I get knocked down, but I get up again! – PR, rugby and concussion.

Rugby’s recent hot topic was how George North’s concussion was dealt with, which resulted in concerns being raised about whether appropriate action was taken and its impact on Rugby Union’s reputation.

Paul Rees wrote an excellent article for the Guardian (12 February) that sums this up perfectly. He states that the future of the players and sport depends on action being taken to treat concussion with the importance it deserves.

You can Paul’s article here: ‘George North’s concussion damaged him and the image of rugby union’.

Image and reputation is inextricably linked with stakeholders, and therefore a damaged reputation can have seriously harmful repercussions.

If the Rugby Union is not properly looking after it’s key stakeholders, the players, by risking their health then it calls into question rugby’s credibility. Rugby’s image and reputation becomes damaged and this then loses other essential stakeholders – the fans and the funding.

When things go wrong mitigation is key and rugby’s swift action on concussion has limited the damage to the Union’s image and to the players.

George North’s case emphasised Rugby Union’s concussion protocol and it’s importance. But, there was considerable outrage with how it was dealt with and his welfare.

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George North was knocked out when Wales played England in the 2015 Six Nations Tournament

 

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George North sustained serious head injuries but was allowed to play on

After George North’s concussion debacle it was rumoured that players often pushed themselves back to playing before they were ready, in fear of losing their place on the team. Other comments circulated that coaches were the culprits making players return. The comments didn’t go away.

Given the nature of rugby, it wasn’t long until another high-profile case presented itself and after Mike Brown went out cold during the Valentines Day match against Italy, PR went in to overdrive from the England camp. It was the perfect opportunity to rescue rugby’s reputation from what happened mere weeks earlier with George North. It was time for communication.

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Mike Brown out cold after a clash when England played Italy in the 2015 Six Nations Tournament

Multiple news stories and updates were issued stipulating that Mike Brown is being protected by existing protocol and that he will not be returning until all symptoms are gone. Mitigation, through strategic PR communication, did its job and the concussion protocol fever has been sated for now. Here are some of the quotes that were released from the England camp…

BBC sport quoted England rugby’s coaches:

“This morning Mike woke up not feeling 100%. The right and proper thing to do was to make the call. His health is the main priority here and we need to get him right for the next game. The symptoms aren’t too severe whatsoever, just a little headache. He’s fine in himself and is chirpy enough, but it just isn’t worth the risk because his health comes first.” assistant coach Andy Farrell said.

 

England head coach Stuart Lancaster said the squad’s medical staff would continue to work with Brown to “get him back to full health”.

Although this is great news for Mike Brown’s welfare, this does mean that he will miss today’s Six Nation Ireland v England match, much to the disappointment of England rugby fans, Stuart Lancaster and the rest of the coaching team. But, in this instance, the risk is too big to chance. Everyone involved knows this and the right decision has been made. Well done Stuart. England 1 – 0 Wales.

Taking risks for reputation enhancement is not a new topic in PR and it is something I have written about before. Recently, the article I posted about Madonna at the 2015 Brit awards, talked about how far is too far in PR, using the example of Red Bull who risked a life for PR purposes. Like I said before, if the live jump from space had gone wrong then the damage to the brand would have been unprecedented. Instead it’s secured their place in the top brands of the world. Risk can equal big rewards.

However, rugby isn’t just a brand or a product, it’s bigger than that, it’s a part of our society. It’s children developing important skills, the Sunday run about with the lads, it’s the first trip to a major stadium, it’s the highs and lows of following your team. Big risk here won’t work.

It seems rugby is aware of its position, the risk and the potential damage, even if the George North situation was a reminder of why the rules and protocol are there. In this instance, strategic PR was used to manage the expectations of its stakeholders. It facilitated communication with its stakeholders by saying ‘how we dealt with that was wrong, but look, we’ve learnt from our mistake’. Crisis averted.

How far is too far in PR? – Madonna at the Brits 2015

Last night Madonna at the 2015 Brit Awards had a ‘wardrobe malfunction’. But rather than expose herself, which she does anyway as a regular fashion statement, she got caught in her cape. The tumble saw her tugged by the neck down a flight of stairs.

I was watching it live and noted two things. She struggled to undo the cape in the first place and after the fall I took an audible intake of breath, but then I quickly realised that the crowd at the O2 did not have the same reaction. No one made a peep. Silence reigned. Which made me wonder if everyone had just witnessed what I had? Was that real? Thank god for the rewind button.

