Tag Archives: guardian

“You’re probably going to be too poor to be buried!” says insurance company

The not-so-great leveller: dramatic differences in cost of dying just miles apart

Bereaved cutting back on flowers and opting for cheaper coffins to curb impact of funeral inflation

It is meant to be the great leveller but in Britain even death comes with a dramatically different price tag depending on where you live.

New research has exposed wide variations – as extreme as differences in house price – between the cost of funerals and burials in different postcodes.

Source: Telegraph, 5th October 2015

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Average cost of a basic funeral has leapt by £140 in one year, says new report

‘Vulnerable bereaved people are taking on increased debt; and we predict this problem will worsen’

The average cost of a basic funeral has leapt by £140 in the space of a year, a report has found.

Across the UK, the typical cost is now £3,702, a 3.9 per cent increase compared with 2014, when the average cost was £3,562, the insurer Royal London said.

Source: Independent, 5th Ocotber 2015

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This story garnered a lot of coverage recently, not just in the Telegraph and Independent, but also in the BBC, the Guardian, the Mirror and a host of local sources. Which would be fine, if all of those outlets made it absolutely clear that this story was sourced by an insurance company:

Simon Cox, a funeral cost expert at Royal London, said: “Our study shows people are striving to meet funeral price hikes, which they have little control over.

“Given the stressful situation, shopping around for a funeral is often not an option.

“Instead people are coping by cutting back on non-essentials if possible, and reconsidering how loved ones are buried.

While it’s undoubtedly true that funerals are costly affairs, it’s equally true that there’s a clear financial incentive for an insurance company to ensure people are afraid that their loved ones won’t have enough money to pay for their burial once they’re gone. I’m sure it won’t be a surprise to Royal London if they see an increase in interest in their life insurance policies as a result of stories like this. As ever with PR, it’s hard to distinguish the genuine message from the sales hook.

“People love beer!” says beer campaigners

Small beer: why micropubs are the toast of Britain’s real ale revival

Good Beer Guide salutes the no-frills boozers squeezing into unlikely spaces that are growing in number and offering greater choice for drinkers

They have popped up in former butchers’ shops, pet grooming parlours and even undertakers – and the growth in tiny no-frills boozers across the UK, tipped to number 200 this year, is being hailed as spearheading a revival in the enjoyment of real ale.

Source: Guardian, 10th September 2015

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We’re all mad for microbeer: 200 new breweries opened last year

BEER-lovers have launched 200 new breweries in the last year to cope with demand.

The UK total now stands at more than 1,400, the highest number since the 1930s, offering a choice of 11,000 different ales.

Source: Daily Star, 10th September 2015

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Britain is going potty for real ales, it seems. Which is great news for CAMRA, the body behind this story:

The burgeoning micropub scene is helping to bring real ale to spaces where a traditional pub would not be appropriate, filling gaps on high streets and improving choice for drinkers, according to the Campaign for Real Ale’s (Camra) 2016 Good Beer Guide, published on Thursday, which also reports a 10% rise in the number of UK breweries for the third consecutive year.

 

“People should make more Sunday roasts!” says manufacturer of Sunday roast ingredients

Brits have fallen out of love with roast dinners

New research suggests the traditional Sunday roast dinner is in danger of dying out

New research has revealed that the popularity of the traditional Sunday roast dinner is waning.

Figures from market analysts Kantar Worldpanel revealed that during the last year, the number of families tucking in to a roast dinner has dropped by four per cent to 1.3 billion.

Source: Telegraph, 25th August 2015

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Should Sunday roast dinners still be on the menu?

The traditional meat and two veg lunch is suffering a decline. Fay Schopen and Philip Hoare debate whether the Great British roast has a place in modern-day life

Fay Schopen: Roast dinners are a comfort blanket that practically cook themselves

Source: The Guardian, 25th August 2015

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Why cooking a Sunday roast is now too much of a chore: Number of meals eaten in past year drops by 55 million

British families have been feasting on a Sunday roast since medieval times, but in an age of fast lives, fast food and spicy alternatives, the traditional meal is on the wane.

It appears that preparing a leg of lamb, a beef rib or pork with the crunch of crackling is too much of a chore for many people.

New figures suggest the number of roast dinner meals eaten in Britain fell by around 55million in the past year – four per cent – down to some 1.3billion.

The figures come from retail analysts Kantar Worldpanel, prompting speculation that many young families do not want to spend the time it takes to cook a roast from scratch.

Source: Daily Mail, 24th August 2015

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It’s the death of a great tradition, as English as fish and chips and colonialism, but sadly the great British Sunday roast is on the way out. No wonder this made national news in three separate newspapers!

