Barbie’s Brand Survival

Hitting the headlines this week is the revelation that Barbie is introducing new shapes, sizes and skin tones. Their justification is diversity, they want to be more inclusive.

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Now I don’t doubt that this is a part of the reason. Mattel have come under some heavy global media fire criticising Barbie’s disproportionate measurements and the negative effects on the children that play with them.

However, let’s not beat around the bush. Barbie’s had a hard time over the past few years. The invention of Bratz and other rival toys, not to mention iPads and other technological supplements, have opened up the field of fun for children around the world. This has meant that the humble Barbie Doll has had to adapt to survive or face its resignation to ‘Retro Toys of the 90’s’ segments on Buzzfeed and lame Christmas television shows.

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Some more of the new Barbie line up!

Now diverse Barbie’s are nothing new. My most prized possession as a child was a beautiful Benetton Barbie, one of the first modern designer Barbies that my Mum bought me back from a trip to Amsterdam.

She was stunning, her clothes were different to any of my regular Barbie dolls. Her skin tone was different, her make up was different, her eyes were more oval and she had long flowing dark hair. She looked chic and Italian. I loved her.

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Wow the power of Google – I found my Benetton Barbie online, she was called Marina!

But, I digress, what I mean to say here is, this is nothing new!

Check out the evolution of Barbie through this link.

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Check out the Twitter hash tag #TheDollEvolves

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What people are failing to ask is what is really going on here?

This is not about diversity, this is about survival. Brand survival. How does a toy stay iconic? It moves with the times and meets the expectations of it’s audience.

Barbie are cleverly using diversity to drive sales and create a strong identity that their new modern market can identify and connect with. In the past any Barbie that didn’t fit the conventional mould was labelled limited edition, like my Benetton Barbie.

They are creating this strong image for their audience to identify with by creating more shapes, sizes and skin tones and making them part of their standard range then using this to address the damaging ‘stick thin’ model mentality that’s so popular in modern media. Ah, a form of feminism for capital gains.

They are even aligning their brand by creating bespoke look-a-like dolls for influential women which are then being promoted through the UN Women’s Twitter account.

Mattel are broadcasting their acceptance of diversity and positive body imagery with a highly public and prominent PR awareness campaign. Would Mum’s around the world want to buy their child a more diverse doll to promote a healthy or different body image? Of course they will.

But don’t be fooled, this really is nothing more than clever public relations to ensure a brands survival with the additional benefit of reputation enhancement. It’s pretty impressive and powerful PR.

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Is Ken next?

P.S. If you want a giggle check out the popular ‘hipster Barbie’ instagram account – a parody of hipster insta accounts!

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Hipster Barbie has her own Instagram account!

Meet the Professionals 2016 at Solent University

Journey

I went on a pretty long journey to get where I am today and a key part of that journey was sending myself back to university to do a PR Masters in 2014. I’m hugely passionate about PR and feel that the wonderful education Southampton Solent University gave me was an important contribution in my progression. It’s given me wonderful opportunities and still does.

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One of those opportunities happened at the start of February 2016, I was invited to attend the CIPR hosted Meet the Professionals event, to represent my current company Lee Peck Media.

25 media professionals attended to offer help and advice to current students in the creative industries at a speed-networking event. Yes, this is a bit like speed dating, all the professionals stay seated while every 10 minutes the students rotate around the room.

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I spoke to lots of students across the evening and even managed to network myself a little.

Lauren Witty, the current Wessex CIPR student representative, did an excellent job at getting a large mix of regional professionals to attend. 25 in total – the best turn out in the events history. It was easily double the size of when I last attended this event in 2014. Congratulations Lauren – your hard work paid off!

Laura Bradley, one of the students who attended, has written a great blog on her site The PR Girl  with five key points that she took away from the event. I am always interested to see what people find notable and the advice they gain from these kind of events and whether that information was useful or not. It’s great to see that Laura’s experience was very positive and the key points were useful ones!

