Monthly Archives: December 2012

“Women need warning before a surprise holiday!” says airline company

Men thinking of booking a surprise trip for their other half should think again, if ‘research’ published in the Daily Telegraph is to be believed:

Planning a surprise trip? Give her eight days’ notice

Women may claim that they desire spontaneity from their man, but a study suggests they actually want eight days’ notice of any “surprise” trip.

Three out of five women in the survey confessed to hating surprises and a third said they would hate it if their partner suddenly sprang a short break on them.

But that may be just as well, because the average woman is treated to just two romantic trips from their partner during the course of a relationship, the research found.

Source: Daily Telegraph, 23 October 2012

What’s more, the Daily Mail agreed:

DON’T surprise her! Women confess they hate spontaneity from their partner – especially if they spring a weekend away

This will come as a surprise to many men who expect to earn Brownie points by whisking their other half off for a surprise romantic getaway. 

In a recent survey, 60 per cent of women confessed they hate surprises, with a third admitting they would be annoyed if their partner sprang a holiday on them – because they would have no time to prepare for it.

The research found the typical woman wants seven days and 11 hours notice before even the shortest break so she can plan her outfits (with at least three shopping trips) and arrange cover at work.

Source: Daily Mail, 22 October 2012

Yet, the ‘research’ is in fact a press release put out by British Airways, to remind men that sometimes women actually like to be taken on holiday, and that British Airways fly people to their holidays:

“Staying with the family for Christmas causes arguments!” says hotel chain

With the festive season throwing together families across the country, what better way to spread Christmas cheer than to remind people how stressful it can be to be around your loved ones. Take this from the Telegraph, complete with the inevitable henpecked husband photo:

First argument on Christmas Day? 10.13am

The average British family will have at least five arguments on Christmas Day – with the first row taking place at 10.13am, a new survey shows.

The research surveyed 2,000 British households to see how Christmas Day will be celebrated.

And after the early confrontation, the next family row will take place at 12.42pm when 38 per cent of children will moan about receiving the wrong presents.

Source: Telegraph, 23rd December 2012

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Also getting into the festive spirit was the Daily Express:

YOUR FIRST CHRISTMAS DAY ROW WILL BE AT 10.13AM

Couples have their first row at 10.13am on Christmas Day/posed by models

SEASON of goodwill? Perhaps not. The average British family will have at least five arguments on Christmas Day.

Researchers can even say when the first of tomorrow’s rows will take place – at 10.13am, as preparations get under way.

The early confrontation will be followed by the next family tiff just over two hours later at 12.42pm – when 38 per cent of children will moan about receiving the wrong presents.

Source: Daily Express, 24th December 2012

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Who can we thank for this slice of Seasonal sunshine?

The study by hotel chain Travelodge surveyed 2,000 British households to see how Christmas Day will be celebrated – or not.

We can be certain that the press release came from Travelodge, as they publish the whole thing in the Press Office of their website:

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It might seem odd that a hotel firm might want to publicise the idea that Christmases around our family are hard to bear and cause a huge amount of friction – what would they have to gain from promoting this view (besides getting the name into the national press, which is a goal in itself)?

Shakila Ahmed, Travelodge spokeswoman said: “Christmas Day entails lots of excitement, tension and high expectations. Therefore family flare-ups are bound to happen, especially as lots of people are staying together under one roof.

“To ease tensions this year we have noticed that more Britons are booking their Christmas guests into a nearby Travelodge to help reduce the additional family stress factor. By stopping over at a nearby hotel, all parties get the space that they need and when united on the day they can truly enjoy their family time together.”

So the angle becomes clear: stay with your families at Christmas and you’ll have a miserable time, but book into a nearby hotel and you’ll be able to approach your family with love and harmony. Merry Christmas one and all, from the Travelodge PR team!

“All the cool kids go abroad loads!” says airline firm

British people are more adventurous than ever before, according to new ‘research’. And how exactly does this spirit of adventure manifest itself? From The Daily Express, November 9th 2012:

SURGE IN OVERSEAS TRIPS

THE average adult will travel more than 18,000 miles around the world by the age of 40 – nearly seven times as far as their parents.

