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/

3 of the most iconic PR stunts of all time

A few people realise that PR practitioners are the invisible puppet masters pulling the strings behind every element of media you see today.

Of course, you’ll not be able to recount the 1,000s of campaigns you’re exposed to each week, but there are campaigns that tend to leave a lasting impression on your memory, without even realising that they are the result of a carefully crafted engineered process by the PR practitioner.

In recent years the internet has transformed how we interpret and receive messages, this has in turn meant that PR stunts have become quite transparent. Seemingly the truly iconic PR stunts of all time took place 50+ years ago!

Let’s talk about this iconic image:

Marilyn Monroe "Seven Year Itch", 1955
Marilyn Monroe “Seven Year Itch”, 1955

To some it would seem Ms. Monroe was the victim of a poorly timed subway train causing her skirt to billow, giving photographers ammunition to capture the most iconic image ever.

At the time, Marilyn was attending a photo call to promote her movie ‘The Seven Year Itch’. Just as photographers began to assemble, a wind machine hidden under the steel grate was activated, the result of a carefully orchestrated stunt by the movie publicists who were responsible for not only an iconic image for the movie but it’s the image which people remember when they think of the iconic Marilyn Monroe.

Of course stunts don’t have to simply increase a celebrity profile, they are often done for the greater good.

During the 1920’s the intensity for equality for women after the war heightened, after all the notions of traditional gender roles was contradicted when women proved they could do the same work as men, and do it better.

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The symbol of women’s liberation came from an unlikely source, cigarettes. At the time the social stigma attached to women smoking was rife. By no means was George Washington Hill concerned with the liberty of women’s rights, however he was hungry for success. He drafted in PR’s founding father, Edward Bernay, to help with his endeavour.

On March 31st, 1929, during the Easter parade, led by Bertha Hunt (Bernay’s secretary), who lit up a lucky strike cigarette on fifth avenue, other women soon followed. Combined with the papers reporting enthusiastically of the event, branding cigarettes as ‘torches of freedom,’ seen Bernay’s replaced the social stigma surrounding cigarettes and repositioned them to a symbol of freedom.

Moving on to more modern times, the Queensland Tourism campaign was dubbed one of the most successful tourism campaigns ever.  In 2009, the tourism board began their search for applicants to fill the ‘Best Job in the World’ role. The primary objectives for the campaign was to generate global awareness of the Great Barrier ReeAS3f in Queensland and to increase visitation to the Great Barrier Reef. With the intention to appeal to youthful travelers who wanted to seek a global travel experience.

Approximately there were 35,000 applicants spanning over 200 different countries who applied for the job with nearly AU$ 430 million public relations value generated.

An editor from the UK’s Sunday Times stated, “Not since Willy Wonka and the golden tickets hidden in chocolate bars, has something came along like this.”

The outcomes of the job advert seen global news coverage, listed 8th place on the world’s top 50 PR stunts of all time, a huge rise in visitors to Queensland and won huge awards. The successful applicant, Ben Southall from the UK was appointed caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef in 2009. During the role he was interviewed more than 450 times, visited 100 Queensland destinations and blogged throughout the entire trip, check it out by clicking the link below.

http://bensouthall.com/blog/

PR stunts are fantastic ways to get essentially ‘free’ media coverage for a brand. If a stunt is done well, the coverage is usually instant as these days people are always photographing and videoing, however, this is only on the basis that the stunt is interesting enough people feel it’s worth sharing. Carefully crafting a PR stunt and generating publicity for something which grabs the public’s attention is difficult, but the long lasting effect it has on a brand could be the key to the business’s life span and success.

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

Forget The Greatest Showman – was P.T Barnum ‘The Greatest SPINman’ of all time?

If you haven’t been aware of The Greatest Showman bubble we’ve all been living in since Christmas, do you even own a phone with acceptable 3G coverage? (or clearly you haven’t been paying the Wifi bill in your student houses).

Because if Hugh Jackman Gifs are not dominating your Twitter, or Zac Efron all up on your Facebook newsfeeds, then you’ve definitely heard the glorious soundtrack that’s been number 1 on iTunes for as long as Apple have had, well, an apple, as their logo.

For those of you who weren’t like me and went to see the musical phenomenon 3 times… yes, you did read that right (“the biggest-grossing original live-action musical EVER”)!

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But let me assure you, there are *no spoilers* in this Blog.

