Monthly Archives: June 2019

“People want value for money on holidays!” says bureau de change

As holiday season swings around, a pair of holiday stories made headlines in the Daily Star and Daily Mail:

Brits reveal cheapest holiday destinations – here’s where made the list

Looking to book a cheap holiday?

A recent survey reveals the locations Brits find to be the most affordable.

While European destinations topped the list in terms of value, Dubai was said to be the most expensive.

Source: Daily Star, 10th June 2019

Brits rate holiday spots around the world for value, with Spain, Greece and Bulgaria coming top and Dubai at the bottom of the ranking

Spain has been voted the world’s best-value holiday spot by British tourists in a new nationwide poll.

In the survey, 87 per cent of holidaymakers said it offers the best bang for one’s buck.

Greece and Bulgaria came joint second on the value front, with a score of 85 per cent, while at the other end of the scale, Dubai was rated the worst value.  

Source: Daily Mail, 7th June 2019

Which company is so keen to emphasise the importance of value for money when it comes to heading off on holiday?

The United Arab Emirates city was deemed ‘poor value’ by 72 per cent of those taking part in the survey, which was part of Post Office Travel Money’s 2019 Holiday Spending Report.

So once you’re reminded how important value for money is, you rather handily have the name of a place where you can pick up your travel money.

“Women should be more connected natural things!” says cosmetics company, via OnePoll

With Summer around the corner, it might be time to start questioning how much time you spend immersed in Mother Nature:

Half of women suffering as they ‘don’t have time to enjoy nature’, study finds

Almost half of British women don’t have enough time to enjoy nature, it has emerged.

Researchers who carried out a detailed study found hectic workloads and busy family lives mean many go for long spells without taking time to enjoy Mother Nature’s creations.

Source: Mirror, 10th June 2019

Unless, of course, this story is just an excuse for a company to emphasise the importance of connecting with nature, in order to tie in to a spurious marketing hook:

The study was commissioned by naturally inspired skincare brand Liz Earle, who have partnered with Go Jauntly, an app designed to help city dwellers connect with the nature around them.

In classic Bad PR style, this story in the Mirror is taken word-for-word from the copy provided by news agency SWNS:

SWNS is a news agency which is owned by PR company 72 Point… who also own perennial Bad PR pollsters OnePoll. This story is the clearest possible demonstration of the way in which commercial quasi-advertising copy is laundered into the media unchecked:

  1. Lize Earle skincare hires PR company to incorporate the marketing/advertising hook into some content marketing copy
  2. PR company uses OnePoll to create data that backs up the PR angle they’ve already decided on
  3. PR company creates page-ready copy and publishes it via news agency SWNS, where it is disseminated for pick-up by media organisations (who might not have the time or inclination to check the source or verify any of the findings)
  4. Newspaper looking for something to fill its pages publishes the ad-driven copy as if it were a real story.

That said, there’s one aspect of this story that demonstrates the evolving face of PR content marketing: the by-lined author of the Mirror’s piece, Emma Elsworthy, is not a Mirror journalist. She isn’t a freelance journalist either… she is the “Creative Manager at content and news generation experts 72 Point“.

Gone are the days when newspapers even bothered having their junior desk reporters sift through PR copy to find stories ‘worth’ churning into the news – nowadays, they by-line the PRs who are being paid by their clients to secure space in newspapers.

In my opinion, the only reason this kind of practice doesn’t receive any outcry is because the Mirror don’t signpost which of their stories are written and by-lined entirely by PR companies. They pretend these stories are real journalists, and rely on their readers not to question it.

“You should look after your teeth!” says toothcare charity

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done with your teeth? It’s probably not that weird, when all’s said and done. Still, unusual uses for teeth was enough of a story to get the Daily Mail hooked:

From tearing off Sellotape to opening bottles and biting off tags on clothes: Survey reveals the alternative ways Britons use their teeth

From tearing off Sellotape to opening bottles, dentists have revealed the alternative ways British people use their teeth.

Two in three people frequently use their nashers to perform tasks such as ripping out clothes tags or doing up zips.