A study yesterday revealed the typical 40-year-old has been on at least 13 holidays abroad and 21 in the UK while their parents would have only visited five European countries, clocking up 2,653 miles.

Source: Daily Express, 9th November 2012

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And similarly from the Daily Mail on December 1st 2012:

Adventurous Britons travel seven times further than their parents did by the same age

The average Briton will travel 18,324 miles by the time they reach 40 – almost seven times as far as their parents did by the same age.

Researchers found that on turning 40, the typical adult will have been on at least 13 holidays abroad and another 21 in the UK. 

While today’s Brits are travelling to far flung destinations with their families, on average the previous generation travelled only as far as Italy.

Research shows travellers today are becoming more and more adventurous, with seven in 10 choosing destinations where they can experience unknown cultures and sights.

Source: Daily Mail, 1st December 2012

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The same story also made, at least, the paper editions of The Sun and The Daily Star, as well as the paper edition of the Daily Mail.

While it may well be true that people of the current generation travel more than their parents (in face it’s almost guaranteed to be true), as ever the source of the information is vital in figuring out why this research made the news. 

The poll by British Airways High Life magazine found travellers are increasingly adventurous, with seven in 10 choosing destinations where they can experience unknown cultures and sights.

The research came from British Airways, who have something of a vested interest in promoting the fact that people travel by planes an awful lot.

The research was carried out by polling company One Poll, part of the 72 Point PR company.

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Looking into the press release fully, and it becomes clear what angle British Airways are pushing: ‘to be part of ‘Generation Curious’ you must be adventurous, and jet-set to far flung places of the world… and British Airways will take you there, including to our selected hottest places to travel in 2013’. 

The Churnalism rating? The Daily Mail article took 88% of the original press release,  while Nathan Rao of the Express contributed barely a word, taking 78% of his short article from the BA press release.

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“Most people will stay home and drink at New Year!” says supermarket selling cheap booze

Given that finances are tight, people are planning to stay at home on New Year’s Eve, giving the expensive pubs and clubs a swerve – or so says the Daily Star and Daily Mail: 

IT’S NEW YEAR IN FOR BRITS

SKINT Brits are set to shun the traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations at a pub or club.

A staggering 83% of cash-strapped families will celebrate at home instead.

And 43% of those will watch a movie rather than entertain friends.

Source: Daily Star, 27 December 2012

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New Year? We’re staying in! Cash-strapped Brits prepare for a muted celebration on the sofa to welcome in 2013

Cash-strapped Britons are preparing for muted New Year’s Eve celebrations with eight in ten planning a quiet night in, a survey revealed yesterday.

A record 83 per cent said they expect to stay at home than go out to party, according to the poll of 2000 people.

Of those, 43 per cent will simply settle down on the sofa and watch a film with treats and snacks.

Another 38 per cent plan to have a meal and a bottle of wine, whilst 12 per cent will be hosting friends and family.

Source: Daily Mail, 27 December 2012

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So, we’re all shunning the outside world in order to stay in and have drinks, wine, snacks and treats, according to the survey. That would be the survey run by…

Forty-four per cent of people surveyed by supermarket Morrisons for the latest poll said their main reasons for staying in this year were concerns about finances.

That would be the survey run by Morrisons, the supermarket – the very place where one could by drinks, wine, snacks and treats, if one had reason to believe most people were shunning the outside world in order to stay in on New Year’s Eve.

Morrisons said it is expecting to sell over 89,000 bottles of champagne, cava and prosecco as people toast the New Year at home.

The supermarket also predicts 14 tonnes of crisps and over 43,000 packs of party poppers will be bought.

Sonia Whiteley-Guest, from Morrisons, said: ‘We understand that budgets are a little tight this year.

‘People want to enjoy celebrating what a great year 2012 has been with people they love and care about rather than worry about the dent on their wallet.’