Visibly shaken, she powered through her big finale. A true professional.

Today, the day after rumours have been flying left, right and centre that this was in fact a PR stunt.

Will we ever know if this is true? Probably not.

But it raises a really good question…

In PR, how far is too far?

There can be a lot of grey areas in PR. For me, risking someones health in any way is most definitely a step too far. I’m sure most people would agree with me.

Would the material girl, Queen of pop, risk falling from a height to establish headlines? Surely not?

No doubt it has secured her virtually every post-Brit headline, lit up social media and set tongues wagging round the office water coolers of the western world.

‘Someones getting fired’ and ‘Where there’s a blame, there’s a claim’ have certainly done the rounds today.

It also drew attention to the cape’s designer, Armani, with the sketch going out in every news article as well as being used by Madonna herself (well her PR team) on Instagram…

madonna sketch

Does the reward outweigh the risk?

When Red Bull sponsored a man jumping from the edge of space and broadcast it live they were taking the biggest risk in their brand history, in fact in any brands history. If anything had gone wrong it would have destroyed Red Bulls reputation. But the risk paid off and secured their notoriety.

If this was a PR stunt, then it is similar to Red Bull. Someone’s life was risked for PR. It only works if if is successful. Otherwise the reputation of the brand, service or person is damaged beyond belief.

Everyone today is commenting on Madonna’s professionalism. That will be her legacy from last night. It’s also done an excellent job in introducing her to a whole new generation of music fans.

So it’s clear to see why it was called in to question that this was a ‘PR stunt’. But like I said…we’ll never know!

What do you think?

#PutOutYourBats

RIP Phillip Hughes.

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A tragic and freak accident. They say a picture paints a thousand words. I genuinely don’t think that I have to write about how beautifully poignant and fitting the #PutOutYourBats tribute it is, created by a fan. Social media can be used for some incredibly negative actions, but then in moments like this, it shines. This kind of social media response is a very difficult form of communication to explain. It’s incredibly powerful, born out of love, respect and helps to capture what words are unable to.

Cricket.com.au has an amazing collection of the Phillip Hughes #PutOutYourBats tributes.

I also have to support The Sport Bible who posted Phillip Hughes amended last score and the words the Australian Captain, Michael Clarke, has said to Sean Abbott.

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A great loss to the sporting world. Let’s not make it two.

Rugby World Cup 2015 – A positive PR start…

I set out to write a piece on the Rugby World Cup 2015 ticketing but actually discovered the positive PR that is channelled through rugby and the close stakeholder relationships within it. When I wrote my PR Masters Dissertation this year I focused on ‘Global Sporting Events: Managing PR strategies in complex stakeholder environments’. I examined the top global sporting events in 2014 – the Tour De France, the FIFA World Cup and the Commonwealth Games. From this I concluded that a positive reputation hinged on good compatible working relationships between the main stakeholders before, during and after the event. Without it the brand, event and nation suffered in many different ways – audiences are perceptive, dynamic and savvy. If you compare the English and French ‘bro-mance’ that was the Yorkshire Tour De France to the boycott and corruption of FIFA, the perception of each was radically different, they were viewed differently by other stakeholders and this impacted their overall effectiveness. The power of stakeholders is phenomenal, so managing the PR strategies and relationships is fundamental to the overall success of the event.

We are gearing up for another global event in the UK. The worlds finest rugby players will be going head to head on home turf. Of course I want tickets, it’s the Rugby World Cup in the UK, practically on my door step! It’s a no brainer.

However, like many, I didn’t get tickets in the ballot. It seems to be all or nothing. But, I wanted to see what else was out there about other people’s experience and the effect it has had on audience stakeholders. Did it receive good PR? Bad PR? Or did it depend on whether you got tickets or not?

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Did you get tickets or are you still trying?

 

I still don’t know that yet. I got distracted. Blame YouTube. Instead I learnt that rugby as a sport has a ‘good will’ unlike any other I’ve experienced (I’m an ex-amateur rower and sports aficionado!). It is rare you hear of any hooliganism (sorry football fans!) and it has been used as a positive force to engage historical change within nations (Yes, I’m talking about Mandela, apartheid and THAT 1995 Rugby Match).

