Adidas takes a step forward in the fight against ocean pollution

In 2010, it was estimated that eight million tons of plastic trash ended up in the sea—far more than the total measured floating on the surface in the ocean’s “garbage patches.” One report for the UN (conducted by London-based consultancy Trucost) into the activities of the world’s 3,000 biggest companies found that the estimated combined damage was worth US$2.2 trillion (£1.4tn) in 2008 – a figure bigger than the national economies of all but seven countries in the world that year.

One famed sportswear company however has gone from making tentative steps to curb its waste (it was accused by Greenpeace of environmental pollution in the past) to great strides into up-cycling ocean plastic and (to some extent, thanks to the work of The Sea Shepards) poachers’ illegal gillnets to create a new, stylish concept; Eco-sneakers.

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recycled-fish-net-ocean-trash-sneakers-adidas-6

Through its new partnership with envirnomentalism organisation ‘Parley for the Oceans‘ (in which creators, thinkers and leaders come together to raise awareness of ocean pollution, and collaborate on projects to protect and conserve them), the concept shoe offers a first look at the kind of consumer-ready ocean plastic products that Adidas aims to reveal later this year.

The sneakers’ uppers (which may or may not be produced widescale) are created with recycled plastics as well as actual green net fibers – a huge opportunity for those looking to specialise (or branch out) within the footwear and clothing markets.

#BreakingNews Max Clifford has been charged!

Max CliffordInfamous former celebrity publicist, Max Clifford (72) has just been charged with another indecent assault that allegedly occurred in 1981, and will appear at Westminster Magistrates court later this month.

Based on evidence collected as part of Operation Yewtree, the charge is the lastest in a string of offences by Clifford, who was convicted last year of multiple sexual assaults and sentenced to eight years in prison.

Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS in London, Baljit Ubhey, said: “We have carefully considered the evidence gathered as part of Operation Yewtree in relation to Max Clifford.

“Having completed our review, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr Clifford to be charged with one offence of indecent assault. Mr Clifford will appear at Westminster magistrates court on 21 July 2015.”

Hivehaus’ honeycomb design helps first-time buyers build a home

Three years after 52-year-old builder, Barry Jackson started considering how to create a “man cave” in his back garden (to house his photography equipment and drum kit), Hivehaus – a series of hexagonal room forming a personalised building – has grown to host the potential to revolutionise the housing market; offering first-time buyers an alternative (and much cheaper) way of getting modular3onto the property ladder.

The honeycomb design (theorised to be an example of ‘nature’s efficiency’ by the Ancient Greeks), costs approximately £55’000 for three units, and can be erected in less than a week by three builders. Admittedly, it requires planning permission if owners are looking to live within the structure, but the flat-pack, Scandinavian-style buildings have a wide range of potential uses such as, for example: a garden room, office, gym, conservatory, studio and (as allegedly suggested by one London post-production house) film editing suites.

The wooden frame floor’s ‘feet’ can be adjusted to compensate for uneven ground, but (for me) the key feature of this house is without doubt the interlocking shape system. As you can see in the video below, as well as the main hexagon spaces, Barry has also designed smaller diamond-shaped rooms with bathroom fittings, and similarly shaped patterns for an outdoor decking area.

“With this idea, every module is the same size and you think of the module as a space which you use for whatever – if you need another bedroom, you add another module”, says Jackson, making the units perfect for a young couple who could then add to the structure with more units as their financial circumstances improve.

Hivehaus‘ simplistic and minimalistic stye might not suit everyone, but with the way the housing market is going, the Hivehaus is innovative enough to pose as a significant and (most importantly) affordable option for first-time buyers – something that has been a key motivator for Jackson.

“A lot of young people won’t ever have that chance that I had. They are still living with their parents in their 30s. It delays having families because people don’t feel that they belong anywhere, because they are stuck in some rental trap.

“The more I developed this idea, the more I saw that this could be developed for good and hopefully help people who can’t get on the housing ladder.”

Do you smell what “The Rock” has been cooking?

