Social media can't give hate speech a free pass


Social media can't give hate speech a free pass

By Alan Keane, Account Manager

Unless you exclusively follow cat video accounts, a three second scroll down your Twitter feed will likely show you an array of views across the spectrum of debate, from far left to far right. Everyone can have an opinion, as long as they express it in 280 characters or less.

On the surface, that’s a nice idea. Freedom of speech is important. Unfortunately sometimes freedom of speech is confused with the supposed right to peddle inflammatory, hateful rhetoric with impunity. So-called commentators use social media to promote ideological agendas, which they either believe in themselves or, worse, believe that there is money to be made.

Unchecked, they are allowed spout their views to the masses, where many subscribe to their diatribes as a result of their own perceived disenfranchisement in society, a lack of critical thinking, or simply the delight in discovering that others share (or at least voice) their own anti-immigrant, racist or homophobic views

As Media House International chairman Jack Irvine told PR Week; “(social media is being) used and abused to peddle fake news.

“One is very aware of all of the anti-immigration rhetoric and pro-white supremacy rhetoric on social media.

"Social media has provided this weapon and there are a lot of companies not afraid to use it.

(Social media companies) have a responsibility to better monitor their platforms. What would happen if The Times produced vile propaganda and made it up? They would be hammered and could be done for libel and come up before various regulators," concluded Irvine.

Therein lies the crux. While newspapers are (for the most part) subject to rigorous libel laws, social media is a free for all, where the President of the United States can spew anti-immigrant rhetoric and rile up his supporters. Where supporters of a certain failed Irish presidential candidate can threaten violence against those who disagree with them. Social media companies have traditionally been slow to ban accounts, with the likes of Katie Hopkins and the aforementioned failed Irish presidential candidate still given a platform from which to promote hate.

Of course social media isn’t all bad. While social media companies may be slow to hold individuals accountable, other individuals are not. You just have to witness the work of Alexandria Ocazio Cortez and many others in response to Donald Trump, or see the tireless efforts to challenge the rhetoric of the failed Irish presidential candidate. Social media can be a force for good.

Ideally however, it would just be for cat videos. Nobody can argue over cat videos.  



What will Instagram be like without likes?


What will Instagram be like without likes?

Ireland is one of a number of countries where Instagram is trialling a new feature where likes are hidden to users.

This feature has already been tested in Canada, and Australia, Italy, Japan, Brazil and New Zealand join Ireland in this trial period. Users can still see who has liked their own post, but not how many likes someone else has received.

A statement from Facebook (which owns Instagram) outlined the reasoning behind the move;

"We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love."

So, taken at face value, the move is designed to take emphasis away from the “vanity metrics” a post receives, such as likes, and rather focus on the quality of the content.

However, on a more practical level for Facebook, it indicates their belief that the future of the app is in the Stories function, where short-form video reigns supreme. Both Facebook and Instagram are trying to corral users into creating this sort of content rather than posting static images, and moves such as this go a long way towards that goal.

Of course, it may also reduce the pressure on users to chase likes, and this can only be a good thing, particularly for younger users. Chasing the small hit of dopamine that a new like notification provides has become an obsession for many, and research shows that it had a negative impact on young people’s mental health.

The move may actually lead to more engagement with the platform, as without the pressure of garnering likes people may be inclined to post more often. No longer will foodies care when a picture of their beautifully lit (and now incredibly lukewarm) food gets just two likes.

It does pose problems for influencers however, in how they work with brands going forward. No longer will likes be the most important metric for many brands, but rather the more tangible success of online or instore sales as a result of influencer posts. Brands may start investing more money in amplifying posts, particularly as another recent Instagram update has allowed them to promote influencer content.

If there is a negative to the trialled feature, it’s that there’s a risk that users will start trying to be controversial in order to promote discussion and engagement in comments below the post, as a means of showing their reach. In this day and age controversy doesn’t need to be incentivised.


Don’t let your PR progress fade like an Irish tan this summer


Don’t let your PR progress fade like an Irish tan this summer

By Alan Keane, Account Manager

There’s a temptation during the summer for clients to take the foot off the gas when it comes to PR.

It’s understandable. The whole country has gone on vacation, so what’s the point in reaching out to the public if there’s nobody there to watch/listen/read? On top of this, key personnel in your organisation might be away too, meaning you’re light on spokespeople.

All that being said, here at Plunkett PR we believe summer is the perfect time to knuckle down and promote your brand. Here’s why;

  • If all of your competitors have succumbed to the temptation to avoid publicity for the summer, you’re now the best placed person to speak to the media when relevant topics arise.

  • Momentum! If you have been working hard to build your company’s profile all year, don’t let that good work go to waste by taking a sabbatical. Keep your company in the spotlight, or your profile will have faded before your tan.

  • Even if you don’t have the personnel available to speak to the media during the summer, make sure and talk to your friendly local PR team about your goals for the rest of the year. They can devise a strategy that means you hit the ground running when the Boys of Summer are gone.

 I know that last bit didn’t quite make sense, but any excuse to post this video. (That haircut did NOT age well…)

So make sure you’re ahead of the competition by keeping the PR train moving this summer.

