Celebrities

As a PR I have worked with a wide range of personalities, from CEOs to academics, entrepreneurs and inventors to soap stars. One thing never changes – the importance of having something memorable to say to make an impact in the media.

Even in world of reality TV, those celebrities interested in a long term career in the showbiz spotlight will soon find it is not enough just to turn up in an outrageous outfit with yet another romantic squeeze on the red carpet. The public’s fascination with them will soon wane, and find another younger even more outrageous candidate for their affections, unless there is something else about them to focus on.

The simple fact is that is you need to have something memorable to say and this applies as much to traditional business as to ‘the business that is show’. In this content hungry world, if you can tick the celebrity glamour box but at the same time also run a successful fashion line like Myleene Klass (who remembers Hearsay now?) or Lucy Mecklenburgh of TOWIE, your career is likely to last for years.

And it’s the same in the rather less glitzy world of business. With the way that media works in 2017, it is no longer enough to simply just do business. Companies that want to raise their profile and lead their sector must be able to communicate not only their expertise but also have a well informed and distinct opinion as well. Although not every business leader will relish the thought of a mega media profile like Richard Branson or Peter Jones, most will realise that being seen as an innovative thought leader in their field, with a clear expert opinion, is not only key to maintaining their corporate reputation but also to building the foundation for their company’s future commercial growth and success.

It is also crucial to keep the dialogue going – as any savvy celebrity will tell you, and keep on giving the media something to talk about.

Whilst Katie Price will still deliver the outrageous stunt from time to time, she has also realised that her book deals, retail lines and respectable presenting jobs on mainstream TV make her far more substantial as a media focus than just being a former glamour model. She is also more than happy to have an opinion as well. The ‘Price Principle’ applies to business as well – companies with a real commitment to maintaining a positive reputation will need to deliver regular news updates and expert opinion commentary, continually feeding the media content machine and proactively building their positive corporate reputations.

The digital footprint factor has now never been more important, whether you are a TV personality or a multinational corporate. All commercial reputations are now dictated by the trail of online content and for a positive reputation, it is vital that the individual or company digital footprint is up to date, interesting, positive and informed. It is also important to remember that all these positive updates will serve as powerful reputation tools in counteracting any negative pieces that appear as well.

But to really achieve media stand out in the first place it is simple to remember one simple thing – have an opinion in the first place. That means saying something distinct and memorable, with substance, expertise and original thought, to enhance your reputation in a positive way. This simple fact applies to all media players, from individuals to large corporates – have an opinion, make sure sure that you sense check it with your communications team so that it can only have a positive impact on your reputation, but have an opinion. This is the very simple first step in building any media profile.

As featured on the Huffington Post

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Sean Spicer

Looking at all the articles and videos analysing the #alternative facts approach of the new White House press secretary, one piece of expert commentary really resonated with me.

Jay Rosen, Professor of Journalism at NYU, remarked that many of the seasoned journalists, with all their years of experience attending White House briefings with previous press secretaries, were now grieving for what he called “a lost ritual”. Rosen said that in his view many of the journalists actually wanted the briefing with the press secretary to be the same as it had been, so that things could go back to how they used to be so that they could ultimately have a cordial relationship with Sean Spicer. 

Rosen concluded that this was never going to happen. The two way dialogue with the Press Secretary, who could still occasionally, from time to time, be trusted to release real stories (as well as of course issue neutral responses to more contentious questions) was over. Rosen pointed to the huge impact this would have on many of these seasoned correspondents who have built their journalistic careers on developing networks of key contacts at the White House – he argues that the new didactic style of media briefing, with little interest in engaging with the attending journalists, will have a huge impact on journalistic practice.

Rosen’s main point is that the senior correspondents should no longer waste their time attending briefings full of #alternative facts (he suggests they send interns instead!) but should focus their energies on investigative journalism, getting to the truth of each developing scenario with analysis and research.

But it seemed to me that there is another point to be made. The importance of the role of a press secretary as a catalyst for positive reputation management with the media. 