Even the Royals are on board, driving promotion of the 2015 World Cup, but also defining the town of Rugby as the ‘Proud Home of the Game’. Similar to the big three sporting events of 2014 I mentioned earlier, this event also influences the PR of nations, cities and the towns in which they take place. The positive partnerships and  sponsorship contracts between stakeholders are already radiating from the snippets of advertising and PR being released. It pre-sets a tone for the event within the media and gives us a hint that this is going to be bigger and better than the ones before it. After the success of the 2012 Olympics, the 2014 Yorkshire Grand Depart and the 2014 Commonwealth Games, we as a nation have a rather high standard and legacy of sporting and event success to maintain and develop. 

Communications between stakeholders hosting the event and their prospective audience are one of the most important to nurture and this has already started…

What happens when you take a rugby legend and the Captain of the England rubgy team? Priceless Surprises. MasterCard have got it right, they are building on the concept of national sporting pride and focusing on the sporting stars of tomorrow, youth teams. There is a bit of branding here and there, but the focus is on the relationships, using sport to influence and drive positive change. Ok, it’s a little cheesy, but it has the feel good factor and shows a great relationship between the event, the nation and the key stakeholders…

 

Whilst researching, I also found a partnership between the City of London Police and the 2015 Rugby World Cup, which is humorous in getting it’s point across playing on the infamous, characteristic kicking technique of Jonny Wilkinson. It warns ticket buyers to ensure they are buying from official ticket sources, which shows a clear aim to crack down on the crime but also a caring element for fans not often seen in other global sporting events (certainly not the three I looked at in 2014 anyway!). Have a look here…

This early PR strategy of collaboration is already creating an environment where positive PR is generated about the event, the nation and the stakeholders. This preparation is laying a positive foundation for the build up to the event. I can’t wait to see how PR and communications unfold in the run up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup event, it’s already an exciting start!

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Proud indeed! 🙂

 

PR Masters Graduation 2014 – Thank you Catherine Sweet!

‘Dream big, and with focus and hard work, anything is possible’ – Paul Goodison

I did it! I now have a PR Masters, with Merit, from Southampton Solent University.

There are times you plan, organise and work and then there are the rare, beautiful moments you get to reflect upon the things you have achieved. Graduation is one of those things. Pomp and ceremony, jazzy gowns and caps signify a tradition purely focused on achievement, a pause before you swiftly move on and begin evolving further.

Reflection also allows you appreciate the wonderful people you have supporting you, and I am so incredibly lucky to have such a vivacious, fabulous, intelligent mentor in Catherine Sweet. I have spent a lot of time trying to find the words to express my thanks for guiding me through the past year and half, for your unwavering support and no amount of words seem to cut the mustard.

So it’s simple, but the feeling and appreciation behind it is genuinely gigantic…

Catherine Sweet – THANK YOU – I couldn’t have done it without you.

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The wonderful Catherine Sweet!

 

At Graduation they said you will never forget a good teacher. I know I certainly won’t.

However, I also must thank a few other people. Don’t worry it won’t be as long as an Oscars speech and there won’t be any tears. Promise.

I studied alongside some incredible people, two of those became some of my best friends but they also helped me develop my style, understand different cultural approaches which helped develop me for the better. So, Lisa Duygu thank you for teaching me to look at every angle, to be more patient and to believe in myself. Nadia Volaki thank you for teaching me to be more bold, to take chances and to believe in myself. We made it. We did it. We are Masters!

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Nadia, Lisa and myself!

 

The more private, but not any smaller in size, thank you’s must go to my supportive Grandparents, Mother and Boyfriend. Unwavering support that made the world of difference whilst there were so many demands on my time. Thank you. I did it!

If you’ve had any PR mentors/teachers/supporters, what was the biggest impact they have had on you? or perhaps what words of wisdom they have divulged? Please feel free to share your comments below!

Happy Halloween 2014!

I can’t help it. I seriously love Halloween. For me, it’s always been a time where my friends and family come together. We eat, we laugh, we dress up in ridiculous outfits. It’s also a chance for me to show off my pumpkin carving skills. Hooray!

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A boot full of fun! From this…

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…to this!

However, I’d never really seen it as a PR opportunity until today. One of my favourite brands (and product!): Jimmy’s Iced Coffee (if you don’t know it, click the link and check them out, I’m going to do a blog on them soon!) has invited their customers to choose whether they participate in Halloween and Christmas PR-marketing-social-media activity:

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Jimmy’s Iced Coffee Facebook Page- check them out!

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What do you think?

