Tag Archives: british heart foundation

“Giving your boyfriend’s clothes to a charity shop is better than sex!” says charity shop

Ladies, don’t you hate it when your boyfriend refuses to part with that old jumper you hate, even after you ask him to? Never fear: all the other girls out there are taking matters into their own hands! Just ask the Daily Mail:

One in seven women admits binning their man’s old clothes without telling him (even though they have 16 items in the wardrobe they never wear)

Women typically harbour 16 items of clothing they never wear – yet throw out their partner’s clothes without telling them, according to research.

One in seven women (14 per cent) admits going behind her man’s back to clear out clothes she thinks do not suit him.

Source: Daily Mail, 4 March 2013

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So, you see, it’s perfectly fine for you to find those clothes your boyfriend wants to keep and then to give them to a charity shop – we know it’s OK because all the other girlfriends out there are doing it, and we know all the other girlfriends out there are doing it because a charity shop (who wants more donations) says so:

The survey by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which is encouraging people to take unwanted items into its shops, found that a third of Britons feel ‘relieved’ following a clear-out, while 11 per cent of women say it is ‘better than sex’.

You hear that, ladies? Getting rid of your unwanted clothes – or those of your loved ones – is BETTER THAN SEX, says the charity shop wanting your unwanted clothes. If that’s not enough to convince you… well, the BHF will just have to commission another bullshit poll, really.

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 Lovehoney.co.uk 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 NetVoucherCodes.co.uk 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

“Women dress too slutty!” says charity trying to get people to wear red

When it comes to pointing out nonsense PR, I feel I’m on safe and steady ground when pointing out how this company or that commercial enterprise is pushing a specific narrative opaquely through the press in order to make money. That always feels neat and tidy. However, things get a bit more morally-ambiguous when there’s a legitimate and well-meaning charity involved. Take:

Men want miniskirts and low cut tops banned from the office for being ‘too distracting’ (and women agree too!)

Men want hotpants, miniskirts and low cut tops banned from the office because they are too distracting, new research shows.

A study found that at least a third of men want women stopped from wearing revealing outfits at work, with skimpy shorts the first to go.

Hotpants were named by 32 per cent as unacceptable, with 30 per cent adding that anything with a leopard print should be banned.

Source: Daily Mail, 14 January 2013

Pretty standard PR fodder, I’m sure you’ll agree – complete with the opportunity for eye-catching photographs of women in revealing outfits in the office, and a good-old-fashioned slut-shaming in the comments. 

However, the originator of this piece of research isn’t Superdrug, or Debenhams, or a dodgy dating website – all of which I’d feel are unquestionably valid targets for criticism when using this approach to grab headlines. Instead, the story was placed by the British Heart Foundation, who are promoting an initiative to get people to wear red to the office in order to spread awareness of heart disease:

Polly Shute, Fundraising Project Director at the BHF, added: ‘It seems the fail-safe weapon at work for 2013 is the colour red.

‘Whether it’s a dash of red lipstick, wearing that desirable Little Red Dress, or donning a red tie, organising a Rock Up In Red event is a great excuse to dress to impress with colleagues.

‘Not only will you have the perfect opportunity to wear a colour seldom seen in the workplace, you will also help the BHF beat the UK’s single biggest killer.’

This, I feel, is a worthwhile goal – heart disease is a real killer, and so making people aware of the issue and encouraging the population to support the BHF feels a good idea. Yet, it’s hard to see the methods the BHF have employed as being anything other than damaging and ill-thought-out, giving a needlessly negative and judgemental view of women’s role in the office. Are there no better ways to remind people of heart disease, than to call out women for being a distraction to the men of the office, who we have to assume are little more than libido-machines incapable of being professional in the presence of exposed skin? 

The article manages to be offensive both to women and men – which already puts the BHF on the back foot with those in the population who identify as either male or female. Which, at last count, is quite a high percentage…

What’s more, this isn’t an isolated case, with a similarly poorly-judged article back in August 2011 springing to mind:

End of romance: One in five married couples kiss just once in a week (and then it’s just for five seconds)

One in five married couples don’t kiss for an entire week, and when they do, it lasts no more than five seconds, a survey has found.

Younger lovebirds make more time for romance, with those aged between 18 and 24 saying they lock lips with a partner 11 times a week on average.

The survey found that only five per cent of over 45s manage more than 30 kisses a week.

Source: Daily Mail, 3 August 2011

At the time, the article was promoting the BHF’s ‘Kiss of life’ campaign, teaching children how to do CPR. Nobody in the world would disagree with the goals of teaching children how to save lives, but it’s bafflingly counter-productive of the BHF to promote this campaign by informing married people couples that the spark and romance of their relationship is dead. Who benefits from such a negative angle?

That the 2011 poll (and possibly this latest poll) were products of 72 Point’s prolific manure-spreading polling company OnePoll merely magnifies the concern – I took part in the kissing survey in 2011, and found the methodology painfully and irreparably flawed. One question asked users to choose from a list of options the duration of their last kiss – self-reported answers to a question nobody is like to be able to answer accurately, yet this became one of the key findings of the article.

As a rule of thumb, I tend to lean away from exposing the dodgy data put out by charities to form the basis of articles like these, because generally speaking charities are doing a tough and worthy job, in the face of a harsh economy and severe charity fatigue. But sometimes, the ends simply don’t justify the means, and even charities should consider the ramifications of the headlines they’re generating.