STRICTLY PROHIBITED: Curse or Coincidence?

When deciding on a topic for my first blog post, I thought to myself; What am I interested in? What would my readers be interested in? What’s been going in in the media this week? So, I thought I’d keep this light-hearted and discuss the recent Strictly Come Dancing scandal. If you don’t like Strictly don’t leave just yet, I for one am not a major fan but I have somehow become captivated by the so called ‘Strictly curse.’

Popular entertainment show Strictly Come Dancing has a troubled history of sparking relationship woes among its celebrity contestants but is it really a ‘curse’ or just a coincidence? Well, let’s take a look…

It’s been the latest media frenzy this week taking the world of showbiz by storm and anyone who has any contact with the outside world will undoubtedly heard of the recent goings on between strictly duo, Seann Walsh and Katya Jones.

If you for some reason have been living as a hermit, Seann and his professional dance partner Katya were spotted sharing a kiss and joking around outside a London bar last week much to the dismay of their respective other halves.

Exhibit A: #Awkward

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Seann was in a long-term relationship whilst Katya is married to fellow strictly dancer Neil Jones, who made his feelings towards Seann pretty clear on Saturday nights show.

If looks could kill, literally…

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Curse or Coincidence?

A total of 9 couples have already fallen for the strictly ‘curse’ since the show’s debut back in 2004 so it does make me think, perhaps this is a curse? or maybe we are just dealing with a bunch of celebrities who simply can’t handle themselves around a few sweaty dancers, either way the debate seems to captivate the minds of the public every year.

Having never been a fan of Strictly Come Dancing with this year being no exception, I found myself unable to escape the drama on social media, and let’s not kid ourselves, we all love a bit of drama! I tuned in to Strictly ‘It Takes Two’ to see how the couple would deal with the utter shame of the situation and it was possibly the most uncomfortable thing I have ever witnessed, and I certainly wasn’t alone there.

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One thing I can say about the so called ‘curse’ is that it has worked wonders for the BBC. When news broke of Seann and Katya’s infidelity, BBC bosses were rather silent on the issue, understandably perhaps. However, there was no escaping the scandal, with some celebrities jumping to Seann’s defence whilst others began to publicly bash him and his partner Katya calling for the pair to be kicked off the show. Strictly judges, current and previous contestants appeared on various TV shows over the course of the week sharing their opinion on the scandal, so Strictly well and truly gained mass publicity, whether it be positive or negative.

So, have the BBC played up to the ‘Curse?’

From keeping up with all the drama in the world of Strictly, I can’t help but think this whole ‘curse’ debate has worked in the BBC’s favour, with viewing figures hitting a whopping 11.9 million this week with many eager fans tuning in to see the couple perform, I think we can agree that the BBC has well and truly won the Saturday night TV ratings war, but maybe unfairly this time around! The BBC meticulously planned each and every minute in Saturday night’s show to keep viewers on their toes, even leaving Seann and Katya as one of the last couples to dance, so is it really any wonder why they kept them in the show? It was total genius!

It remains unseen as to whether or not the ‘curse’ is real so the real question is, will it all be forgotten about by next week? Probably not, but lets all sit back and watch the drama unfold.

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The Strictly Saga continues…

Sorcha Conway is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted through; Facebook: Sorcha Conway /  Twitter: @SorchaConway / LinkedIn: sorcha-c / Instagram: sorchaconway515

 

Strictly Curse or PR Blessing?

Strictly Curse or PR Blessing?

It started with a kiss. Last weekend, Seann Walsh and his Strictly Come Dancing dance partner Katya Jones were photographed kissing after, what they later described as, ‘a few too many’.

A standard work-place faux pas, that a lot of the nation can unfortunately relate to, made all that more severe by the fact that Katya is married to Neil, another professional dancer on the same show and comedian Seann has (or be that now had*) a girlfriend, Rebecca, of 6 years.

The photographs, taken on 8th October made the front page of The Sun on Sunday which was subsequently followed by various other front-page appearances throughout the week in The Sun, The Daily Mail and The Mirror.

