Monthly Archives: February 2013

How many Daily Mail journalists does it take to copy 71% of a press release?

There was bad news for footballers the world over recently, as a fourteen-paragraph news article written by two Daily Mail journalists ranked the sportsmen lowest in the ‘sexy profession’ charts:

Sorry Becks, women have rated the sexiest professions … and ‘vain and over-confident’ footballers come last

Previously it has been assumed that most women would jump at the opportunity to date David Beckham, but not if the latest research is anything to go by.

A new survey asked women what they thought the sexiest profession was for a partner and the top result has been revealed as a musician or artist, while footballers come last with just 1 per cent of voters finding the athletic profession sexy.

Source: Daily Mail, 29 January 2013


There was no appearance in the list, of course, for journalists, but I’m sure the pair at the Daily Mail – Andrea Childs and bad-pr regular Bianca London – fare perfectly well for themselves.

Quite why it took two professional journalists to pen fourteen paragraphs of copy isn’t clear – especially when the copy came from a press release by extramarital ‘dating’ website IllicitEncounters:


How much of the fourteen-paragraph news article came from the press release, and how much from the two professional journalists credited with writing it? has the answers…


That’s just 29% of the news story coming from the professionals at the Daily Mail – or just less than 15% each. The rest was penned by IllicitEncounters’ PR guy Mike Taylor, who defended his work to me over Twitter:


“It’s not for me to decide what is actual news but as for the research I can assure you of it’s (sic) legitimacy”

This, I think, is where the world of Bad PR gets interesting. Let’s for a moment leave aside the belief that the research is legitimate (Mike may well believe it is, but very valid issues exist around cherry-picking, leading question wording, self-selected sample groups, poor polling methodology and – in the case of surveys via companies such as OnePoll – the incentivisation of participants to take part in surveys not designed for them, and to spend as little time as possible on their participation). 

Instead, let’s take a look at where the responsibility lies here. Who is the bad guy? Is it Mike Taylor, creating opportunistic pseudo-articles (‘Isn’t it time we had a more progressive Pope?‘ asks find-and-fuck dating website) in order to get his client into the press? Isn’t that just Mike’s job, and as he rightly says there ought to be someone out there filtering out the nonsense created by people like him?

How about Bianca London and Andrea Childs – isn’t it their responsibility to write better stories, to ignore useless PR puff-pieces such as this nonsense from IllicitEncounters, to use their platform to find real stories and report what’s really important? Or is it that, as a primarily fashion journalist, Bianca is instead repeatedly tasked with producing inordinate levels of content for the largest and least discerning online publication in the world, including 13 articles between February 14-15 alone, and in August last year as many as 101 articles in a single month? How would even the best of journalists keep up standards under such conditions?

Perhaps it’s the fault of the newspaper – shouldn’t the Mail Online put a stop to the damaging ‘publish anything’ mentality which pressurises journalists into the open arms of PR types from seedy websites and lowers the standards of journalism across the board? Or is it that in a world of free online news and falling revenues, the anything-goes publishing mentality keeps the advertising revenue stream profitable and facilitates the little genuine journalism that remains, as the newspaper survives as a profit-making enterprise?

The real blame, unfortunately, has to lie a little with each of these, and yet ultimately with none of them. The news system is broken, and even as each cog in the machine quietly turns correctly in its own direction, the entire news machine drives further over the cliff. 

“Men spend a lot of time grooming!” says company selling grooming tips, and socks

Straight out of the ‘lazily subvert a lazy stereotype’ drawer, we have the revelation in the Daily Mail that nowadays it’s those male types who are most obsessed with their looks:

HE’s the fairest of them all! Men now spend longer on grooming and getting ready than women

British men are no longer able to berate their female partners over how long they take to get ready for a night out – as they’re more likely to be hogging the bathroom themselves.

Recent figures reveal that men are spend longer on their daily grooming routine than females by styling their hair with driers and straighteners and deliberating over their outfit choice.

According to a survey by, the average man can spend up to 75 minutes every day washing, shaving and styling themselves. This compares with the 70 minutes that women spend on their beauty regime.

Source: Daily Mail, 25 January 2013


Let’s deal first of all with the hideously-couched language: ‘the average man can spend up to 75 minutes each day’. Which really only says ‘men are unlikely to spend more than 75 minutes per day, but may spend any amount of time less than that’. Which really only says absolutely nothing at all.

