Monthly Archives: September 2015

“Students love beer!” says price comparison website, with one eye on the University calendar

Universities with the cheapest and most expensive pints of beer revealed in MoneySupermarket research

Accommodation: check. Car insurance: check. Home insurance: check. Cost of the average pint of beer: let’s have a look.

New research from the UK’s leading price comparison website, MoneySupermarket, has revealed the best and worst value universities in the UK for students, coming just at the time while hundreds of thousands are preparing to head to their chosen institution.

Source: Independent, 14th September 2015

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Durham crowned best value UK university thanks to cheap pints and low rent

These universities may reek of tweed and Hunter wellies, but they are better value than some of their more down-to-earth rivals and this is why

Hard-up students heading to Durham University will find their cash goes further as it has been named the best value for money uni in Britain.

Source: Mirror, 8th September 2015

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Who’d have thought that a price comparison website would compare the price of beer? Well, anyone who realises that the MoneySupermarket PR team will be trying to use the start of the university term to convince students to use their price comparison tool to buy contents insurance for their new university residences… and students love beer, right?

“Some drivers are better than others!” says tyre firm

Think you’re a good driver? Take this psychological test to find out if you’re a ‘punisher’, an ‘escapee’ or a know-it-all

Whether you shout and swear at bad drivers who cut you up or are blissfully unaware of the road wars happening around you, people cope with rush-hour driving in different ways.

Now a group of psychologists has identified seven ways in which people respond on the road and have created an interactive quiz based on its research.

Personalities range from ‘the competitor’ for whom life is a race to ‘the punisher’ who takes it upon themselves to get even with bad drivers.

Source: Daily Mail, 8th September 2015

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What kind of driver are you? This latest piece of research suggest you fall into one of seven categories, although this research falls into a certain category itself – PR for a tyre manufacturer:

The study was carried out by experts at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) with tyre manufacturer Goodyear.

That said, the involvement of LSE is interesting, as it’s their story which gets the write-up in the newspapers:

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Where does this fall on the Bad PR spectrum? It’s a tough question. On the one hand, the involvement of LSE and Dr Chris Tennant may suggest there’s more to the science and legitimacy of this research than we see in the majority of Bad PR stories.

On the other hand, it’s not unusual for these science-led PR stories to involve very little science, instead using the reputation of a professional body or organisation to hide the fact that this article is little more than an advert for Goodyear.

In fact, even when the science is legitimate, the involvement of PR can taint it and leave it essentially worthless. It’s why, in my opinion, professional scientists and research bodies ought to stay well away from PR, if they want to keep their reputation beyond reproach.

“People hate living too far from work!” says London property rental company

British workers reveal what they hate most about the daily commute to work

The commute to work is never something to look forward to, especially since a study earlier this year suggested Britons spend over a year of their lives travelling to and from work.

So it’s not surprising that 45 per cent of British workers reportedly put a short commute as their top priority when moving home, and 47 per cent said they would not be willing to work anywhere that was “too far”.

Source: Independent, 2nd September 2015

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Commuting is a huge pain, and it’s therefore vitally important to reduce the time spent getting between where you live and where you work. And by ‘where you work’, obviously I mean London – this is a national newspaper after all, why would they assume anyone worked outside of London? We know London is key to the story, because of the company behind the ‘research’:

A new survey of 2,000 adults was carried out by One Poll on behalf of Get Living London. It found out the top 10 hates for commuters, as well as what they get up to during the journey to pass the time.

Note not only the mention of this blog’s favourite PR polling company, OnePoll, but that the story was paid for by Get Living London – a property rental company who specialise in London properties. We know this, because the story is merely a trimmed-down version of the press release on their website.

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“Your partner is hiding their debts from you!” says credit rating company

Do YOU know much your spouse earns? Half of married couples don’t know – and less than two-thirds discuss finances

Married couples may have agreed to share their lives – but it seems they are a bit more reluctant to share their bank statements.

A survey has found that almost half of married people do not know what their spouse earns.

And a secretive further third only divulge details of their finances to their partner on a ‘need to know’ basis.

Source: Daily Mail, 3rd September 2015

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Debt news now, and the ‘finding’ that we have no clue about our partners’ finances is a story that got plenty of play – not just in the Daily Mail, but also in the Metro and in two separate stories in the Telegraph: “How well do you really know your partner?” (3rd September 2015) and “How long should you wait before asking a date’s salary?” (3rd September 2015).

Clearly it’s a story that tapped into a nerve – which will no doubt please the company with the vested interest in making you suspicious about what debts your partner might have, who just happened to create this finding:

The study, by credit rating agency Noddle, also asked about finances at the beginning of a relationship, finding that more than a quarter of single men and women said that they would break up with a new partner if they found out they were in a lot of debt.