All that being said, I’m off on holidays for a week, so direct all queries to Sharon or Mark. Bye!


Strong Media Relations Is The Foundation For Successful PR Companies


Strong Media Relations Is The Foundation For Successful PR Companies

By Alan Keane, Account Manager

Alan Keane outlines why good media relations are crucial for successful PR agencies.

Public relations in 2019 is complicated. When putting together a publicity strategy in 2019, there are so many moving parts vying for your consideration that you run a real risk of overlooking what was, is, and ever shall be the most crucial aspect; getting your message across in an effective manner to the media.

A public relations company is nothing without an excellent working relationship with the media, and that’s something that we pride ourselves on here at Plunkett PR.

On a recent visit to New York, I spoke to PR professionals working at the top of their game about media relations, and what constitutes good practice stateside. There is a reverence across the Atlantic for those who can develop good relationships with journalists, which I think tells a lot about the sheer scale of media that PR companies deal with on a regular basis, and vice versa. To cut through all the noise and form a genuinely solid relationship with the media takes excellent people skills.

Obviously there is a smaller pool of media in Ireland to forge relationships with, but that just means each journalist is bombarded daily by a plethora of PR people all seeking coverage for their own clients. Standing out is hard, but miraculously in this day and age people still trust people, meaning PR is at least 10x more potent than advertising, and therefore worth the effort.

With that in mind, there are a number of things you can do to ensure you’re on the right side of the media you depend on for your clients, or at the very least, to ensure you’re not on their bad side.

No time-wasting

Never waste a journalist’s time just so you can tell a client you have contacted them. Pitching is not a box ticking exercise. Each pitch must be tailored to the specific  The only box you’re ticking is the one that says “never contact me again.”

Respect deadlines

A journalist has a job to do, and if you can make it that little bit easier by getting them the information they need well in advance of their deadline, it will be appreciated.

Take note of a journalist’s preferences

Something as simple as knowing a particular journalist’s likes and dislikes when it comes to communications (phone or email, for example) can make all the difference. Simple, yes, but when you have countless journalists to keep track of, that’s where the hard work comes in.

Try and stand out from the crowd, but not like this:

worst PR email ever.jpg

Finally, nip this in the bud…


The email equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard.

It’s not nice to e-meet you. Just stop it, you’re ruining PR for the rest of us.


Journalism Matters


Journalism Matters

By Alan Keane

Account Manager

It goes without saying that this PR firm is 100% behind the Journalism Matters campaign.

When speaking with clients, we consistently bang the drum for print media. Plunkett PR believes that at a time where attention spans are down and clickbait headlines are snowballing, there is more of a need than ever before for quality print journalism to hold those in power accountable.

Local print media is the lifeblood of communities across the country. It was a print journalist who broke the Tuam Babies scandal, and it is print media that broadcast and online outlets often turn to for inspiration and content.

As a PR firm which prides itself on media relations, Plunkett PR has seen first-hand the struggles in national and local newsrooms. We don’t believe that the cutbacks in the industry in recent years are a true reflection of the importance of print media, but rather a result of print media trying to find its way in a new economic reality.

The Journalism Matters campaign puts five requests to the government, which if actioned would go a long way to guaranteeing the future of print media industry in this country.

  • Apply a 5% VAT rate to newspapers and digital products in Budget 2019, ahead of ultimately reducing to 0% once EU laws allow

  • Reform Ireland’s draconian defamation laws to ensure that the stories that need to be told, are told

  • Appoint a Minister for Media – a single member of the Cabinet should have oversight for all aspects of our complex media landscape

  • Establish a News Publishers Media Fund – to drive innovation and investment

  • Invest in a training support scheme for all journalists

Given the important role that’s played by journalism in regard to this country’s public interest, the above doesn’t seem a whole lot to ask.


The Influencer Epidemic


The Influencer Epidemic

By Alan Keane, Account Manager

Is there any more contentious term among media and PR circles at the moment than that of “influencer”?  

A few years back, clients keen to surf the zeitgeist were demanding viral videos without really knowing what they meant by that. Now, they want influencers front and centre when it comes to promoting their product.



What does that mean, however? Specifically, what return does your client get when you begin collaborating with influencers on their behalf. This is where the problems occur, as the gap between good influences and baaaad influencers is huge, but good influencers can unfortunately be lumped in with their morally and content inferior counterparts.

So what makes a bad influencer? Buying followers, not identifying clearly what social media posts have been paid for and, worst of all, portraying unattainable body and life ideals that can have a severe impact on the mental health of impressionable people that see the posts as aspirational rather than bunkum.

Perfectly smooth and clear skin, not a stretch mark in sight.  Post-workout gym mirror photos, without the counterbalance of the the skip-a-gym-session, crisps-on-the-couch posts that represent a normal, messy, imperfect life.

So then, what makes a good influencer? Honesty, obviously. If you buy your followers you’re now more than ever likely to be found out. When global giant Unilever states that they will no longer work with influencers who buy followers, using analytics to weed out the offenders, you know the rest of the business world will follow suit.

