Is sustainability merely a PR stunt? Or are business running against the clock?

I don’t know how many times per day that I look on twitter and ask myself the same question: Is the world really going to end? And yes I am dramatic but it scares the beejeezus out of me. By experiencing all four seasons in one day; hearing that 150 species are becoming extinct daily and seeing the gruesome images of plastic taking over the world, who can blame me.

I think by now everyone recognises the name Greta Thunberg (if not: she is a 16 year old Swedish girl that has became the face of the climate change movement). Now I’m no Greta, but the current movement has made me make a few small changes: buying a recyclable water bottle; reusing plastic bags etc…. the kind of things we should be doing anyways.

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My small changes may not make a difference but there are a lot of global companies out there that have the power to do so.

A few companies have began to take the movement seriously. However we have to ask ourselves: are these companies smart getting out in front early? OR do they know that it will someday become law to reduce carbon emissions?

Well if you have to do it, you may as well do it first and create a positive PR campaign – right?

 

1.Louis Vuitton

My favourite example is the owner of luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton. He has come out and called Greta Thunberg “demoralising” whilst at the same time announcing company plans to become more green – “I prefer positive solutions that allow us to get towards a more optimistic position” he stated.

In other words: people’s eyes have now been opened by Greta Thunberg, but let’s just call the little girl names and act like we (the grown-ups) are doing this on our own initiative. (eyes rolling)

*If like me you are not a super fan, we cannot deny the fact that the (mostly negative) publicity around Greta has drew our attention to these issues.

New sustainable Louis Vuittons anyone? (Well…what they look like in my head)

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2. McDonald’s & Burger King

Another classic example is Burger King & McDonald’s plan to ban plastic toys in their kid’s meals (say what?)

In this case Thunberg has spoken for every child in the world when she states:

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Chill kids… you may not have a plastic toy but you will have a beautiful planet and we will all live another day.

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Jokes I’m not done yet. The fast food giants could save 1,325 tonnes per year between them thanks to new green initiatives in the UK. And false alarm: kids can still get recyclable toys, books and board games in their Happy Meals.

This is a huge step for the fast food giants and one that didn’t come overnight. This change was a result of two (8 & 10 year old) girls learning about the environment in school and starting a petition. As you can see below over half a million people have signed the petition already – You gotta give the people what they want!

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In this case once Burger King committed to becoming more sustainable McDonald’s followed to avoid negative PR… again emphasising my question: is sustainability merely a PR stunt?

 

3. Carlsberg 

I think it’s fair to say that this one has blown our minds. Drinking beer out of a paper bottle!

I for one see this as a dream come true and if you own a car and park it in Belfast’s Holylands you will too… no more flat tyres or broken windows… (Carlsberg – thank you).

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The bottle forms part of Carlsberg’s Together Towards Zero initiative, which includes a commitment to reach zero carbon emissions and a 30% reduction in its “full-value-chain carbon footprint” by 2030. Although Carlberg are using their new bottle as a PR stunt, they, unlike Mr. Vuitton can admit that they are running against the 2030 clock 

(tick…tock… tick… tock)

 

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So there you have it – the sustainability craze has hit the corporate market and according to (Burger King’s) Mr. Murdoch the craze is set to have a domino effect.

“If it makes other competitors move their practices forward, that can only be a good thing,”  

Who knows what extraordinary, sustainable inventions will form as a result.

But please listen to me when I say that if its anything like the paper straw…. go back to the drawing board!

 

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Kayleigh Tinney is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, current doing a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on: Instagram – @Kayleightinney and LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kayleigh-tinney-76b240161/.

Fortnite- Online Game or Marketing Machine?

Anyone part of the online gaming world (or anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the last two years) will know in simple terms what Fortnite is. The word itself conjures up images of poorly animated cartoonish characters wielding over the top weapons and wearing far too many clashing colours. Ringing any bells?

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Last Tuesday night, a meteor hit the imaginary island and catapulted users into a black hole of nothingness for 48hours straight. Twitter went commando with a bare page cleared from all tweets and Instagram followed a similar theme. Players were left with nothing for two days. No game, no explanation, no light at the end of tunnel. And of course, the coverage followed.