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Source: David Shankbone (Flickr)

When it comes to personal branding, some get it and some don’t. Some are branding masterminds; falling easily into their brand ‘personas’. Some need a team to help them with branding decisions, something which, by the way, is perfectly okay – it’s what we are here to help with after all.

And – so there’s no doubt – when we’re talking about ‘electrifying’ personalities, we’re talking about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – my childhood (and admittedly adulthood) celebrity crush. Successfully transforming himself from a one-time Pro Wrestler to “The Great One”, “The Rock” not only branched out from the esteemed ranks of the WWE elite but, in recent years, has become an undisputed Hollywood heavyweight.

It would be fair to say a big part of what is driving “The Rock”‘s ‘brand’ is his social media presence. After all, what with 49.5 Million Facebook ‘likes’, 16.7 Million Instagram followers, and 8.8 Million Twitter followers; there’s no denying the figures regardless of whether they’re ‘fitness fanatics’, ‘film afficionados’, or one of the Millions AND MILLIONS of fans of the good ol’ “People’s Champ”.

Despite being a late adopter due to his claim of being “a very private

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It’s not just wine that ages well Source: Ifran.nasir05 (Flickr)

person and therefore unsure how to engage”, Dwayne’s approach perfectly encapsulates the concept that “Organisations don’t tweet, people do.”

When he finally took the plunge and opened his Twitter account, he claimed (according to Social Media Expert, Amy Jo Martin) that his biggest goal was “just to be authentic, so that people know that when their tweet alert goes off on their device, that it’s coming directly from my hands.”

It is this – his hands-on approach – that is unmatched in today’s world of celebrity. Nobody speaks on his behalf. Ever. Dwayne’s success is argued by Ms Martin, as being due to his being “fully and personally committed to delivering value to his audience”, by using platforms to “Motivate, Encourage and Entertain”.

By constantly delivering value when, where, and how his fans wanted it, ‘The Rock’ was able to establish a two-way, dynamic relationship which consistently increases his personal reach (generating a larger following) and deepens the loyalty of his existing followers’ (through stimulating greater engagement)—two goals of every business on the planet.

With that in mind, can you smell what ‘The Rock’ is cookin’? Because whatever it is? It’s something we should ALL be getting a taste of.

Britain’s Best PR Student Blogger of the year: SECOND PLACE!!!

What some (but not many of you) may be aware of is that seven lonnnnng months ago, PR Practitioner and Academic, Richard Bailey (who is also the Editor of online PR magazine, Behind the Spin) kicked off this academic year’s #BestPRblogs competition to promote the work of student bloggers (like myself) who are passionate about public relations.

One month ago, Livi Wilkes, Lauren Old, Morta Jablonskaite, Simona Novokova and I were shortlisted. I couldn’t have been more pleased! After all, I’ve only really been blogging properly since last September so to have my work deemed strong enough for the shortlist of a national contest with over fifty talented entrants was a really nice surprise.

Anyway, we had a month to impress Stephen Waddington, Chief Engagement Officer for  and regular blogger in his own right (Seriously, check out his blog!), who was judging us based on:

  • Our content,
  • Our effort to build a community
  • Technical competence in the design and function of our blogs

Today, the results were announced and Britain’s Best PR Student Blogger of 2015 was named in a dedicated blog post by Stephen…..

Morta and Simona achieved joint status as runners-up for their blogs Just PR (Morta) and SN’s PR Campaigns blog (Simona), both of which are beautifully designed and contain in-depth insightful content on a wide range of areas.

Me, myself and I? I placed (joint) SECOND/Highly Commended alongside mature student, Lauren, whose blog shares her experiences juggling her studies with being a mum. Her posts often make me smile, particularly her posts (like this one) relating her experiences raising a two year old to aspects of public relations.

Stephen’s feedback was very kind and reinforced areas I know I need to improve. He said:

Ashley’s Comms and Caffeine blog uses the Adele WordPress template. It’s a good portfolio design with links to her social media profiles. She’s a prolific blogger often posting several posts per week. The content is a mix of campaign analysis and insight into areas of practice. Ashley isn’t afraid of controversial subjects; a recent post takes on the Protein World campaign. Her next job is to work on engagement around her content to generate comments and inbound links.

