Archive for category Bad PR

Bad PR: How To Be A Modern Journalist

Have you ever wanted to be a journalist in today’s fast-moving, exciting, cutting-edge, new-media, buzzwordy-buzzword age? I bet you have! You can’t fool me – I know you used to watch the New Adventures Of Superman as a kid and quite fancied the Lois Lane lifestyle: hunting out bad guys, tracking down sources, breaking big stories (admittedly while usually ending up somehow embroiled in those stories to a depth that only a super-powered alien could extricate). It’s OK, you’re not alone, we all wanted to be Lois Lane, myself included. I had the shoes and everything.

Usually, to achieve this lofty ambition I’d suggest that your options were fairly limited – either plug away at blogs and other self-funded and often-largely-unread outlets, and hope to get picked out of the crowd Little-Orphan-Annie-style by some benevolent throwback of a newspaper magnate (good luck in finding one); or you work your way through the tried-and-tested system: take a journalism course costing thousands of pounds, hope it’s one that the newspaper you’re applying to actually respects/recognises, secure a bottom-rung position and begin covering ‘man bites dog’ stories for the ‘Weird News’ section of your local rag until the will to delve has been so beaten out of you that you’re as unwilling to achieve real depth as an asthmatic scuba diver, and then return to the office to file 300 words of copy only to spend the day watching it getting trimmed back and pruned until your day’s work is a 20-word stub just before the classifieds. I’m joking of course, this doesn’t really happen – you’d not have left the office to do any of that: that’s why phones were invented.

Still, that’s what I’d usually offer as advice (not that I’ve been a journalist myself, you understand, so my advice is purely pithy conjecture and semi-satirical commentary). However, today I’m feeling a little more generous, so I’m going to let you into a little secret: there are simpler solutions, easier paths to tread. In short, there are shortcuts. And I’m going to share those shortcuts with you right now: Read the rest of this entry »

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Bad PR: The Adulterated Truth

Getting a PR-fluff-piece into the news is easy, as I’ve shown before – take a survey, manufacture a surprising result (through data-mining, biased sampling or leading questions), and push it out with a shocking headline and a sexy angle. Easy. Here’s the first three paragraphs from an example in the Daily Express, print edition, the other week:

“One in five women would forgive their man for a one-night stand as long as it meant nothing to them.

The figures emerged in a report which also revealed that eight out of 10 Britons couldn’t care less if their partner became involved with someone else, as long as they didn’t have sex.

Despite nine out of 10 women claiming they would dump a man who had regular sex with someone else, millions would forgive indiscretions over the phone or by text, although half of girls still say they would show their partner the door if he kissed another woman.” – Source: Daily Express, 29/09/2010

Prime example, then – sexy angle, backed up with a nice, traditional ‘men cheat, ladies – deal with it’ undertone more in keeping with an episode of the Sopranos than with what most of us would experience in our lives, I’d imagine. On top of that, we have a flurry of statistics, including the up-scaled extrapolation of what ‘millions’ believe, based on the sample data. You’ve five seconds to guess what company appears in the next paragraph, having commissioned the survey. It’s a classic. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bad PR: How NOT To Play The Sex Card

By now, followers of Bad PR should be well-acquainted with the tell-tale signs for spotting nonsense PR strong-arming it’s way into the pages of our most-loved newspapers and websites. And by most-loved, I tend to mean The Mail, The Sun, The Telegraph and all of the other bastions of bullshit we skeptics force ourselves to sift through on a near-daily basis, ever on the hunt for untruth. So it’s a fairly loose use of the word ‘loved’, if you’ll grant me it. Still, as I’ve covered before, sometimes spotting poorly-designed pseudo-news it’s as easy as following a simple checklist:

  • Does it involve a survey?
  • Are the results surprising, shocking or a bit sexy?
  • Is it actively about sex – predominately how to get more of it, or how to make what little you get of it better?
  • Is there a company name in the fourth paragraph?

Those are some pretty simple, rule-of-thumb guidelines for spotting Bad PR. Now, here’s your starter for 10, from the Daily Star (I won’t give you the link just yet, it’ll spoil the fun):


Right away, that’s one or two ticks on our checklist. Let’s take this paragraph by paragraph Read the rest of this entry »

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Bad PR: Chevrolet’s ‘Scientifically-Perfect’ Greeting

PH = √ (e2 + ve2)(d2) + (cg + dr)2 + π{(4<s>2)(4<p>2)}2 + (vi + t + te)2 + {(4<c>2)(4<du>2)}2

Or, as you might like to summarise it, hello – because that seemingly-complex string of numbers, values, algebraic representations and powers is actually supposed to be the formula for the perfect handshake. Still, I’m getting ahead of myself here, so I’ll take it from the obligatory start, by which I mean the Daily Mail:

Firm squeeze and three shakes: Scientists devise formula for the perfect handshake

It has been traditional greeting, a symbol of peace and a key part of business deals for thousands of years.