The whole affair was exciting, and something never done before by Publisher Epic Games, but going off the map certainly isn’t a new PR tactic. 2016 seen Kendall Jenner delete her Instagram for a small window of time and Taylor Swift went down a similar road by unfollowing everyone and deleting all her posts to create a cloud of mystery in lieu of her upcoming album release. So what made Fortnite’s brief hiatus so special? Their stunt last week got me thinking, what makes Fortnite a standout brand without following the usual pattern of declination after a games initial peak period?

 

Everyone’s Welcome

One of the reasons Fortnite really made it to the big leagues is owing to the fact that the game was released on multiple platforms and all versions were playable to eachother, a big deal in the gaming universe. This meant that someone gaming on PC could team up with their friends on Xbox and play together, creating a much more widespread gaming experience that easily went viral. Accessibility was key to Fortnite’s success and means anyone with any gaming device is welcome to don a weird outfit and fight some strangers online with the virtual company of their friends.

 

They never stop upping their game

Fortnite was originally released without much pomp and circumstance in July 2017 and since then has regularly brought out new ‘skins’ (outfits for sale), modified their maps and changed the rules depending on when are when you are within the game. The map/set is constantly evolving in order to keep the users on their toes. Nobody is getting bored and the playerbase is growing in numbers as long as the game is alive and breathing. Two years later fans are still drooling for the constant Easter-eggs hidden within the maps.

 

Relevancy above all

Truth be told I had never even heard of Fortnite until Thanos was introduced as a limited time character. Game producers took advantage of the fact that Avengers: Infinity War was doing so well at the box office and used the information that the writers of the blockbuster were such big Fortnite fans to utilise the world’s biggest current villain as a prop in their game. Arguably, the dances done by the characters are more contagious than the games itself. Playgrounds around the world have been taken over by ‘flossing’ and ‘Electro Shuffles’ and videos of these weirdly difficult to master dance moves were constant hits online. Teacher and parents were annoyed and many schools throughout the world banned the dances. But in a world where coverage is deemed important- all press is good press. Right? The crossovers never end with regular appearances from whatever/whoever is relevant that week. These include Marshmello, The MCU, John Wick and Fifa and can come in the form of new skins, limited edition soundtracks or even a quick change in the map. The inclusion of hyped up happenings in the real world makes Fortnite a pro when in comes to effective brand promotion.

People love free stuff

Let’s be honest, we all want the goods and we want to pay a good price. Ideally nothing. As it stands Fortnite is free and has no upfront costs whatsoever meaning getting started is quick and easy. This means that the younger generation don’t have to beg for credit card details from unwilling parents and the game stands at an all time high in terms of accessibility. Now as always there is a catch. While playing, gamers can purchase virtual items via ‘V-Bucks,’ an online currency unique to the world of Fortnite and by doing so make their character more unique in style. This doesn’t necessarily give any advantage when playing but the more outrageous a character’s outfit, the more noticeable a player is, and to some gamers that means as much as winning.

 

Ga-Ga for Gaming

Not immune to this epic multiverse are celebrities. A-listers such as Finn Wolfhard, Joe Jonas and Drake can’t stay away it seems with the latter breaking a Twitch record for ‘Most viewers of all time,’ partly owing to the rapper advertising the stream on Twitter to his 36.9million followers. Even celebrities that aren’t interested are getting involved. Lady Gaga recently tweeted, ‘What’s Fortnight?’ racking up 200,000 retweets and 900,000 likes. Honestly who knows if any of these stars are #spon but even if there aren’t any pockets being lined, the celebrity involvement is definitely working.

 

Kate Lagan is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter- @PredisposedtoPR and Instagram- @klagan19

Ge ne uis or l’eau de chris?

Weirdest title ever? I know! Bear with me though there is a method to the….madness?

As this is my first blog post I should probably start by saying a few things about myself, I am a final year Communication Management and Public Relations student, I am on my 5th year of university after doing a year in Leeds studying Event Management. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work out for me, so here I am 5 years on from leaving school, in Jordanstown approaching my last 9 months of university, oh also I am obsessed with my dog and love, love, love, Love Island!

