally, you’ll find that senior management work much more closely with junior staff and people share their knowledge and skills within the agency. This means that even if only a couple of people are working on your account, you’ll most likely benefit from the ideas and support of the entire agency.
  5. You get a bespoke, personalised service. While it’s an important factor, PR isn’t just about generating mounds of coverage – it’s about making a genuine difference to your business in terms of its bottom line. A smaller PR agency will make the effort to get to know every aspect of your business and offer bespoke consultancy and activity based on your unique objectives.

The rise of the vlogger…

2 years ago
natalie by natalie


Do the names Zoella, Alfie Deyes or Tanya Burr mean anything to you? Constantly referred to by the media as ‘the most famous celebrities you’ve probably never heard of’, you’re certainly not alone if these names don’t ring any obvious bells.

However, these people are part of a rapidly growing and influential online community, which has been dubbed ‘the future of marketing, advertising and fame’. Video blogging – or vlogging as it’s most commonly known – involves filming your thoughts, observations or day-to-day activities and uploading them as a video diary onto your YouTube channel for your subscribers to enjoy.

For some of us, the concept of vlogging might seem completely alien, perhaps even pointless (actually Pointless Blog is the name of Alfie Deye’s channel), but there is no denying its rising popularity.

Zoella alone has racked up a following of 7.5 million subscribers on YouTube, 4 million followers on Instagram and 3 million on Twitter. She’s used her online fame to bring out her own book (making her the fastest-selling debut novelist since records began), sells merchandise exclusively to Superdrug and has recently appeared on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off alongside long-serving, established celebrities.

Vloggers are ordinary people like you and I, which gives their reviews and opinions a sense of honesty and authenticity that traditional media might struggle to convey. They’re aspirational but relatable, which is what makes them so popular and influential.

For brands, vlogging has essentially opened up a new route to generating PR coverage and has become an extremely powerful way to engage with significant numbers of their target audience.

Thinking about engaging with vloggers? Here are some links you might find useful:

  • Check out this article on the Guardian about the recently imposed vlogging guidelines by the ASA
  • Heather Healy’s top five ways brands can engage with vloggers
  • Marketing magazine’s five marketing lessons from Generation YouTube