Except, of course, this isn’t quite news – it’s an advert for products which fall under the remit of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board:

But while roast potatoes might be disappearing from our tables, research from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board revealed that sales of mashed potatoes was up by 20 per cent.

Mike Whittemore, head of beef and lamb trade marketing at the AHDB, told trade magazine The Grocer: “Consumers are crying out for a new approach to the roasting category, but the way many retailers present and market roasting joints does not reflect this.

“Roast sales are declining but the supermarkets need to understand why. We have got to think differently about how to fill that void.”

More to the point, this isn’t a new phenomenon either, with Red Tractor launching a media campaign on precisely the same hook back in 2011:

Sunday 
Lunch 
on
 decline 
as 
Brits
 shun 
roast 
in 
favour 
of 
fast 
food fix

A
 new
 study
 has
 shown
 that
 people
are
 nearly
 20% less
 likely
 to
 cook
a
 roast
 than
we
were
 10
 years
ago,
 possibly
 indicating
 people’s
misconception
 that
 preparing
 a
 Sunday
 lunch
 is
expensive
 and
 time
 consuming.

Red 
Tractor 
has 
announced
 the
 launch
 of
 its 
“Sunday 
Lunch 
Heroes”
 campaign 
to 
celebrate 
Britain’s
 culinary
 heroes
 while
 championing
 to 
save 
the 
Sunday
 lunch,
 which
 is
 in
 decline.

Coincidentally, that story also made the Daily Mai:

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So not only is this a mere advert, it’s also an advert based on a hook that’s at least 4 years old. Ah, British traditions!

Wholesale Clearance’s PR stunt makes mugs of the nation’s media

Did you hear the one about the intern who mistook US president Barack Obama for England defender Chris Smalling? I bet you have – it’s been everywhere. Here’s the story from the Daily Express:

You MUGS! Manufacturers mistake England’s Chris Smalling for BARACK OBAMA

AFTER the team’s timid capitulation against Uruguay and subsequent exit from the World Cup England are less world leaders at football, more like a bunch of mugs.

Two successive defeats at the World Cup in Brazil has left the hopes of a nation in ruins.

Right now, there are few more important jobs than shoring up Roy Hodgson’s leaky defence…with the possible exception of leading the free world, that is.

The Three Lions might be heading home soon but do we really think the team can one day win something? Yes We Can.

If you are wondering why the chap on this souvenir mug looks a little familiar, well, it’s Barack Obama.

Source: Daily Express, 22nd June 2014

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The Daily Express weren’t the only ones to run the story – in fact it also found coverage at:

Mixing Barack Obama and Chris Smalling – what an embarrassing mistake to make! I imagine there’s an intern out there who is pretty red-faced! But, of course, it’s an easy mistake to make, isn’t it? After all, all it takes is for an intern to do a Google search for Chris Smalling but accidentally type the words ‘Barack Obama’ by mistake, then find that very famous photo that definitely exists of Barack Obama wearing this season’s England shirt, and then fail to recognise one of the most famous men in the world and use that photo in place of Chris Smalling.

After that, it’s a simple case of nobody at his company stopping to question why the President of the USA is on a mug, wearing an England shirt (we all remember when Obama posed for that photo in an England shirt, right?), and for no printer to notice the error either (and I’ve worked extensively in print design and can confirm, when it comes to printing merchandise like this, that there’s typically at least half a dozen conversations around design specs, plus the need to sign off a proof of every product before a full print run).

Clearly it’s a mistake that absolutely anybody could make… well, primarily anybody who wanted to get the name of their online surplus stock wholesale company into as many media outlets as possible:

Andy White of Wholesale Clearance UK, which specialises in buying end-of-line stock and factory seconds, said it had knowingly bought the mugs when they were offloaded by a merchandising company.

If we stop for even a moment to think about the validity of the official story behind these mugs, it’s clear it simply doesn’t hold up. Even now, more than 24 hours since the story broke, a Google image search for Chris Smalling shows hundreds of photos of the Manchester United player… and zero photos of Barack Obama.

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What’s more, a photo of Obama in an England shirt simply does not exist – so it had to be photoshopped. Are we to believe the ‘bleary-eyed intern’ accidentally photoshopped a photo of the world leader into an England shirt ‘by mistake’?

There simply is no route by which this story could have happened as told in the media. This is, in my opinion, the clearest of PR stunts from Wholesale Clearance UK.