Honesty extends to following up and delivering what you promise at the outset also. Too often PR companies and their clients are burned by promises of extensive social media coverage and product specific blog posts that ultimately become one half-arsed tweet and a link to your client’s product that gets lost in a wider piece with other duped brands.

Finally, if you want to be seen as a professional influencer, act accordingly. No PR professional worth their salt would dream of sending a cookie-cutter email to a long list of brands in the hope of a response. To that end, if a PR person receives an email from an influencer that starts with “Hello all!” or “Hey there!”, it’s likely going in the deleted items folder.

There’s another, sometimes overlooked, element to the rise of the influencer, and that is the effect it’s having on traditional media. Brands are looking more and more towards influencers to promote their product directly, rather than engaging with journalists. It’s important not to ignore the value and impact of traditional media coverage however, particularly in favour of poorly structured arrangements with less than professional members of the influencer community.

In summary, good influencers make good on their promises, don’t present a false impression to their followers, and abide by (fledgling) industry standards around advertising. Brands and PR companies like working with these people, and there are plenty to be found.

Bad influencers do none of the above, yet unfortunately there are plenty of them too. As brands and agencies get wiser however, the hope is that many of these will have to clean up their act or risk being starved of the attention and benefits they crave from the industry.


Why are social media platforms risking it all to make changes?


Why are social media platforms risking it all to make changes?

By Alan Keane, Account Executive

"What matters now is we clearly show why this change is important, and to prove to you it's better," he said. "Give us some time to learn and confirm (or challenge!) our ideas."

The words of Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, following the social media platform’s switch to 280 characters late last year. The change was met with the usual measured and not-at-all apopleptic response from users, but Twitter expected that.

In fact, Dorsey said he was expecting “snark and critique,” and that was exactly what Twitter got. Regular users worried that expanding beyond the traditional 140 character limit would mean Twitter lost its main attraction, brevity. There is pride in being creative enough to get your message across in 140 characters ore less.

Some criticisms went beyond the mechanics of the new update, suggesting it was just a gimmick to distract from broader criticisms of Twitter, such as the prevalence of bullying on the platform, as well as allegations of fake Russian accounts being used to influence the US election in 2016.

Ultimately however, the furore over the increased character limit, and indeed the novelty, wore off. Twitter have stated recently that despite the availability of 280 characters, a typical tweet remains around 50 characters long.

Engagement has increased however, and therein lies the rub. 140 characters was alienating to those who felt they needed more to deliver their message. In addition, the extra space allows users to mention more people in their tweets, leading to broader conversations.

280 characters meant that Twitter became a more hospitable place for brand promotion. Branded URLs could be used rather than shortened versions, the former getting 39% more than the latter according to a recent study. More brand hashtags could be utilised, and even something as simple as being able to space out the lines of text allowed marketeers to create cleaner content.

Twitter took a risk, ran the gauntlet of expected criticism, and came through the other side with a platform that drove engagement and became a major medium in the eyes of brands.

Which brings us to Snapchat…

The app recently brought in sweeping changes to its interface, and well, they haven’t exactly received a unanimous seal of approval from users. At the time of writing, an online petition on, aimed at forcing Snapchat to revert to their previous interface has over 700,000 signatures, making it one of the most popular petitions on a site that probably didn’t have first world problems such as this in mind when set up.

The update is designed to make Snapchat more appealing to an older audience, with a more accessible interface and a clear barrier between friend and publication content. However the mixing of Snapchat Stories in with messages means that it can be difficult for users to see when they have a new message from a friend. This has led to users losing “streaks,” which signify how many days in a row you have been in contact with someone. It’s regarded as a highly important status symbol among younger users, and so losing a streak with a BFF is catastrophic.

Page one of a Google search of “Snapchat update” leads to a plethora of criticisms, and articles detailing how to revert to the old design and disable automatic updates.

Snapchat predicted all of this, the same as Twitter did before them. Their messaging surrounding the update is that it is aimed at the “separation of the social and the media,” and CEO Evan Spiegel is adamant that there will be “substantial long-term benefits” for the business.

The week before the update was rolled out, Snapchat announced its best quarter ever since going public. Spiegel et al will hope that, just like Twitter, the outcry over the changes they have made to the user experience will disappear as fast as the average Snap.


It’s time for some blue sky thinking around pointless marketing lingo


It’s time for some blue sky thinking around pointless marketing lingo

By Alan Keane, Account Executive

A good friend of mine was recently in a marketing meeting where the gentleman conducting said meeting spoke of the company having the potential to go on a “very crispy journey.”

As my friend looked around the boardroom table to see if anyone else was struggling to contain their laughter, he was greeted with many heads nodding.

When he told me, I realised we’ve hit peak marketing shite-talk.

It’s become a version of the Emperor’s New Clothes, where unless someone speaks up and calls out the nonsense for what it is, it’ll continue to get worse.

There's probably a joke about the over-used term "low-hanging fruit" here, but I won't be the one to make it.

There's probably a joke about the over-used term "low-hanging fruit" here, but I won't be the one to make it.


