The PR Guru

December 21, 2010

Acclaimed Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi banned from making films for 20 years

Jafar Panahi, an acclaimed Iranian film-maker, was sentenced to six years in prison today and has been banned from directing and producing films for the next 20 years.

This is because he is a supporter of Iran’s opposition green movement and was making propaganda against the regime.

Panahi won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes film festival in 1995 for his debut feature, The White Balloon, and the Golden Lion at Venice for his 2000 drama, The Circle. He is highly regarded around the world but his films are banned at home.

Hamid Dabashi, a professor of Iranian studies at Columbia University, told the Guardian the sentence showed Iran’s leaders could not tolerate the arts. “This is a catastrophe for Iran’s cinema,” he said. “Panahi is now exactly in the most creative phase of his life and by silencing him at this sensitive time, they are killing his art and talent.”

Leading Hollywood figures including Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Juliette Binoche have condemned his arrest.


December 3, 2010

Simply Red singer Mick Hucknall apologises for sleeping with over 1,000 women in 3 years

Mick Hucknall, the lead singer with the band Simply Red, estimates he slept with more than 1,000 women in the three years the band were at their most popular.

He has, today, offer an apology, describing his behaviour as an addiction. “I regret the philandering. In fact, can I issue a public apology through the Guardian? They know who they are, and I’m truly sorry.”

Hucknall is originally from Manchester and he believes it was the brand of romantic soul ballads that won him many female admirers.

“When I had the fame, it went crazy,” he says. “Between 1985 and 1987, I would sleep with about three women a day, every day. I never said no. This was what I wanted from being a pop star. I was living the dream and my only regret is that I hurt some really good girls.”

Hucknall, who in the past was linked among others to Catherine Zeta Jones, Martine McCutcheon and Helena Christensen, is married with a young daughter. He attributes his sexual incontinence to a search for love, after being abandoned by his mother at three.

November 29, 2010

#cablegate: Comments that could ruin the image of Prince Andrew, David Cameron and the British Military are set to be published on Wikileaks

In a previous blog entry, we mentioned how whistle-blowing website Wikileaks had come under criticism for releasing Iraq War Logs.

Well, today, US diplomats have suggested that inappropriate remarks made by Prince Andrew about a British law enforcement agency and a foreign country are also set to be made available online. Secret U.S. embassy cables are said to show the Prince, who is a UK trade envoy, caught in a scandal.

The Guardian, who get early access to the content, said that the website also included criticisms of David Cameron and of British Military operations in Afghanistan.

The criticisms about British operations in Iraq were said to be devastating, while remarks concerning Mr Cameron were described as serious political criticisms.

They were also said to disclose technical details of secret US-Russian nuclear missile negotiations in Geneva and US efforts to combat al-Qaida in Yemen.

The White House said that the disclosure of confidential diplomatic communications on the front pages of newspapers around the world would deeply impact US foreign interests.

The Foreign Office also condemned the leaks but insisted that they would not affect Anglo-American relations.

October 27, 2010

The press reveal the horrific truth about what happened to Baby P and we show you how the press always report stories in different ways

Most newspapers have today revealed that information in a secret report showed how Baby P was abandoned by the police, social workers, doctors and lawyers, to be left with his evil mother and tortured to death. This information, as always, was kept from the media because it is incredibly horrifying for anyone to know that that sort of thing can happen to a child. The police should have taken action to ensure that this did not happen and quite frankly I am shocked that it was allowed to.

The media always manage to find out this information in the end and when they do they tend to try and find a way to report it in a different way. Our PR Coaching Programme, has been designed to help you tailor your press releases to match what the newspapers/magazines are looking to publish – just as a jobseeker should always adjust a C.V. to match a job specification. Different newspapers will always want to publish things from their own perspective.

So, it is no big suprise to see that they are all handling the news about the UK’s unexpectedly strong growth rate in different ways, as they struggle to make sense of it.

The Sun chose to compare the economy to an ill patient, saying there is a pulse but no room for complacency. The Daily Mail agrees that the situation is good but The Daily Telegraph cautions people not to be too optimistic and The Daily Express called it a relief.

Russia’s plans to play a role in supporting Nato’s mission in Afghanistan has also made headlines in several papers.

The Independent referred to it as a remarkable turn of events, pointing out that in the 80s Nato encouraged the mujahideen to drive the Russians out, whereas The Times says a return would be hugely emotive.

The Guardian chose to publish a horrific story, by reporting that brown bears in Siberia have been digging up corpses in village graveyards and eating them, whilst The Financial Times reports that supermarkets are offering cut price deals on Christmas food and drink weeks earlier than usual.

In other news, John Barrowman is to star in the Christmas Special of Strictly Come Dancing, alongside other major celebrities (including Fern Britton) who were unable to commit to appearing in an entire series. The episode will be shown on Christmas Day but will be filmed on 20th November.