Engagement has always been my weakness and I think my confidence is a strong possible cause for this. So, after my exams finish, I am dedicating (at least part of) my summer to improving the engagement surrounding my content to expand my reach and gain increased exposure for my work.

That only leaves the girl who secured first place and won the title of Best PR Student Blogger of 2015,

LIVI WILKES!!!

I’m so darn happy for Livi as her blog, Live Love Laugh PR, is a personal favourite of mine (I get to admit that now!). The open passion and clear love she demonstrates for PR is something I share wholeheartedly, and I love both the clean simplicity and overall ‘prettiness’ of her blog’s design as well as the down-to-earth tone she takes in her posts.

Overall, its been a pretty wonderful day and I can’t thank Richard enough for running this project over the past seven months and inspiring a new generation of public relations bloggers. Not only has this experience shown me how easy, interesting and FUN blogging is once you get started, it’s also really helped me gain confidence in my own personal ‘voice’.

The only way is up and thanks to Behind the Spin, I’m one step closer to making my mark in the industry.

How an Itsy bitsy teeny (and controversial) bikini can help explain brand integrity

This week in class we were debating if there is ever such a thing as ‘bad publicity’?

Although many were aligned with Phineas T. Barnum’s statement that “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”, I believe this stance can only go so far.

True enough, if someone is seeking notoriety and a scandalous reputation, perhaps this opinion may have some credence. But if publicity is centred on a product or service that has been shown to be physically detrimental to the consumer or the environment ala BP after their latest oil spill, then there is little likelihood that that publicity of the issue is going to increase sales or improve brand awareness in a valuable way for the business.

Our focus led us to looking at Protein World‘s ‘Beach Body Ready!’ OOH campaign which a few days ago was pulled by TFL.

Launched on platforms across the London Underground, the campaign’s bright yellow poster (shown below) is illustrated by the requisite (although allegedly un-photoshopped) woman in a tiny bikini as well as examples of some of their protein-based meal-replacement products. 45775830-2510-465f-a8cb-bda9b5a82951-620x372

Reactions, perhaps surprisingly, were mixed.

Call me cynical but this campaign’s message doesn’t really stand out (neither amongst its competitors, or within the general media). Maybe I’ve become desensitised, who knows…

Others however, have taken a stand against the ad on the principle beachbodydeface2that any ‘body’ which makes it to a beach this summer is a ‘beach body’, and that Protein World – and by extension, Richard Staveley (Head of Marketing) – are adding to the commodification of women’s bodies within society, and are ‘fat-shaming’ those who do not meet their body ideals.

Campaigners claim that the company is “directly targeting individuals, aiming to make them feel physically inferior to the unrealistic body image of the bronzed model in order to sell their product” and have not only taken to social media to express their views, but have also defaced ads across the London Underground and started a (now successful) petition to have the campaign pulled.

As a self-acknowledged chubster, its easy to understand why some women might find these ads offensive, but it was the brand’s response that really threw me for a loop. Instead of apologising and taking a softly-softly approach centred on the ad’s role as a motivational device, they doubled-down and held their own.

The resultant outcry and subsequent media attention has meant that in four days, Protein World has secured 20’000 new customers, over 113 million media views, and has made over 1 MILLION in revenue.

By causing a debate on such a fraught issue as obesity, the brand Picture1has polarised the media and its audiences in a way that (because they are in a niche market) means they can be completely unrepentant in their stance whilst meeting the ideologies and general attitudes of their key consumers – those who are or want to lose weight – even if that causes an awful lot of controversy.

Rightly or wrongly, the campaigns objective was to increase sales and, by creating a newsworthy story that everyone had an opinion on, social justice campaigners didn’t just give the brand a MASSIVE boost in exposure but also meant that those who agreed with their ideology would be more interested in actually making a purchase.

INGENIOUS!!!

Think about it.