But today scientists announced that they have created a formula for the perfect handshake after it was revealed that seven in ten Britons are nervous about getting it wrong.

Regular followers of this blog will know the drill by now, but let’s go through the motions at least a little more. However, if you are a regular reader of this blog, and know about the general fourth paragraph reveal rule, you’ll know what’s coming next in the article:

More than two-thirds (70 per cent) of people said they lacked confidence when it came to performing the gesture, according to a survey for Chevrolet.

Yep – the double-whammy reference to a survey, and therefore the unmistakable whiff of PR, and also the mention of the survey’s paymasters and beneficiaries: Chevrolet. The only real surprise should be that the company’s name came as early as the third paragraph, but it’s more of a rule of thumb than a hard and fast law.

Staff at the car firm will be instructed on the ideal technique with a five-step process and given the mathematical formula in a new handshake training guide.

Excellent – I know when I buy large motorvehicles it’s not only a concern but a cast-iron demand of mine that the forecourt staff are trained in complex algebraic equations to perform fairly everyday tasks. Next on Chevvy’s list of formulas to develop is the formula for duping gullible young couples into extended finance packages, followed presumably by a formula for reading the Daily Mail without noticing which articles are little more than extended adverts.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Bad PR: A Peek Behind The Poll Curtain

Regular readers of the site are possibly familiar with a few reports I’ve done in the past, looking at Bad PR. I’m not sure I ever clarified what Bad PR actually is – instead I’ve just taken a headline or a story touted around the various rags of the English press, and tracked it back to the initial press release issued by some company or other – often only peripherally related to the subject of the press release – and generally banged a big grumpy drum at all of it. Fans of that, don’t dispair – I’m sure I’ll be back some other time, drum in tow, merrily – and of course grumpily – banging away for your amusement. Or something.

But for now, I’m going to put my drum away, step away from the awkward and restrictive music metaphor I seem to have forced on myself, and take you through the other side of this sorry affair that is this whole murky world of surveys, PR and the news.

You see, newspapers need content – gone is the day when a journalist can scout stories, call up sources, check facts, and do all that other good stuff you see in political thrillers, where the diligent and handsome-in-a-shabby-sort-of-way journalist uncovers some political scandal or other, and – after huge rows with his cartoon character of an editor – publishes the lot to international acclaim. Those guys don’t really exist any more. Instead, more often than not, journalists have so many column inches to fill that they barely even have the time to check what day of the week it is.

Because of this, it’s insanely easy for any PR company to hand them a nice juicy press release, a write-up of a public survey complete with numbers and percentages and opinions, topped off with a nicely surprising or sexy finding. Newspapers lap that up, and goes out pretty much unedited, which is where my big grumpy drum comes in.

But where do these survey come from? And what role do they have in fashioning said sexy or surprising findings? Well, I’m always one to put my neck on the line, so I decided to visit the charming website of my favourite pollsters – One Poll, who were responsible for finding out that people think Jeremy Clarkson is probably well hung – and I joined up as a poll-ee, which you might think is a made up word but 78% of the 100 people I asked said it was perfectly valid. See, I’m getting into the spirit already.

Being a pollee is not without it’s benefits, of course. I mean I say that, but it almost literally is without it’s benefits – for each poll you take part in, your account is credited with a generous ten pence, which is yours to do with as you please. Slight catch – you only see the cold hard cashola once you’ve accumulated £40, so unless you’re in it for the long haul, One Poll don’t have to pay you a penny. Excellent. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bad PR: The Huge Weekend That Never Was

Put aside those petty squabbles in the pub, lay to rest your arguments about tiny flags and sportswear bans and stop worrying about how it’s Political-Correctness-gone-mad-next-they’ll-have-us-all-speaking-bloody-Muslim-or-something, because it’s now officially official – England is the most ‘footie’ mad country in the world. It’s true, we’re number 1. We love the whole footie thing, we do. Can’t get enough of it. Mad for it. Footie and England, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G and all that. It’s official.

Well, The Sun says it’s official, anyway:

Official: England Is Footie Mad

ENGLAND is the most football-mad country in the world, a study has found.

Research revealed English blokes spend more time watching, playing, reading and talking about the beautiful game than anywhere else on the planet. – Source: The Sun

Yep, they’ve got research to back that up. Probably research done by boffins. Probably zany boffins, who have formulas for the perfect cup of tea, or the perfect shave, or the perfect cliché involving zany boffins.

The study found a typical soccer fan watches football — including highlights — for two hours and 22 minutes every week.

They also spend 28 minutes each day chin-wagging about the latest results, tackles, goals or transfer gossip.

In second place was Thailand, where men spend three hours talking about the sport, followed by three-time World Cup winners Brazil in third. – Source: The Sun

Now, I know you lot. You’re a skeptical lot. And this is BadPR, so I know what you’re thinking – who benefits from this? Well, damn you and your cynicism, I’ve no idea what you could possibly mean. Read the rest of this entry »

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