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Both guilty parties immediately posted short and standard apologies on each of their Twitter accounts in an obvious attempt at some damage control. However, it was the statement from Seann’s scorned lover, Rebecca Humphries, that really got people talking.

In a statement co-written by Public Eye, a PR agency who boasts big names such as Jamie Dornan and Suki Waterhouse as their clients, Humphries addressed the incident (which took place on her birthday- I mean, come on Seann?!) and reinforced that she ‘wasn’t a victim’ despite revealing that Walsh had been controlling, verbally abusive and called her a psycho for voicing her concerns over his fidelity.

Rebecca’s brilliantly written statement was retweeted over 12,800 times and saw her Twitter followers increase by over 16,500. Her statement also prompted support from celebrities including Myleene Class, Stacey Solomon, Carol Vorderman and Marian Keyes, many of whom gushed about an all too familiar situation and how she handled herself with such dignity and grace. The Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, Katie Ghose, even praised Rebecca for speaking out publicly about her experience and helping other women in similar situations.

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This perfect example of crisis communications catapulted Rebecca into the spotlight, not as a woman scorned but instead as a voice for a new generation of strong, resilient and capable women.

However, a source from Strictly Come Dancing has said that, “It was written to bring him down, plain and simple, to chime in with the whole #MeToo moment and make it seem far, far worse than it was.” They then went on to say that “He’s a total a***hole but that doesn’t make him a monster.” – A view that surprisingly was shared by a lot of viewers.

Unfortunately for Seann and Katya, their joint appearance on midweek show “It Takes Two” didn’t do them any favours though. Through watching their appearance on the aptly named show, I can only imagine that the severity of what Seann had sacrificed (other than his relationship) was only starting to sink in. His uncomfortable, uptight presence throughout the interview portrayed a mind that was now counting his potential post-show opportunities slipping away alongside his inevitable sell-out comedy tour.

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Whilst addressing his version of events, he made no reference to his (ex) girlfriend and came across as arrogant and overly defensive. Katya showed even less remorse than Seann by selfishly stating that her relationship was ‘absolutely fine and that’s what matters the most’.

But I couldn’t help but wonder, why hadn’t Neil weighed in on these terrible attempts to handle the situation? Was he indeed absolutely fine with his wife’s indiscretions? Was he going to drag Seann across the dancefloor by the throat whilst the band plays Copacabana? Neil’s response was something I’d never read before in any crisis communications text book- he completely ignored his wife’s indiscretions and instead posted this photo below on his Instagram page.

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Whilst Rebecca addressed her public humiliation head on and inspired a nation of women, Neil simply taught us that if all goes wrong, you can always post a poorly photoshopped photo of your butt on Instagram that will be sure to distract from anything else going on in your life…

But Neil’s Kardashian strategy wasn’t enough to distract me.

Having never watched Strictly before in my life, I settled down on Saturday evening waiting to watch the shamed partners take to the floor to perform the Charleston (which I have to believe was picked deliberately by the Strictly producers as it is perhaps the most un-sexy dance they could have been assigned).

After sitting through the first 10 acts (another obvious ploy by the BBC to keep viewers watching the whole way through) they were on. Much to my disappointment, the ghost of Bruce Forsythe didn’t appear to cast shame on them both, but clearly I wasn’t alone in my anticipation to see these two face the music and dance. Twitter was on fire with both of their names trending the entire way through the show and viewing ratings even increased by 1.4 million compared to the previous week.

So were there any real losers at the end of this scandal?

Rebecca, although going through obvious personal trauma has had her profile heightened and gained the respect of a nation of women – all beneficial factors for an actress who, let’s face it, wasn’t a household name before. As for the pair in question, despite their horrendous handling of the situation, they have come out of this pretty well. According to Katya, her relationship is ‘absolutely fine’ and this is seconded by the silent support (and seaside selfies) of her husband. Seann even managed survived the first week of evictions post-scandal and the show is, as a result, boasting huge ratings figures.