Noddle are the kind of company that can tell you if your partner has any debts, so it’s hardly going against their commercial interests to plant into the minds of readers that debt would be a good reason to end a relationship – despite, it’s worth pointing out, the overwhelming majority of people (75%) disagreeing with that particular hook line. As ever, with Bad PR surveys, the numbers do not matter, they’re simply the delivery mechanism for the message. As is the obligatory spokesperson quote:

Jacqueline Dewey, of Noddle, said: ‘Our research shows that as a nation we still shy away from talking about money, even with our spouse or partner.

‘Whilst it may seem tempting to keep this information to yourself, it can have a detrimental impact on your financial decisions and, ultimately, your relationship.

‘Knowing about your financial health – and that of anyone you are financially involved with – is crucial whether you’re applying for a credit card, getting a mortgage or looking for the best deals on utilities or mobile phones.

‘That’s why we’re calling for consumers to have full financial disclosure with their other halves.’

Yes, Jacqueline, you want people to understand their finances for the good of their relationship – not, say, because it will result in more business for Noddle.

“Wedding guests give rubbish presents!” says gift card company

Are you a marriage miser? Nearly half of guests give newlyweds belongings from their own HOME rather than buy a gift

As the wedding season draws to a close, research reveals how thoughtless and stingy British guests can be.

A cheeky 41 per cent of Britons have repurposed something from their own home to give it as a gift to the happy couple, while one in five have signed their name on another guest’s gift.

One in 10 have even lied to the newlyweds by telling them their gift is on its way, when in fact they haven’t even bought it.

Source: Daily Mail, 4th September 2015

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Britain is a nation or horrendous regifters, who use weddings as an excuse to pass along old tat they no longer want. Of course, that’s only the headline finding, it’s not the real hook for the company behind this ‘research’. Things start to get a little clearer in the next paragraph:

And it’s not just what to buy that’s keeping Brits awake at night – but how much to spend, according to the survey of 1,536 adults.

A tenth of respondents admit that they overspend in an attempt to not look cheap, with £32 being the minimum the average person can spend without looking like a skinflint.

So it’s not so much a case of people being too stingy to buy something nice, but it’s more that we all get so stressed trying to figure out what to buy. Enter, stage left, the company behind the PR:

Aoife Davey, group marketing manager at One4all, the Post Office Gift Card, which commissioned the research, said: ‘It’s interesting to see the extent to which selecting and buying a gift can stress people out – and also quite alarming how many people have resorted to quite cheeky tactics when the panic has set in.

‘It’s also clear that British adults prefer to go down the traditional route of selecting a gift for the happy couple themselves, rather than being dictated to by something like a wedding list, and that traditional types of gifts – such as homeware and useful appliances – are still the preferred to choice of many guests.’

And if you’re getting stressed out about what gift to buy, perhaps you should head on over to Aoife’s employer, a gift voucher company, to take away all of your gifting troubles. As a blogger who is less than a week away from getting married, I expect Post Office gift vouchers from every one of my Bad PR readers…

“Online estate agents are great!” says online estate agent

How an online estate agent could save you a small fortune: But would you be a DIY seller to get a cheaper flat-fee?

Rocketing property prices are pushing thousands of homeowners to sell through cheap online estate agents.

Traditional High Street agents charge sellers a percentage of the sale price of their property — so the more your home is worth, the higher your fee.

And as property prices have increased, so, inevitably, have the costs.

A typical fee is around 1.5 per cent plus VAT — but can be as high as 3.5 per cent. That means on a home worth £150,000 the estate agency fee can be up to £6,300.

Source: Daily Mail, 8th September 2015

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Gone are the days of the awkward meetings in drab offices with stereotypically-slippery estate agents – instead, these days, the best property deals happen exclusively online. At least according to this glorified press release from online estate agent Purplebricks:

Britain’s largest online firm, Purplebricks, claims that 70 per cent of its business is done outside of traditional working hours through its helpline, which allows customers to book viewings or give decisions on offers.

You may have heard of Purplebricks before – they were the company behind another very important piece of research earlier in the month:

Jamie Oliver a woman’s perfect flatmate

A WOMAN’S dream flatmate is celebrity chef Jamie Oliver or Great British Bake Off star Mary Berry, a survey has revealed.

While 70 per cent of men opted to share a pad with former England football captain David Beckham, women went for a flatmate who was good in the kitchen.

Most UK women (57 per cent) wanted to share a house with Jamie Oliver, with Mary Berry coming second with 28 per cent.

Source: Express, 3rd September 2015

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“People prefer to have decking rather than lawns!” says garden furniture company

Busy Britons are ditching their lawns for patios and decking

SO much for the green, green, grass of home. . . the perfectly-manicured lawn is going out of fashion.

One in four homes no longer has grass in the garden, a survey has found.

The green oases are being replaced by low-maintenance decking or patios.