I for one am glad that Morrisons are so concerned with our wallets, and I’m particularly glad they were able to secure a spot in the Daily Mail and the Daily Star to let me know this very fact about them.

Anatomy of a Bad PR story, @UberFacts and zombie statistics

When I lecture on PR in the media (which I do from time to time – get in touch if your institution or group is interested), I often stress the point that while an original PR story making the news is one thing, the impact of a nonsense article goes far beyond that, and can appear in all manner of places, even years after the original article is published.

Take, for example, the statistic I happened to notice on Twitter, tweeted by the nonsense-spewing @UberFacts account:

A survey found one in five women have ended a relationship because their significant other was too busy playing video games.

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This was retweeted (at the time of writing this) by over 1,300 people, and favourited by a further (or possibly overlapping) 450 people – not an insignificant audience. As I’ve spent much of the day researching stories, I thought I’d actually find the survey in question – which was unsurprisingly easy, after all I have access to the same tools (Google) as UberFact, and the statistic has to have come from somewhere:

Poll: 20 per cent of women dumped ex-partners over gaming habits

Call of Duty named game most likely to cause a row

One in five women have dumped their partner because of their web or gaming habits, says MyVoucherCodes.

Research by the UK online discount site revealed that 80 per cent of women claim their other half spends too much time playing computer games or browsing the web.

Furthermore, 70 per cent said the gaming addiction was the cause of arguments between the couple.

MyVoucherCodes said Call of Duty was rated the game most likely to start a row between a couple.

Source: PC World Australia, 20 January 2012

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In fact, then, the statistic quoted by UberFact in December 2012 was from a PR poll commissioned by an online voucher company in January 2010, released to piggyback on the popularity of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (released in November 2009).

What’s more, MyVoucherCodes is a company I’ve seen put out dodgy PR surveys in the past, and a few moments on Google found further criticism of their PR work, including this:

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The next simple step was to search for ‘MyVoucherCodes’ and ‘PR’ on Google – giving me very clearly the name of the PR company responsible for their barrage of dodgy survey stories: 10 Yetis.

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Once more, 10 Yetis were a familiar name – they’re a PR company, but not a polling company, so they must have hired a market research company to conduct their research. It would have to be a market research company comfortable churning out quick turnaround, high-volume, low-quality surveys… which brings us once more back to the ubiquitous rulers of the Bad PR seas: 72 Point’s polling company OnePoll

So there we have it – from spotting the ‘fact’ put out by Uberfacts to tracking it back to the client, PR company and polling company took, in total, 11 minutes.

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What’s particularly infuriating in all this, of course, is that the tweet from UberFacts made no mention of the compromised source of the data, or that this was commercial PR rather than legitimate research. This, I fear, is the biggest danger of Bad PR: today’s commercial story becomes tomorrow’s watercooler fact becomes nexy year’s truism becomes received wisdom.

Companies like 10Yetis, 72 Point and MyVoucherCodes don’t care that the stories they’re creating aren’t true – their only concern is to get a name and an angle mentioned in the media, at the time of publishing. They certainly don’t care that a statistic generated from dodgy data for an advert today can rear its head years from now, free from the trappings of context and the necessary clues to be able to establish the data’s origin. This is misinformation, zombie statistics at their most frustrating. 

“Men need to be better at buying presents for women!” says shop selling presents for women

You know how men are completely clueless and baffled simpletons when it comes to anything at all, especially when it comes to their partner? A bit like the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Huffington Post told us recently:

Wife’s bra size? Dress size? Date of birth? This might sound like basic information but millions of men haven’t the faintest idea 

Millions of men are completely clueless when it comes to choosing a Christmas gift for their significant other a new survey has found.

39 per cent have no idea what their wives’ bra size is, while another 23 per cent don’t know what dress size she takes.

Most shamefully of all, 12 per cent don’t even know their other halves’ date of birth.