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Thanks to the ‘Strictly Curse’, which has claimed victims including Rachel Riley, Natasha Kaplinsky and Kristina Rihanoff, the nation is watching, talking  and tweeting about Strictly Come Dancing 2018. A blessing in disguise.

 

*I personally think the most traumatic thing about this whole scenario has to have been the over-use of the word ‘snog’ in the press.

 

Lucy Sempey is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @LucySempey ; LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucy-sempey-482ab9130/

 

Working with the General Public… It’s not always plain sailing

Working with the General Public… It’s not always plain sailing

They say to work in PR you have to have the best of the best in communication skills. Now you can study these skills at university or on a night out, but nothing will teach you the art of communication better than a job that requires you to work face-to-face with the general public.

As someone who has spent 4 years in retail and a further 2 years working in the travel industry for a shipping company, I’ve had my fair share of time with the general public. And because of this, I’ve learned the hard way that the general public will challenge your ability to communicate professionally and push you dangerously close to crossing that unprofessional line. So, I thought I would share some of the nuggets of knowledge ive gained in my career so far and how they could benefit you in a job in the future.

  1. Non-Verbal Communication – there is no skill you will build more than the ability to control your non-verbal forms of communication. We’ve all been there. It’s 5.29pm and you’ve 1 minute left of your shift. You’re thinking about getting home to your dinner and a glass of wine when all of a sudden a face appears at the door. Now you want to give the customer the benefit of the doubt, maybe they didn’t check their watch or maybe they just need to grab something quickly. We all know this is not the chase. Usually it’s a woman who believes the entire shop will stay open just for them to come in and have a little look about. It is at this moment the anger and the resentment starts to creep into your face. But you smile through it, because even though they’ve ruined your night (albeit 5 minutes of it) it’s the professional thing to do.

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  1. Embracing Shift Work – PR for the most part is a 9-5.30pm job, Monday to Friday. But jobs like retail and travel, are most certainly not. There’s nothing a student loves more than good Saturday shift followed by a Sunday shift to wipe out their social plans, hence the various student nights during the week. You never get to experience that ‘Friday Feeling’ those professional folk talk about because the weekend means work. But the one thing shift work will teach you, is the ability to work well with little sleep and to be flexible. One night I’ll work 6pm – 11pm and then the next day work 6am – 3.30pm. That’s dedication to the job and to a complete lack of sleep. But you do it and you live. It also proves to future employers that you can make time for work and are committed to the company, at least that’s what I tell myself at 5am.

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  1. The customer is not always right – its probably the most cliched saying when it comes to work, but I can confirm that the customer is not always right, but they certainly think that they are. I’ll take an example of this from a few days ago at my part time job. I work for a ferry company and on this night, I was checking in vehicles that were traveling over to Scotland. Like most travel companies such as airlines etc, if you’ve made a mistake in your booking, you are liable to a cost to change such mistake. It happens more often than you would think but customers often book their travel arrangements the wrong way around. So instead of sailing from NI to Scotland, they’ve done Scotland to NI. Now most people who make this mistake are a little embarrassed but generally are happy for you to amend the mistake which can incur a cost. But there’s always that one customer who believes you are doing this simply to annoy them. I can confirm we are not. The first sentence that usually leaves the mouths of those who believe that the customer is always right is ‘are you sure?’. Yes I am. I’m not making it up for a laugh, you’ve done it wrong. On the night in question I had this from a gentleman who had booked the wrong. Now the important thing here is that, this was not my mistake, this was his. But given the 10 minutes this man spent yelling in my face about how much I was making his journey hell (by fixing his mistake so he could actually travel) and his threats to travel with the rival company instead of paying the amendment fees (which would have cost a lot more than the payment I needed from him) he did in fact prove to me that the general public will blame anyone if it means not admitting their own mistakes, and they seem to think you are their verbal punching bag.

