RE:SO SHED vintage clothing launch – the benefits of hosting a blogging event

RE:SO SHED vintage clothing launch – the benefits of hosting a blogging event

The Retail Solent Initiative, RE:SO, hosted a special blogger preview event for the launch of the new SHED vintage clothing in Southampton.

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Online activism – social media monster or force for chance?

Online activism – social media monster or force for chance?

In The Times yesterday I couldn’t help but be grabbed by the article by @ROSAPRINCEUK with the headline Social media monster could devour Corbyn.

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It backed up the point I often make that online public relations for a divisive entity or to support a cause or for ‘online activism’ can be a double edged sword. It either is destructive force or a driving motivation for change.

Social media can be used to make a point. Rosa uses the example of Corbyn encouraging people to take to Twitter to share their heart warming stories about junior doctors. It’s a clever move given the current climate but, let’s leave the politics out of this and focus on the powerful use of PR for change.

The #theyarethedoctorswho hashtag was used over 20,000 times and almost overtook the insane ramblings of hip-hop rapper Kanye West. This surge of support is powerful, people have actively gone online to take part, engage and share. It’s obviously a topic close to so many people’s hearts and it’s well timed on Corbyn’s part as he’s called for this ‘online activism’ at a time when emotions are still running high.

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As you can see people were tweeting some very powerful and emotive messages.

For Corbyn this is another strategic step in getting people on side and motivated enough to actually vote. It worked in the run up to his vote for the Labour Party leadership and now this is being used in a wider application to make him relatable, show him as sympathetic and fighting for the average hard working Brit on the street. Who can’t relate to that?

With this sort of endeavour though you run the gauntlet between social media being a force for bad or good. Again Rosa brings an excellent topical example to the fold, Stephen Fry. Even Fry, a national treasure, dramatically quit the Twittersphere after he made an inappropriate comment at the BAFTAS and received unprecedented backlash. It only takes one comment, or action, which doesn’t have to be online to make or break someone’s reputation. Ah, there we go PR fans, we’ve reached the heart of the matter, it’s all down to reputation again!

Now it’s already blown past as yesterdays news and I am sure it won’t be long until Stephen Fry will be back to brandish 140 characters with the best of them. But, the point to make here is that, even for the popular people of the universe, the online world can be a dangerous place. Reputation is fragile and not easily repaired as we already know. It is in these situations that PR is absolutely crucial.

At present Corbyn is harnessing social media but he’s never that far from the edge. Those that have opposed Corbyn online in the lead up to his Labour Party election have found themselves trolled and he had to make a public call for more ‘civility online’.  As you can see, it may not even be your own actions that bring you close to the edge online but those who support you too.

At the end of the day all Corbyn cares about is whether this online support gets people off their bums and to the polling station come the time that matters. If this kind of PR by social media works and becomes a motivation factor for voters then it could be a very powerful force for political change. Can social media, if harnessed in the right way, be the persuasion tool that sparks people to vote? It certainly helped Obama.

Whether Corbyn being voted in is a good force for change or a bad force for change, well that’s a different topic and debate altogether. I am not attacking either political party, I am merely using it to make a point about PR. This blog is about public relations not politics.

I also have to point out here that what Corbyn is doing here is a form of PR piggybacking, a topic I wrote about in my last blog. Corbyn is capitalising on the junior doctors strikes by engaging the public by encouraging to share their emotive experiences about junior doctors. Like many strategic political PR campaigns, he is rubbing salt in the wound of the current Government’s inability to resolve the junior doctors situation and trying to turn it in his favour to get more votes for his party. This sort of political activity is nothing new, it’s just being done through a different medium.

Online activism is the a great way to engage debate, talk and discussion on difficult topics which I hope is then harnessed to encourage positive change. However, activism in its very nature can also bring negativity, so I believe that honesty, transparency and being considerate are all key in maintaining reputation online and in most real-world situations. Social media need not be a monstrous place as long as we all take a little responsibility and think about our actions.

Barbie’s Brand Survival

Barbie’s Brand Survival

Hitting the headlines this week is the revelation that Barbie is introducing new shapes, sizes and skin tones. Their justification is diversity, they want to be more inclusive.

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Now I don’t doubt that this is a part of the reason. Mattel have come under some heavy global media fire criticising Barbie’s disproportionate measurements and the negative effects on the children that play with them.

However, let’s not beat around the bush. Barbie’s had a hard time over the past few years. The invention of Bratz and other rival toys, not to mention iPads and other technological supplements, have opened up the field of fun for children around the world. This has meant that the humble Barbie Doll has had to adapt to survive or face its resignation to ‘Retro Toys of the 90’s’ segments on Buzzfeed and lame Christmas television shows.

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Some more of the new Barbie line up!

Now diverse Barbie’s are nothing new. My most prized possession as a child was a beautiful Benetton Barbie, one of the first modern designer Barbies that my Mum bought me back from a trip to Amsterdam.