Source: Express, 2nd September 2015

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Are lawns becoming a thing of the past? Now one in four homes has no grass as decking, paving and AstroTurf take over

A freshly mown lawn was once a source of pride for millions of British homeowners.

But one in four homes now has no real grass in its garden as the UK paves over its green space, a survey has found.

As gardening falls out of favour with many Britons, households are choosing low maintenance alternatives such as paving, decking and AstroTurf – with almost three-quarters of adults saying that a lawn is a ‘burden’.

Source: Daily Mail, 3rd September 2015

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The humble lawn is on the way out, and instead we are subjected to the false prophets of decking astroturf and paving slabs – oh, how we mourn the death of the English garden. Though, of course, some companies have more incentive than others to make us love our lawns:

The poll, for garden furniture firm Alfresia.co.uk, discovered that one in 10 of us has even replaced traditional lawns with artificial grass such as AstroTurf.

Lose the lawn? Heresy! If we didn’t have a lawn, what exactly would we put in its place? Let’s ask the marketing manager of the firm who paid for this story to be in the news:

Craig Corbett, marketing manager at Alfresia.co.uk, said: “As a time-poor nation, we are constantly looking for ways to maintain our homes and outdoor space, with minimum effort and minimum cost.

“For those who don’t have the time but don’t want to miss out on the amount of wildlife a lawn will attract, it is important to feature plenty of low-maintenance varieties of hedges and potted plants as well as other natural plantation.

“They will attract birds, bees, butterflies and more.”

Ah, thank goodness we have Alfresia to tell us what things from Alfresia we should be buying to solve our lawn issues, whatever would we do without them. Well, for starters, we wouldn’t be reading PR stories they’ve placed in the news, for one. In the time I’ve been picking apart this piece of PR-puffery, I could have been tending to my fictional lawn.

“Come to our town, impregnate an attractive French girl!” says holiday board via viral marketer

Did you hear the story of the pregnant woman who fell pregnant after a one-night stand, and appealed on Youtube to track down the father? It was all over the news at the start of September:

‘I just want to see him again… if he says no then OK’; Young French tourist who posted a video looking for the Australian man she says she fell pregnant to in a one-night stand tearfully defends herself against online skeptics

The young French woman, who appealed for help online to find the man she says got her pregnant on the last night of a three month trip to Australia, has defended herself against online skeptics.

Natalie Amyot, from Paris, has returned to the Mooloolaba on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast where she said she spent ‘a beautiful night’ with a ‘really cute’ man she fell instantly in love with.

Source: Daily Mail, 1st September 2015

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Are YOU her one-night stand? French beauty seeks Australian boy to tell him she’s PREGNANT

A STUNNING young french girl has started a viral search for a man whom she spent the night with in Australia – to tell him she’s pregnant.

Natalie Amyot, from Paris, is fast becoming a viral sensation after posting a video on Facebook about her search for a handsome young man with whom she spent the night earlier this year.

Natalie’s last night of a three month trip to Australia was spent frolicking with this mystery man, and then the pair went home together.

Source: Express, 2nd September 2015

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Just who was this girl who had an ‘amazing’ time in an ‘amazing’ place, looking for the guy she lost? Funny story…

‘Natalie Amyot’: Video of French woman appealing to find holiday romance in Australia revealed as hoax

A French woman who released a YouTube video to apparently find her Australian holiday romance after falling pregnant has confirmed it was a hoax.

The video of “Natalie Amyot” making a plea to viewers to help her find the man was met with a combination of support, derision and a hefty dose of scepticism

Source: Independent, 2nd September 2015

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As the Independent, Daily Mail, Mirror and Metro eventually concluded, rather than a true modern tale of a lady seeking out the prince charming who impregnated her on her final night of a fantastic holiday, the story is actually nothing more than a PR stunt designed to advertise holidays in the Mooloolaba area. As the culprit behind the video revealed the next day:

‘This has been a viral video for Holiday Mooloolaba. My name is Andy Sellar and I own a company called Sunny Coast social media,’ he said.

‘We do viral videos for businesses. Now I know there is going to be a lot of you that are upset by this… maybe not too happy.

‘We just wanted to put Mooloolaba on the map because it’s a wonderful place. So thank you for watching and we are going to do many, many more videos like this,’ he explained.

There’s a deeply interesting element to this story for those who follow PR, journalism and viral marketing. First, it exposes the credibility of the major news sources in the digital age, where neatly packaged stories routinely land on journalists’ laps and are passed uncritically into the news, especially where a quirky-and-slightly-sexy angle and a highly photogenic young lady are concerned. It was a perfect story for so many outlets, and as such was too good to really fact check – after all, why put in the legwork that will discover that the story is bogus, and therefore have to kill a perfectly serviceable piece of clickbait?

