North East Times Launch Party

We’ve all heard it so many times, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and I have to say that is very true for the PR industry.

Last night I attended the launch of the new-look North East Times magazine. I was drawn in by the offer of free Prosecco and canapés, but also really interested to meet the journalists behind the magazine and see the new format for myself.

The new North East Times
The new North East Times
I have to say the team has done a cracking job. The new magazine is stylish, well formatted and insightful, with current and interesting articles about the whole of the North East.

The North East Times Team
The North East Times Team
As a PR student I feel like I learned a lot from attending the launch and would encourage more students to seek out networking possibilities such as this.  As well as meeting journalists that I’ll no doubt be speaking to on a daily basis, it was a great opportunity to meet representatives from PR agencies and local industry. The conversations that you have at events like this could mean the difference between a job after your degree, your stories being published or even a potential client years down the line.

With that in mind here are my 5 to tips for networking as a student:

  1. Don’t be shy – chances are no one else knows anyone either. Don’t be afraid to make the first move.
  2. Don’t drink to much free fizz – yes we all love free things, but you don’t want to be remembered as a the slurring student  who falls over their own feet.
  3. Bring business cards – a launch party is a bit too informal for you to bring your whole portfolio, but most people will exchange cards and it’s a good way to get your name out there.
  4. Don’t be on your phone all night – it’s good to show your support by tweeting the businesses, but know when to stop. If you have someone trying to talk to you it’s a bit rude to whip out your phone to send a quick update.
  5. Eat before you leave – canapés are small.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the North East Times for hosting a very successful launch party, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for the magazine.

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Fauxtoshop?

This week seems to have been a wave of controversies surrounding leaked photos. Not only was Duchess of the catwalk Cindy Crawford subject to an un-retouched photo scandal, but even Queen Bey (*shock horror*) has come under attack this week after pictures were leaked from her L’Oreal shoot.

Personally, I feel that the media has built up celebrities so they must conform to unrealistic expectations of beauty.  Cindy Crawford and Beyonce are both beautiful women and yet they are coming under attack for appearing human.  Whether this is down to the media using Photoshop in the first place to transform women into flawless illustrations, or the public for coming to accept this manipulation as a social norm, who can say? It’s like the chicken and egg debacle all over again.

But, I don’t want to start a debate about the ethical minefield that is Photoshop.  Instead, I would like to focus on how the leaked photos have affected the celebrities’ reputations. After all, that’s what PR deals with.

So first let us take Cindy Crawford.

You go girl!
You go girl!

Aside from the fact that the supermodel is 48 years old (!) and still looking fabulous, this photo has sparked a huge debate over body image.  Originally, it was thought that the photos would appear as part of a full spread in Marie Claire after Charlene White’s Tweet:

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After reading this I was pleased that a magazine was finally representing celebrities as human beings.  The spread would be a breath of fresh air and a bolster for both Marie Claire and Cindy Crawford’s reputation.  I was especially sympathetic to Cindy Crawford for subjecting herself willing to the kind of scrutiny that results from a campaign like this.

However, it was not to be.  Marie Claire soon posted a response to the photo, clarifying that the spread would not be going ahead.

While the claim accompanying the photo is that it will be printed in an upcoming issue of Marie Claire, its origins are actually from a December 2013 cover story from Marie Claire Mexico and Latin America. It appears that this unretouched version is a leak.

Although the shoot isn’t going to be a feature in its own right, Cindy Crawford’s reputation hasn’t suffered.  She’s received overwhelming support from her fans and other celebrities, such as Jamie Lee Curtis.

Jamie Tweet

However, I feel like it must be considered that Cindy Crawford hasn’t yet commented on the incident, and if we remember, the photo was leaked without her permission. Journalist Jessica Valenti raised a good point when she tweeted:

privacy tweet

Despite Cindy Crawford’s silence, the whole incident seems to have boosted her reputation.  Her name has been splashed over almost every media outlet worldwide, and placed her as a central figure in the latest body image debate.  All this free press can’t be a bad thing and her strategic silence has allowed both critics and fans to continue bringing her name to the forefront in her absence.

Comparatively, Beyonce’s leaked photos have not been received in such a favourable light.

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Despite being in the exact same situation as Cindy Crawford, Beyonce has seemingly had more negativity surrounding her L’Oreal shoot.  This could either be because of the shoot being for a make-up brand, thus associating her with selling an unrealistic image to women. Or, because she has been know to (badly) edit her own photos.

Need I remind you of thigh gap-gate?
Need I remind you of thigh gap-gate?