She was stunning, her clothes were different to any of my regular Barbie dolls. Her skin tone was different, her make up was different, her eyes were more oval and she had long flowing dark hair. She looked chic and Italian. I loved her.

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Wow the power of Google – I found my Benetton Barbie online, she was called Marina!

But, I digress, what I mean to say here is, this is nothing new!

Check out the evolution of Barbie through this link.

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Check out the Twitter hash tag #TheDollEvolves

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What people are failing to ask is what is really going on here?

This is not about diversity, this is about survival. Brand survival. How does a toy stay iconic? It moves with the times and meets the expectations of it’s audience.

Barbie are cleverly using diversity to drive sales and create a strong identity that their new modern market can identify and connect with. In the past any Barbie that didn’t fit the conventional mould was labelled limited edition, like my Benetton Barbie.

They are creating this strong image for their audience to identify with by creating more shapes, sizes and skin tones and making them part of their standard range then using this to address the damaging ‘stick thin’ model mentality that’s so popular in modern media. Ah, a form of feminism for capital gains.

They are even aligning their brand by creating bespoke look-a-like dolls for influential women which are then being promoted through the UN Women’s Twitter account.

Mattel are broadcasting their acceptance of diversity and positive body imagery with a highly public and prominent PR awareness campaign. Would Mum’s around the world want to buy their child a more diverse doll to promote a healthy or different body image? Of course they will.

But don’t be fooled, this really is nothing more than clever public relations to ensure a brands survival with the additional benefit of reputation enhancement. It’s pretty impressive and powerful PR.

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Is Ken next?

P.S. If you want a giggle check out the popular ‘hipster Barbie’ instagram account – a parody of hipster insta accounts!

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Hipster Barbie has her own Instagram account!

Converging Careers Conference 2015 at Southampton Solent University

Converging Careers Conference 2015 at Southampton Solent University

 

Almost exactly a year ago, in 2014, I was a student and I graduated from the PR Masters degree at Southampton Solent University.

One year later and the situation had reversed, rather than sitting in the lecture theatre ready to take notes, I was the one giving the talk. Talk about a one eighty!

I was invited back to speak about the way PR, advertising and marketing are starting to merge together to form a hybrid and to explain the necessity of having a wide skills set that cover these fields.

This blog is what I took from the conference, my perspective and what I found valuable. Livi Wilkes, from Solent PR, has already shared all the golden nuggets of information about employability in the following two blogs, which are definitely worth a read:

SSU Converging Careers Conference Part 1

SSU Converging Careers Conference Part 2

My journey has been a long one, with many experiences which has contributed to where I am today. it sounds cliched but it’s true. That experience wasn’t invalid, I just wasn’t aware of that until recently. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?!

I think, for me, it was also important to show other people who are about to enter a creative industry that the path isn’t always smooth and straight. It’s not easy to open up about struggling. I had tried so hard to get in to PR through various means and although at times I felt I was never going to get there or that I was on the wrong path, I never gave up. So coming back to my university and being able to relay my journey and where I am now was really exciting.

When I was there I met one of the 2015 graduates from the PR Masters and she shared her feelings with me via Twitter, and it was a reminder of how powerful face to face interaction and social media can be. Remember that you aren’t alone, it’s ok to be ‘lost’ sometimes and to take the road less travelled. Not everyone is living that glossy life they so readily portray to the world on social media. Not everything comes easily. Most of the best things don’t come easily. Trust your intuition.

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Catherine Sweet, my wonderful lecturer and mentor, opened the conference by explaining the changes in the industry and why they were important. Her career in PR/Marketing/Advertising/Marketing/Politics is incredible and she has topped it off with lecturing at Southampton Solent University passing on her knowledge.

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Steve Woodgate, Solent University MA Graduate and Marketing Manager at Microsoft UK, who was the first guest speaker advised the attendees at the conference to ‘be a squirrel, gather nuts of knowledge’. This struck me like a lightening bolt. I had been a squirrel, foraging, learning and gathering nuts of knowledge along my journey.

A varied set of skills will make you more robust and ready for any future roles.

He also identified four sub-sets of characters within the creative industry:

  • The Scientist
  • The Storyteller
  • The Socialiser
  • The Strategist

Steven said you would predominantly be one of these characters and that it would be helpful to identify which one you were so you are able to identify your strengths. I completely agree with him, identifying your strengths is very helpful but I think that some people may cross these sub-sets.

The last major thing I took from Steven’s talk was that he said:

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“Digital is more significant than the industrial revolution. We just don’t know it yet.”

I was up next and I had to rapidly overcome my public speaking fears (and the monster cold I had!).

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I used my journey, examples of other people journeys and current client work to show just how important a varied skill set is and what I had learnt along the way. The time flew by and soon I was back in my seat not knowing what just happened, hoping it went ok.

Thankfully I had some positive feedback after the talk and some really lovely tweets!

