Not only are we tied to our desk, but to cap it all off, our hectic on-the-go lifestyle means we end up having the same thing for lunch over and over again:
One in 10 admitted eating the same meal for lunch EVERY day, with the most popular reoccurring choices being a plain cheese sandwich or a meaty ham sandwich.
Which, admittedly, is a useful message for the company behind this PR to send:
The research was commissioned by Quorn, who are encouraging the UK to change their ways with the launch of nine new products, which can be eaten “on the go” as healthy lunch options that are also healthy for the planet.
Chalk up another piece of obviously commercially-motivated article placement to the folk at 72 Point, who even got the byline for the Mirror’s piece:
Which company wants you to question whether it’s time to take your partner away for a romantic getaway?
Karl Thompson, managing director for Sandals Resorts in the UK, which commissioned the study, said: “Whether it’s a couple’s first trip together, a honeymoon to celebrate, or a more traditional break away from everyday life, a getaway with your partner can be the perfect chance to spend quality time together and strengthen those romantic bonds.
“Whilst a week-long holiday may seem lengthy for a first trip away, it can be a good opportunity to see if a new relationship will stand the test of time and whether any romance lasts when you get home.”
This non-news article, published in a national newspaper simply to encourage you to think about booking a holiday, was paid for by a holiday company and placed in the news by PR company 72 Point, whose employee was even given the by-line in the Mirror.
On this particular occasion, PR firm 72 Point were paid to publish this in the Mirror (with a by-line to their PR account manager, naturally) by… well…
Animal charity SPANA carried out the research ahead of International Working Animal Day (15 June) to raise awareness of working animals worldwide, which face a lifetime of work, with no retirement, in appalling conditions that never change.
You almost have to take your hats off to 72 Point for this one, to get from office workers upset about the loss of the good old days, to a line about the life of working animals. But I’ll let the SPANA spokesperson explain their hook:
Geoffrey Dennis, chief executive of animal charity SPANA, which provides free veterinary treatment to working animals in developing countries, said: “They say things were ‘better in my day’ and it’s clear that older workers are nostalgic about the past and a time when work felt less stressful.
“But while it can be difficult to get to grips with longer working hours, new technology and higher demands, these problems pale in comparison with the gruelling conditions endured by working animals overseas.”
And in case there was any doubt that this article was written in full by a PR company with zero editing or fact checking from the news organisation that published it, we only have to look to the SWNS news feed to see the full copy.
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:
Lize Earle skincare hires PR company to incorporate the marketing/advertising hook into some content marketing copy
PR company uses OnePoll to create data that backs up the PR angle they’ve already decided on
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)
Newspaper looking for something to fill its pages publishes the ad-driven copy as if it were a real story.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
We have to go on a little bit of a journey to spot the PR angle on this one, as this research was paid for and the copy commissioned by a bread manufacturer, who first spin the story from “things happen at certain ages” to “we can remember big events that happen in our lives”:
Melissa Bentley, marketing manager for French bakery brand, Brioche Pasquier, which commissioned the research, said: “Many of us can still remember big life events, even if they happened decades ago.
“But even though memory is a great way of capturing these times, having them in photos and videos is really great to relive some of the key moments of our lives.”
The quote from the marketing spokesperson nudges the angle from “we can remember things” to “we all take photos of big events in order to remember them”, which brings us to the real purpose of this story:
Melissa Bentley added: “Whatever the special moment and whenever a person experiences it, it seems that a lot of us choose to honour the occasion in the form of a photograph.
“And it’s now even easier with most of us people able to reach into our pockets and capture it on our smartphones.
“This summer, that is exactly what we’re asking members of the public to do.
”Share your images of your special moment with us and our favourites will have the chance of winning amazing prizes”.
So from our starting point of “milestone events happen in our lives at certain ages”, we’ve now got to “a bread company wants to see your family snaps”. Convoluted stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree… and not, by any stretch of the imagination, journalism.
Who has a commercial incentive to send the message that having office workers spend their time on admin tasks is inefficient?
Adam Reynolds, CEO and spokesman for expense management company Webexpenses, which carried out the study, said: “Activities such as claiming expenses, processing invoices and auditing shouldn’t take much time at all, and yet for many businesses stuck in the dark ages, they are.