What’s more, given the nature of these studies, the questions we’re asking, who we’ve chosen to ask and the exact way we’ve chosen to ask them is key – particularly when the outcomes are self-reported, with men being asked to guess how long their average daily grooming regime takes. It’s fair to say there’s good cause to take any results – and subsequent sensationalist headlines – with enough salt as to give your cardiologist nightmares.

While we’re on the subject of taking results with a pillar of salt, it’s worth noting the source of the data:

The website that provides a sock subscription for ‘discerning gentleman’ quizzed 1250 men aged 18-50 on their grooming habits.

I sincerely hope I can’t be alone in refusing to allow the Daily Mail to throw out terms like ‘a sock subscription’ as if this is an actual thing which happens in the actual world we live in. Of the vast, multitudinous glut of sock subscription services out there, which one are we dealing with?

Mark Hall from welcomed the news as good for mankind.

He said: ‘This is superb news for the British gentleman. At last they’re paying more attention to their personal image, and mankind will be all the better for it.

‘Once men start to take care of themselves, they also start caring for the people and things around them. They turn from mere ‘men’ into ‘gentlemen’.’

Leaving aside the outdated and irritatingly reductive notion that men need to be ‘gentlemen’ (with the many associated implied judgements on behaviour that comes with this), it’s fair to say there’s a major commercial imperative behind the story. It isn’t hard to see how a company founded on offering grooming tips to men and encouraging attention to aesthetic detail – right down to the socks – would be interested in convincing men of the value of grooming.

“Some homes are better than others!” says housing company

Have you ever noticed that some houses are quite nice, whereas others are less so? You might think this obvious, but this was startling enough to make The Sun, The Daily Mail and The Daily Express recently.

The ideal house

THE perfect home is two miles from a supermarket, ten from the sea and in walking distance of a pub whose landlord knows your name, research shows.

It would also have good neighbours on both sides, be near the countryside and a newsagent — and contain at least two TVs.

Additionally it needs off-road parking, a spare room, an en-suite bathroom, a neat lawn — with trees around it — and fast web access.

Source: The Sun, 4 February 2013


So what makes the perfect home? Having a garden, a nice lawn, a nice dinner table, a nice bathroom, nice local conveniences… remarkable stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s so generic a list you expect to see ‘has windows’ and ‘neighbours who don’t regularly throw their excrement at our children’ on the list too.

Who has presented us with this revolutionary way of telling a nice house from a not-nice house?

An open fire, comfortable sofa and ‘privacy’ were also deemed important, the study by Banner Homes.

Yesterday Spokesman Piers Banfield said: ‘Community spirit and a close bond between neighbours is arguably a little harder to come by these days, but the study proves it’s something we still view as integral to being happy with where we live.

That would be Banner Homes, ‘one of the UK’s leading independent retailers of fine new homes’, telling the world that they understand what makes a nice new home.

The research which made the media was commissioned by Banner Homes’ PR agency You, and carried out by regular PR pollsters OnePoll.

“People damage their phones when rowing about affairs!” says mobile phone insurer

Modern technology is so often a double-edged sword. Sure, you can exploit the fruits of the digital age to, say, easily track the intrusions of commercial PR into the national media on a daily or twice-daily basis since the beginning of 2013 – for example.

Yet, on the flip side, the gadgetry of our age can catch out the errant adulterer, as the Daily Mail informed us recently:

Dial I for infidelity: Checking partner’s mobile phone is most common way affairs are exposed

In the past, lipstick on the collar, the scent of another woman’s perfume or receipts from mysterious dinners for two were the clues suspicious wives looked for to discover if their man was cheating.

But in the age of modern technology, now snooping on a partner’s mobile phone is the most common way to catch them out.

‘Going through mobile phone’ has been cited as the top reason why illicit affairs have been exposed, according to a new poll.

Source: Daily Mail, 25 January 2013


Clearly, this is a problem – just look at the poor woman crying and smearing her make-up in the (stock) photograph which accompanied the story. Still it’s encouraging that, finally, some community-spirited and moral souls have brought the issue to our attention:

Nearly 2,400 UK adults, all of whom had either been caught cheating while in a relationship or who had found a partner was being unfaithful to them in the past, were quizzed by a mobile phone insurance website on the circumstances in which the infidelity was discovered.