Source: Daily Mail, 6th June 2019

Before you spend too long trying to work out the logistics of doing up a zip with your teeth (which, according to this “research” 4% of people have done), bear in mind that this whole story was put together by a charity with a keen interest your teeth:

The Oral Health Foundation, who conducted the survey, has warned against using our teeth for anything other than eating.

Now, I’ve no issue with the Oral Health Foundation, and it’s tough for a charity to get attention in the modern world (trust me!), but it’s always disappointing to see a respectable charity grab cheap headlines using the kind of unreliable PR surveys we cover here at Bad PR.

“Everyone wants CCTV cameras installed nowadays!” says CCTV company

Privacy news now, with the revelation that we are constantly being captured on camera:

Brits caught on camera 300 times a DAY in huge Big Brother CCTV surge

In a huge surge, Brits are now captured by CCTV 300 times a day in London.

It would be an all-time high according to a specialist firm in CCTV installation and fear is believed to be a major reason behind it.

Source: Mirror, 19th June 2019

Who might benefit from highlighting just how widespread and popular CCTV cameras are?

The company CCTV.co.uk is also predicting that this figure could rise to over a million by 2025.

Given that CCTV.co.uk sell and install CCTV cameras, it’s little surprise that they’re predicting a rise in sales… especially when they’re paying to put stories in the media about how popular CCTV cameras are. Their spokesperson isn’t at all shy when it comes to emphasising the value of the products they sell, either:

Jonathan Ratcliffe, of CCTV.co.uk, said: “The number of cameras being installed in the capital is growing at a much faster rate than ever before due to private households installing smaller cheaper systems.”

He said: “People are genuinely scared and sharing CCTV footage on social media when the police don’t act fast enough is standard practice these days.

“Doorbell cameras and cheap DIY systems have seen the number of cameras increase, and new commercial buildings have CCTV installed as standard.”

“People want to see photos of you on holiday!” says holiday company, via OnePoll

One commonly used PR trope could be termed the “Stat reversal”: where a headline-grabbing stat runs contrary to the perceived aims of the company behind it, but that stat is immediately recontextualised or reversed in the copy, to suit the commercial needs of the client.

For example, take the following story that 72 Point published in the Mirror:

Posting more than EIGHT holiday photos on Instagram is seen as ‘spamming’

It’s official – posting more than EIGHT holiday photos on social media is seen as ‘spamming’, a study has found.

A poll of 2,000 Instagram users found that rather than enjoying their friend’s travel snaps, followers are more likely to be annoyed by a deluge of pictures.

And two thirds think seeing too many of someone else’s holiday snaps leaves them feeling like they are missing out.

Source: Mirror, 13th June 2019

The client here is a holiday company, and on first glance it might seem like the message “people get annoyed by seeing too many holiday photos on social media” would run contrary to their business aims. However, fear not, because the fourth paragraph of the story turns the original stat on its head:

Despite this, the research, by MSC Cruises, revealed 54 per cent do like to see friends’ holiday photos, with these getting the most engagement on Instagram.

They prove to be more popular than pictures of pets and group shots with friends, although 28 per cent of Insta-fans claim their carefully-crafted shots don’t get as many likes as they deserve.

So barely three sentences into the story, and the original line “people get annoyed by your holiday photos” has been morphed into “people really like seeing your holiday photos, and they get great engagement”. We’ve done a full about face! And now we’ve turned the stat on its head, we can go even further:

It also emerged beautiful landscapes, iconic locations and images of the sea are the most loved types of holiday imagery.

Now, not only are holiday photos more desirable and engaging, but images of the sea in particular are most loved – a handy message to send when you’re a cruise company.

Finally, here’s the original press release on the SWNS website, which was naturally reproduced verbatim by the Mirror.

“Families are increasingly sharing money and bank accounts!” says bank keen to be seen as a family bank

Financial news now, with the revelation that generational wealth transfer might not be a one-way street:

Bank of Mum and Dad works both ways as ‘half of parents’ get cash from their kids

The Bank of Mum and Dad isn’t just for kids’ withdrawals – almost half of parents receive financial support from their children, research claims.

While the younger generation is well known for having to scrimp and save to climb onto the housing ladder, it is suggested many are also having to help their families at the same time.