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Now don’t get me wrong, I will never be rude to a customer, you can be as rude to me as you like and I won’t yell or be rude back. But if someone continues to yell at me, I will not go out of my way to help them unsurprisingly.

These are just 3 examples of the things ive learned working in a job that puts me face-to-face with the general public. Stay calm, smile when you have to, always be flexible and remember in a situation where you are the one with the knowledge of how your profession works, more often than not you will be in the right, not someone with little experience in what you do for living.

These are skills that can be taken to every single job and it’s why I believe that only once you’ve spent time working with the general public are you ready for a job in communications, because only then do you understand the way in which you should hold yourself in the professional world.

Kirsty Wallace is a final year BSc Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at www.linkedin.com/in/kirsty-wallace-851504115 and on Twitter @KayyWallace

 

Marie Curie – sharing memories this Christmas!

So, that time of the year again – its Christmas season!

And what’s more typical for Christmas than a huge tree covered in lights?

I agree, nothing! Who doesn’t love a huge, green, tinsel-covered monster in the corner of the room?

…but, what Marie Curie have done blows all of us average-Joes out of the park.

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As the hustle and bustle of Christmas begins, it’s easy to forget about what’s important. It’s not about the presents, or the fancy clothes or the big turkey dinner (although they are all additional positives!).

It’s about spending time and making memories with family and friends while we get the chance!

Every day we see more and more negative posts on social media whether it be politics and the latest news story, a not-so-uncommon celebrity scandal or Phil from down the road ranting about the local pub prices.  *YAWN*

However, this Christmas, the terminal illness charity Marie Curie, have created the world’s first ‘memory-powered’ Christmas tree.

Placed in front of the iconic London Eye on the Southbank, this visual spectacle started on the 4th of the month and runs right up until December 17th.

Each of the individual fairy lights on the tree will be powered by people sharing their memories on Twitter and Instagram by using the hashtag #LightUpXmas.

In other words, the more people that post using the hashtag, the brighter the lights will shine.

Simple but GENIUS!

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The tree brings the charity to life as it serves as an important reminder of the work Marie Curie do providing care and support to people living with a terminal illness, some of whom will be trying to enjoy what might be their last Christmas with their family.

This piece of art symbolises the light that Marie Curie brings to every individual they help. It highlights how they allow families to spend Christmas together, making special memories with their loved ones.

A Marie Curie representative stated,

‘We’ve launched the memory-powered Christmas tree, to show the importance of creating positive memories, and show support for people living with terminal illnesses.’

You can share your special memories on Twitter or Instagram using #LightUpXmas – it could be any happy memory – your first memory, a Christmas memory or a memory of a loved one you’ve lost.

Marie Curie work tirelessly throughout the year helping thousands of families across the UK dealing with terminal illness.

It’s one of those things that you don’t really think about until you’re in the situation, right? Hopefully, this wonderfully thought out idea will bring the charity the recognition and awareness which they deserve.

Below is examples of posts which thousands have already shared – just AMAZING.

 

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Come on, if this doesn’t melt your heart and get you in the Christmas spirit I don’t know what will and if you haven’t already, get sharing – Let’s light up London this Christmas!

A heart-warming, eye-watering and just downright beautiful PR stunt by the charity. 10 out of 10 for inventiveness and execution in my opinion.

BRAVO, Marie Curie!

 

Lauren Kearns is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can reach her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-kearns-90819710b

Life Advice from a 3-year-old

Life Advice from a 3-year-old

A doting godmother to a 3-year-old boy, I am constantly amused and intrigued by Jude (biased I know). Whether it be his fascination currently with thinking the word ‘poo poo head’ is so funny or his constant questioning of EVERYTHING, he definitely has a fresh and light hearted look on the world. Which got me thinking, could we benefit from approaching life like a 3-year-old?

A few things I have observed from this blue eyed boy with a devilish grin can definitely be applied to ‘adult life’ (or the beginning of it for most of us).