October 25, 2010

Nurse filmed switching off Jamie Merrett’s life support machine and Wikileaks criticised after releasing classified Iraq war logs

The NHS are to take action, in order to regain the trust of the public, after an agency nurse was filmed switching off her patient’s life support machine by mistake. However, the website Wikileaks have announced that they are going to continue releasing classified documents, including Iraq war logs, even though it has been feared that they could put the lives of troops at risk.

Tetraplegic Jamie Merrett asked for a camera to be placed in his home in Wiltshire, after becoming concerned about the care he was receiving.

It captured, just a few days later, the moment his nurse switched off the life support machine and left him brain damaged. This is one of the most awful things that can happen to anybody and something that she should have taken great pains to avoid.

Wiltshire social services knew they were supposed to supply a nurse with training in the use of a ventilator, but the company did not have the ability to check what training their staff had received.

Even now, after two years, the NHS have not sufficiently done anything about what happened. They have obviously been trying to hide it, in an attempt not to receive bad publicity. However, the BBC have now reported the story on the main page of their website (and it is in today’s issue of The Guardian) for the whole world to see, so perhaps the NHS will now start to take action.

Whistle-blowing website, Wikileaks, have today released a statement swearing that they are not anti-American and that they will continue releasing classified documents.

On Friday, the website released 400,000 classified US army documents on the war in Iraq, which publicised a very negative image of the war, especially the abuse of Iraqi civilians by Iraqi security forces.

The website released more than 70,000 secret files on the war in Afghanistan in July, which infuriated the US and coalition authorities who feared the documents could have put the lives of troops at risk.

At the weekend it was announced that WikiLeaks are preparing to release 15,000 more documents on the war in Afghanistan. The documents that were released before have since been proven as not having put the lives of the troops at risk, although the website did not think of that when it published them.

March 22, 2010

PR Gaffes for March: bonus content :)

I know we added a post about March’s PR gaffes last week, but I could hardly contain myself from commenting on two big stories to come out since that post…

Everyone enjoys a little break from the hectic office schedule now and again and, with the added promise of a something sweet to nibble on, our urge to indulge is that little bit greater. However it came to light on Wednesday that our tradition of elevenses could be damaging more than just our waistlines.

Greenpeace reported that Indonesia’s largest palm oil supplier Sinar Mas is coping with the vast increase in demand by employing illegal deforestation techniques, and therefore destroying the natural habitat and source of food for the Orang-utan.

The report by the organisation also claims the company are treating the animals as “pests”, with workmen killing off younger Orang-utan in order to prevent them from causing a problem in the future.

This in itself is bad enough; but when you add Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage corporation into the mix, things are only headed for the worse.

With Palm oil being a key ingredient to the firm’s globally popular Kit Kat products (the company produces the equivalent of the height of the Eiffel Tower every five minutes) it is easy to see how demand for the Palm oil has almost doubled in three years.

Greenpeace UK (as expected) has taken an aggressive front on this crusade. With the cleverly sinister parody of the iconic Kit Kat advert floating around video sharing sites like You Tube as well as staging boycott campaigns outside the Nestlé’s offices in East Croydon which featured activists dressed as Orang-utans scaling the office building, you would have thought that Nestlé would of ensured the use of very contrite PR methods to rectify the potentially destructive situation.

However, eager to defend the company’s fair trade policies, Nestlé took an equally aggressive front, demanding that the video be removed from You Tube under the grounds of copyright infringement and unleashed their ire on Facebook and Twitter protesters.

When will corporates learn this is not the way to deal with a social media outrage?!

In response to whether the company was going to work harder in order to source palm oil from sustainable sources at a much sooner date, as opposed to the company’s original forecast of 2015, the reply was simply this: “as soon as quantities are available we will be doing that … but we are not going to promise things we can’t deliver.”

Again, not the humble, caring attitude expected from such a huge multinational company during such a controversial PR firestorm.

Secondly, this week’s media has still been under the barrage of the seemingly never ending British Airways strikes.

With day three well underway, it is increasingly hard to keep up with reports of who really is “winning” the war between Willie Walsh and the hundreds of cabin crew that are demonstrating their anger on the picket lines.

With numerous reports on The Guardian’s news blog showing that BA’s claims that strikes are barely affecting business as “pure fantasy” as well as a catalogue of cabin and ground crews views on the situation, it seems that the energy surrounding the epicentre practically bellows over any PR attempts that BA bosses utilise.

It seems that the disputes have morphed into a fact checking row that has somehow over taken the initial point in hand. Much like a school yard chorus of “He said, she said” it’s virtually impossible to distinguish the facts, let alone trying to focus on the underlying issue among the din.