They secured free coverage in several key national publications and news outlets as well as even more in women’s magazines such as Cosmopolitan. Coverage that would have otherwise cost them thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – to pay for themselves.

All it took was them maintaining their brand’s integrity.

If your brand is consistent in its actions, values, principles and behaviour, then it is seen to have integrity, and as such, will be meaningful to the audience to which it is aimed – however distasteful it might be to the rest of us.

It’s not about trying to be good anymore (though that might be one aspect of your brand) and its not about being ‘nice’ or even looking good in a yellow bikini; it’s trying to be honest, authentic and representative of the people who really matter – if only to your brand.

Top 10 tips for a tip top press release

A staple tool in any PR Exec’s toolkit; the traditional press release is something we are – or will soon become – all too familiar with. There are lots of dos and don’ts that new entrants need to master however to avoid triggering journalists’ pet peeves and get the maximum amount of coverage possible. After spending a day or two considering what would irritate me as a journalist (are therefore the main areas I feel I need to keep in mind as a PR grad), I thought I’d share my top ten tips with you guys on the off-chance I include something you’d not considered. Don’t say I never gave you anything.

Contact information

When it comes to pitching and selling in press releases, don’t just leave your email, leave your phone number. Journalists work to tight deadlines and losing out on coverage because you didn’t refresh your inbox in time isn’t going to sit well with your superiors or your clients.

Titles: Keep it catchy

Disclaimer in advance: the title PR’s suggest is very rarely going to ever be used in the final published piece.

Keeping this in mind, the purpose of the title from a PR perspective is to basically grab journalists’ attention and spur them to read on. So, stick the title in the subject box (of the email), cut out the company name and any unnecessary words and you’re pretty good to go. This strategy makes it easier for journalists to establish from the get-go whether they want to keep reading, and (because of this) forces you to get really good at coming up with simple snappy headlines really fast.

Interesting Introductions

The general rule of thumb is to try and keep it under 25 words. When starting a job or internship straight out of uni, this might a tricky task; after all, you’ve most likely spent a solid three years learning how to bulk up your writing to meet word counts. Now you’re being paid to be concise, its a challenge. If your story is newsworthy though, it’s a doable one, so practice, practice, practice and you’ll soon have the technique down.

Who’s your audience?

Consider who would really care about this? Pitching to industry-specific websites/publications who are already going to be interested in your client’s work is going to be far more effective at securing you coverage that blanket pitching to every Tom, Dick and Harry publication regardless of your relevance to them.

Let’s be honest here, if you’re client is a fashion boutique, you’re going to have a MUCH harder time getting them coverage in an engineering magazine unless you come up with a really strong, interesting and relevant angle.

Focus on facts

Facts are important to make your press release interesting, relevant and useable. Make sure to only present information that is true, correct and doesn’t mislead the reader. Forgoe this point at your peril. You will be found out and it’ll not only damage the reputation of your client (which they will not be best pleased about), it’ll also damage your reputation with the media.

Quotes

It’s an industry faux pas to quote people who aren’t available to interview, but aim to include at least one quote in every press release. It gives your client more credence and your story more personality.Without doubt, the more interesting the quote, or the more unique/memorable its source, the more likely you are to get coverage. But!!! Keep in mind the relevance and credibility of the source being quoted. People are going to pay a lot more attention to Alan Titchmarch’s opinion on a gardening product or landscaping company than they are Joey Essex.

A picture tells a thousand words

Supplying journalists and editors with a range of high quality photos that are relevant to your story/client is going to earn you a lot of goodwill. After all, everyone wants your piece to look good in print/online, and a couple of great visuals are going to do just that. Also consider that saving journalists/editors effort by taking the time to collate these images yourself is going to go down brilliantly and is going to go a long way to spurring them to use your piece.

Avoid jargon

Enough said really, but to spell it out bluntly, not everyone is going to understand the techno-babble of your client. Using plain language without the frills is going to open your piece to a wider audience as it means your story is more likely to be understood – both by the reader and the journalist you are pitching to.