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He never says “I can’t”

If his brother says “See how far you can go if you jump off the sofa” he will. If I tell him to try and lift me up to see how strong he is, he will. Granted, I go on my tip toes to pretend he lifted me, but he still looks at someone three times his height and doesn’t think twice to wrap his tiny arms around my legs and give it a go.

Jude doesn’t think of setbacks, obstacles or any reason as to why he can’t do anything. He charges in, gives it a go and if it doesn’t work out – oh well. Either on to the next thing, or he will keep trying until he can.

He never gives up

If he wants a drink of your coke, he will get a drink of your coke. No, it’s not giving in – it’s giving my head peace! Jude will climb on top of you, climb on top of the table, constantly ask and talk about this glass of coke – anything until he gets what he wants. Once he gets a sip, he’s happy and away.

So if you don’t get the first job you applied for, you apply for another. And another, and another and another, until you get the job you want. It won’t come easy, but if you give up it won’t come at all. This is in all areas of your life – the cliché of “nothing worth having ever came easy”. Yep, even Jude knows that.

He constantly asks Why?

All. The. Time. The first 8 are alright, but when you’re knee deep into the 23rd why, you just answer “because”.

“I have to go to the shop now”

“Why”

“To get some dinner”

“Why”

“Because I’m hungry and we eat dinner in the evening don’t we?”

“Why”

You get the point.

But why don’t we ask why? We are dangerously slipping into a culture of acceptance. That’s just how things are, that’s just how the world works, it’s been like that for years it won’t change now.

Constantly, news articles are accepted as they are. Why did the Journalist write about that topic? Have they an agenda for the politician they are writing about? Is it really true that coconut oil is the best oil for us because these bloggers all use it? The answer to that one is no by the way – it is the same as any other plant based oil.

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He keeps it simple

You are either happy or sad. Big or small. Hungry or full. In a 3-year-old’s mind the world is simple. Yes, they are oblivious to many ‘grown up’ things, but for the most part, they are pretty tuned in.

Jude can tell if you are sad, and if you are sad Jude will try and make you laugh to make you feel better, or give you a hug. That is simple. Problem + remedy = solution. And you know what, it always works. So why don’t we keep it simple?

We are always over complicating things. Over complicating situations, over complicating assignments and deadlines, over complicating our lives. Strip it down and make it simple.

  • Is what you are doing right now making you happy? No.
  • Do you know what makes you happy? Yes.
  • Well why don’t you stop doing what makes you unhappy and do what makes you happy? I don’t have time. I don’t know how to start. It’s too hard. Scrap those excuses and just do it. Simple.

And finally, he always finds the fun in things

Cleaning up the toy room? We can make this fun; I’ll throw the toys see can I get them into the box. Long car journey? Ok, I’m going to sing some songs and see how many birds I can see.

In a stressed out, serious world, it’s easy to become bogged down with must-dos and have-tos. Find the fun things in everyday tasks like playing your favourite music when doing housework or better yet, make time to do things you enjoy or to spend time with people who make you laugh. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.

From someone whose day consists of breakfast, nursery, playtime, dinner, bath and bed, Jude has a very good outlook on life. Not to say he doesn’t have his bad days where he falls or throws a wobbler – but when he has his bad days he brushes them off very quickly and moves on (another thing we can learn).

Keeping things simple, always having a laugh, never giving up, always questioning, not sweating the small stuff and believing he can – I think he’ll do alright if he keeps that attitude up.

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Lauren Toal is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can follow her on Twitter @laurentoal5 or reach out on LinkedIn at  https://uk.linkedin.com/in/laurentoal.

With great power comes great responsibility…

With great power comes great responsibility…

We all want to see ourselves as somewhat ‘superheroes’ in whatever profession we find ourselves in. Something which we can be proud of when some asks the question, what is it you do for a living? Some are doctors, some are nurses, firemen and women, others, well others are PR practitioners.