Source: Daily Mail, 26 November 2012

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We poor, befuddled, baffled and idiotic men! Millions of us are astonishingly ignorant about our lady partners (presumably the Mail is only talking about heterosexual married couples, it seems). We sit across the breakfast table, staring blankly at the stranger looking back at us, desperately trying to place where we’ve seen her before, and what she does for a living, and what her favourite perfume is. Because knowing your wife’s favourite perfume is one of the absolute most important details you can know. We know this is true for two reasons:

1) The article in the Mail makes this very clear to us:

The survey also found that 34 per cent of men have no idea what their partners’ favourite perfume is and 24 per cent don’t know what her favourite clothes shop is…

…Not surprisingly, the research, conducted by high street beauty retailer, Superdrug, also found that 40 per cent of couples have fallen out because the man has forgotten – or not bothered to ask – about things he ought to know.

That would be high street beauty retailer and perfume seller, Superdrug, informing men that forgetting which perfume your wife wears will lead to a falling out. This comes, bear in mind, one month before Christmas…

2) The article is a near duplicate of an article which appeared in the Mail in February 2010, which also spoke of ignorant men neglecting basic pieces of information on their partners, such as date of birth, eye colour and… favourite perfume:

Think he knows you? Think again! How millions of men don’t know their partner’s dress size, date of birth, or even eye colour 

Facing each other over the breakfast table each morning, a husband and wife might think they know everything there is to know about each other.

In his case, he would probably be wrong.

Millions of British males are astonishingly ignorant about their partner’s basic characteristics including clothes size and even eye colour.

Source: Daily Mail, 09 February 2010

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The source of the story back in February 2010 – five days before Valentine’s Day – was the Perfume Shop, as made explicit in the article at the time:

According to a survey of 2,000 men buying scent for their female partner at the Perfume Shop, six out of ten believed they knew her inside out.

So, if this data was from men caught walking out of the Perfume Shop, what gives? Has Superdrug hijacked the research to run an almost-identical story over two years later?

I doubt it – in fact, the original piece wasn’t actually a survey of men buying perfume for their partner in the perfume shop, but was in fact an online survey from 72 Point’s ubiquitous nonsense factory OnePoll… as was the latest survey put out on behalf of Superdrug:

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This leads to some rather intriguing questions, it’s fair to say. For instance, was the data gathered by the Perfume Society back in 2010 so stunningly accurate that almost three years later it correlates so closely with the figures gathered in a follow up study?

Or, conversely, was the data gathered in the survey commissioned by the Perfume Shop repackaged, slightly updated and then re-sold as being for Superdrug much later? We know for certain Superdrug were behind the latest story, as their press release is still featured on the 72 Point site, so this certainly isn’t a case of Superdrug rechurning the work done for the Perfume Shop brand.

Most intriguingly, if the latter, are Superdrug aware that the stats they’re running with are potentially almost three years outdated? When I called Superdrug’s PR agency Z-PR to ask them, I was told the research was “unequivocally brand new research, which (the PR contact) commissioned herself”. Curious…

“Men need help buying lingerie!” says lingerie firm ahead of Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching, it’s little surprise to see the PR industry taking full advantage. Take this classic playing of the ‘men are hapless’ angle, from Martha de Lacy in the Daily Mail last month:

Men are pants at buying knickers! £100m of underwear bought as gifts lie unworn in our drawers because men keep getting it wrong
– One in five women NEVER wear the lingerie their partner gives them
– Women most dread receiving crotchless underpants and leather knickers
– Men in Edinburgh spend most on lingerie sets for women: £55 compared to national average of £42
– Welsh women most likely to hate lingerie gifted by their partner

Lingerie has always been a popular Christmas gift for a man to give his girlfriend or wife. But that doesn’t mean he ever gets it right.

Over £100m-worth of ‘lingerie let-downs’ lie gathering dust under beds and in the bottom of drawers thanks to bad choices made by men when it comes to purchasing underwear gifts for the women in their lives, according to new research.

Source: Daily Mail, 16 November 2012

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It ought to be no surprise to regular readers of this site that the story – emphasising how clueless men are about lingerie and how much of a classic and popular present lingerie is for Christmas – was placed into the news by a lingerie company, by the name of Fox & Rose.