Now I don’t exactly love, love, love Love Island, I could definitely still live without it but it leads me onto what this blog post is actually about.

It’s the 9th October 2017 and Chris Hughes, a contestant from summer ’17 series of Love Island has just released he will be partnering up with Topman, one of the UKs biggest high street retailers for men (and women, great for an oversized hoodie ladies!) to sell bottled water named L‘Eau de Chris, infused with his own tears. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook any social media platform you can think of went into melt down.

Now, if you haven’t heard or have no interest in the Love Island frenzy, Chris was known on the show for shedding a tear here and there, and rightly so, everyone has there moments, right? Everybody hopped on the band wagon “oh this is just another way for them to make money” “absolutely ridiculous, selling your own tears, you should be ashamed of yourself” to state but a few of the harsh tweets- I have inserted a few below to have a chuckle at when this was released, allowing a good 16 hours to pass of mixed reviews of his new business partnership, receiving praise from some and not so much praise from others. Over these 16 hours Chris allowed his followers to drop and rise, twitter to go crazy and Instagram to be bombarded with horrible comments, all whilst knowing the real reason behind his new “business venture”.

  

  

The plot thickens, Topman was not Chris Hughes newest venture, CALM- Campaign Against Living Miserably, a leading UK based charity to help against male suicide was.

This new campaign was in fact in aid of increasing awareness of male suicide, smart, eh?

Chris Hughes is now in fact one of the newest ambassadors for CALM and face of their campaign #dontbottleitup, this all came from his courage and openness whilst being featured on the show, as I said *or typed* before, everybody has their down moments so why keep it in, male or female? Chris Hughes has openly spoke about his problems with anxiety and how talking about problems and speaking openly has really helped him.

Chris stated in his interview with CALM “it’s like halving the problem straight away when you talk with someone about it” and that I completely agree with and commend him for how open he is, obviously I am a girl but by being around my brother, dad and boyfriend I know how hard it can be for men to show emotion or open up. There is that stigma now that men need to be ‘masculine’ and women are the ‘emotional’ ones but I completely dis agree and this is exactly why I think this PR campaign is one of the best social media has seen. Any suicide, male or female is absolutely horrendous and soul destroying, so campaigns like these are what is needed in this generation to get people talking, talking about their problems and opening up.

Okay, to the title, ‘Genius or Ludacris’ get it now?

The name behind the bottled water in the first place means Ludacris i.e. its Ludacris to feel like you should bottle it up, this was all very fitting as it was also World Mental Health Day, the day the initial campaign/prank was released.  After it the cat was out of the bag, opinions completely changed and so did the general public’s view on Chris Hughes, very quickly.

This whole campaign and PR stunt helped to spread the hashtag around not just the UK but around the world and really, I think that is the perfect venture for someone with his following and platform to go towards. Don’t get me wrong I can’t help but have ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out), when I miss just one episode, I can’t be the only one to admit to that? But usually end up hating them all once they come out and take over my Instagram and twitter with their horrendous teeth whitening discount codes or new merch, but this changed my perception on Chris completely….and hopefully will change yours too!

Sarah Heath is a final year BSc in Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @sarahmeganheath,  Instagram @sarahmeganjane, LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-heath-375053a6/

 

PR: GC style

Gemma Collins. “The GC”. Whatever you want to call her, she’s like Marmite. You either love her or hate her. And I love her. Here’s why.

How many of you have scrolled through pages upon pages on Facebook called ‘Gemma Collins memes’, ‘Gemma Collins reactions’ or ‘Gemma Collins appreciation page’?
How many of you have then proceeded to tag friends in the comments of said memes? And have you watched YouTube compilations of her best bits, be it on TOWIE, I’m a Celebrity or Celebrity Big Brother?
Yeah, I know you’re guilty.
I am too.
We’ve all done it, and we’ve all laughed.
A lot.

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* This quote is actually my friend’s Instagram bio. Literally just this quote. On it’s own.