Of course it’s part and parcel of marketing and PR to use fancy words when speaking to clients, we need to demonstrate the breadth of our knowledge and experience. There’s a limit, however, and furthermore when the language liberties extend to communications with the consumer, they’re savvy enough to smell a rat.

Stop diluting the power of words by using them out of their proper context. Your new soap is hardly “revolutionary.”

It won’t take blue sky thinking on the part of our professions. The best thing about this is we can start small, because this innovative idea is scalable. Wean yourself off one buzzword a day, and you’ll soon see organic growth in your vocabulary as you find more authentic ways to get your message across.

It will be a seamless transition from talking out of our backsides to talking like normal human beings. This will empower us to forge a ground-breaking level of connection with our key demographics. It’s a win-win, where the average consumer feels less patronised, and we can focus on providing quality work for our clients.

And please, for the love of all that’s good, stop “touching base” or “reaching out”. Call or email someone by all means, but bases and the touching of same is preserved for men in pyjamas swinging bats. The phrase “I’m just touching base,” is like a red rag to a bull, particularly to journalists who have no time for your word-fudging.

Using terminology like that is only going to get their backs up, and make them less likely to talk to any of us, and that’s just disruptive, in the original sense of the word.



Putting Book Shops on the Shelf?

By Mark Walsh


If you’ve visited America recently or are someone who keeps up to date on the latest happenings in the book and retail industry, you will be aware that Amazon now has its own book shops popping up across the States called ‘Amazon Books’. So far there are between 11 - 15 such stores in America.


It’s particularly interesting since Amazon has been accused of being the reason many book shops, including Borders in the UK have gone out of business as the retail industry is “increasingly driven by a "hit culture", a trend magnified by supermarket sales as the grocers concentrate on bestsellers rather than back catalogues.”


What is immediately noticeable about Amazon Books is the way that the shops are tailored to specifically meet the demand of its consumers.  In these shops you will find books displayed by categories including ‘Most Wished for Books on’, ‘100 books to read in a Lifetime (our picks from the list)’, ‘New Hardback Fiction (selected using consumer ratings, pre-orders, sales and popularity)’, ‘Hotly debated on (Books readers love and love to hate)’ and even ‘Books Kindle readers finish in three days or less’.


No doubt it is a very clever idea for Amazon to use the information at their disposal to promote certain titles and in a sense determine what to stock and where books are placed in the store. It also means that they aren’t stocking a load of titles that people aren’t interested in.  It may also be good for consumers by helping them decide what books to buy, especially if they are purchasing a gift for someone, without having to go by the standard top ten bestseller list.


However, Amazon have received criticism for being a factor in driving books shops out of business with their online business and then coming in and setting up their own book shops. Another argument is that they are only selling the most popular books according to and as a result they are limiting the choice for the consumer. For example, if there is an obscure book that you are hoping to buy then it is unlikely you will find it in an Amazon Books shop.


While this situation isn't a good thing for the book industry and readers that enjoy picking up some rare titles while browsing in a book shop, Amazon would probably argue that they are simply selling what people are already demanding and that it’s up to the more traditional book shops to compete with the online market.


It will be interesting to see if the Amazon Books stores come to Ireland. In the meantime, if you’re planning on going to America soon, then the stores are worth keeping an eye out for.




amazin books.JPG



Is jumping on the bandwagon really the most effective form of PR/Marketing?

By Alan Keane, Account Executive

In today’s high-octane world of social media, instant gratification and 24/7 news cycle, PR and marketing companies can’t afford to be planning solely months ahead. Plan that far ahead with the short attention spans prevalent today, and there’s a good chance the message may no longer tap into the zeitgeist.

That said, the increasing shift towards jumping on a bandwagon simply isn’t a sustainable business model. It can involve compromising the key values of your client in order for quick hits, destabilising years of work to build a brand that has its own distinct message.

Brands like John Lewis (of the fancy Christmas ad fame) are renowned for adopting a steady and consistent approach to their marketing and PR.

It’s not always a case of slow and steady winning the race, of course. Ask Theresa May how well “strong and stable” went down in this year’s UK general election.

Re-active PR and Marketing must be implemented as part of an overall strategy. Certain quick-fire campaigns can be extremely effective, boost a brand’s popularity and standing, and have no negative effects on core messaging.

Skittles knocked it out of the park back in September of last year during the US Presidential campaign. An offensive tweet by Donald Trump Jr. comparing refugees to poison Skittles was swiftly responded to by parent company Mars. The response was swift and plaudits many.

Source: Twitter

Source: Twitter

Source: Twitter

Source: Twitter


The very fact that Mars “refrained” from promoting their product, promoted their product and intrinsically linked Skittles to positive values more than any pre-planned marketing campaign ever could.

Staying with Trump related marketing, Dove released an alternative facts ad campaign in January to promote a new deodorant.

Source: OccupyDemocrats

Source: OccupyDemocrats


Whilst acknowledged as a clever way to tap into a topical issue, Dove found themselves criticised in some circles for for only cosmetically (pun intended) addressing an important issue. Daryl Fielding, who was a key instigator of the brand’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” back in 2004, called it a missed opportunity to discuss Trump’s treatment of women.