Proofread to perfection

Typos and grammatical mistakes are unprofessional, irritating to correct and off-putting to read. Be sure to proof before pitching and clean up any accidental mistakes. Do not rush this stage.

Keep it simple. Keep it snappy. Keep it short.

The whole point I’m trying to make here is that to get coverage, you need to make publishing your piece as relevant as possible to the journalist you’re pitching to, and convenient as possible for them to actually use. So my final tip in this top 10 is going to have to be that you aim to keep it under a page in length.

From my journo training, time constraints and deadlines mean we have to quickly scan press releases to establish whether they are worth pursuing/using, so I know that when working in PR, keeping a press release short and to the point is going to be much better received than something that reads like a bad memoir.

The ‘Fame’ game

WarholAndy Warhol famously said that ‘In the future, eveybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes’.

Some argue that, in this statement, Warhol was commenting on the power of new media technologies, whereas others believe that it relates to Warhol critiquing the changing nature of ‘celebrity’ within society.

Personally – cynically perhaps – I fall into the latter camp whereby I believe that Andy Warhol’s famous quote predicted the nature of fame within our celebrity-saturated culture.

Love them or detest them though, it’s pretty clear that in modern life, celebrities wield significant power within modern society and, like any entertainment ‘product’, often make a major contribution to our economy. Public Relations can be argued as having had most profoundly influenced the rise of our ‘celebrity culture’ through not only assisting in the curation of individual’s personal brands, but also through cojointly benefiting brands like Nike and Virgin from their association with individual celebrities which share similar associations (or attributes the brand wants to adopt).

Although some may feel that celebrities are the ‘scourge’ of modern life, and admittedly I find it frustrating when I see that Kim Kardashian became famous after the release of a sex tape, or those from Jersey Shore, TOWIE etc gain fame from openly staged ‘reality’ shows. By no means do I feel that they haven’t worked to KEEP that fame (which can account for the increasingly volatile crises they have within their ‘reality’ storylines), but I find it hard to appreciate their ‘celebrity’ status when I have grown up believing that fame stems from an individual’s amazing ability, skill or personal accomplishment.

Saying this however, I believe that it’s far more common for celebrites today play a necessary and beneficial role in modern society by using their Legitimate, Referent and occasionally Expert power (as hypothesised by French & Raven, 1959) to bring people together, bridge divides between communities and cultures, and deliver valid public representations of private concerns that can direct media attention and generate public support for important causes.

British film, television, and stage actor, Sir Patrick Stewart (one of my favourite celebrities of all time and not just because his friendship with Ian McKellen), is an active campaigner against domestic violence for both Refuge and

Amnesty International, as well as an activist for the armed forces charity, Combat StressI love the fact that not only was he AMAZING in Star Trek: The Next Generation AND the X-Men film series, but he also recognises the power that he has as a white, male celebrity, and is using it as a force for positive change.

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Another celebrity who is using their status to raise awareness and illicit change is acclaimed Indian actress, Mallika Sherawat, who (in the video below) defends her statement that Indian society is regressive towards women. Not only is she fiercely steadfast in raising the issues currently being faced within Indian culture, she is also passionate about the fact that (rather than damaging India’s reputation), in raising these issues, she is improving international awareness and stimulus for cultural change.

Looking at these celebrities and comparing their behaviour/actions to those of their reality-star counterparts has made me realise that the type of celebrity a person becomes is often influenced by the motivations behind their fame and their personal value-set.

This makes things harder for PR professionals as (particularly in the cases of reality stars) the associations and attributes asscribed to their personal brands is influenced by both their PR/Media representation but also their behaviour on the sets of ‘reality’ shows which thrive on fractious interpersonal situations and crises.

Maybe this is what Warhol was alluding to?

If you consider the idea that becoming a celebrity can be as easy as participating in a TV show, then doesn’t their ‘fame’ rely (at least in part) on their continuous presence on the show, or even of the show itself? Unless they learn to evolve the attributes connected to their personal brand beyond the intial pop-culture reference (by for example, using their fame for good or (at the very least) towards new avenues of associations), then once that starring reference falls out of favour, they too will fade.

