Sometimes, Bad PR stories are almost too perfect in the way they encapsulate the problems in PR and in the media. Take, for instance, today’s story from the Daily Star, which appeared on page 8 of the print edition:
You can whistle
Wolf calls survey anger
Some women actually like being wolf-whistled, accoridng to a provocative survey on International Women’s Day.
One in 11 – or 2.4 million – said they took it as a compliment.
But campaigners on the women’s rights day blasted the research’s “poor timing”. Despite it being treated as a hate crime, 39% of women told the study they “actively encourage” cat-calling and “hope” they will be wolf-whistled at.
Astonishing, you might think, that the Daily Star would run a story that suggests that so many women actually enjoy being harassed on the street – and on International Women’s Day at that! But at least the Star had the good decency to ensure they published a story which ostensibly was at least critical of cat-calling, or of the survey, right?
Well, that’s the funny thing – the original press release didn’t condemn cat-calling at all, and played the street harassment angle for a bit of cheeky fun, highlighting how being wolf-whistled on the street actually makes women feel confident and desirable. I know it did, because I saw the original release:
1 in 11 British Women LIKE Being Cat-Called
New research has revealed that one in eleven British women like being cat-called, with 39% of these stating that they ‘actively encourage’ catcalls and ‘hope’ they will be catcalled when they leave the house. Furthermore, 15% of women admitted to finding unavailable men attractive.
According to new research, one in eleven British women actually like it when men cat-call them, with many confessing that they boost their confidence and that they leave the house hoping to encourage that kind of attention. Furthermore, 15% of women confess to being attracted to unavailable men, with the majority stating that it makes them feel ‘more desirable’.
There was no mention of International Women’s Day, at all (although there is surely no chance the story wasn’t timed to deliberately appear on that particular day). There was, however, a nicely prominent mention of the originators of this story:
The team at www.VoucherCodesPro.co.uk conducted the research as part of an ongoing study into British attitudes towards each other. 2,488 British women aged 18 and over were quizzed about the way that they’re treated by others and vice versa, and what they look for in a potential suitor.
So where did the condemnation come into it, and where did the reference to International Women’s Day come from? All I can surmise is that the original story was so completely tone-deaf and exploitative in its overt brandwagoning that it was too sexist even for the Daily Star to publish in its original format.
So, half marks go to the Star for at least recognising and toning down the misogyny of the original, though it would have been far more ethical to simple never run the story in the first place. Clearly they had an editorial change of heart, because the online version of the story disappeared a little while after it had been published:
Of course, the Star ought to realise that the Internet never forgets, and the cached version of the story can still be read.
If the Star get half marks for their effort, zero marks have to go to VoucherCodesPro, the market research company used to compile the data (I’m pretty sure there is only One polling company likely to have been behind this one), and to the PR company who worked up this story for them – 10 Yetis.
As a wonderfully ironic wrinkle, 10 Yetis have a Bad PR blog of their own, with their daily “Examples of Good and Bad PR” news feed.
In it they pour through the day’s news to highlight examples of PR done very well, and PR that backfires, has a poor reception or comes from a less-than-positive place. As a marketing tool, I’m sure it does wonders for the ethical perception of their agency, that they talk about the ethics and effectiveness of work done in their industry.
I wonder if they have the ethical integrity to add their own cynical and counter-productive International Women’s Day brandwagoning effort to their Bad PR round up tomorrow? I won’t hold my breath.