Of course, that these home truths are being given to us by a mobile phone insurer has no bearing upon the validity of the information being presented. As the Daily Mail clarifies for us: 

Mobile phone insurance website conduced the research after noting a rise in the number of claims for breakages that occurred to handsets during relationship splits or arguments.

Almost a tenth of the respondents taking part said that a mobile phone had become broken as a direct result of an argument within a relationship, such as by being thrown or dropped.

See? This story is based entirely on public good, and has absolutely no commercial link to the business of mobile insurance, as a handy spokesman is happy to explain:

John Lamerton, managing director of, said: ‘You’d be surprised how often relationship arguments and cheating gets cited in mobile phone insurance claims, even though we often don’t ask for that depth of detail. 

‘Evidently, those being unfaithful in relationships need to keep better tabs on who is looking at their mobile phone, as it’s by far the most common way in which cheaters are caught. Either that, or they should nip their cheating ways in the bud!

Either clean up your act or be more careful with your phone – that’s the message want you to take away from this story. That, and the importance of insuring your phone, just in case…

Valentine’s Day retailers say it with flawed surveys

It’s February 14th, and in accordance with tradition the nation will be heaving tonight with the sounds of relationships the country over being consumated. Specifically, the relationships between PR agencies and their satisfied clients, as retailers and businesses cash in on the Valentine’s Day media free-for-all.

While the exploitation of the most commercial of the Hallmark Holidays is nothing new, 2013 certainly hasn’t let the side down – the first rains of the Valentine’s PR monsoon falling as early as January, with pioneering research into the evolution of the pet name (Daily Mail, January 28th) published in the Daily Mail:

Move over darling! Old-fashioned favourite beaten into third place as babe and baby become Britain’s top terms of endearment

The research found that terms of affection such as ‘darling’ and ‘sweetheart’ have been superseded by more modern and streamline pet-names like ‘baby’ and ‘love’ (both of which were actually only invented in the year 2000 as part of Britain’s preparations for the Millennium Bug). These findings have far-reaching implications, according to the researchers – who coincidentally are a sex toy retailer named after two common pet names:

Lovehoney co-founder Neal Slateford said: ‘The ways pet names have changed over the years show we are getting even more affectionate towards each other and a little less formal.

‘As a nation, we are learning to lighten up when it comes to love and sex. That has to be a good thing.’

If I were an online sex toy retailer, I’m sure I’d find ample reason to agree. Still, that the survey produced media-friendly results of potential benefit to the company carrying out the research should in no way undermine the credibility of this online, self-reported and entirely-subjective poll, even as further findings from this PR exercise are explained:

And while the British might have a reputation for being unromantic, the poll found that the opposite is true, with 72 per cent saying that Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to show a partner how much they appreciate them.

If anybody is still unsure how to show a partner how much they’re appreciated, a Mr Slateford at has a number of expensive suggestions for you. Or perhaps you could always turn to vibrator vendors ‘Desire and Pleasure’, whose own online self-promotional pseudo-research was featured in The Sun (The Sun, February 7th):

CASH-strapped Brits are shunning expensive romantic nights out this Valentine’s Day — and stocking up on SEX TOYS instead, a survey claims.

The unromantic reputation of Britons was similarly noted by British tourist board ‘Visit Britain’, who pointed out (Daily Mail, February 10th):

Britain ‘too stuffy’ to host romantic visit as Italy and France is preferred by tourists

While we may be too stuffy to be romantic, we’re not too stupid to recognise reverse psychology. The lack of romance in modern-day Britain is clearly an area fraught with controversy, with a study published by Interflora insisting that Britons are a nation of romantics who fall in love at first sight (Daily Mail, February 6th), with one in five Brits positive the best way to declare new-found love is with a nice bunch of flowers. If only they could find a suitable florist.

While there’s clearly some rigorous academic dispute over the romance levels of the average Brit, at least one thing is certain – somewhere in Britain can be arbitrarily declared as more romantic than everywhere else. After all, in any closed set with random variance, there has to be an upper and lower limit – and what better way to highlight normal statistical distribution than by letting people know you sell perfume (Daily Mail, February 1st)?