What is a PR practitioner’s super power I hear you ask? The power of persuasionpow-1601674_960_720

Every day we are being exposed to thousands of messages, all persuading us to act or do something a certain way! It can be done through a restaurant’s drool-worthy Instagram of the food or the day or a popular influencer showing off an upcoming collection from a brand – this doesn’t seem too frightening, right? Right!

So why does this word leave such a foul taste in a PR practitioner’s mouth? Why do some feel it veers a little too close to propaganda? PR is all about persuasion! It’s not a dirty word, it’s not a word that should be whispered in the dead of night in a dark lit alley. Instead of wearing the art of persuasion like a badge of honour, we shy away from it, we purposely leave it out of definitions of the industry.

All PR practitioners don’t use their powers for evil, this is a common myth amongst publics and journalist who sometimes forget about the positive effect we can have in society through the power of persuasion.

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Take a look at these next examples to highlight how life changing working in the PR industry can be!

Turning ‘left over women to power women’

The social expectation of China, is to marry young. Anyone over the age of 25 and who isn’t yet married is referred to as ‘Sheng Nu’ which translates to, ‘left over woman.’  In Shanghai, parents will pay to post ads and find matches for their children at the Marriage Market. The ads will list weight, height, income and a description of either their son or daughter’s personality. The children being advertised may not even know their ad is being listed.

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The Marriage Market in Shanghai.

A beauty brand in China, SK-II released a video in 2016 which promoted a woman’s right to exercise her freedom and to choose when she gets married and more importantly, who she gets married to. As part of this campaign, women who chose to defy their parents’ wishes and social pressure, printed images of themselves throughout the Marriage Market and with the tag lines delivering messages to their parents. One was, “I don’t want to get married for the sake of marriage. I won’t live happily that way.”

The campaign was designed to persuade and change the Chinese traditional way of thinking, not to marry for the sake of being married before becoming a ‘leftover woman,’ but to be proud of their daughters maybe unconventional, yet passionate views on marriage. See the campaign in action:

 

 

Like my addiction

This health campaign captured the world’s attention and inspired PR practitioners alike. Although a tad deceitful, it was all in good faith.

The Instagram account of Louise Delage documented a young girl’s flashy, jet set lifestyle causing her to gain 18,000 followers and an average of 50,000 likes per post in a short space of time. Although having an Instagram account is completely the norm for young adults these days, there was one problem.

Louise Delage didn’t exist.

The account was set up by a French PR agency on behalf of their health care client, Addict Aide. The campaign drew young adult’s attention to how easy it is to ignore the signs of addiction, but by liking the picture or video, you are also enabling it. It persuaded people to keep a watchful eye over people who may be suffering from addiction and notice silent cries for help.

Watch this eye opening campaign here:

 

 

Astonishingly, when the plot was revealed, the story was published in over 140 articles, it became a trending topic on Twitter and there was massive traffic to the Addict Aide website, bear in mind little money was given to promote the campaign. It was all through social media.

These amazing campaigns were only a few examples of the amazing things PR can do and the positivity it can spread.

Proving PR practitioners are not your stereotypical manipulative masterminds you see on movies or TV shows, they aim not just to highlight tough issues, but also provide solutions to tackle it, to change outdated suppressive social conventions and present a more forward thinking world.

From your friendly neighbourhood practising PR practitioner,

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Annie Shivers is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She is on Twitter at @ShiversAnnie and LinkedIn https://uk.linkedin.com/in/annie-shivers-9085b810a

 

 

 

 

 

This Little Piggy Made A Blunder

As many of the posts on this blog have explored, social media can be an excellent tool for communicating with customers and promoting your brand. This, however, is dependent on how the brand utilises it. On Tuesday, October 17th, a Twitter user by the name of Heather Peacock (@heatherpea) posted an image of a sign outside of a school, stating “Skinnypigs will make you look better naked”.

Heather questioned how a school might not be the most appropriate place for this content; and another user by the name of Sarah (@sarahdavywrites) echoed her sentiment, going on to suggest how these types of statements can translate into body shaming.

The company in question responded. It got messy.

Continue reading “This Little Piggy Made A Blunder”