Journalists love quirky ‘why has no one ever thought of that before’ stories and here’s proof.

Journalists love quirky ‘why has no one ever thought of that before’ stories and here’s proof.

Cheap and 100% recyclable cardboard furniture – designed by students for students. That’s the novel idea that caught the eye of a Metro journalist and prompted this page lead. Great publicity for inventor Gareth Swarte – a Manchester Business School student – who launched The Cardboard Man business. The media gets bombarded with press releases about new product launches constantly. Many claim to be the newest/fastest/best/ most efficient thingy since the last newest/fastest/best/ most efficient thingy thingy. To catch a journalist’s attention you have to have something that’s genuinely new, quirky or satisfies a need. Flatpack cardboard furniture which assembles in minutes, is environmentally friendly and money-saving has all of those magic ingredients. As a result it makes a quirky story for the Metro business section. Metro often has ‘fun’ business stories designed to get the attention of millions of commuters on their way to work. This is a great example of that. It’s publicity that money can’t buy for The Cardboard Man. His online store and eBay shop will have been inundated with potential new customers thanks to the Metro coverage. Using PR to help your business/charity/organisation grow is the kind of PR that Mary Murtagh Media trains in our ‘How to do your own PR’ workshops. Because despite the mistrust that the public sometimes have for the media, they still make buying decisions based on what they read, listen to or watch. Which brings us to a cautionary tale for all those hoping to get column inches and make their business phone ring – make sure you’ve got the capacity to cope with an influx of calls,...
How a housing association ended up with (Creme) egg all over its face and on the front page of the Metro

How a housing association ended up with (Creme) egg all over its face and on the front page of the Metro

Offering a Creme Egg to great tenants probably seemed like a great idea at a team meeting. Housing association Valleys 2 Coast wanted to say thanks to its residents who’d kept up to date on their rent despite the tough economic times. It all sounds perfectly reasonable – so why did it end up as a knocking story on the front page of the Metro? Journalists like to write stories that take the view of the ‘man on the street’, the consensus and the commonly held belief because that’s how we make sure what we publish or broadcast is relevant to our audience. Seen from the media’s perspective Creme Egg-gate had all the hallmarks of a great ‘out of touch powers-that-be’ story. At a time when many social housing tenants were feeling the impact of the so-called bedroom tax, welfare reforms and the cost of living crisis, being offered confectionery by your landlord seemed a bit inappropriate. By the time a keen journalist and story-hungry news editor had finished with the story it was a splash (newspaper parlance for a front page story). I imagine that the South Wales housing association was at first perplexed, and then angry, over the story. They may have felt that they’d been turned into the big bad wolf when the sentiment behind the gesture was genuine. From the media’s perspective it was absolutely fair game. When we run media awareness or crisis communications training for clients this is one area that we always cover – how would this sound to a journalist? Your chief executive’s five star trip to the Maldives (to attend...
Law Society uses Downton Abbey storyline to get media coverage

Law Society uses Downton Abbey storyline to get media coverage

This Evening Standard cutting is an absolutely brilliant example of using something in popular culture to win column inches. The Law Society has done some rapid reaction PR following a storyline about a Downton Abbey character dying suddenly. They’ve then used that TV highlight to make a serious point about the importance of having a will. Tentative link? Yes. Successful PR trick? Yes. Considering that the media card rate for a full page colour ad in the Evening Standard is £57,000 getting a quarter page of editorial coverage – for free – is a big win for the Law Society. This clever PR trick is something that every entrepreneur, business or charity can apply to their own PR strategy. I’ve seen it done brilliantly with delegates on our ‘How to do your own PR’ training. For example, we trained a coach company in North Wales that got themselves on BBC Wales’ evening news by using a bad weather story to their advantage. Cruise liners stranded on Anglesey due to gales were pumping money into the Welsh economy with day trips and coach tours. A good news story out of a bad news story. And at the heart of it was the MD of the coach company, in liveried uniform standing in front of one of his liveried coaches, being interviewed about how his business had benefitted from the tempest. How can you link your business to something in the public eye to generate a press release? Journalists are always looking to move the story on in some way. Could your organisation help them do...
Helping bright British entrepreneurs get PR savvy

Helping bright British entrepreneurs get PR savvy

When you get a group of sparky, newsworthy and enthusiastic delegates on a ‘How to do your own PR’ Masterclass it’s work, but it doesn’t seem like it. That’s what happened at the day-long Masterclass held recently in Chester. In the room were a group of diverse, keen and attentive businesspeople keen to learn how to use PR to raise their profile, generate new customers and blow their own trumpet about the great work they’re doing. It was a productive, fun, invigorating and laughter-filled day. We see the cream of the UK’s entrepreneurial talent in our PR workshops. Businesses that are curious, hungry to grow and with the best stories to tell. This workshop was no different. Our delegates were: Fazane Malik – award-winning fashion designer and fashion business consultant. As well as running her own successful womenswear label (with the brilliantly catchy tagline of ‘forever pieces for 30-45 year old busy women’) she’s also the Fashion Fixer, helping fashion start ups learn the crucial business skills they need. Nicola Emmerson – the PR and marketing brains at BAKO North Western. This company started life 50 years ago when a group of bakers clubbed together, with a shilling each, to buy a pallet of lard. This cooperative has blossomed into a multi-million pound business: the only UK flour wholesaler, supplier of ingredients for the Royal Wedding cake and a key player in the British baking industry. Dominic Griffiths – from Energy Projects Plus. This organisation helps people cut their fuel bills and go green using education, training and old-fashioned advocacy. Over the years they’ve saved thousands of householders a...
Want to make The Times’ front page? Use great pics!

Want to make The Times’ front page? Use great pics!

The A-level results roll around like clockwork every summer with the usual handwringing over whether teenagers are getting brighter or exams easier. The challenge for every journalist and photographer is to make this pot boiler diary story interesting. Usually the pix (pic/pix is journo slang for photos) accompanying this annual story are a variant on the following: delighted (pretty) girls hugging each other; a group of students (all heading to Oxbridge) clutching exam board paperwork or an old-fashioned triumph over adversity pic (I got five A-levels while battling a life-threatening illness). This is a fantastic example of how great photography can elevate a routine story into front page news. This imaginative photograph of teens doing a Usain Bolt style ‘streak of lightning’ celebration was a fresh and imaginative way to take a snap which summed up the A-level results at a glance. So much so that it ended up just below The Times’ masthead. Simply fantastic PR for The Queen Elizabeth Hospital school in Bristol, and another example of how press agency SWNS (who took the pic) sets the news agenda. Getting great pix is not as hard as it might seem at first. You don’t have to have as good an eye as Royal photographer Patrick Lichfield but there are some basic rules you need to follow. A decent headshot is a good start (we demonstrate how to bag one of those using a stepladder, helper and smartphone in our ‘How to do your own PR’ Masterclass). Over the years everyone at Mary Murtagh Media has worked on stories where a cracking pic has made an ordinary story...