The PR Guru

December 16, 2010

Zai Bennett moves from ITV to BBC, hotel is getting publicity from having the most expensive Christmas tree ever and Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress was a PR triumph and has been voted Fashion Statement of the Year

It is hard to know what to think when someone goes from one company to its competitor, but that is exactly what has been making headlines today…

Zai Bennett, the ITV director of digital channels, has been appointed the controller of BBC3.

Bennett succeeds Danny Cohen, who became the controller of BBC1 in October. His BBC start date is yet to be confirmed.

BBC3 had an £88m budget in the year to the end of March. But BBC3’s budget is likely to be cut next year as the BBC deals with the licence fee settlement. With the licence fee frozen for six years, the BBC is facing a 16% cut in funding.

So was it really a wise move for Bennett then? And it begs the question of why de decided to move from ITV in the first place…

He started his TV career in the post room at Carlton Television in 1995, occasionally delivering David Cameron’s post to him when the prime minister worked as the ITV broadcaster’s communications director.

In other news, vying for publicity today, is the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi, which has a jewel-encrusted Christmas tree it says is worth over £7m.

The idea came the hotel’s marketing team. The hotel has a tree every year but this year they wanted to do something different.

Items of jewellery studded precious stones are draped on the tree’s branches, along with more traditional baubles and lights. It is the jewellery that dramatically increases the value.

The bracelets, necklaces and watches which adorn the 13m tree contain 181 diamonds, pearls, emeralds, sapphires and other precious stones.

The tree sits in the lobby of the 302-room hotel.

Previous publicity-seeking efforts by the hotel include the creation of a $1m Valentine’s Day package and the installation of what was said to be the world’s first gold vending machine.

Finally, the famous meat dress worn by Lady GaGa at the Video Music Awards (VMAs) back in September has been named as the fashion statement of this year, by Time Magazine.

The magazine said, “If making fashion statements is your primary raison d’être, it’s easy to get bored. Exploding bra? Flamed out. Dress made of bubbles? Please. Using your hair as a bow? Not again. But a dress made of meat — with shoes, hat and purse to match — well, that’s fresh.”

It generated so much publicity for the singer and helped her to become one of the most popular singers of the year.

Eight different waxwork models of the singer were unveiled in Madam Tussauds across the globe this month – all in the unique and spectacular outfits fans have grown accustomed to.

In London, GaGa is a dial icon with the Philip Treacy hat she wore on the Jonathan Ross chat show this year to plug her single Telephone.


December 8, 2010

Corrie at 50: live episode so high-profile it is under Al-Qaeda terrorist threat, following previous fears that Metrolink tram crash actually happened

There are fears that tonight’s Coronation Street 50th Anniversary live episode could be a target for an Al-Qaeda terrorist attack.

Police in Manchester are taking the possible threat seriously, and have issued a statement, “This is a public, high-profile event. The risk is consistent with the UK terror threat, which is currently severe. ITV have taken on a private security firm, and our officers will assist them.”

It’s thought that cast and crew members will undergo airport style security checks when they arrive on set ahead of tonight’s live show.

As well as the potential terrorist threat, Corrie bosses are also fearful that the bad weather could ruin tonight’s live broadcast, and a stand-by recording of the hour-long special has been taped.

Monday night’s Coronation Street was watched by a lot of people who knew that it featured a tram crash (great publicity there), which was apparently so realistic that several people called a travel advice line to check if the real Metrolink was still operating.

At least six calls were made about the tram system by passengers saying they had seen the carnage on television and wanted to check if there was a problem.

It is thought a spoof TV news broadcast after the show – watched by more than 14m viewers – may also have confused some people.

Actor Tom Burroughs, who played the part of the tram driver who actually survives the carnage, has told how it was an honour and dream job to be involved in the historic scenes.

Tom said: “I didn’t get my script until my first day of filming. It was funny because some of the cast were looking at me and asking me what I could tell them. It felt like shooting a film. It’s an honour to be a part of it.

And he revealed it is not the first time he has graced the cobbles. He said: “I did Coronation Street in 2007 and I played a nurse when Leanne Battersby was kidnapped but it was a very brief appearance. It was very different this time.”

The special episode is part of the programme’s 50th anniversary (the anniversary episode being shown as a follow-up tomorrow – 9th December).

The anniversary is also being marked by a special musical, called Corrie!, that is touring theatres.

October 13, 2009

Is all publicity really good publicity?

There is an old adage which says ‘all publicity is good publicity’ – in other words just getting your name in the paper, whether it’s a positive or a negative story, is a good idea.

Is that really the case, or is it more a case of ‘no news is good news’?

I’d say the reality is somewhere between the two. A lot of stories can be presented as a positive one for your company. Even the bad ones.

For example, take a story about turnover. If a company has had a record year, turnover is usually expressed in actual figures – and why not? We don’t reward ourselves enough in business when we hit or beat those targets!

Alternatively, if a company has had an average year, turnover is often expressed as a percentage. That’s because the majority of people will not bother to find out what it equates to – assuming the figures are even submitted to Companies House.

It can also be reported as a percentage if you’re a small business, starting from a lower base. You could say your turnover has grown by 100%, even if you’ve just gone from one customer to two!

I jest of course, but this is perhaps why PR has a bit of a bad reputation for ‘spinning’ the story, and why PR agencies in Staffordshire and elsewhere are often distrusted. You could say PR has an image problem 🙂

Anyway I am drifting off the point slightly here. Yes, many stories can be presented in a good light. But not all.

In a way I would hate to be the PR person for Royal Mail, Trafigura or even our MPs at the moment. All three have done themselves absolutely no favours this week.

On the other hand, anyone experienced in crisis management could make an absolute fortune with these projects!

They would certainly have their work cut out with the Trafigura job. It’s rare that something backfires so disastrously as their attempt to stop The Guardian reporting from Parliament this week.

It’s known as the Streisand Effect – a company tries to stop news coming out, but by doing so immediately makes the story bigger than it would’ve been.

I think what it’s also shown is that social media like Twitter are beginning to find their feet and play a major part in reporting and making the news. Without the outcry on Twitter over the gagging order, Trafigura‘s lawyers Carter-Ruck would never have had to back down.

You may wonder why a PR man is waffling on about press freedom, in the light of what I said earlier about the presentation – or some might say the manipulation – of stories.

It’s quite simple though really. The PR industry needs the media as much as the media needs the PR industry. One can’t exist without the other.

But more importantly without press freedom, or something close to it, we can’t function as a society.

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