However, what this blog is written about is the very man (played by the delightful Hugh Jackman) that this global movie is ‘loosely’ based on – the infamous life of the legendary showman and crowd-pleaser Phineas T Barnum, which many historical critics argue is “the man who in the 19th century possibly invented entertainment as we know it today.”

He may have invented entertainment, but he also invented his own style of questionable PR.

A man full of bigger-than-life ideas – Barnum marketed to an audience interested in mass, and often crass, entertainment regardless of how factual or ethical such displays were.

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With the real question being… did PT Barnum use PR in an ethical way? Especially, when The Greatest Showman – the movie – is feel-good, joyful viewing, painting a celebratory “body-positive evangelism for diversity” and celebrating those in the world who are unashamedly different.

These different people – the ‘human freaks’ – in “the movie about a circus” have their backgrounds and anatomical achievements humorously exaggerated just a trifle by PT… for publicity purposes (of course). As the famous lyrics are musically sung by the All-Star cast – “impossible comes true… this is the greatest show.”

Greatest Showman Gif

Impressively, the ‘Irish Giant’ on the advertising posters wasn’t actually Irish. But the circus audience didn’t know that one… as PT says in the movie “the press will love it!”

However, the arguable thing about the real Barnum recorded in history, is that he was known to have presented “freakishness” in the form of “living curiosities” through active exploitation.

And although it’s not a spoiler, this explains why the movie shows so angry protesters outside the circus after every performance.

Unlike in the movie, which in musical style rejoices “I am me, I am who I’m meant to be” about the uniqueness of human beings, Barnum and his colleagues are said to have created ethnic stereotypes when cordoning off this swath of humanity as “different”.

The Guardian writes: “Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump has been frequently likened by political pundits to PT Barnum. A professional bullshitter with a penchant for loud rhetoric, fake news and racial prejudice? He doesn’t play down the comparison.”

So Donald Trump is the new PT Barnum?

I suppose the White House HAS been actively referred to as a ‘Circus’ in the past year…

In 1865, Barnum’s book Humbugs of the World aimed to inform the public he wasn’t a con-man – that he hadn’t achieved his rags-to-riches success story by scamming the public.

He wrote: “There are various trades and occupations which need only notoriety to insure success,” he claimed – concluding no harm, no foul, so long as at the end of the day customers felt like they got their money’s worth.

As the song suggests from the movie – “It’s everything you ever want, it’s everything you ever need.”

I could go as far as to say PT Barnum was a remarkable publicity man who knew how to work Public Relations in his career… to HIS advantage. (Maybe just not so much the people he caught in his webs whilst spinning whatever he could to achieve whatever he wanted).

The Greatest Showman musical has just reached a whopping $160.766m domestic total in the cinema, and let’s be honest ‘The Greatest Showman’ is what you will find – in PT Barnum or in Hugh Jackman’s efforts alone –  whether you agree with it or not.

It’s a thumbs up from me. 

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Chloe Campbell is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University.  LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/chloe-campbell-337b26152 / Facebook: Chloe Campbell

Conor McGregor: Ultimate PR Champion

As many of you know, great PR will create a great reputation and great public image.  There is one PR campaign however which really stands out above all others and has undoubtedly captured the imaginations of people from all around the world.  At times his bravado and outrageous comments have stirred excitement and anticipation; at other times however, his circus has insulted, embarrassed and even angered many people, leaving us feeling a little weary.  Either way, it has worked.

He is Conor McGregor:  Dubliner, rock star, world champion fighter and the greatest walking, talking PR showman ever.  Not to mention every 14 year old boys absolute idol.  The former apprentice plumber from Dublin has rapidly become Ireland’s ‘Notorious’, and all through the power of his own publicity.  Like him or loath him he is the ultimate PR champion.

In 2007 Conor McGregor quit his apprentice plumbing job and had signed on to collect benefits so he could train with MMA coach, John Kavanagh.  He quickly made a name for himself as an MMA cage fighter but in 2013 he received the call from the UFC.  The rest quite simply is lucrative history.

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Conor McGregor is now the reigning lightweight champion of UFC, he is the face of UFC and the sport’s biggest name.