What’s more, it’s not the first story of this nature to involve Wholesale Clearance UK. Remember when William and Kate were still pregnant, and we didn’t know if Baby George was actually going to be a Georgina? Remember the tale of the memorabilia firm who jumped the gun and printed a job lot of ‘Royal Princess’ plates? Here’s the Daily Mail’s version of events:

‘To celebrate the birth of the Royal PRINCESS’: Firm left with 5,000 unsold plates after wrongly assuming Kate would have a girl

The birth of Prince George has been a massive boon for many manufacturers, but one company lost out after it produced 5,000 commemorative plates celebrating the arrival of a ‘Royal Princess’.

Other objects produced to mark the historic birth this week include Lego, dolls and an official porcelain collection – but most had the wisdom to wait and find out the baby’s sex before launching their memorabilia.

However, one unnamed firm supposedly had a tip-off from a royal insider that the Duchess of Cambridge was set to give birth to a girl, and designed plates with the message: ‘To celebrate the birth of the Royal Princess’.

Source: Daily Mail, 25th July 2013

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Once again we have an un-named memorabilia firm making an unfortunate-but-comic screw up, and once again who bought up their useless stock?

The useless memorabilia was snapped up by online retailer Wholesale Clearance UK, which is selling the plates in lots of 50, with each set costing £149 – or £2.98 per item.

As with the Obama England mugs, this story simply doesn’t pass the sniff test: the firm created 5,000 plates assuming the baby would be a girl. Did they also release a range of plates based on the Royal baby being male? If they did, I can’t find them. There absolutely are such plates available, but none with a remotely similar design to the Royal Princess range (which are, incidentally, still on sale on Wholesale Clearance’s website). Did the unnamed company really only make Royal Princess plates? Or did they also make Royal Prince plates, but inexplicably chose to create a whole new design for them, knowing only one of the two designs would ever be on general sale?

What’s more, take a look at that Royal Princess plate – who the hell is that baby in the middle of it?

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Why would a firm commemorate the birth of a child who wasn’t yet born, at a time when they didn’t know the gender, using a photo of a baby who wasn’t the actual baby? When the more sensible alternative would be to have no photo of a baby at all? Even if the royal baby actually was female, the plate would have been worthless, given that the photo wasn’t of the correct baby. Are we really meant to believe that any memorabilia firm in the world would make such a decision, rather than running without a baby photo at all? Do we really think, even for a moment, that there is any truth to this story?

It seems clear that both the Obama mug story and the Royal Princess plate story are nothing more than paper-thin attention-grabbing PR stunts from Wholesale Clearance Ltd – and given the huge impact and universally-credulous coverage the stunt has received from the mainstream media, it seems like it was a successful stunt at that.

Hat tip to @FieldProducer and @TheMediaTweets, where I first spotted this story.

“People would love/fear/fuck a robot!” says TV show about robots

Did you see the story about mankind’s fear of the impending rise of the robots? Chances are you did, with widespread coverage of the story including appearances in the GuardianTimesDaily Mail and Daily Star:

Humans hope robots of the future will make love not war

A fifth of Britons have said they would have sex with an android but considerably more fear the rise of the machines will threaten mankind.

One in three, perhaps influenced by the likes of the Terminator franchise, believe that robots will spell the end of the human race.

Perhaps more pressing however is that almost as many are concerned they could lose their job to intelligent machines.

Source: The Times, 6 May 2014

Would YOU have sex with a robot? Prostitutes, police and cleaners revealed to be just some the jobs that droids could take over by 2025

In 10 years our streets could be governed by RoboCop-style police, our taxis may drive themselves and prostitutes might be replaced by so-called ‘sexbots.’

That’s according to a survey that looked at how robots will rise over the next decade.

It found that more than a third of people fear robots will take their jobs, while the same number fear androids will threaten the human race’s existence.

Source: Daily Mail, 6 April 2014

The Times and the Daily Mail, amply illustrating their differing priorities, there. However, whether we’re fighting or fucking our new robot brethren, the source of the story remains the same:

The survey was completed by 2,000 British people to mark the launch of new sci-fi TV police drama, Almost Human, which features an android cop.

Curiously, the list of jobs which could be taken over by robots didn’t include ‘journalist’ – when given the number of outlets who ran this simple copy/paste of a One Poll survey press release, it seems an industry ripe for automation.

Link

“Mentioning a faddy word will get us in the headlines!” says dictionary company, everywhere

“Films can be exciting and scary!” says DVD retailer

As open-goal occasions for getting PR into the news, Halloween is up there only with Christmas, Valentine’s Day and ‘Blue Monday’. Which is why it was no surprise to see headlines highlighting the fear-factor of classic horror films:

Here’s Johnny!’: The Shining scene is scariest in movie history, claims study

Seminal Jack Nicholson scene voted most frightening, but The Exorcist and A Nightmare on Elm Street have the edge overall.