Obviously, I am now on the other side, so I thought I’d give you my five key recommendations from the Meet the Professionals event. These were the most popular things that I said in response to students questions that evening:

  1. Be brave – This isn’t easy. It’s daunting out there but be brave, professionals and companies were once where you were. We all start somewhere.
  2. Grow a thick skin – You are going to get some knock-backs, but it’s time to man up and be more elephant! Learn what you can from these experiences, can you get feedback? As soon as you can pick yourself back up, dust yourself down and keep going, your opportunity is out there. No, seriously, put that Ben and Jerry’s down and grab yourself a Kleenex – you can do this!
  3. Never stop learning – Don’t be afraid to enrol yourself on courses, speak to your peers, ask for advice or shadow a colleague. The industry is evolving all the time, but don’t worry there are many ways to keep your skills together including your CIPR membership, you tube, the infinite resource that is Google, online courses, local colleges and universities.
  4. Find a way – If it’s your dream industry or company and you’ve tried and failed to get in through a direct application can you get another job with them and then side step in to what you want? This could be an option. I did, so can you!
  5. Dig the journey – Unless you are the luckiest so and so, and if you are count your blessings, don’t worry if your journey is the path less travelled. Don’t worry if it takes you longer than others to figure out where and what you want to do, you will learn so much that will contribute to your future, more desired, career (and life in general).

Here’s a selection of my tweets from the event:

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Thanks to everyone involved – I hope to see you there next year!

No more of this ‘New Year, New Me’ bollocks…

Thank god we made it through all that ‘New Year, New Me’ bollocks that was rammed down our throats across January. Sorry, but dry January, along with the temporary wave of new gym goers and people making resolutions that are not kept can do one.

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It’s time for a quick January 2016 catch up!

January was so much fun, it has gone by in a flash, probably through the haze of Birthday celebrations. One notable Birthday highlight was a rather decadent and frivolous afternoon tea at The Savoy. This then got extended to gin and tonic’s at the Beaufort Bar in all it’s 1920’s black and gold glamour. We then went around Kings Cross Station to the Alan Rickman tributes that have been left at Platform nine and three quarters. He was one of my favourite actors.

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Then, with our lovely warm gin jackets on, we staggered around the Lumiere art installations that were across London.

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I hope you had a cracking January too, I mean it wasn’t that bad, was it?

It has been a great month apart from a couple of major exceptions, the wonderfully talented icons we have lost.

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A tribute left to Alan Rickman at Kings Cross

Bowie. Rickman. Wogan. Cultural icons who will be sorely missed. The world will be a slightly darker place without them all.

I was lucky enough to meet Sir Terry Wogan once (I know what a name drop!) on the strangest college trip ever to the Terry and Gaby Show. He sat down on the step next to me, before he was introduced on stage, and engaged me in a brief chat which ended with him elbowing my arm, throwing me a wink and saying ‘There are worse jobs to have!’. He was warm, engaging and a true professional.

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The Telegraph’s moving tribute to Sir Terry Wogan

Each in their own way helped to shape modern media, music and film. Influencers in their field.

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PR is always talking about influencers. In fact it’s such a hot topic that the CIPR has sent a new magazine out at the end of January to its members called Influence.

The tag line is ‘For switched-on Public Relations Professionals’. It’s a great tag line, if not a little obvious. I mean everyone wants to be considered as ‘switched-on’ in the PR industry?!

Emblazened on the cover is the word ‘LISTEN’ followed by ’19 essentials to engage a message-swamped world’. Why 19?! Odd!

It’s targeting three key issues that are some of the biggest PR insecurities. Being able to influence, to listen and to effectively communicated.

I haven’t read it yet but I can’t wait to settle down with a coffee, welcome in February properly and get my PR geek on! Let’s hope it lives up to the hype!

Converging Careers Conference 2015 at Southampton Solent University

 

Almost exactly a year ago, in 2014, I was a student and I graduated from the PR Masters degree at Southampton Solent University.

One year later and the situation had reversed, rather than sitting in the lecture theatre ready to take notes, I was the one giving the talk. Talk about a one eighty!

I was invited back to speak about the way PR, advertising and marketing are starting to merge together to form a hybrid and to explain the necessity of having a wide skills set that cover these fields.