When it comes to Valentine’s gifts, we’ve an abundance of research – each piece diligently compiled by online survey companies using questions written very carefully by PR companies on behalf of businesses aiming to use Valentine’s Day to secure column inches. Voucher website Groupon, for example, revealed flowers and chocolates just don’t cut it (The Sun, February 12th), and instead a gifts need to be memorable – rather like one of the experiences you can buy inexpensively on voucher websites like Groupon. And heaven help you if you get last-minute flowers from a petrol station – voucher website have research proving such an idea is a no-no (Daily Mail, February 11th).

On the other hand, as retailer Debenham’s helpfully researched, it’d be a good idea to buy the lady in your life some ‘posh knickers’ (Daily Mail, February 6th). Or perhaps you should take part in the British Heart Foundation’s charity initiative to write your partner a love note – after all, the BHF’s own research proves women prefer a simple, thoughtful gesture to an expensive gift anyway (Daily Mail, February 12th). But remember to buy your mistress something nice, too (Daily Mail, February 12th) – an extramarital dating website has research which says this is wise.

For those in long-term relationships, Valentine’s Day isn’t necessarily all department-store knickers and online vouchers – there are innumerable pitfalls into which the unsuspecting lover could fall. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of PR-led research with commercially-valuable conclusions to guide an impressionable couple – with advice from MSN to avoid relationship-killing public display of affection (Daily Mail, February 12th) and data produced by internet security experts McAfee (Daily Mail, February 5th) proving that not only are your exes cyber-stalking you, but that those explicit photos on your smartphone are vulnerable to being hacked unless you can find an expert willing to sell you internet security. Even married couples aren’t safe from the relationship curse, with research proving that excitement, romance, sex and affection are dead in the water after three and a half years of marriage (The Telegraph, February 9th) – that the data was gathered by Co-op Foods probably has nothing at all to do with their Valentine’s Meal Deal and associated ad campaign.

Of course, if all else fails, you could always opt for the free Valentine’s Day Divorce (Daily Mail, February 12th). After all, there’s only 365 days left until Valentine’s Day – and there’s a hell of a lot of spurious, commercially-driven and scientifically-worthless online surveys to fill in before then.

Originally published in The Guardian, 14 February 2013

“Some things make women feel nice about themselves!” says supermarket pandering to women

Attention all men! If you were wondering how to make your woman happy on Valentine’s day, why not take heed of some advice on offer in the media recently?

Why simple things like cuddles and kind words put a smile on our face

FORGET diamonds – a spontaneous cuddle is the best way to make the lady in your life smile.

When 2,000 women were quizzed, they said getting a hug from their partner was the number one thing to make them feel good.

They also got a warm glow from wearing comfortable underwear – and not just when it’s cold outside.

But men need not worry that their other half is planning a lifetime of wearing big, Bridget Jones-style knickers. The women said they also got the feel good factor from wearing sexy lingerie.

Source: Daily Express, 21 January 2013

And in the Daily Mail:

What do women want? Cuddles and compliments according to a list of 50 things that make a lady feel good

It is said the best things in life are free.

And it would appear that still rings true for many women.

Cuddles and compliments are at the top of a list of 50 things that make a woman feel good.

But splashing out on a lady won’t go amiss; being bought flowers and presents are some material things that they enjoy.

They also get a buzz from treating themselves to a bargain, or pushing the boat out for new perfume or sexy underwear.

Source: Daily Mail, 21 January 2013

Women, it seems, are pretty simple folk, with simple tastes. A quick cuddle, a chocolate bar, a bubble bath, a little camembert and a good book are all rated among the 50 most pleasurable experiences in a woman’s life. Who would have thought that something as readily available as cheese, chocolate and bubble bath would cheer a woman up so much? Well, I can think of someone…

A spokesman for Sainsbury’s, which commissioned the ‘feel-good factor’ poll of 2,000, said: ‘In January, we all need a pick-me-up but as this survey shows, it doesn’t need to cost the earth.

‘With the average female stating she feels good in what she is wearing for just three days a week perhaps a few more surprise compliments, alongside tucking into a good camembert and a good book could brighten the winter months no end.’ 