The “Here’s Johnny” scene from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is officially the scariest movie moment of all time, according to a new study.

Source: Guardian, 31st October 2013

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The Shining really is the scariest horror film ever: Heart rate monitors reveal the most terrifying movie moments of all time

What makes a film scary divides opinion – some people prefer tense psychological thrillers, while others want jumpy, edge-of-their seat emotional rollercoasters.

In an attempt to put an end to this debate, Japanese-owned website Rakuten’s Play.com asked people to vote on which horror films they considered to be the most terrifying. 

They then wired a selection of viewers up to heart monitors and tracked changes in their pulse to determine exactly which of the top movie moments got their hearts racing the most.

The winner was the iconic ‘Here’s Johnny’ scene from 1980 film The Shining, which made pulses race and jump by 28.21 per cent.

Source: Daily Mail, 31st October 2013

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It probably says a reasonable amount about the state of the British press that a story categorised by the Guardian in their ‘Culture: Film’ section is, in the Daily Mail, considered a ‘Science’ story. However, it’s not hard to see how the Daily Mail was confused – after all, the story talks about tracking heart rates and monitors. It certainly looks like science. But what was the source of the story?

Website Play.com polled 10,000 users to find the 10 films that most frightened customers, then used heart rate monitors to find out which scenes delivered the greatest chills.

Clearly this is nothing more than an movies-and-games website looking to secure a few headlines in the press, via their PR agency Hotwire PR.

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If you think the blog post Hotwire PR published recounting their work seemed to resemble the article in the Daily Mail closely, you should see the press release they sent out to journalists – from which almost all of the Daily Mail’s article was lifted wholesale.

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If any other journalists want to share with me the press releases they get sent by PR agencies, I’d happily take them off your hands

“Maybe you should go somewhere nice this weekend!” says airline company

When does your weekend start? Earlier than you’d imagine, if you believe the newspapers:

Does your weekend start at 2.39pm today?

A survey has found that 2.39 on a Friday afternoon is the time when many employees shift into weekend mode. Workers get that Friday feeling soon after lunch, and spend much of the afternoon browsing Facebook & emailing friends. Many put this down to having worked overtime the rest of the week. Does your weekend start now?

Source: Guardian, 25th October 2013

The Guardian, no less – a high-water mark for the world of Bad PR. Still, missing from the Guardian write up is the crucial point – the name of the company behind the survey. 

Fortunately, the Guardian weren’t the only ones to run the story:

Weekend starts at 2.39pm today as workers start switching off on Friday afternoons

You may be waiting for the clock to tick round to 5pm today so you can leave the office. But in your head, the working week is already over by then.

Workers switch off for the weekend at 2.39pm on Friday, it is claimed. A study of 2,000 office staff found the majority mentally wind things down well before the official end of the day.

Almost half admit they take Fridays easier than any other day.

Source: Daily Mail, 25th October 2013

Did the Mail remember to leave in the name of the corporate paymasters behind the story? The company with a vested interest in having people kick back on Friday afternoons to plan their weekend? Of course they did:

The research, commissioned by British Airways, found the Friday afternoon wind-down often consists of using Facebook, arranging weekend plans and online banking.

Robin Glover-Faure, Head of Shorthaul for British Airways, said: ‘With this research revealing that Brits are switching off for the weekend slightly earlier than the traditional 5pm, it’s clear to see that planning ahead and having exciting activities lined up is more important than ever.’

“Some things are scary!” says museum of scary things, absolutely everywhere

Certain dates in the calendar provide such reliable touchpoints for PR types that they’re tantamount to open goals – such as Christmas, Valentines Day… and, more recently, Halloween. Here’s a slightly opaque opening gambit from the Guardian:

Are you scared of public speaking?

In a new survey commissioned to uncover our odd phobias, public speaking came out higher than dying. While the number one phobia was the loss of family or friends, fear of public speaking (glossophobia) appeared at number three on the list. Are you scared of addressing a crowd? Is public speaking one of your biggest fears?

Source: Guardian, 30th October 2013

So far, not so Halloween. But let’s take a look at the survey referred to in the Guardian’s sober report on our collective fear of public speaking – an article in the Daily Mail:

Is making a speech a fate worse than death? Most women are more scared of public speaking than they are of dying

Most women are more scared of public speaking than they are of death, it was revealed yesterday.

Researchers who polled 2,000 women found many are far more at ease with meeting their maker than they are of standing in a room talking to an audience hanging on their every word.