What may well prove a surprise, however, is that a near-identical story appeared at almost exactly this time last year, in the same publication, previously used to promote laundry specialists Dr Beckmann:

Too racy, too lacy: Twelve million pairs of Christmas knickers will NEVER be worn
– 24 million pairs of knickers will be given over Christmas – half will never be worn
– 31 per cent of knickers bought by men for their partners are too small

A pair of knickers might seem like the perfect last minute present purchase as Christmas Day looms ever closer… but men should choose very carefully.

A national survey has shown that half of the 24 million pairs of knickers given over the festive period will never be worn. They’re too small, too racy, too lacy, or simply the wrong colour.

Twelve million pairs will simply get pushed to the back of the underwear drawer, while a third will get worn just once before being relegated.

Source: Daily Mail, 13 December 2012

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A year apart, the same story – replete with saucy headline and baffled befuddled men chaps – appears, advertising completely different products. Given that the research is the same, we can do some basic maths:

  • 2011: 12m pairs of knickers go un-worn
  • 2012: £100m pairs of knickers go un-worn
  • Therefore, the average price of a pair of knickers = £100m / 12m = £8.33.
  • However, in the 2012 research, we’re told that the average price is actually £42

Thus, we can tell, that either the price of lingerie has risen dramatically in the last 12 months… or this data is simply meaningless PR drivel designed to play on and perpetuate an existing stereotype for the purposes of flogging underwear at Christmas.

“Children know too little about Jesus!” says the Bible Society

Christmas is coming, and hot on the heels of results from the UK census showing that Christianity is dwindling we have another blow to the faithful:

Scandal of Mary and Joseph passes most Britons by – as they place Father Christmas by the manger

Only a quarter of Britons are aware that Jesus was born out of wedlock while some even believe that Father Christmas was part of the nativity scene, a survey has found.

While many could be forgiven for confusion over Mary and Joseph’s exact marital status, the study also highlights more unexpected gaps in the nation’s knowledge of the Christmas story.

Scores of people tested thought Jesus was placed in a Moses basket rather than a manger.

Source: Telegraph, 17 December 2012

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Nearly 40% of Britons believe baby Jesus’ first visitor was SANTA and that he slept in a basket

Despite nativity plays commencing in schools across the country, it seems many people struggle with the storyline of the birth of baby Jesus.

A majority of Britons appear to be unaware that Jesus was born out of wedlock and some believe that the first person to visit the manger was Santa.

Only 26 per cent knew that Mary and Joseph were betrothed when asked about the story of the birth of Christ, a survey revealed.

Source: Daily Mail, 17 December 2012

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Pause for a moment and consider that 40% figure – four in ten people really think Santa was present at the birth of Jesus? Four people in every ten think a fictional character… was visited by Santa? Well, no… at least not when compared to the correlating statistic in the Telegraph:

The pollsters ICM asked just over 1,000 children and 1,000 parents to take a short multiple-choice test to gauge their knowledge of the Christmas story on behalf of the Bible Society…

When asked who first visited the baby Jesus, only 46 per cent correctly identified the Shepherds while almost as many thought it was the wise men, and 13 per cent suggested angels.

In total 37 people thought that the answer was Father Christmas.

In fact, the supposed 40% of people as reported in the Mail was actually fewer than 40 people in total. Of which, many are likely to be children. Which makes a lot more sense, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Leaving aside the very real doubts over the nativity story as described in the gospels – such as the inclusion of a census, stable, shepherds, and in fact any proof that Jesus existed – is there a reason why we might suspect there’s more to this story than it seems at first? Like, say, an undeclared invested interest biasing the results?

Over 2,000 children and parents were polled on behalf of the Bible Society about their nativity play knowledge, and the results showed some major holes in the story.

So the Bible Society, in the same week that statistics show there are fewer Christians in the country than expected, thinks children know too little about the Christian holy book. Go figure.