Rude Cockneys, Shrewd Women, Skewed Surveys: Who’d Have Thought It Was All PR?


Few things in life amuse me as much as blatant PR passing off as news. I’ve said that before, and it remains true. So, on this Easter Monday, I thought I’d set you all a little quiz – look at the following headlines, and see if you can guess which company paid for the stories. Got it? Excellent, here we go, answers and analysis below the fold.

  1. Londoners ‘Least Friendly’ in EnglandMetro
  2. Why Women Are Better Handling The Family CashDaily Express
  3. Cheryl Cole Is Celebrity Most Brits Want To Holiday With Unlike Katie PriceMetro
  4. Kids’ £1.8 Billion Repair CostThe Mirror
  5. DIY Ability ‘In The Genes’Press Association

OK, there’s your headlines, have a quick guess (no peeking), answers below.

#1: ‘Londoners ‘Least Friendly’ in England’ / ‘Londoners are rudest people in Britain: Poll’

Londoners have emerged as Britain’s most unwelcoming people in a new poll conducted recently.  They have been branded by visitors as being nothing like the legendary chirpy Cockney image the city was once famous for. People in the capital were slammed for their inability to make friendly conversation and a lack of basic manners and politeness.  The city was also named as having the worst customer service in shops.  Southampton was voted the friendliest city, followed by Norwich, Exeter, Brighton and Plymouth. – Source: Multiple, including Metro, Times of India

I’ll point out, the above story appears as part of ‘British Tourism Week’, and associated stories ran with the emphasis on Southampton as the friendliest city in the UK. But this isn’t a piece by the Southampton tourist board – that would be too easy. Instead, this story appeared via a poll conducted by polling company One Poll, commissioned by hotel firm Jurys Inn. This might look like a bad idea – after all, you’d think Jurys Inn would be trying to encourage people to visit their London hotels, but there a couple of things at play here: firstly, the result that Londoners are the rudest in the country is something akin to received wisdom – we’ve all heard it for years, and we’re all used to the idea (true or otherwise – this was merely an opinion poll, after all). Therefore, it’s unlikely that disparaging London would have to great a negative effect on the business at the Chelsea Jurys Inn. Secondly, the supporting quote attributed to the hotel chain in the Daily Express mops up any anti-London sentiment headed in the hotel’s direction:

“A warm welcome goes a long way,” the Daily Express quoted hotel chain Jurys Inn

London may be rude, but our warm and accommodating staff will make you forget all about it. Lovely.

#2:Why Women Are Better Handling The Family Cash’

MEN have traditionally always taken charge of money matters in the home but research has found they would be better off handing over the task to their wives.

Women are more skilled at budgeting and keeping track of household spending, the study revealed. They are also less likely to build up debts and will endeavour to pay off any money they owe, unlike men who often prefer to make minimum payments. And fewer women pay bills late or forget to pay them altogether unlike their less sensible other halves. – Source: Multiple, including Daily Express, Daily Telegraph

Another one from opinion poll company One Poll (who are kind enough to have an entire Media page of their sites, showing the great work their little PR puff-pieces are doing). Again, we have all of the textbook elements of a PR piece here – come up with a finding that can be portrayed with a nicely attention-grabbing headline, smooth over any complex issues in the data to give simple, black and white absolutes… and get the name of the company in the fourth or fifth paragraph:

A spokesman for money management website love money.com, which carried out the study, said: “For years, women have been thought of as the big spenders, splashing their cash on clothes and shoes. But it seems men are gaining their own reputation when it comes to managing their finances while women are learning how to handle their money.”

LoveMoney.com, there’s your answer. Now, there may be a legitimate case for saying that men are less on-the-ball with their finances… or it might well be selection biases within the demographics polled as part of the 3000 participants. Skew the sampling by polling more men than women in their 20s and more women than men in their 40s or 50s, and you’ll find that more women are financially-aware than men, I’d wager. Poll significant numbers of young, unmarried couples and you might find that the boyfriends more often pay for meals, drinks, small items – making it harder to honestly say ‘I watch every penny carefully’ in an opinion poll. I’m not saying this is definitely the case, I’m just pointing out potential wrinkles in the data. Wrinkles that don’t make it into the press release, where only the sensationalist result appears… along with the company name, of course.

#3: Cheryl Cole Is Celebrity Most Brits Want To Holiday With Unlike Katie Price

Katie Price and Gordon Brown surprisingly have something in common – they have been voted Britain’s least popular choice of celebrity holiday partners.

The poll, which was carried out by the UK’s TNT Travel Show, also showed Cheryl Cole to be the top choice for female celebrity holiday buddy.