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Following my talk was Dr Emma Wray, the new head of PR and Communications for Southampton Solent University. She was engaging and told us about her incredible experience (just ask her about working at the BBC during the Olympics!) and the changes she is seeing to the PR and communications industry and how we can adapt to survive them. Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 22.36.50Emma also had some top tips for those about to enter the creative industries…

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Caroline Barfoot, from Solent Creatives, concluded the talks with a focus on getting work experience and freelancing. She drew attention to this years John Lewis Christmas campaign and it’s multi-faceted nature.  She also made the point that ‘at the heart of everything is the consumers. Products only work if the consumer wants to use it.’ This phrase is great to take with you throughout your career, remind yourself of it to keep you focused and critical when working on projects.

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After the talks the conference was divided in to two to debate current PR topics. I helped panel the debate which questioned the valued of earned and shared media. It was really interesting to see what a cross section of the current university students studying creative topics and a number of business people thought. It was concluded that there is value in a combination of the both earned and shared media. A lot of emphasis and importance was placed on being critical of the source.

It was a great day and I was honoured to be invited to take part, honoured to be able to give something back and honoured to represent the company I now work for. I am lucky to work for a company who can see the value in giving back and leading the field. I am extremely thankful to Catherine Sweet for believing in me and guiding me through my Masters and to Lee Peck Media for giving me the opportunity to work in PR and to experience a converging career!

Dismaland – the UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction!

Dismaland – the UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction!

Bravo Banksy, Bravo!

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Well he know’s how to make a point and generate a ton of PR for his art installation.

Dismaland plays on the Disnification of our society and the post-modern, consumerist generation.

The inability to buy tickets for his latest installation has set the social media sphere on fire. ‘I want tickets now’, ‘I NEED Dismaland tickets’ and ‘how on earth do I get a ticket to Dismaland?’ have rendered the internet truly dismal.

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The calendar which is actually a JPG!
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This is as far as I can get in the ticket buying process!

But you, probably like me, realised the hypocrisy of his ‘fight capitalism, buy a ticket to the show’ and as a result there are no tickets…the trolley logo remains upside down…empty.

I get the joke, I see the point being made.

I still click on it, I still press F5 and I have done, like a mad-woman, all day, since 6am. I have become all-consumed, the desire of wanting to see some real-life Banksy, not vandalised or removed by others is just too great despite knowing it will be fruitless.

If I know how ridiculous I am being you may ask… ‘Why are you still trying to purchase a ticket?’

For me, this is easy to answer. I want to see one of the greatest living artists of our time. One who brought a ‘criminal act’ in to popular culture as proper art, more so than any other graffiti artist. His clever takes on topical issues such as politics, migration, money, love, slavery, popular media and relationships say things that often people cannot. He’s travelled the world to do timely works in places like the Gaza Strip. He has almost retained complete anonymity (thanks Daily Mail for ruining that one by the way, for that I will never forgive you! For anyone not in the UK, one of our national papers went out of its way to uncover Banksy’s identity. Which, of course, I’m still furious about all these years later. Anyway, I digress…).

I would like to see Banksy’s new works, along those with the other artists he has involved. I missed his last show and although watching all these comments online are funny, ultimately what this masks are my feelings of disappointment. I am a long-standing Banksy fan. I am your stakeholder Banksy and I understand what you stand for, I get the big point you are making with the UK’s most disappointing bemusement park. But, at the same time, despite knowing this, I can’t stop my own personal disappointment, a feeling I probably share with many of your actual fans who’d like to see your new exhibit. If you don’t let the other kids play, where’s the fun in that? And other than thought provoking, it is meant to be fun, right?

The thought that I may miss another of your shows makes me think that the once accessible to all Banksy is not accessible anymore. You are not offering entry-level anarchism if no one can actually gaze upon your musings. If I am thinking this, is anyone else?

Now I, along with everyone else trying to obtain tickets have become the joke, I’d be careful how you play this one team Banksy because it could ultimately turn some of your real fans against you. (I doubt many but it’s a consideration, and we are looking at this from a PR point here!)

I understand the attraction will most likely be open on a first-come-first-serve basis in an attempt to further fuel demand and exclusivity, which in essence Banksy makes you a teenie, tiny bit like those capitalists and consumerists you mock, you are engaging in a PR and sales strategy that is as old as time. Supply and demand, just without the money element. Not that people aren’t willing to pay, fake prices on Ebay have been estimated at £3000 and people on Twitter have been offering to pay over the odds for the tickets which apparently are going to be £3 each.


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It’s a wonderful PR stunt, in line with the Banksy values, that has engaged such a large audience in such a short space of time, perhaps he shouldn’t let it go too far though. Banksy’s popularity is based on his talent, us ticket purchasers have learnt our lesson but we’d still like to see your art.

Despite all the rumours of a hoax, I’m going to risk it. So I am hovering with my bag packed ready for an early morning two hour pilgrimage to the arse end of the South West…Weston-super-Mare. Wish me luck fellow Banksy fans, will I be jilted at the Dismaland gate or will I be revelling in entry level anarchism? Watch this space…

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This exhibition was on for a limited time in 2015.