Source: Mirror, 18th June 2019

Which company wants to get you thinking about your finances, and your financial relationships?

The M&S Bank research claims 49 per cent of millennials (23-38 year olds) provide financial support to their parents.

That’s M&S Bank, who only recently were heavily criticised for their PR story promoting the notion that dads are better than mums at handling the family finances. This is the latest in their run of stories analysing the way in which families share resources – perhaps because they’re pushing a “family bank” PR campaign.

Paul Stokes, head of products, M&S Bank, said: “Despite common perceptions about the bank of mum and dad, what we are seeing is that the ‘family bank’ works both ways, with people ‘depositing’ and ‘withdrawing’ from the family finances at different times in their lives.

“While millennials or Gen Z-ers may be boomeranging back to live in the family home at some stage in their adult lives, with parents often supporting their children to get a foot on the property ladder, this support is not a one-way street with many younger generations also helping parents, and other family members.

“Hayfever is really annoying!” says hayfever remedy, semi-transparently

A slight change of pace now, with the news that hayfever symptoms can strike at any time:

THE MOST AWKWARD HAY FEVER MOMENTS: FROM SNEEZING THROUGH JOB INTERVIEWS TO UNCONTROLLABLE WEEPING

Anyone who has hay fever will know all too well that the struggle is real come April and May.

While most people look forward to lunches on the grass, drinks in beautiful pub gardens and picnics on Hampstead Heath, those of us without our antihistamines will be spluttering and streaming miserably in a corner. 

Source: Independent, 14th June 2019

Whose behind this story, and the reason it made it into the Independent? Unsurprisingly, it’s Piri – manufacturers of the hayfever remedy Pirinase.

In fact, the ‘article’ is actually native advertising – in which Piri wrote and produced the content, and paid the Independent directly to publish it. This is clear not only from the “In Association With Piri” below the headline, but also from the clear advertising copy at the end of the piece:

While spring brings warmer weather it also marks the start of the hay fever season. If you’re one of the 18 million people affected in the UK, it makes sense to try to help prevent the symptoms of hay fever.  A single dose of Pirinase Hayfever Relief For Adults 0.05% Nasal Spray in each nostril once a day could help relieve sneezing, a runny nose, nasal congestion, and itchy and watery eyes. Find out more here,
 or click here to buy online at Waitrose.

Here’s where things get ambiguous for me: on the one hand, I do find native advertising deeply problematic, dressing up advertising copy as if it were editorial, and mimicking the styling of the host publication in what can only be an explicit attempt to disguise the fact that the entire article is an advert. That raises legitimate questions about how trustworthy the media title can be, if they’re happy to publish other people’s content, unchecked and unedited, for money.

Yet, on the other hand, at least with native advertising such as this the Independent are honest about the source of the copy. Sure, they’re doing their best to whisper their admission rather than shout it, but compare this to any other story I’ve covered on this blog – where the copy was provided by a commercially-driven source, but the truth of this is obscured from the reader, and the story is presented as if it were real news.

Native Advertising has a lot of critics, and has drawn a lot of public ire, and rightly so in my opinion. However, Bad PR rarely if ever gets the same level of public attention… and that’s because it lacks the transparency and even the basic level of honest of Native Advertising.

“People love high school movies!” says high school movies channel, via OnePoll

Film news now, with the revelation that people fondly remember films and their starring characters:

Mean Girls’ Regina George is the ‘meanest’ high school film character of all time, according to research

Mean Girls’ Regina George is the “meanest” high school film character of all time, according to research.

Rachel McAdams’ breakout role as the “Queen of the Plastics” in the 2004 cult classic took the top spot thanks to her snappy quips and cunning manipulative tactics.

She was closely followed in second place by the ever-scheming Kathryn Merteuil – played by Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions.

Source: Independent, 14th June 2019

Who put together this story, highlighting the fondness people have for high school movies?

The study of 2,000 UK film fans, commissioned by Sky Q, revealed three quarters have watched their favourite high school movie multiple times. 

Mean Girls is one of a selection of high school movies, from Grease to Pretty in Pink, being shown on Sky Cinema’s School’s Out channel from 20-28 July and On Demand.