Stephen Fry won first position for the male celebrity that most Brits would want to go away with. – Source: Multiple, including Metro

If any one of you didn’t guess that this was for a travel agent or travel show, I’d be disappointed. This is textbook PR – cashing in on the pro-Cole feeling as well as the anti-Price feeling, with a peppering of anti-Gordon Brown in case one of the grown-up papers fancied running it. Top it off with the unsurprising opportunity to feature a nice big photo of an attractive celebrity (Cheryl Cole, I mean, not Katie Price. In all honesty, I’d put Price after Brown, if I were forced to choose) and serve. It’s precisely the same thinking behind the Celebrity Mum of the Year Award (sponsored by Quality Street) – an award so prestigious it’s been twice won by Kerry ‘Iceland-and-Cocaine’ Katona.

#4: Kids’ £1.8 Billion Repair Cost – The Mirror

Families will shell out £1.8billion this year to repair damage caused by kids. Accidents such as drinks spilt on carpets, ripped wallpaper or food stains on furniture cost families an average £105 each year. The survey found other mishaps include children shoving objects into DVD players, putting stickers on walls and breaking beds by using them as trampolines. – Source: The Mirror

Come on then – who has a vested interest in stories about children breaking things? B&Q? The Big Superglue Company? The NSPCC?

Nikki Sellers, of insurers esure which did the study, said: “Easter holidays mean more family time so it’s a prime time for breakages.”

Yep, esure insurance company. Because breakages are big business for insurance companies. This one, I’ll admit, did make me chuckle – using children’s Easter breaks as a way of promoting house insurance is a kind of obscure brilliance. It’s right up there with Sheila’s Wheels Home Insurance telling us that we don’t wash our sheets often enough. Hat’s off, really.

#5: DIY Ability ‘In The Genes’

Home improvement enthusiasts who flounder with flat-pack furniture were given an excuse for their struggles – DIY ability is in the genes, say scientists.
Two in three Britons lack the necessary spatial awareness to complete DIY tasks, researchers concluded. – Source: Press Association

Speaking of obscure, this effort is a lovely curve-ball. Precisely who would benefit from having discussion of genetic inability to do DIY? Perhaps it’s the National Association of Carpenters, or perhaps it could plausibly be someone like Bosch, Black and Decker or the like – that would make sense.

Halifax Home Insurance estimated that £400 million worth of damage was caused last year by people who lack genetically pre-determined Do-It-Yourself ability.

Ah. Another home insurance article, then. I guess the one over-riding message to take away is this: home insurance companies engage in quite a lot of bullshit polls and surveys. Which reminds me, this article was brought to you by Merseyside Skeptical Insurance – the official insurance company of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. We offer fair rates, although we don’t protect against acts of god, and we’re REALLY thorough when it comes to investigating your claims…

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  1. #1 by Michael on April 6, 2010 - 14:11

    Yup. Third Party, Luddites and Witchcraft cover, please!

  2. #2 by Miguel Corkhill on April 7, 2010 - 18:21

    I´m glad you´re covering flat earth news Marsh. I read the book (which I bought in a supermarket in Spain), and to say it opened my eyes, would be an understatement. I work on a building site where ´the Sun´ and ´the Star´ are considered the height of highbrow jounalistic endeavour. So when someone reads out the latest story about Jordan evading kidnap by Russian maffia (just before a launch of her latest lingerie line), or immigrants eating swans, and I don´t believe every word of it. I´m considered a grumpy bastard.

    Anyway keep up the good work.

  3. #3 by Jasmine Surreal on November 20, 2016 - 17:30

    I’m a Northener, exhiled in the Big Smoke, and while Londoners ARE mainly rude, laugh at manners, and the women make comments about me being ugly, a hag, etc, and the men mainly complementary, the tubes are sardine packed to the rafters, and there’s a lot of prejudice abound that Northeners are thick, said whilst waffling on pretentiously about Johns new Skis and ha ha ha after every sentence.

    Having said that, Liverpool and Wirral women and rarely men are just as rude, there I got vampire comments, hag, witch, etc from the lovely ladies, and well fit from the guys.

    Its the same everywhere, only there are less bald men in tracksuits in London.

    Goodness knows where a Rita Hayworth/Kate Bush lookalike who is well mannered, and dryly humorous would fit in!

    In most of these commissioned surveys and news features, there’s usually some truism or fact in there, and the London survey is just one of those.

  4. #4 by Jasmine Surreal on November 20, 2016 - 17:31

    Oops, I meant EXILED in London.

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