The study found women loathe the thought of making a spectacle of themselves, and feel more nervous about stuttering, tripping up and looking foolish than going to an early grave.

Source: Daily Mail, 30th October 2013

A little closer, but still not as spooky as we can go. Let’s take a look at exactly the same story in the Daily Star of the same day:

That’s a bit more like it – just in time for Halloween, it’s good that we have such cutting-edge research into what we all find creepy and scary. Including:

Define true?

The findings come from a survey commissioned by London visitor attraction Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Ah, true as in ‘meaningless PR intended to advertise a museum dedicated to scary and unusual things’, gotcha.

“There are many common fears that a lot of us share but here at Ripley’s we celebrate all that is unusual across the globe… so delving into our more bizarre phobias was fascinating,” said Natascha Crump, general manager at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London.

“It is interesting to find out about people’s fears of nylon sheets, chickens and being the sole survivor of an apocalypse.

“It is also curious to see the affect that modern life is having on our fears as responses such as losing your laptop, the television breaking and being cut off from social media featured in the list of the UK’s phobias.”

From a sober debate on the pressures of public speaking, to pogonophobia and broken televisions – Ripley’s certainly managed to cut their cloth to suit all takers with this story.

Equally, it’s rare and refreshing for PR stories to come with disbelief built right in as an option – I think I’ll choose not to believe this research, Ripley, thank you very much.

“Sleeping is important!” says programme about the importance of sleep

Something of a rarity on Bad PR today, with an appearance from the Guardian’s sister paper, The Observer:

Sleepless nights with screaming babies can ruin your marriage and your health

A screaming baby or a TV in a child’s room can lead to the parents’ divorce, claims new series

As any parents of a young child who is a problem sleeper will confirm, permanent tiredness and constant irritability can put a huge strain on your relationship. In fact, according to a survey, lack of sleep is a big factor in divorce and separation for a third of couples.

Ahead of a new series on the subject, a poll carried out for Channel 4 suggests the average parent surveyed got fewer than six hours of sleep a night. It also found that three in 10 couples who had split up said sleep deprivation since having their child was a factor in the breakup. Nearly 45% said they had dozed off in a place they shouldn’t have or was unsafe, with one in 20 admitting to falling asleep at the wheel of their car.

Source: The Observer, 17 March 2013

The Observer wasn’t alone in running the story, of course – the Daily Mail couldn’t pass up such a gilt-edged opportunity to fill more space in their newspaper and on their website:

Sleepless nights caused by crying babies ends one in three marriages, research claims 

Sleepless nights caused by a crying baby are blamed by  parents for the breakdown of up to a third of relationships, research shows.

Parents with a young child get about six hours sleep a night, an hour less than is recommended.

Experts also say that adults need at least five hours’ uninterrupted sleep to be able to function and concentrate properly the next day.

A survey of 2,000 parents found that 30 per cent of those who had divorced or separated blamed sleepless or interrupted nights caused by their children.

Source: Daily Mail, 17 March 2013

This particular story is a little thorny and a little tricky to unpick. For one, the Observer article (if not the Mail) makes it clear up front that this research came from the TV show ‘Bedtime Live’ – in fact it was release specifically to promote the show.

Another complication is the involvement of respected researcher Dr Tanya Byron, who appears to do robust work. Perhaps, then, this isn’t simply a case of spurious researched being used to prop up the advertising for a TV show? Perhaps this is legit? 

You’d certainly be forgiven for thinking so, however I’m not sure things are so clear and above-board – for instance, note the quotes from Dr Byron supporting the findings:

‘I see people whose children have chronic sleep problems and they’ll say things like their children get really upset if they try to send them to bed.

‘Well, I promise you, they won’t hate you in the morning when they’ve had a proper rest.

‘Our generation struggles  with discipline much more than any other, but the lack of boundaries will only cause more and more difficulties.

‘From a clinical perspective, a lot of those I see in my own  clinics, predominantly children, have underlying issues with not getting enough sleep, even if that isn’t the problem they are presenting with.

As you’ll see, this says nothing at all about the headlien claim that researchers discovered how sleepless nights lead to divorce – this, clearly, is a quote from Dr Byron on her participation in the show. 

Instead, the ‘research’ which uncovered this startling fact was an online poll conducted, I believe, via Bad PR regulars OnePoll – I certainly took part in a very similar survey on their site recently. If so, I’d consider the headline-grabbing statistic that marriages are ending over sleepless nights and crying babies to be highly suspicious.

What’s more, if I were Dr Byron, I might want to have a word with the show’s producers, to make sure future press releases made it very clear which claims came from the academic and which from the PR machine.