The question is, are we laughing at Gemma, or with her?

Lines like “It’s GEMMA, you silly  c***” and “I’m claustrophobic Darren!” have become instantly recognisable from her stint in Celebrity Big Brother, and nobody can forget that helicopter ride on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Gemma’s popularity on reality television has made her an internet sensation, and in a way the memes and videos circulating our newsfeeds have become free PR and marketing tools for Gemma and her various projects.

How? Well, you are constantly seeing her face everywhere you scroll. And it makes her hard to forget. Even organisations such as the BBC have got involved by posting this on their official BBC One Facebook page to brighten up everyone’s Monday:

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And, let’s not forget that infamous fall at Radio 1’s Teen Awards. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Gemma fell down a hole in the stage while presenting an award. And it was hilarious. Since then, the footage has gained millions of views online and it has contributed to Gemma’s persona as the butt of the joke. With all things considered, some may argue that the fall could have been a publicity stunt on Gemma’s part. She’s a clever woman, after all. Whether or not it was an accident, though, we have to ask ourselves:

Would it have been as funny if it were someone else?

No, definitely not.

A bit like Beyonce’s “Sasha Fierce”, or Christina Aguilera’s “Xtina”, “The GC” is a kind of alter-ego-like persona that Gemma has created in order to establish her personal brand. At the end of the day, Gemma Collins wasn’t always “The GC”. Before TOWIE, she sold used cars for a living. “The GC” is a social construct which has emerged out of Gemma’s realisation that we love it when she acts like a diva, and that we are endorsing it every time we press play on a video or ‘like’ a meme. For example, Gemma’s book is entitled ‘The GC – How To Be A Diva’, and she’s using her diva attitude and its proven popularity to sell copies of it. 

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When interviewed on Loose Women, Gemma was asked about the memes and how she felt about them. She said,

“Honestly, I find them so funny. It’s gone all around the world. I’ve got people retweeting from Florida. It’s crazy. It’s scary how something like that can just take off.”

In another Instagram post, Gemma reposted a fan-created meme in order to promote a new project she was filming, even tagging the fan-created Instagram page @gemmareacts in her post. A lot of us probably clicked on this post because we saw it was a Gemma Collins meme, not realising it was actually an advertisement. And by clicking on it, and even liking it, we gave her more internet traffic. And probably put more money in her pocket. Gemma hasn’t played any part in creating this meme culture, all she’s done is act like a bit of a diva. But now, she is reaping the benefits of a little bit of free PR.

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So, the question is, is Gemma Collins merely the butt of our jokes, or is she in on them? The publicity Gemma has gained from viral memes created by fans and endorsed by our love to laugh at her has made her a lot of money (yeah, you’re probably now thinking of her famous line in CBB: “AVVV GOT MONEY!”). As of August 2018 Gemma was estimated to be worth around £2.7 million. As well as this fortune, she also has her own clothing line; as well as lines with fashion retailers Boohoo, SimplyBe and Evans, and her own boutique in London. And yeah, she was on TOWIE to begin with – all this fame hasn’t come solely from her popularity on the internet. But it is definitely a huge factor. So, who’s laughing now? Definitely not me, although I’ll come back to you when the compilation of my funniest moments goes live on YouTube.

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PS: you didn’t really think I was going to end this blog without attaching some classic Gemma Collins content for your entertainment, did you? Because, we’re all just here to enjoy ourselves. GC style. D’ya know whatta mean? Now, get that fire exit door, I’m off!

 

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Anna Stewart is an MSc Communication and Public Relations with Advertising student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @astewart95 and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anna-stewart-b3127a139/

Banksy: King of PR.

We all know the name, we all know his work but we have no idea who he is. How does someone anonymous become one of the most famous names on the planet?

Effective Public Relations.