Odd, then, that a supermarket which sells all manner of fairly everyday items might find – via a poll they commissioned through 72 Point’s OnePoll – that those everyday items are some of the things that make women feel best about themselves…

“A good mum feels guilty all the time!” says parenting company guilt-tripping new parents

Ever on the lookout for ways to make women feel bad about themselves, The Daily Mail and The Telegraph newspapers recently pondered the question ‘Why do mums these days feel so damn guilty all the time?’ 

Guilt of modern mothers at having too little time for children

Modern mothers are constantly wracked by guilt – with not earning enough money or being able to give the children the attention they crave topping the list, it emerged today.

Being too busy or tired, not being able to afford everything the kids want and returning to work also made the list.

Other issues which leave mothers feeling bad include not going on more family days out, relying on the television to occupy kids while doing housework and a lack of patience.

Source: The Telegraph, 21 January 2013

The Daily Mail took it one step further, suggesting not only are some mothers feeling guilt pangs, but in fact MOST mothers are:

The trick here is quite apparent: tell the world that most mothers are constantly wracked with guilt – even if this isn’t true – and you’ll make those mothers who aren’t feeling guilty worry that they’re missing something, or that they’re less attentive and responsible than other mothers… making the number of mothers who feel guilty that little higher. 

Plus, if that weren’t enough, there’s even a handy checklist of things most mothers are worried about (read: things a GOOD mother OUGHT to be worried about). 

Still, this is PR after all, so who is behind it?

Joanne Evans, head of marketing for NUK, said: ‘It seems mums are suffering a huge amount of guilt when it comes to their kids, within days of their child being born because of the myth surrounding how we should care for our babies.

‘Whether using a dummy or deciding to use formula milk instead of breastfeeding, mums can feel like they are doing something wrong within their child’s first few days of life.

‘And these results show that the guilt never goes away – if anything, it only gets worse as their child gets older.

That would be NUK, the babycare product company, telling us that all mothers are worried all the time about fears which could allayed by buying affordable babycare products, such as:

2. Not being able to afford everything they want
6. Not earning enough money
14. Not having more money to spend on new clothes / toys for my children
17. Not having enough time or money to provide freshly cooked and healthy meals
25. Feeding a baby formula milk instead of breastfeeding
26. Being a stay-at-home mum and not bringing in any money
27. Leaving my baby to cry and self-soothe

The research came once more from polling company OnePoll, with a churnalism analysis of the resulting press release making for interesting reading:

The Daily Mail’s article took 77% of the original press release and published it verbatim – that’s reasonably interesting. However, The Telegraph managed to take this press release and turn it into two articles, both taking over 90% of their copy from the one press release.

If that doesn’t make you worry, I’m not sure what does.

“Babies are expensive!” says bank looking for business from new parents

Despite being prohibited from sale on the open market, it’s hard to deny that children are expensive creatures – a point which was rather well made in the Daily Mail recently:

The baby buffer: Parents-to-be put aside £2,547 to pay for their new arrival as the cost of starting a family rises

From university fees to pocket money allowances, everyone knows that children don’t come cheap. 

And according to the latest research, typical parents-to-be have a ‘baby buffer’ of £2,547 in the bank to prepare for their new arrival.

A detailed study into the financial implications of bringing a baby into the world found that most of the money goes on the practical aspects of having a baby such as buggies, cots and car seats.

Source: Daily Mail, 22 January 2013

It’s a radical suggestion, of course, that procreating can be a strain on the bank balance – file this story firmly in the ‘confirming what everyone already knew’ drawer. 

Speaking of bank balances:

Simon Healy of new British bank Aldermore, who carried out the research, said: ‘It is a wise move to start thinking about saving before you start to plan a family but it’s not always possible.

‘If children are on the horizon, it is a good idea to put something away every month or so. 

‘It all adds up and may help ease the financial burden when the new arrival makes an appearance.’

In fact, this whole story was based on a press release from Aldermore, a new bank looking to claim a share of the young-family market.

The research was, unsurprisingly, carried out by 72 Point’s Onepoll – who helped create a press release which was picked up by Bianca London of the Daily Mail, with a remarkable 84% of the copy used verbatim.

“Stag and hen parties are worth the money!” says company organising stag and hen parties

Has anyone ever noticed how expensive Stag Dos and Hen Dos are getting?