It is obvious that anyone in the role of White House Press Secretary will not be able to reveal all the facts all the time – security issues and political sensitives will always prohibit this. But being seen to listen, being courteous and respectful of media questions, however contentious, has so far been fundamental to maintaining the reputation of a White House that is representative of the people and the media that reports to them. Most importantly, when the press secretary could make a statement and issue a story, making sure that the facts are 100% accurate was absolutely key. The perspective of a story can always be questioned depending on your political or editorial perspective but in an age when most of us report on daily events with our phones on social media then accuracy, an open dialogue and relative transparency are key to any effective dialogue with the media.

Looking at the new style White House briefings now underway, we can only wonder not only on their overall impact in the long term but also how long they will even last in their current format?

As featured on the Huffington Post

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Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

With an all time record of 14 Oscar nominations, seven Golden Globe wins under its belt and a win of ‘Best Actress’ at the recent Screen Actors Guild awards, the risk taken in producing the critically acclaimed ‘La La Land’ has certainly paid off. Grossing more than £6 million in its opening weekend takings in the UK, making it this year’s runaway box office winner, it is obvious that audiences were drawn into the hype that surrounded ‘La La Land’ prior to its release. Undoubtedly, the marketing of the film contributed to its success, but what exactly has made its marketing campaign so memorable?

Branding as a 1950’s Hollywood musical comeback
Everybody loves a comeback and therefore, a key to the success of drawing audiences into the cinemas in the first place was the marketing of this film as an old-school musical. Rather than tapping into the featured romance in the film between Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) to brand the film as another romantic comedy, it was marketing genius to put the musical theatre element at the forefront of the trailers. The idea of a comeback creates a sense of nostalgia, which allows the audience to reminisce and therefore bond with the film before even setting foot in the cinema.

Strategic release date
The release date for ‘La La Land’ fell immediately after the film received seven awards at the Golden Globes was also far from coincidental. In fact, Lionsgate, the film’s media agency, had been planning the local release dates since the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in late August. The Golden Globe Awards ceremony is renowned for attracting celebrities and widespread press coverage, in turn gaining huge recognition for both the nominees and winners.

Media saturation
Although ‘La La Land’ has been marketed as an ‘old-fashioned’ film, it has consciously used modern methods to reach potential audiences. From Instagram and Facebook to YouTube, ‘La La Land’ has been advertised on many social platforms, making it the most talked about Oscar nominee on social media. This digital approach contributed to the media saturation. Furthermore, the special screenings of the film, introduced by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling personally targeted the press, on and offline, including vloggers, generating extensive coverage of ‘La La Land’.

Dividing opinions
After successfully getting people through the doors, ‘La La Land’ seems to have evoked the ‘Marmite-effect’ on the audience and has received mixed responses. While the majority of viewers has fallen in love with this musical comeback, some have claimed that the music and singing were not on a par with the musical classics of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Although perhaps not an intentional marketing strategy, this division in opinions has certainly got people talking, contributing even more to the hype.

So, creating a strong brand, generating press coverage and getting potential consumers talking, are a few of the factors that have contributed to the box office success of ‘La La Land’. However, with the Oscars just around the corner, will the Academy ‘love it or hate it?’

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Lego Batmobile

November saw the opening of Leicester Square’s newest attraction. As you walk through the shop’s front door, to your left is a London Tube carriage, and Big Ben is to your right. Only this tower is six-metres high and made up of 200,000 Lego bricks. This is Lego’s biggest ever store, which may seem a strange move from a company based in an industry repeatedly reported to be in decline. But it hasn’t always been like this. Lego had to change its brand strategy in the mid-to-late 90s to survive, refocusing on 3-9 year-olds and redesigning sets and mini-figures so they could be interconnected across sets. At the same time Lego adapted to changing consumer habits, focusing in particular on popular culture and creating “prosumers”, an engaged community of consumers.