As an artist, Banksy is undoubtedly talented but his artistic skill isn’t the reason people are so intrigued by him. It is more so because of the messages of his work and the way in which they are portrayed. Unafraid to challenge social norms, political agendas and current affairs it seems as though Banksy’s “muse” for most of his pieces are what some may see as the obvious problems in today’s society; matters that a lot of us can understand and agree with, but never really address. For example, relationships:

Image result for Mobile LoversThe piece above, appropriately named “Mobile Lovers” explicitly illustrates the reality of how mobile phones and social media is consuming our real life relationships. By creating such outspoken and quite often controversial art, Banksy speaks to his publics in a real, raw and honest way – something that we are not accustomed to in this day and age. As more and more organisations attempt to place themselves in a positive light through PR, the more saturated their methods become; we, as consumers have become very aware of what is realistic and what is a mere attempt to come across as “relatable”.

In a definition by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. And if you ask me, Banksy is a PR genius.

His most recent “PR Stunt” occurred at Sotheby’s Art Auction in London, where one of his most famous pieces of artwork “Girl With Balloon” was sold for over one million pounds. As the gavel went down on the auction, the famous painting began to “self-destruct” as attendees looked on in complete shock. Within a few minutes, Bansky posted a photograph on his Instagram page of the shredded picture with the caption “Going, going, gone…”.

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A few hours later, the anonymous street artist then posted this video to his Instagram account showing how he created the shredding frame ‘in case it was ever put up for auction’.

So, what did Banksy achieve from destroying his own work and why was it effective in terms of PR?

Well firstly, he got the people talking – which is ultimately the aim for every PR Image result for just got banksyed tweetStrategy right? Almost immediately, social media was bombarded with images, status’, tweets and stories about the unexpected event. From celebrities to news outlets to the general public, everyone was fascinated with the unknown figures’ latest actions.

Secondly, he got the people thinking – what was the purpose of it? Although he is well known for creating thought-provoking work, the shredding of a one-million-pound painting is certainly one to think about. I suppose there are many ways in which it could be interpreted. As an activist for the people, it could have posed as a rebellious act against the extortionate amount of money spent at these auctions. Maybe it was to give a new meaning to the piece, now named “Love is in the Bin”. Perhaps, it was just purely for the publicity. But whatever the reason, it certainly raised some questions.

And thirdly, whether he meant to or not, he upped the value of his work. After the shock of the stunt started to fizzle out experts began to discuss the new perceived value of the auctioned piece, which evidently got higher, although we are not yet sure by how much. The lady who made the final bid of £1.4m decided to go ahead with her purchase as she now felt that she had a “piece of art history”.

As a former art student, I admire Banksy’s work. And as a final year PR Student, I am in complete awe of his Public Relations methods. It is clear that nothing about Banksy’s reputation is an accident and he knows exactly how to get the right reaction from his publics; that is why Banksy is the King of PR.

 

Shannon Hegarty – final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-hegarty-594193172/ and Twitter: @shannonhegPR

Has PR lost all Credibility in 2018?

The term PR can unsurprisingly evoke a feeling of doubt in people’s minds. PR can be seen as way the media twist the truth in an attempt to deliver a certain message. The element of persuasion can sometimes overshadow judgement and cast a damaging light on PR. However this is not the case, PR today has emerged significantly from what people may relate it back to as propaganda. People are quick to criticise PR due to reports that PR shys away from persuasion as a form of propaganda as it can be argued that the purpose of PR is to manipulate opinions. In discovering the elements of professional and reliable information people can soon realise the credit associated through PR. The progress through the years proves that PR has become more credible through their relevant and trustworthy news sources.

 

It seems that anytime I tell someone I am doing a PR degree they recognise it as standing on street corners promoting clubs or creating publicly stunts for good advertising. It is not uncommon that PR can be misinterpreted as a means to sell or exploit. Fortunately this isn’t the case, PR has a lot more than just promotion and publicity stunts. One of the more famous stunts being the white Range Rover outside Harrods in 2016, which tactically used PR and advertising to promote their brand image for the new Revere Range Rover Vogue.