Its an interesting challenge for PR Execs working on Celebs’ behalfs, and one which (no doubt) is going to be gaining increasing client investment over the next few years.

Do we suffer from too much tech?

I should probably confess that I (like many, I imagine) am unsure I could manage a complete disconnect from technology – much to the frustration of my partner.  However when you think about it, technology seems to permeate almost every aspect of modern life from:

Advances in digital growth (across the board) i.e. the internet….

…to industry or sector-specific advances…

…not to mention, all the manifestations found within social media…

Honestly, without going to the extreme extent of packing up what little non-tech reliant valuables I have (which I honestly think I could count on one hand) and moving to live in a cave in Nepal, I’m not entirely sure how it would be possible in this day and age to cut out modern technology entirely.

But is this such a bad thing?

Does modern society really suffer from too much technology?

This question has increasingly been a subject of debate over the last few years and recently, the issue has become the central feature to the latest animated music video of Stromae (one of the biggest stars in the french-speaking world), which has been beautifully directed by the acclaimed French filmmaker, Sylvain Chomet.

The video, which follows Stromae’s doppelgänger as he falls deeper and deeper into the social media abyss from an innocently taken selfie to a hunger for attention that can never be sated.

Surely though, falling into the social media abyss is dependent completely on the individual’s choice of content/media consumption? How many of us have used Facebook and Twitter to find other, like-minded people? To seek out fellow feminists, for example, or fans of the same music as us? To keep in touch with the people we’ve met in real life who otherwise we might never see again?

Maybe the case is that, if you consume poor quality, biased content and have a personality which is susceptible to craving social interaction and attention, then technology (and social media in particular) is a maze of traps waiting to happen.

What does this mean for PR?

Across the world, organisations are seeking greater engagement with their key publics, and PR (like many industries) has evolved to meet the changing needs and consumption habits of its target audiences. No longer is it feasible for organisations to operate within their own silos.

This of course poses a challenge for agencies and executives who now are stimulated to seeking new ways to break through the considerable noise and engage increasingly discerning and often cynical consumers.

No longer is it enough to merely use digital and social platforms to amplify and extend the reach of traditional messages, or repeat the same content across traditional and online platforms – however interesting the client may believe that content to be. To engage consumers online, marketers and PR Execs need to create a message which is both engaging, innovative most importantly human to connect.

Taking a back-seat, reactive approach to communications strategy does not grab the reader/viewer, let alone instil trust and brand loyalty. The future therefore is clear and can be defined by four combined approaches.

  • Integration
  • Personalisation
  • Proactive
  • Anticipatory

The question remains, are we brave enough to stop making the same silly mistakes, measure our digital effectiveness and become the profession we so strongly claim we are?

I think so; and what’s more, I think that the more we analyse and improve ourselves as a profession and instil these approaches into the habits and mindsets of those entering the industry, the stronger and more trusted Public relations will become, and the more trust will be shown to the technology which has provided us with these opportunities.

At your own risk

Just rediscovered this feature I wrote for Communicate Magazine November 2013 issue on the growing importance of Corporate Affairs Directors (and of Corporate Communications in general). I still think it’s appropriate, and it’s still one of my favourite published articles to date.

More use than smoke signals

The 2007 financial crisis caused society’s confidence in business to hit an all time low. Since then, companies have been under increased public scrutiny from many angles. This scrutiny has only been exacerbated by the advent of web 2.0 and the public forums and social media channels it supports.

The growing influence of the corporate affairs function in FSTE 100 companies The growing influence of the corporate affairs function in FSTE 100 companies

The influence of corporate affairs directors however is thought to have grown steadily over the past number of years. However, it has become more and more important for the reputational dimension of strategic and operational decisions to be considered at an early stage.

It was with this in mind, that a study was conducted by executive search consultants, Spencer Stuart. Jonathan Harper, who leads the consultancy’s consumer practice in Europe and partner in the consultancy, says “We thought it would be useful for us to find out and…

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