Whenever I give lectures on Bad PR, I always try to explain that the life of a PR story doesn’t end when it hits the newspapers – that’s just the start of its life, and once its published, it’s impossible to predict where the same story will surface again.
Sometimes, those stories surface years later, their headline facts stripped of the original (commercially-compromised) source, and used to justify a position far beyond what it was intended to support. Other times, they just resurface in a weird way – today, I have an example of the odder end of things.
Take this recent story in the Mirror:
How many minutes, hours and days you work for free by cutting your lunch break short
It’s something many of us do, but it all adds up – and could even cost you
Not taking your full, allotted lunch break is something so many of us do.
Maybe it feels as if there are not enough hours in the day to get through your work. It could be ingrained in the culture of your workplace. Or perhaps you just want to brown-nose your boss.
Whatever your reasons, that lacklustre, rushed desk “picnic” is doing you no favours.Source: Mirror, 6th June 2019
In looking, as I always do, for the commercial entity who placed this story in the newspaper, I was slightly surprised to see the Mirror attribute the story to Refinery 29:
If you’re not paid through your lunch, then, according to Refinery 29 , that equates to working 6,032 minutes for free each year.
It seemed odd to me that a lifestyle blog like Refinery 29 would pay for PR to appear in the Mirror, so I followed the story through to find it had been posted on Refinery 29’s website… in July 2017!
From there, we can see the originator of the piece was Workthere.com – an office space company. Except, they claim to have posted their PR ‘research’ in September 2018… one year AFTER it appeared in Refinery 29, and a year BEFORE that appeared in the Mirror.
So, when was it? Was this story from 2017 as Refinery 29 say, 2018 as Workthere claim to have written it, or 2019 as the Mirror reported it? There is one last clue that helps us unravel the mystery – according to Workthere’s original press release, the research was carried out in June 2017:
So it seems like Workthere published this ‘research’ in 2017, at which point it was picked up by Refinery 29. Then, a year later, Workthere updated the publication date of their blog, to make the information seem more current. And then, slightly inexplicably, a further year later the Mirror published the story, attributing it to the middlemen, Refinery 29.
In any case, at the heart of all of this is a commercial message to justify the outlay on a marketing survey, and a spokesperson to drive that message home:
Cal Lee, the founder of Workthere says it’s important for offices to instil a lunch hour culture in order to increase wellness at work. Employers are, he says, “increasingly recognising the benefits of ensuring staff are content, happy, and most importantly in good health.”
He continued: “Part of this is creating a productive office environment where employees feel comfortable taking a longer lunch break and engaging with colleagues.”