Lego in popular culture
Walk into any Lego store and you’ll be greeted with two distinct types of product: those of Lego’s own creation and brand extensions. Around the millennium, Lego mastered this market. Whether looking for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry or Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing fighter, Lego seemed to have products for every film fan. This continues today, with products ranging from Elsa’s Frozen castle to a humble police station. Lego isn’t beyond publicity stunts as well, recently teaming up with Chevrolet to create a life-size Batmobile.

But Lego’s focus on popular culture went beyond this. Recognising the potential of the video game market, it launched Lego Creators in 1998, and developed its brand extension portfolio with Lego Star Wars in 2005. Even now, Lego manages to bring together over 30 different franchises within its award winning Lego Dimensions game (probably the only place where you can see Batman, Marty McFly and Scooby-Doo all in the same place!). Films have also become an important part of the Lego model, as the success of The Lego Movie launched Lego onto the big screen, with a Lego Batman Movie spinoff hitting screens this in February. Beyond video games and films, the launches of Legoland Windsor and Legoland California in 1996 and 1999 respectively, saw the potential for experiential inspiration in children to create their own worlds in their homes, and established the community spirit essential to Lego today.

The “prosumer”
One of Lego’s strengths is that it help its customers become engaged and by launching the Rebrick Forum on the official Lego website, it allows customers to become producers, or “prosumers”, and create their own products to build. What was Lego’s secret to the success of this forum? Doing nothing! Lego decided to have very little input on its own forum, which allows consumers to be as creative as possible. Its sub-brand, Lego Architecture, was born from this forum and continues to be successful through selling in museums and galleries.

So perhaps there’s a lesson for other brands here. The community Lego has produced, whether binding customers or products, has no doubt contributed to why it’s still here today, almost 85 years later. Lego’s ability to combine products across a range of categories keeps customers feeling involved and its collaborations with popular culture and its amusement parks inspire the next generation of master builders.

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Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence

With the development of machine learning and AI, there is now more and more automation in our daily lives. Computers can now drive cars, book tables in restaurants and trade on the stock exchange. We now have machine learning algorithms that can write their own programmes based on what they discover. These technological advancements are an incredible achievement, a clear illustration of the vast capability of the human race. But are we really thinking about the implications of these advancements?

What we are starting to see is routine jobs now being handled by machines and you don’t need to look very far. One of the most obvious examples is in the supermarket where you can 'self checkout'. Clearly, the technology has further to go so the shopper doesn’t need to keep asking for help, but we are not far away from supermarkets with little or no staff. The fast food industry is also ripe for automation where routine tasks can be handled by machines again, with little need for help from staff. The automated answering message you encounter when you call your bank, utility company or the cinema also means far fewer people are now needed to man the traditional call centre. Public transport will be another area where humans will soon be surplus to requirements – the first driverless buses will start on routes in Singapore in the early part of 2017. Click here

These examples are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. As the technology develops there will be a big impact on the workforce required in the fast food industry, in all areas of manufacturing, in both high street and online retail and in automated distribution centres, to name just a few. It won't only be routine jobs that are affected – machines will start to make their presence felt in the health, education and financial sectors. This technological transition has the potential to displace thousands of workers, which would have a huge impact on the economy, particularly if job losses mean that nobody has any money to buy anything – this is a scenario we must avoid!

Technological advancement is inevitable but we must not let it be detrimental to our future. We need to develop a new existence where more automation serves to create work and purpose. Our greatest minds need to be employed to structure a new world where machines are part of a positive future, not our demise. What we must not forget is that we can be masters of our own destiny and choose not to interact with machines, particularly if it is going to have a detrimental effect on our future. It is important that we do not sleep walk into the future without realising that real human interaction will always be the cornerstone for all communication, both in our personal lives and in all areas of commerce.

As consumers we can now demand that we interact with engaging and knowledgeable people – imagine phoning your bank and an actual real person answers the phone, knows your profile and is able to help you quickly and efficiently. In an increasingly digitalised world, brands and businesses will now have an opportunity to stand out in their market places, by connecting in a real way with their customers, using honest human dialogue full of empathy and emotional intelligence – something that can never be replaced by machines.

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