Here’s the original press release on the SWNS website:

“People should be wearing sunglasses!” says lens manufacturer, via OnePoll

Optical news now, with the report that people have no idea how damaging the sun’s rays can be on the eyes:

Millions of adults turning blind eye to harmful UV rays, study warns

Millions of adults have ‘no idea’ UV rays can damage their eyes, a study found.

Researchers who polled 2,000 people found 28 per cent were unaware they can be affected by UV rays in the winter sun, and three in 10 didn’t know that UV rays can still be damaging on a cloudy day.

More than half agreed you’re more likely to be affected by UV rays in countries with a sunnier climate than the UK, and 55 per cent didn’t know you could suffer damage from UV rays even in the shade.

Source: Mirror, 17th June 2019

The study was put together by a company who sell you eyewear to protect you from UV rays:

The study was commissioned by ZEISS to reveal the state of the nation’s understanding when it comes to protecting their eyes from UV radiation damage.

In fact, the Mirror even handily included the explicit marketing pitch from the company’s press release:

ZEISS lens range with UV Protect technology, offers full UV protection up to 400nm as standard so consumers can take advantage of higher levels of UV protection for the eyes and surrounding skin.

And it’s no surprise by this point that the article was a by-lined reproduction of the original PR copy:

“Retailers who respond to complaints fare better!” says retail operations software, via OnePoll

Grumbling news now, with the revelation that shoppers complain about things when they’re unhappy, in an article written for the Independent by Grant Bailey:

ONE-THIRD OF UK ONLINE SHOPPERS HAVE POSTED A NEGATIVE REVIEW, SURVEY SAYS

Britain is a nation of online complainers, a study has revealed.

A survey of 2,000 adults found almost one-third of shoppers have left a negative review online.

Of these, seven in 10 have complained online within the last year.

And 76 per cent of those surveyed will also share a negative retail experience with someone else they know to warn them off a particular brand.

Source: Independent, 13th June 2019

On the same day, a it’s-fair-to-call-similar article appeared in the Mirror, written by Grant Bailey:

Britain is a nation of complainers with 33% leaving a negative review online

Britain is a nation of online complainers, a study has revealed.

A survey of 2,000 adults found almost a third of shoppers have left a negative review online.

Of these, seven in 10 have had a moan online within the last year.

And 76 per cent of those surveyed will also share a negative retail experience with someone else they know to warn them off a particular brand.

Source: Mirror, 13th June 2019

Eagle-eyed readers will spot that these two articles are word-for-word the same, and that the by-lined ‘journalist’ in both cases is Grant Bailey – Senior Creative Account Manager for PR company 72 Point. Here’s the original release on the 72 Point website:

This research was brought to you by, as ever, a company with a financial horse in the race:

Derek O’Carroll, CEO of retail operations platform Brightpearl, which commissioned the study, said: “Brits are famously awkward and averse to confrontation and complaining, but, with the rise of so many avenues for customer feedback, from online forms to social media, those habits appear to be changing.

“Consumers have started exercising their right to have a moan when they receive sub-par service – and brands need to start paying closer attention.”

Brightpearl are a retail operations and management software, who advertise their ability to help retailers respond to customers complaints quickly and improve customer relations – which makes sense, given what the spokesperson goes on to say:

The survey found that just 19 per cent of retailers have invested in technology or solutions to help them address the issues that most commonly cause poor feedback and ratings, such as problems with receiving items on time or overly complicated returns.

Derek O’Carroll added: “To help get the most out of online reviews, businesses need to consider solutions which allow them to fulfil the modern expectations of customers – from same-next day delivery options to real-time shipping, hassle-free returns and incredible response times.”

“With a great strategy – and the right technology – in place, firms can focus on generating the positive reviews and ratings which are more likely to capture the attention of today’s online shopper and lead to increased spend and better business.”

Not content with publishing a company’s advert, word for word as it was written by the PR company that company paid, the Mirror even go as far as to include an explicit ad call to action at the bottom of their article:

Those curious to find out more about the impact of the ‘Rise of the Review Culture’ should visit brightpearl.com/rise-of-the-review-culture.