Time was, people were happy to have a few drinks bought for them down the Dog and Duck (before the Dog and Duck was bought out by a national chain and converted into ‘Canard K9’, the gastropub). These days, though, if you aren’t spending a week go carting and hovercrafting around Amsterdam’s red light district, you’re letting the side down.

Fortunately, this adventure arms-race hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Daily Mail:

Cost of staging a stag or hen party soars 50% in five years – with average spend now £157 per person

Stag and hen dos are one of the most enjoyable elements of planning a wedding – but they can also be one of the most costly.

With the average cost of a stag party coming in at £153 per person and a hen party now reaching £157, there’s nothing cheap about staging a stag or a hen, even if you can’t say the same about what goes on during the event.

The study, carried out by Stag Company and Hen Heaven found that spending had soared by over 50 percent over the past five years as it appears that no matter the economic situation people will find the money to give their friend a memorable send-off.

Source: Daily Mail, 18 January 2013


So, what have we learnt? Well, we’ve learnt that men lie (a good take-home message from any PR story), that stag dos go to strip clubs, and that pre-wedding celebrations can be expensive.

Of course, this isn’t any old research – this is PR-funded, commercially-driven research… so who paid for it?

The study, carried out by Stag Company and Hen Heaven found that spending had soared by over 50 percent over the past five years as it appears that no matter the economic situation people will find the money to give their friend a memorable send-off.

That would be a company who specialises in arranging stag and hen parties, telling the world that even when finances get tight, there’s no reason not to splash out on an expensive party before you get married. And if you’re looking for ideas on how to spend that money, well…

The survey was conducted by the Stag Company and Hen Haven who have recently introduced Las Vegas as a destination.

Hen Heaven CEO Rob Hill indicated that Vegas is already proving popular with Hen Heaven site visitors:

‘We’ve seen a huge response to our new Las Vegas hen weekend packages, and rightly so. 

‘Las Vegas is one of the ultimate destinations for many types of holiday or getaway, and hen parties are no different’


“Women lie about how much they eat!” says dodgy dieting firm

Few things feel as familiar to a seasoned PR watcher as a story built around a stereotype, especially a stereotype that’s damaging to women.

Whether we’re discovering women are addicted to shopping, obsessed with make-up or simply hating on their mother-in-law, a solidly anti-woman article is like a comfortable pair of slippers to those of us who look out for these things. Which is why it was impossible to turn down:

Women own up to guilt over eating habits

Boredom, stress and depression trigger secret snacking, poll finds

Millions of British women have eating binges, lie about how much they weigh and have a negative relationship with food, according to a survey. The study of 2,000 women also found that eating in secret is commonplace, with many refusing to tell family and friends the truth about how much they consume. Researchers said boredom, stress and feeling depressed were the biggest triggers causing women to eat more.

Three-quarters of UK women – 24 million – say they often feel guilty about how much they eat. Women typically think about food 12 times a day and those under 25 have it on their minds twice as much as those over 55, the poll found. Six out of 10 told researchers they had lied about how much food they ate, almost half (43.74%) said they snacked in secret and more than a quarter (27.68%) confessed to binge eating – this rises to more than a third (36.72%) of those under 25.

Still, this isn’t our usual fare: yes, the central point is that women are – in their millions – binging on junk food and eating in secret, causing an unhealthy relationship with food. That bit is no real surprise. But to appear in the Observer is a rarity – neither the Observer nor the Guardian are featured often in these pages, both holding themselves generally above this kind of damaging, flimsy commercial PR. 

Does the appearance of the research in the Observer mean this is more legitimate than what we usually see? Are there really millions of women around the country secretly fighting an unhealthy and damaging war with food and their own bodies? Is the research really more robust than the cynical PR we’re accustomed to? 


Linda O’Byrne, chief nutritionist for New Atkins Nutritional, which organised the survey, said: “These are very worrying figures that reveal many women are ill at ease with food. Whether it is bingeing, lying about how much you weigh or eating in secret, you must do your best to stamp it out. On a diet or not, food should never be the enemy. It should be a positive and not a negative influence in your life.”

So, that’s a no, then. In fact, the research which essentially tells us that women are not to be trusted around food comes from a company selling the Atkins Diet fad

We expect this kind of non-journalism from the Daily Mail, Daily Express and the Telegraph – you’re meant to be better than this, The Observer.