On a larger scale, PR and marketing that taps into perceived public opinion has a tendency to draw criticism from savvy consumers who take a dim view of brands using causes to promote themselves.

A prime example of this would be the backlash towards corporate branding at Pride festivals and parades worldwide. In Dublin, London and further afield, tech companies such as Facebook and Google had a visible presence through t-shirts distributed to employees. Does the basic human decency of treating your LGBT employees with equal respect to other employees entitle you to put yourself on a pedestal? Many in the LGBT community and beyond were averse to this self-congratulatory attitude, leading to protests at some Pride events.

Ultimately, there is room for brands to adopt both long and short-term strategies when it comes to marketing and PR. The challenge is to promote your brand in a way that’s not transparently self-congratulatory, and to grasp public sentiment which can be as slippery as a floor of Skittles.

Follow Alan on Twitter @AlanKeane23



The Art of the Press Release

By Mark Walsh, Account Executive


Press conferences, social media, interviews, videos, publicity stunts, launches, online campaigns and many other PR tools are well known to the masses. Each has its own advantage and disadvantage; but is there anything that a PR professional is more associated with than the simple press release?


It’s the central piece of any PR campaign. The main tool that a PR professional has at his or her disposal. The best way of getting the message across. Of course I’m talking about the press release.


It is easy to overlook it or take it for granted. However, once the glamour of the launches and television interviews for clients are over, there is still the business of sitting down at your computer and drafting a press release that will get a journalist’s attention and hopefully result in some media coverage for the client. To use that well known cliché; it’s your bread and butter.


The steps involved in crafting a press release that is news worthy is at times not as easy as one might think. A PR professional will need to identify what the news angle is or maybe create one from scratch. Then of course you must know the relevant journalist to send it to.


Like any newspaper article, it’s all about the structure. If a press release doesn’t read well it will be tossed aside. The common exchange between my colleagues and I is always “How many of these does a journalist get every day and how can we make our press release stand out”?


There is no exact science to it. If the news that you are looking to break is very important then you could argue that you don’t need to put too much thought into a catchy headline as the message alone will get attention. But sometimes the process can involve a lot of thought and rewriting until the message is clear and everyone is happy with it.


Being a journalist and writing your article with a strict deadline looming has been glamorised in movies for decades, however to my knowledge, writing a press release doesn’t get the same attention. In fact, there seems to be a negative association with the press release. The word churnalism has been used to describe newspaper articles that are based entirely on press releases.


Speaking for myself, there is always a sense of pride once I’ve finished writing a press release and then (hopefully) seeing the basis of it in a newspaper article.


There have been instances when journalists have tweeted unusual press releases that they received. Some releases have unusual or unfortunate headlines or others will seem a bit bizarre. Some I’m sure will be incredibly boring or will be full of jargon. But no matter what, it’s still the most effective way of getting the client’s message across to the media and the public.


Today, journalists have a variety of resources to get information. Obviously there is the internet and more specifically there is social media. Yet the press release is still as important as ever, if not more so at a time when fake news can be difficult to identify. Issued on behalf of the client and coming from an established PR agency, there can be no doubt that the information is official and will often include a quote from someone within the said organisation.


So don’t dismiss the press release. After all these years it still works as well as ever in an ever evolving news world. Journalists may have a variety of other ways to get information but there is still nothing more reliable then the press release.







What three years in Public Relations have taught me…


What three years in Public Relations have taught me…

By Alan Keane, Account Executive

The advantage of having started working in PR on Bloomsday is that the abundance of boater hats in South Dublin offers me an easy way to remember the anniversary.

I started on the 16th of June 2014, with the skies as sunny as my disposition. A new career beckoned and it seemed like the type of career that would be filled with Mad Men type japes.

The first thing I learned is PR is not advertising, and neither is it the 1960s. Therefore my whiskey tumbler remains gathering dust in my desk drawer.

Here are a few more things I’ve learned in the interim 1096 days.

Media relations is still the most crucial aspect of PR

For all the hand-wringing surrounding the future of public relations, there is still a huge demand from clients for coverage in traditional broadcast and print media. You could receive a Wendy’s level of retweets (#nuggsforcarter) and the client would still be more excited by the possibility of ten minutes on Today with Sean O’Rourke.

In order to facilitate this, people who PR must make sure they develop and maintain excellent relationships within the media. This doesn’t mean liking the odd tweet and plying them with mountains of press releases. It means taking the time to make sure the journalist or producer knows and respects you enough to not hide under their desk when you ring.

Developing a good relationship with the media takes time, and requires a respect for the work journalists do. Having a knowledge of deadlines, favoured topics and preferred methods of communication are all worthy pursuits. Ringing a journalist on print day to pitch a story for two weeks later is not. Neither is pitching something as an exclusive if you have already pitched it to ten other media organisations.