BA has responded to the endless list of acquisitions with a very serious timbre, “As a PLC, British Airways is legally obliged to ensure that it does not release information that is misleading or inaccurate… Any suggestion in media reports that information we have issued is untrue implies that the airline’s management is acting unlawfully… Unite has no way of obtaining accurate figures as to how many customers are on our aircraft or how many crew are reporting for work.”

But, despite the tittle tattle and  inconveniences caused to tens of thousands holiday goers (the hook that regularly features in the media, that is presumably BA bosses main hope to swaying them back into favour), it is hard to ignore that “sick it to the man” element to the whole episode.

I think the vast majority of us just wish they’d get it sorted out.

January 2, 2010

PR Gaffes of the Year 2009 (Part Five)

“Hey Taylor, I’m really happy for you and I’m going to let you finish . . . but Kanye West had one of the biggest PR disasters of all time!”

Yes, not content with having a reputation for egomania and humourlessness which South Park devoted an entire episode to ridiculing, Kanye West decided to annoy as many people as possible with his actions at the MTV Video Music Awards.

As Country and Western cutie Taylor Swift accepted the gong for best video, West jumped onstage, grabbed the microphone and informed the audience that Beyonce should have won.

Despite having since apologised repeatedly on various TV shows, West’s reputation is still in tatters. Even President Obama was overheard calling him a “jackass”.

Unless Kanye releases a truly fantastic album pretty soon at some point in the new year to remind everyone why he’s famous in the first place, he really might not be able to recover from this.

September wasn’t just about celebrities though; one American mother caused a serious headache for Whirlpool and their Maytag brand.

Heather Armstrong, a “Mommy-blogger” who has built up a large following online with her regular series of posts on childcare, organised a huge online campaign to boycott Whirlpool’s “Maytag” line after experiencing extremely poor customer service while trying to get her new washing machine repaired.

The drive garnered so much support that Whirlpool were forced to publicly offer to replace the faulty unit and one on their U.S. management team phoned Ms. Armstrong to apologise personally.

This is another in a long line of examples of what can be achieved by really working to build your internet presence.

October also saw the power of internet users coming into effect. Both of the major PR failures this month were driven by web-users; Twitter-ers in particular.

Everybody was shocked by the sudden death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately; he passed away at the age of 33 just as the band were gearing up to launch their new album.

But even more shocking than Gately’s death was an article written by Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir a few days before his funeral.

In the article, Moir asserted that Gately’s death was a direct result of his homosexuality. She then went on to declare that civil partnerships were a failure and that the homosexual lifestyle led inevitably to licentiousness and drug use.

The backlash was massive; celebrities like Stephen Fry and Charlie Brooker led the charge on Twitter, Marks & Spencer and Nescafe withdrew their advertising and the Press Complaints Commission website received so many complaints that it crashed.

A similar Twitter-storm erupted over the attempts to prevent The Guardian publishing an article on Swiss commodities-trading company Trafigura.

The Guardian had intended to publish an article on a question asked by an MP about freedom of the press and whistleblowers in two cases, one involving Trafigura. The question had been asked in Parliament and, therefore, it was free for anyone to report on.

Carter Ruck, Trafigura’s lawyers, obtained an injunction to prevent the article going to print. What The Guardian did print, however, was a notice that they had been gagged and that Carter Ruck was responsible. With this information, a number of internet sources were able to infer that the article was about Trafigura.

News of the gagging order soon spread via the internet; people were incensed by the idea that a large corporation could silence the press with legal threats.

The only way to describe Carter Ruck’s actions is “own goal”.

Had they not been so aggressive in the defence of their client then the story would never have become what it did; the article would have come and gone and, had anything been picked up on, it probably would have been the reference to Barclays which formed the other half of the question.

As it is, Trafigura have now earned a place on the “evil corporations” list in the minds of many members of the public.

Sadly they haven’t earned the award for October – that honour goes to Jan Moir. Well done Jan! Perhaps spouting your horrible homophobic bile was worthwhile after all!

October 17, 2009

Update: when it’s best to keep your mouth shut

Charlie Brooker has put together an excellent response to Jan Moir’s column in The Guardian today…

To think the Daily Mail should be on the wrong end of an avalanche of complaints to the Press Complaints Commission, after the nonsense they stirred up for Russell Brand & Jonathan Ross last year.

Bet those two are following this story with interest…

Unfortunately the PCC can’t uphold our complaints, because apparently they don’t deal with third party complaints. The only complaint they would uphold is from Stephen Gately’s family.

Talking of which, if the column itself wasn’t bad enough with its blatant homophobia, then what about the timing? Stephen Gately hasn’t even been buried yet. His funeral is at midday today.

Disgusting really. Jan Moir: hang your head in shame.

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