Now Jim, of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, inventor, entrepreneur and all round ace chap (yes, I have met him, and yes his beard really is that magnificent!) has a completely different approach to his PR and marketing. It’s all pretty much done by him and his sister. No out sourcing to a media giant. Therefore, it’s always engaging, entertaining and different to what his competitors are doing. It always feels like he’s speaking right at you. So, this option for his customers to choose what the brand does (whether they should participate or not participate in Halloween/Christmas) was no surprise to me as it is exactly how Jimmy captivates his audience. The day is not over and he already has over 30 comments and 38 likes. He is giving power to his stakeholders to make real-time company decisions. Power to the people! Yeah!

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Jimmy’s got a cracker of a beard.

My vote would be to indulge in a little Halloween hocus pocus or Christmas cheer, because I am a  hug fan of those times of the year when you can be a little more frivolous. However, it’s not for everyone. What would your decision be? Do you like it when your favourite brands get a bit festive? Or, does it really hack you off? Would it make you think more or less of a brand that does participate? Let me know your thoughts below!

Happy Halloween Folks!

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Pumpkin Face!

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Creative Campaigns #2: Air New Zealand’s Hobbit Safety Video

Well I certainly didn’t think my next post for creative PR campaigns would be today! However, Air New Zealand has come up with a genius collaboration with Peter Jackson and the Hobbit film franchise in order to promote the film, air safety and inadvertently New Zealand as a nation. An original and entertaining concept that is clearly going to generate a lot of publicity for the three parties (the nation, the airline brand and the film) as it spreads like wildfire through social media. It’s self-entitled ‘the most epic safety video ever made’ with appropriate hash-tags to boot – #airnzhobbit. What a way to engage your stakeholders!

If you haven’t seen it yet you can do so here:

I’m off to New Zealand, who’s with me?!

Creative Campaigns #1: The Fun Theory

One of my favourite aspects of PR is branding and campaigns. Sometimes companies just get branding right. They nail it. If the term ‘x-factor’ wasn’t now mainly associated with a TV talent show, this is exactly where you’d use it. It’s a mixture of innovation, creativity and genius.

I’ve decided that I’ll feature my favourites in this blog, some you’ll know, others you won’t, some will be old and some may be new, but whatever they do I hope they bring a smile to your face and inspire you in your own PR creations.

Have a look and watch the videos at…

www.thefuntheory.com

The fun theory doesn’t focus on the VW brand. It’s focus is on entertainment, engagement and behaviour change and that’s where it wins big time. I remember when this first came out in 2009, it was one of the first brands to adopt this concept that didn’t totally focus on shoving the brand in your face. It’s still used as an innovative example to this very day, as I was recently shown it in one of my PR lectures. Enjoy!

 

 

PR Buzz Word #1: Millennial…

New words form a part of our vocabulary all the time especially in the PR industry, some are buzz words, others are key terms. I’ve decided to start with Millennial partly because I didn’t fully understand it myself.

Millennial
mɪˈlɛnɪəl
noun
noun: millennial; plural noun: millennials
noun
1. a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000.
“the industry brims with theories on what makes millennials tick”

Take note of the latter. Apparently I’m one of them. You could be too.

This is the new term coined by PR and marketing experts to categorise people of my generation (mid-twenties, in case you were wondering!).

We along with those who are younger are apparently ‘the ones to watch’, what we’re consuming and how we’re consuming it is the hot topic for branding, PR and marketing professionals at the moment in order to capitalise on our habits. Entrepreneur.com has featured an infographic from Koeppel Direct which conveniently conveys the demographic and consumer trends.

Millenial infographic from: www.koeppeldirect.com

Millenial infographic from: http://www.koeppeldirect.com

I’m not sure I’m fond of the term. There are, as always, categories within categories as we pigeon hole our way through life trying to make sense of our society. However, this for me is a bit like the term yuppies or generation x. It’s great for understanding habits, trends and helping companies target their stakeholders more effectively but does it really tell us anything we don’t know already? For me changes to consumer habits change in line with affordable technology advancements. I think that although my generation has grown up with it, the changes in media and news consumption applies to the global population as a whole as and when the technology become viable. My Nan has an iPad, watches more You Tube videos than me and buys online regularly. My uncle is a regular social media user, shares art and videos and is always ahead of the latest gadget. Two examples of people who’s only criteria for not fitting the term millennial is age.

Today I noticed that the term has started to creep into Facebook and Linked In. But I’m not sure that everyone fully understands it. I didn’t. What do you think? What term was coined for your generation? What do you think about it? Do your habits and age fit the ‘millenial’ description? Or do you break the mould? Please share your thoughts below.

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