People often question what is PR and why is it needed. The PRCA describe PR as the way in which organisations communicate with the public, promote themselves and build reputation and public image (Prca.org.uk, 2017). PR is in fact the back bone to organisations positively communicating key messages to consumers. Every organisation no matter who small depends on their reputation therefore PR is needed to promote survival and success in the most competitive of industries.
The world of PR is chaotic and crazy but for all the right reasons. The PR industry invites you to experience things you never imagined and learn things you never knew. Credibility is merely a small element of PR that is unfortunately sometimes negatively portrayed. Influencers and brand ambassadors create the perfect platform for organisations to promote their brand messages to their target audience and building upon their reputation. Aristotle used the term Ethos throughout PR which is given to a character such as a celebrity endorser or influential figure which gives the organisation more credibility.

 

The intensity and multitude of information and messages throughout PR in today’s modern world are at an all time high. So of course there are elements of exaggeration within the media but more importantly there is logical information that the public can rely on. The truth is that PR is everywhere you go and it is nearly impossible to escape it. There is a mass of messages and promotions in every aspect of life and it is important that we use these opportunities effectively to communicate the right message.
However the right message may not always be that simple to communicate. PR may not always be controlled and positive PR can always turn in to negative PR, which is something to consider. NYPD proved this through their social media request of asking the public to send in positive pictures with the police, which of course didn’t last too long and were bombarded with negative images and PR.

 

Although, it can be certain that PR is focused on promoting an organisations image and reputation, there is so much more planning and preparation involved. Today’s PR professionals have to processes a variety of skills within a competitive workplace. PR practitioners support their consumers and the public by communicating messages truthfully and effectively, ultimately creating a mass of credible PR.

Caoimhe Conway is a 4th year Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. She can be found on Twitter: @caoimhe_conway /  Instagram: caoimheconway / LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/caoimhe-conway-bb0b03152/

Greggs Advent Calendar – Genius PR stunt or Risky move?

Greggs Advent Calendar – Genius PR stunt or Risky move?

Greggs recently caused a media frenzy by replacing baby Jesus with a sausage roll in the nativity scene in images to promote their £24 Christmas advent calendar. Each door in the advent calendar reveals festive scenes with a Greggs twist and a voucher to use in store.

This prompted outraged reactions from Christians who did not see the humorous side. See my mum’s reaction below as an example.

 

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Was it smart to replace ‘saviour’ with ‘savoury’ in the nativity scene? You could say the campaign worked well as my mum had previously not heard of Greggs but it got their name out there through increased media coverage. This is an example of how bad publicity can raise awareness of previously unknown brands. However, she is apparently now ‘boycotting Greggs’.

The advertisement was a risky move by Greggs, especially when religion is involved they may end up alienating a lot of customers. Jesus was Jewish, so replacing him with a sausage roll in the manger is inappropriate as Jews do not eat pork, therefore in that sense it is understandable why some may find it offensive. Would other religions, such as Islam be mocked publicly in the same way? Unlikely.

Greggs quickly apologised for the image and said in a statement, “We’re really sorry to have caused any offence, this was never our intention.”

It is often said in PR that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Greggs possibly knew this, as it is likely advisers in the company realised the risk and potential backlash from using this image, especially when religion and Christmas is involved. Could this be the reason why Greggs issued a statement to the backlash so quickly – was it just a planned controversial PR stunt to gain maximum publicity for Greggs?

I personally found the image funny and quite smart, especially for sausage roll lovers! With many of the main media outlets covering the story, there was reports that Greggs had apparently sold out of sausage rolls following the week of publicity it received. (13 November 2017).

On Twitter #greggsnativity trended for two days after the advertisement was released, giving them maximum unpaid-for publicity. This proves that sometimes provoking a reaction can gain maximum publicity for a brand.

The advertisement also made those who saw the funny side, get involved and create hilarious user generated content in the form of memes on the sausage roll, which was again maximising publicity for the brand.

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Considering Greggs released 500 calendars, only available from 17 stores in the UK, means they were limited and in high demand thanks to the publicity received.

 

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Time will tell how the sales went, however considering the increased demand for Greggs sausage rolls on the week it was released from the heavy amount of media coverage they received, shows that bad publicity, isn’t always a bad thing!

Elizabeth Owens is a final year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @eowens12_ or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethowens32/