This blog is what I took from the conference, my perspective and what I found valuable. Livi Wilkes, from Solent PR, has already shared all the golden nuggets of information about employability in the following two blogs, which are definitely worth a read:

SSU Converging Careers Conference Part 1

SSU Converging Careers Conference Part 2

My journey has been a long one, with many experiences which has contributed to where I am today. it sounds cliched but it’s true. That experience wasn’t invalid, I just wasn’t aware of that until recently. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?!

I think, for me, it was also important to show other people who are about to enter a creative industry that the path isn’t always smooth and straight. It’s not easy to open up about struggling. I had tried so hard to get in to PR through various means and although at times I felt I was never going to get there or that I was on the wrong path, I never gave up. So coming back to my university and being able to relay my journey and where I am now was really exciting.

When I was there I met one of the 2015 graduates from the PR Masters and she shared her feelings with me via Twitter, and it was a reminder of how powerful face to face interaction and social media can be. Remember that you aren’t alone, it’s ok to be ‘lost’ sometimes and to take the road less travelled. Not everyone is living that glossy life they so readily portray to the world on social media. Not everything comes easily. Most of the best things don’t come easily. Trust your intuition.

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Catherine Sweet, my wonderful lecturer and mentor, opened the conference by explaining the changes in the industry and why they were important. Her career in PR/Marketing/Advertising/Marketing/Politics is incredible and she has topped it off with lecturing at Southampton Solent University passing on her knowledge.

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Steve Woodgate, Solent University MA Graduate and Marketing Manager at Microsoft UK, who was the first guest speaker advised the attendees at the conference to ‘be a squirrel, gather nuts of knowledge’. This struck me like a lightening bolt. I had been a squirrel, foraging, learning and gathering nuts of knowledge along my journey.

A varied set of skills will make you more robust and ready for any future roles.

He also identified four sub-sets of characters within the creative industry:

  • The Scientist
  • The Storyteller
  • The Socialiser
  • The Strategist

Steven said you would predominantly be one of these characters and that it would be helpful to identify which one you were so you are able to identify your strengths. I completely agree with him, identifying your strengths is very helpful but I think that some people may cross these sub-sets.

The last major thing I took from Steven’s talk was that he said:

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“Digital is more significant than the industrial revolution. We just don’t know it yet.”

I was up next and I had to rapidly overcome my public speaking fears (and the monster cold I had!).

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I used my journey, examples of other people journeys and current client work to show just how important a varied skill set is and what I had learnt along the way. The time flew by and soon I was back in my seat not knowing what just happened, hoping it went ok.

Thankfully I had some positive feedback after the talk and some really lovely tweets!

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Following my talk was Dr Emma Wray, the new head of PR and Communications for Southampton Solent University. She was engaging and told us about her incredible experience (just ask her about working at the BBC during the Olympics!) and the changes she is seeing to the PR and communications industry and how we can adapt to survive them. Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 22.36.50Emma also had some top tips for those about to enter the creative industries…

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Caroline Barfoot, from Solent Creatives, concluded the talks with a focus on getting work experience and freelancing. She drew attention to this years John Lewis Christmas campaign and it’s multi-faceted nature.  She also made the point that ‘at the heart of everything is the consumers. Products only work if the consumer wants to use it.’ This phrase is great to take with you throughout your career, remind yourself of it to keep you focused and critical when working on projects.

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After the talks the conference was divided in to two to debate current PR topics. I helped panel the debate which questioned the valued of earned and shared media. It was really interesting to see what a cross section of the current university students studying creative topics and a number of business people thought. It was concluded that there is value in a combination of the both earned and shared media. A lot of emphasis and importance was placed on being critical of the source.

It was a great day and I was honoured to be invited to take part, honoured to be able to give something back and honoured to represent the company I now work for. I am lucky to work for a company who can see the value in giving back and leading the field. I am extremely thankful to Catherine Sweet for believing in me and guiding me through my Masters and to Lee Peck Media for giving me the opportunity to work in PR and to experience a converging career!