The glamorous life of PR is a myth perpetuated by Instagram

I’m definitely guilty of this more than most. I populate my Instagram with stunning press trip locations, mouth-watering food and celeb selfies. If every PR person ran an honest Instagram account, they would show PR plans scribbled hastily in notebooks on the run, bed-head after being woken up by an early Saturday morning call from a journalist (#Iwokeuplikethis), and sad salads being eaten at your desk during lunch as you try and meet a client’s deadline.

It’s still fun though…

See the aforementioned press trips, food and meeting celebrities.


It’s a job that suits all types of personalities.

When I started PR I truly believed that to work in the industry you needed to be an extremely outgoing person. Like, annoyingly outgoing. I mean American levels of outgoing. How else are you going to make the contacts your client needs you to make, right?

Wrong. PR is certainly about connecting with people on a personal level, and being outgoing is a great skill to have, however you can be shy, introverted or damn cranky and still be an excellent PR person. Irish people value honesty and genuine interactions above sycophantic drones.

You’re never done learning.

The fast-paced nature of the PR industry is such that if you slow down, you’re outstripped by your competitors. There’s no time for smug evaluation of how far you’ve come, unless you want it to be your final destination rather than a stop on the journey.

As you can see, I’ve come a long way in three years.


National Days are a cod


National Days are a cod

By Alan Keane, Account Executive

Almost three years into my career as a “PR guy” and my friends are surely sick to the back teeth of my smug declarations that I can’t be taken in by marketing and publicity campaigns.

World weary and cynical by the tender age of 27, I pour scorn on campaigns that I declare transparent and obvious.

You won’t catch me out with your celebrity endorsements, your hashtags, your National (insert any commodity here) Day. I’m wise to you.


Then why oh why did I find myself horsing into fish and chips on National Fish and Chips Day on Wednesday last? I don’t usually indulge in takeaways on a weeknight (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), but I was landed with the realisation that I had been put in my plaice, codded and battered into submission by a campaign even though I knew it was fishy.

You see, creating national days is bread and butter for PR agencies (ssshhh). If you can create or help instigate a day which then shifts a tonne of your client’s product, you have done your job. This is especially useful when it comes to food companies.

Taking the US as an example, January alone includes days dedicated to popcorn (19th), blonde brownies (22nd), pie (23rd), chocolate cake (27th) and corn chips (29th).

That’s five days in one month! Thankfully no one celebrates all of these days, otherwise there would be a major global problem with obesity, amirite?

The best example of a manufactured day of celebration was Arthur’s Day. Created to celebrate Guinness’ 250th anniversary in 2009, this became an internationally celebrated annual festival involving some of the world’s most famous music acts playing in Dublin and further afield. It lasted until Diageo pulled it in 2014, largely due to criticism that it was just an excuse to sell more Guinness.


The thing is, the majority of people skulling pints of the black stuff knew that Arthur’s Day was, to paraphrase the Irish Times, a drink being an excuse for a festival rather than a festival being an excuse for a drink.

Did they care? No. If you give the average consumer an excuse to consume, consume they will. It was probably no coincidence that Diageo didn’t use the same date every year, but rather the same day, Thursday being the optimum day to draw a student crowd. Even those who never touched Guinness may have tried a pint, given the day that was in it.

You’d think someone working in the dark arts of PR would be wise to national days, able to rise above it all. You’d be wrong.

To Fish and Chips!

Oh and, happy International Doughnut Day.



The Power of Online Campaigns

by Mark Walsh, Account Executive

Last week we saw a good example of two questions that we in PR ask ourselves quite regularly. Firstly, how effective is social media in promoting a brand and secondly is there such thing as bad publicity?

On the second question, I’m sure British Airways answer is a definite yes after their IT failure and response to the issue turned into a PR disaster and a good case study for how to not handle a crises, but I digress.

The topic for this discussion is the Walkers Crisps online campaign that went horribly wrong (or right but I’ll come to that).

As I’m sure many of you saw last Friday, Walkers asked people to send selfies to their Twitter account. These images would then be automatically used in an animation video with ex footballer/Walkers Ambassador Gary Lineker appearing to hold up their picture in a video. Unfortunately for Walkers, Twitter users began to send in images of notorious criminals and historical figures and soon Gary Lineker was holding up pictures of Joseph Stalin and Jimmy Saville.

At first it seems that this should have been easily predicted and that Walkers were incredibly naive to think that something like this wouldn’t happen. After all a similar high profile misjudgement occurred last year when a British government agency decided to let the internet suggest a name for a €255 million polar research ship. While some ‘suitable’ names were put forward, the name Boaty McBoatface was the runaway winner. What must have seemed like a good idea to begin with: give the online community complete freedom to dictate an online campaign, didn’t quite work out as planned.

This leads on to the second question. While the Walkers campaign was effective in getting people engaged and talking about the crisps (although for the wrong reasons) was the so called negative publicity a bad thing? It’s easy to be cynical but did Walkers foresee some sort of mischief from the online community and decided it would be a good way to get publicity for their campaign? After all can they really be blamed if people decided to upload pictures of criminals when Walkers asked for selfies?