He puts himself into headlines, he doesn’t just talk; he proclaims wild, bizarre and often insane pronouncements that simply cannot be ignored (a bit like Donald Trump, but maybe not as bad).  Take the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight of 2017; Mayweather was favourite to win, he was undefeated in the boxing ring and is arguably the world’s greatest ever boxer.  This however did not stop the ostentatious McGregor who had never boxed professionally in his life, “I’m gonna f**k this boy up. Make no mistake.”  He remained so confident in his ability, “Tell Floyd and Showtime, I’m coming. … I want $100 million cash to fight him under boxing rules because he’s afraid of a real fight.”  At this, every Irish lad quit their job, booked the flights and swiftly made their way to the bright lights of Vegas – seriously.

While UFC or boxing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, or indeed the insults traded, through relentless and intense publicity, Conor McGregor has grabbed the attention of the world and made headlines.  The public had a thirst for the spectacle that these two mega-personalities were creating each week as the so called, ‘biggest fight of the century’ grew closer.  In the end, the luck of the Irish may not have been on McGregor’s side but yet, he was a triumph for PR.

He is Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor.  Arguably Ireland’s biggest sporting star and despite his entertaining bravado, a very much respected sportsman.  Conor McGregor represents every working-class lad (or lass) from Ireland who wants to take a chance; the class which Conor McGregor personifies is real and current.  They too get up early and work hard, they compete with immigrants in the job, housing and health sectors, their wages are stagnating due to the economy and competition from abroad, yet they get on with it, they work for themselves and remain ambitious, much like McGregor.  They get out there like he did and do it themselves.  In Conor McGregor, the Irish see a hero.  Through mastering his craft, achieving success in PR and becoming ‘The Notorious’, McGregor is a self-made, successful and respected sportsman who never hid his ambition.  He is a representative of Ireland and what many Irish people stand for today.

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Conor McGregor: Ultimate PR Champion, Ultimate Fighting Champion.

Lauren Hill is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University.  She can be contacted on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-hill-a7807a151/  

 

Putting the PR in Pregnancy

What do you do to boost your image and get people to talk about you? Create news. And this is exactly what the Kardashian/Jenner PR machine is talented at.

You don’t have to like them, but on some level, you have to admire what this PR savvy family has done with our obsession with fame – accurately assessing it, exploiting it and profited significantly by it.

Nothing is unplanned when it comes to their publicity – the strategically leaked stories and careful management of the not-so-staged Snapchat or Insta story. When your product is the life you lead, then you have to keep it interesting, even if that means celebrity feuds, divorce and unclarified rumours – which leads us to the spectacular PR strategy behind Kylie Jenner’s pregnancy reveal.

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In late September initial word of the pregnancy broke and sent the world into a wild frenzy. We waited with baited breath for Jenner to give us some sort of sign or drop a hint to validate the news – but nothing. Months went by with Momager Kris Jenner neither confirming or denying the news and the other sisters remained surprisingly tight lipped, with Kylie remaining remarkably coy – or is it koy? Finally, on 4th February, just hours before the Super Bowl and after months of speculation regarding her pregnancy, Kylie finally broke the silence and confirmed the existence of her pregnancy and the birth of her baby girl.

The family are the epitome of an efficient PR machine, with Kylie’s pregnancy demonstrating how less is more to keep the public guessing and follower numbers growing and how a firm grip on the latest and best ways to exploit social media platforms is vital.

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Jenner released a statement on her Instagram, justifying the months of silence which had led to fostered intrigue and sustained attention on the Kardashian/Jenner clan for almost a year. By neither confirming or denying the pregnancy, Kylie smartly let people to build conversations and propose ideas of their own and so we became so invested in the details that we waited for news, which was in this case – a baby.

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A true testament to the power of good PR.

Mallory Blair, the cofounder and CEO of Small Talk PR, stated “announcing hours before Super Bowl stokes vitality,” she writes, pointing to the crowd mentality of such an event and the likeliness that those gathered together will discuss current events. “It also creates brand alignment with a major, national cultural moment.”

Speaking as a PR professional, Mallory expects that Kylie’s next steps will reflect the same careful strategy. “I’d guess that she’ll parse out the remaining assets as exclusives which will continue to get her leverage in how her story is shared and which of those stories receive the most attention,” she said. “For example, offering the first official baby photo or her first Q&A verses a first broadcast interview are all things that can be used to set the terms of what is and is not shared as a condition of the exclusive”.

Time alone will tell.

Amy Greer is a second year BSc CAM student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: @amyagreer & LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/amygreerrr