SSU CONVERGING CAREERS CONFERENCE 2015: PART 2

Last week, almost a year to the day I finished my PR Masters degree, I was invited to return to my old stomping ground, Southampton Solent University to give a presentation about PR and converging careers.

Solent PR have done a wonderful write up and it is giving me the opportunity to do my first re-press – I hope this works! Enjoy!
Source: SSU CONVERGING CAREERS CONFERENCE 2015: PART 2

Jonah Lomu changed rugby forever

Where would modern rugby be today without Jonah Lomu, the bulldozing giant, the unstoppable tour de force who hit the rugby scene when he was just 19 as the youngest ever All Black?

Jonah Lomu changed the face of modern rugby. He was marketable and as a result he made Rugby Union marketable becoming a global superstar and household name.

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The All Blacks have many tributes to Jonah, but I like the one that has captured the reactions from key sporting figures from around the world, read them here.

I think it’s pretty special when a person with such incredible sporting talent can change, advance and improve a sport in multiple ways. He impacted the build of players, the game itself and the communications surrounding rugby. Public relations for rugby changed as communication between stakeholders evolved and improved.  The changes to the way rugby organisations and players handled PR, marketing and advertising made the game accessible to a much wider audience. By being more accessible Jonah became an icon and an inspiration to players of all ages.

Jonah’s support of the rugby world didn’t stop despite his health conditions or when he retired from the international rugby circuit. Recently he toured the UK promoting the 2015 World Cup, performing the traditional Haka.

Jonah Lomu, you are going to be missed but forever remembered as one of the greats, perhaps even the greatest. By engaging all your stakeholders you engaged the world through sport and you built a legacy that will last forever.

Jonah Lomu

 

Don’t be part of the bae’ing mobs!

Ah, the rise of ‘bae’. Sorry, I have to be honest, I hate it. It’s not for me, I do not care for it and I know this instantly ages me in to the ‘mum’ category of not rolling with the times because I think it sounds ridiculous. Who’s with me?

Ok, ok, I know I may not be able to stop the evolution of language and all those marvellous progressive points you are about to make. But, you may be asking what has caused me to finally write about ‘bae’?

Today I was driving home from work and it was being discussed on the Radio One. The drive-time host, Greg James, brought a revelation in to my life, ‘bae’ actually has a meaning.

Before Anyone Else

Am I the only one who did not know this? (Stop shouting yes at the top of your lungs!) If you didn’t know what it meant then do not fear. I didn’t either and I’m not part of an older generation, living under a rock or afraid of anything that is new! It is used in a similar way to babe, which is what I originally thought when the word first graced my ear drums. Babe, as a term of endearment doesn’t need shortening anyway!

Urban Dictionary has some hilarious definitions for ‘bae’…

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If you are fond of the word and want to use it, then make sure you keep if away from anything professional. I’ve seen it used a couple of times and it goes down like a lead balloon and makes you look like a rookie, again this is applicable to any profession. It is the epitome of unprofessional, so keep it away from your work life.

My next issue with ‘bae’ is that actually this is an acronym and technically when it is written it should be in capitals…

BAE 

I’m pretty sure there should be some full stop’s in-between those letters too!

It turns out that loads of words like this are actually acronyms, some that are well known in our culture and others that are not. I found a fantastic list of 25 frequently used acronyms on a website called Mental Floss, read the article here.

So whether you love it or hate it, at least you know what it means now!

Grammar is important, don’t let it be a cat ass trophy!

Grammar is important. But, you already know this. You already know that a grammar mistake can damage a reputation, a book, an advert, a press release and misconstrue meaning and cause all-round mischief if you get it wrong.

The problem is that it is too easy to do especially if you have a long day at work, a deadline or an incomplete knowledge of the rules. I’ve been caught out by every single one of these!

Grammar shit

The best piece of advice I could give would be to get a couple of books (for those times the internet fails you!) and take them to wherever your office may be. Google your grammar query but also make sure to double check it with relevant literature to avoid American based spelling and grammar mistakes (Yes, ‘to Google’ is a verb now!).

If you’ve done all of that you could always ask someone to proof read it, preferably someone with excellent grammar. Then there are the times when you just need to put space between you and what you have written. If you have the time,  put what you have written away and come back either a few hours or a full day later. It’s funny how giving yourself a bit of space away can allow you to look at something with fresh eyes again.