The website that published the photos, Beyonce World, has since removed the images under pressure from her fans, stating:

Due to the disdain of the BeyHive, we have removed the photos. We don’t want to cause any drama, nor do we wish to start fan wars. Some of the things we have seen posted were just horrible, and we don’t want any parts of it. We were just posting the photos to share the fact that our queen is naturally beautiful, at the same time she is just a regular woman.

The Beyhive struck back, and positive comments have flooded the Twittersphere.

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Queen Bey has yet to comment on the leak.

Even though the negative comments have been far outweighed by the positive, I feel that Beyonce has been portrayed more negatively of the two, receiving more negative attention and a kind of retribution for her previous Fauxtoshop-pas.

Despite the media frenzy, I doubt either Beyonce’s or Cindy Crawford’s reputations will suffer much in the long term as they are such well know household names. Although it has made me think about how a celebrity’s brand can be promoted or destroyed by the public without their input.

This Girl Can

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This Girl Can is a campaign that had been on my radar for a few weeks now.  It’s a very clever campaign created by Sport England and their partners to encourage more women to play sports and exercise.

As you can see, the advert focusses on individuality and how women have overcome their own obstacles to exercise and feel good about themselves.  Personally, I find this very refreshing and a welcome change from the usual scare tactics associated with trying to get people to be healthier and more active.

There is also a section on the website giving more information on the sports involved and how to get started.

Along with the TV ad above, there are also short videos on the website featuring the girls individually.  They talk about the problems they’ve had with exercise in the past and how they’ve overcome them.  Generally, they speak about issues that are quite common, such as body confidence and time constraints.

Kelly’s story is my favourite as I find I can relate to her.

In taking average women and showcasing their enthusiasm and determination to exercise, Sport England have created a very personal and relevant campaign.  The personal stories are heart warming and empower women, instead of chastising.untitled

I think it’s also worth mentioning that clearly one of the aims of the campaign is to tackle obesity and the associated health problems this causes.  However, there is not one mention of heart disease, liver failure or any of the other medical terms and statistics usually thrown around, just inspirational women doing their own thing and having a blast.

The response from  social media has already been overwhelming with #ThisGirlCan trending on Twitter.  You can see a selection of the great feedback they’ve had here.

What do you think? Do you find this campaign empowering or obvious?

Cereal Opportunists or Media Underdogs?

This week I have been following the story of the Cereal Killer Cafe in East London and the co-owners, the Keery brothers. In case you’re unfamiliar with the news story, here’s a brief recap:

  • Two brothers have opened a small business selling imported cereal in Hammersmith, East London.
  • The café is located on Brick Lane, one of the most impoverished streets in London.
  • Channel 4 conducted an interview with one of the owners where they basically portrayed him as insensitive to the poverty of local residents.

You can watch the original interview here:

Following the accusations that the price of their products is too high, there is still a queue outside the café and it looks busier than ever.

Business is booming afer Channel 4 exposure
Business is booming afer Channel 4 exposure

Begging the question, is there such a thing as bad press?

I have to say that when I first heard about this story I was a bit shocked that the owners seemingly hadn’t conducted extensive market research into the area. However, after considering the niche market for their product and mark up on imported goods as well as London overheads, I would say that £3.20 is an acceptable price for them to charge.

Some of the comments on the original Mail Online news story (found here) are as follows:

“Pretty busy in there, they don’t seem to mind paying that price. I’ll be sure to visit the next time I’m in London.” – pharrietuk, Swindon.

“Shouldn’t we be supporting small businesses, not trying to ruin them?!?” -KathyP, Surrey.

“Please feel free to pop down to Starbucks and ask them how they justify charging Such huge amounts for coffee, water and milk.” -karenb33, Elgin.

Overall the responses have been generally in favour of the owners, highlighting the need for more support for small, local businesses and comparing the pricing structure with huge corporations like Starbucks and McDonald’s.

I would agree that the interview and coverage have been unfair and biased in the first instance, as surely regeneration of these poorer areas depends upon business owners, like the Keery brothers, investing in their future.
Since the story aired, co-owner Gary Keery has written an open letter of complaint to Channel 4 about the way he was portrayed.
Gary Keery's open letter of complaint
Gary Keery’s open letter of complaint

This is where I feel a PR agent could have come in useful.

Although Gary Keery is clearly profiting from the press, his open letter is not eloquent or pointed enough for me to be convinced. Instead of making a personal attack against Symeon Brown, this letter is a missed opportunity to take advantage of the recent press coverage and reinforce their brand.

So, is all press good press?

I would say in this instance yes. Although the original story tried to paint the Cereal Killer Cafe and Keery brothers in a bad light, public opinion has highlighted the support needed for local businesses and the unfair discrimination in this instance.  However, the Keery brothers could have used this free media more effectively had they employed a PR agent to draft their retaliation and make the most of the situation.