Undertaking an online campaign and giving total control to the online community can result in a PR disaster that a traditional media campaign, where engagement is managed, usually avoids. However it can be effective for generating controversy, debate and focusing attention on a brand. Whether you want this type of attention or not though is another issue and I’m not suggesting that that was Walkers intention.

Walkers did issue an apology and shut down all activity on the campaign while Gary Lineker tweeted that he had ‘an unusual day with some strange company’. No real harm done but a great deal of publicity was generated for Walkers.

As proven today, sometimes all it takes is even just one word (anyone for covfefe?) in a tweet, for the online community to go into overdrive with a series of humorous responses and next thing you know, your mistake is the number one trend.




The dark side of social media in a crisis


The dark side of social media in a crisis

By Alan Keane, Account Executive

When the Guardian notification pinged on my phone around 11pm on Monday night, reporting a serious incident at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, the first thing I did was access the rolling news report on the app. At that stage there was very little to accurately report, so the Guardian had scant information available.

Twitter on the other hand…

I don’t normally use Twitter as a source for news. Years of following Spurs and having my heart broken by ITK (In the Know) accounts claiming huge transfer deals have made me cynical. However I decided that with this being a breaking story, Twitter’s immediacy may prove useful.

It was a useful exercise alright, but not in the way I had hoped. Lurking amongst the heartfelt outpourings of worry and grief for potential victims at the Manchester Evening News Arena were trolls posting fake reports, which scared and anxious Twitter users were then proliferating.

The two worst incidences, to my mind, were the reports of two explosions and a shooter that were circulating, as well as an image from an old army training video of a building with blown out doors that idiots were purporting to be exclusive pictures from Manchester.

There are obvious safety risks inherent in this sort of reckless posting, particularly the false reports of a shooter which could cause widespread panic in the MEN Arena should the social media savvy fans of Ariana Grande inside be checking Twitter to attempt to cut through the confusion.

Equally as bad as the scaremongering was the hope given to worried parents by the false reports that the Holiday Inn had taken in 60 children without guardians. Holiday Inn told the Guardian that they were providing support to people after the attack but could not confirm that they had large groups of children in their care. The hope that the initial posts would have given to parents unable to contact their children who were at the concert was thus cruelly taken away.

The majority of people retweeting any of the fake news reports or images were doing so with the best intentions, attempting to get what they believed to be pertinent information to a wider audience. However there is a prevalent culture of wanting to be among the first to break a story that reaches beyond traditional media and is particularly evident on social media as people attempt to cultivate retweets and likes.

This Buzzfeed article highlights just some of the fake news circulating in the hours directly following the attack. The fake reports of missing persons using photos of people who weren’t in the UK, let alone Manchester are appalling and the posters need their heads examined and their phones crushed underfoot.

The crux of the issue is that social media is where the majority of children, adolescents and young adults get their information today. Young minds indisposed to critical thought have a higher likelihood of taking posts at face value.

This isn’t meant to be condescending. It happens to all of us. As a young journalist at a national radio station during the 2012 Olympics, I hastily wrote a post for the station’s website about Barrack Obama’s tweet congratulating Katie Taylor on her gold medal. The only problem was it was a fake account. There was an element of competition, in wanting to be the first with the story, which led to me writing the story without verifying it. That’s an inherent problem in a media landscape dependent on churning out rapid content. It’s type first, ask questions later.

A recent report showed that millennials are worryingly lacking in critical thinking skills, leading to a struggle with news literacy. This coupled with an ever-increasing amount of fake news means that now more than ever we need journalists and those in positions of power (here’s looking at you Mr Trump) to verify stories before pushing them out to what can be a gullible audience.

Just as I was about to close my phone in despair on Monday night, both at the real events in Manchester and the constructed fables, I started to see another kind of tweet appearing. Tweets from people debunking the fake news, as well tweets pleading with other social media users to verify their sources before posting. I fell asleep feeling sorry for those caught up in the tragedy, but a little more hopeful about social media as a tool for disseminating information.



Under the Influence

by Mark Walsh, Account Executive


For generations celebrities, sport stars and popstars have played a role in influencing the way people dress, the type of haircut to have, the latest accessory to own etc. Going back to the days of Elvis and the Beatles, people and in particular teenagers, have modelled their own image on the latest trends that were usually set by a celebrity. This didn’t go ignored and nowadays we see celebrities promoting all sorts of items. The power of celebrities to influence us and to what extent it actually works is an important question that PR Professionals need to consider today. It does seem that if a PR professional can secure a well known public figure to act as an influencer for a client then it is a valuable opportunity.  Or is it?  

Recently, it was revealed that Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo “generated $500 (€450) million in value for Nike from his social media properties in 2016”. Ronaldo, who has 120 million followers on Facebook, 50 million followers on Twitter and 92 million on Instagram, posted a picture on Instagram after the Euro 2016 Final that is said to have been worth $5.8 (€5.2) million to Nike alone. Obviously Nike must believe that Ronaldo is very influential and combined with the fact that he is able to reach a huge number of people is worth every penny of investment. 

Here in Ireland, research done last year showed that Conor McGregor and Pippa O’Connor were the most influential Irish social media personalities. The research also found that 6 in 10 Irish people would buy a product recommended by a social media personality. While we can’t take this at face value it does pose the interesting question of just how much influence an influencer has.