For those of you writing in a PR agency, somewhere with multiple clients or an organisation, make sure you look at the client’s own particular style or house style.

Grammar Police

Communication is dependent on delivery. Grammar and language are entwined. Grammar is essential to convey your message in the way you intend it to prevent it from being misinterpreted at the other end. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, grammar is important in every role you take.

Good Grammar

(P.S. I may have got some grammar incorrect in this, no one is perfect! We can only try our best. If you do get grammar wrong, try not to beat yourself up, learn from it and move on.)

F,C,K, M and E Marks and Spencer!

Ooooohhhh La La…Marks and Sparks what a naughty blunder on your website, or was it?

Those seeking a Christmas bargain this week got a message they weren’t expecting when looking for letter ornaments on the Marks and Spencer website. The letters appeared in the order of F, C, K, M and E with a U in the row above when price low to high was selected.

Now of course the Marks and Spencer PR team were out immediately in full force with a spokeswoman who denies any intention behind it and provided a pretty standard PR crisis statement – ‘This was due to the algorithms used to display products on our website. It was quickly spotted and corrected.’ – Yawn!

But it wasn’t removed quickly enough before the public got their hands on it and for it to go viral now was it ?!

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Hmm, a mistake?! I’m sceptical. This is a way for Marks and Spencer to start their Christmas campaign early and achieve some pre-campaign hype of the humorous and cheeky kind, whether it was intentional or not.

This is an example of viral marketing (Excuse me M and S Lawyers, this could be an example of…) where social media is harnessed through a PR stunt to increase brand awareness.

There is so much to gain from such a little gaff. The Christmas PR and advertising race has become iconic, a top earner and a competition like no other among the big retailers. Although it isn’t appropriate to start the Christmas adverts yet, this sort of mistake, regardless of intention, has now given Marks and Spencer a platform to build on. They already have the consumer’s attention, an edge above it’s competitors prior to the prime Christmas advertising months. It’s a smart PR move, I mean mistake! 😉

Project 256 – Street art to help the homeless

Technology has brought us humans so many good things. We can communicate. We are entertained. We are safer. We are progressing, developing and continually learning. But, it also gives us a greater power to help others.

Project 256, co-ordinated by Chris Courtney, has been created to give a voice back to the homeless through art and technology. It wants to change the perception of giving to the homeless and prevent homeless people from becoming shunned or invisible.

First of all a street artist paints a huge image of the homeless person in a prominent public position with a unique QR code and a web-link. The web-link shows you a video about the homeless person featured and the QR code is linked to a Bitcoin wallet that belongs to the homeless person in the portrait.

A donation can be made that is both direct and instantly received.  The homeless person is supplied with a phone for them to be able to utilise the donations. This means you know the donated money is going directly to help that person to buy food or shelter for the night, or to save for larger purchases.

The homeless person isn’t dependent on being there to receive the donation and I can imagine that this could make donations more consistent and reliable? I guess we will see as the project unfolds!

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Check out Herakut’s website

The project is starting in London and Paris where there is a lot of free wi-fi available on the street. However the project hasn’t been without its teething problems. Initially the phones were quickly sold to make instant cash. However, now the phone is looked after by the street artist or a volunteer for up to a month with the hope that the homeless person will understand that it will provide an income with potential long term benefits.

The artist’s image makes it a positive talking point and individual stories can be followed. Columbo was the first man in Britain to be featured. He has been painted in Shoreditch, in East London by Bom.K. and can be seen at the top of this page as the main article image and below.

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Columbo by Bom.K.

Art is being used to PR the cause, to tell a story and change people’s perceptions. There is a story, a person, a life behind the homeless person you donate to, a story told through beautiful street art imagery and amazing advances in technology. But most importantly this facilitates the ability to be able to help.

The more I learn about PR, the more I see it as a glue that holds projects together, it has the ability to create a platform where it can help to inform, educate and facilitate. PR is powerful. It comes in various forms and functions.

Follow the project!

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