Secondly, of particular note is the extent of the second wave of coverage, based on the big reveal: highlighting that the story was a hoax had an even greater impact in the press, as newspapers who failed to publish the original got to gloat over their taken-in rivals, and those who did publish it get to add a coda to an quirky story and get to run the same photogenic young lady again. Newspapers like the Mail, who ran the first story with notes about skeptics who doubted the veracity – yet the paper still ran the story – added notes into the follow up to suggest they’d been the ones to break the big reveal:

A former friend of the fictional Ms Amyot confirmed to Daily Mail Australia she was in fact Alizee Michel who is believed to have studied marketing and tourism.

Jordan Foster said Ms Michel had attended the University of the Sunshine Coast – north of Brisbane – for ‘a few years’.

Which would have been a great angle, had the story not also included the video produced by Andy Sellars coming clean – something the Mail certainly did not dig up.

Finally, there’s the note from Andy about his future plans:

So thank you for watching and we are going to do many, many more videos like this,’ he explained.

Given that we can show that fooling the papers is easy when they are very willing to be fooled, and that revealing your hoax gains you a second and even greater wave of publicity, I can certainly see why Andy might be looking to score the next viral hit.

It would be easy to mistake the analysis by this blog as humourless, po-faced parade-pissing around issues that are often just a harmless bit of fun, and to an extent there are elements of the criticism that ring true. However, it’s undeniable that the newspapers are not so hard to fool, and that’s an incentive to other PR agencies to produce more falsehood-laden PR fodder, to create more spurious studies and nonsensical formulae, and to continue using the mainstream news as their own private advertising channel, at the extent of the newspaper’s reputation and the trust of its readership. It’s hard to celebrate that as a particularly good thing.

“People are eating more exotic food!” says supermarket convincing you to buy its exotic range

Goodbye mayonnaise, hello harissa: how UK shoppers’ tastes have changed

UK shoppers buy 3,000 per cent more spices than in the 1960s, according to a new report that shows how British tastes have changed.

British consumers swapped their gravy for turmeric and saffron as changes in population and increased foreign travel got the nation’s taste buds hooked on spicy flavours, according to new research by Sainsbury and food historian Polly Russel.

Source: Independent, 2nd September 2015

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Harissa? Rather than good old fashioned working-class mayonnaise? I’m shocked. If only I knew where I could buy something like harissa on my local high street…

‘Chimichurri, peri peri and harissa sauces are now more popular store cupboard standbys as our taste for international cuisine continues to grow’ said Susi Richards, Sainsbury’s Head of Food.

Ah, there we go: I guess I might be able to get it from Sainsbury’s, given that this story is based on their PR.

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“People don’t think enough about growing old!” says life insurance provider

Young do not feel grown up until 29, survey shows

Living at home longer, playing computer games and watching children’s films among most common reasons for young people not feeling like adults

Britons do not believe they have become a “grown-up” until they reach the age of 29, it has been revealed.

Despite becoming an adult at the age of 18, the average young person believes it is another 11 years until they are actually an adult.

Source: Telegraph, 3rd September 2015

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The average Brit doesn’t feel like a grown-up until they’re 29, study finds

Ever still feel like you’re an 8-year-old with each passing birthday? Well new research has revealed that despite technically becoming an adult at 18, the average Brit does not feel like they have become a ‘grown-up’ until they reach the age of 29.

The study cites ‘living at home longer, playing computer games, watching children’s movies and a reluctance to settle for a “real job”’ as some of the most common reasons for not feeling like an adult, though speculatively I would add to that increasing life spans and the general death of adulthood in culture.

Source: Independent, 2nd September 2015

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Apparently we don’t feel like proper adults until the age of 29

You might be allowed to drink, drive, vote and all that jazz at 18, but a new study says Brits don’t really feel like proper grown-ups until we hit 29.

The research carried out by Beagle Street life insurance shows that we’re all basically big kids at heart, still watching cartoons and children’s films.

Well, let’s be honest, Frozen is amazing.

Other factors that are preventing us from letting go of our adolescence include refusing to settle for ‘a real job’, whatever that is, and living at home longer.

Source: Metro, 3rd September 2015

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Today’s generation is late to grow up, reluctant to look ahead to the future, incapable of planning – according to a survey by a life insurance company:

Matthew Gledhill, managing director of Beagle Street, said: “The research shows that growing up is less about years and more about reaching milestones in life like getting married, becoming a parent or buying a home.

“With each of these life events there is a need to take responsibility and a need to become an adult as you have people depending on you to do so.”

He added: “Whether it’s before or after the age of 29, when people do get on the property ladder or start a family it is important that they are protected and we have used technology to remove unnecessary complication and unnecessary cost so it is really easy to get great value life insurance to do just that.”

So while the article looks like a report on what age we truly grow up, it’s actually an attempt to highlight to people that they should take more responsibility – by which we mean buy whatever Beagle Street insurance is selling.