Choosing the right influencer

The first question that PR professionals need to consider is will this person be the right fit for my client and are they value for money. If it looks like that this celebrity was only chosen for their social media reach / popularity and not because they are a match for the client then their influence will be limited. Of course, you need to consider who exactly the client is trying to reach and determine what is the most effective way to reach them. Social media is one option but print or broadcast media can work very well too depending who the target audience is.

 Is it worth it?

Recruiting an influencer can also go horribly wrong for everyone involved. It was recently revealed that the cancelled Fyre Festival (who could provide enough material for a blog post on crises management) gave “hundreds of models and online personalities, such as reality star Kendall Jenner and model Emily Ratajkowski ... free flights, accommodation and tickets in exchange for promoting the event to fans”. In this case, not only were the influencers involved in promoting a doomed festival (see here for the full incredible details) but they also didn’t abide by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules requiring that “influencers” who share promotional materials to “clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands”.

This case also highlights the high cost often involved in order to get an influencer to promote a brand. It goes without saying that freebies are all part of the package.

 Decision Time

Has it reached the point now where people are so use to seeing a celebrity promoting a brand that we have all become immune to it? Does this mean that we are no longer influenced by the influencer? When stars of the past were creating fashion trends in the 1950 and 1960s it could be argued that it seemed (to a certain degree) to be more organic and that the celebrities dressed/promoted what they did because they genuinely liked it. Is it possible for celebrities to still influence us and effectively promote a brand today when they are being paid to do so and getting freebies from the brand? There is no doubt that the reach that certain celebrities have nowadays with social media is huge and that the right person saying or tweeting the right thing can be very valuable to a brand. Like most aspects of PR, it really depends on what is being promoted, choosing the right influencer and using the correct medium.

Whether an influencer is right or not for your client is a question that PR professionals all need to be asking themselves.  



Philip Morris tin-king outside the box for Marlboro brand

By Alan Keane, Account Executive

We don’t love you Philip Morris but, weak Jim Carrey reference aside, you can’t help but be impressed at the tobacco manufacturer’s cunning stunt to get around the new packaging regulations that come into force in the UK tomorrow.

Saturday the 20th May marks the end of the 12 month grace period afforded to cigarette manufacturers to phase out old branded cartons, which have been replaced by generic plain packets incorporating pictures and warnings designed to deter smokers.

Whilst Ireland is following suit, with 30th September 2018 the cut-off point for branded packaging, from tomorrow UK retailers will no longer be allowed to stock packets of 10 cigarettes, or the smaller size packages of rolling tobacco.

So how has Philip Morris attempted to get around the packaging regulations which will lead to their highly-recognisable Marlboro brand being diluted? Tins.

It’s such a simple solution, but shows impressive forward thinking. All manufacturing of branded materials had to cease 12 months ago, meaning that the tins that have been distributed to UK retailers were (according to Philip Morris) created before the 20th May 2016 deadline.

The 10 cigarette tins are being sold in major retailers such as Sainsbury’s and Londis, and cost the same as a normal 10 packet of Marlboro cigarettes.

Philip Morris is banking on anyone who has bought one of these tins using them to store their cigarettes for the foreseeable future, ensuring the iconic Marlboro branding stays visible long after their competitors fade into the beige of standardised packaging.

It goes without saying that we don’t condone smoking, however purely as a means of promoting a product Philip Morris has played a blinder here.

It’s almost as if the tobacco industry has unlimited amounts of money to throw around…

I’ll finish as I started, with a Jim Carrey reference. Philip Morris hopes that these tins ensure that Marlboro continues to be the brand that people are…

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What's in a name? Can you advertise without mentioning your own brand?

By Alan Keane, Account Executive

Not too many marketing/PR agencies would have the temerity to sit down at a client meeting and suggest a promotion that doesn’t use the client’s brand name anywhere.

Then again, not too many marketing/PR people can count McDonald’s, perhaps the world’s most recognisable brand, as a client.

A New York Times article last week flagged a new 30 second advertisement featuring comedienne and actor Mindy Kaling for McDonalds.

The only nod to the McDonalds brand is Kaling’s yellow dress as she stands in front of a red background.


The ad does mention two mammoth brands, in Coca Cola and Google, as Kaling urges viewers to use the search engine to find “that place where Coke tastes so good.” Such is the confidence McDonalds has both in the quality of its offering of the renowned soft drink and the belief that its target audience of teens and twenty-somethings use their phones while watching TV, and aren’t averse to interaction.

What happens when you type in “that place where Coke tastes so good” and hit search? You’ve guessed it. More McDonald’s results than there are Golden Arches on Irish streets.

It was essentially a clever humblebrag, and one that got the media swooning over the audacity of omitting your own brand name.

The question is, would it work for other brands? Other behemoth corporations with extreme confidence in audience recognition perhaps, but don’t expect to see “that place with the great 99’s” advertisements appearing on Irish TV anytime soon.*

*Because we all know it’s Teddys…