By Harriet Scott
As PRs, we deal a lot with product based words, stats, facts and figures, stacked with information about “the brand”. Anyone in this brilliant and bizarre industry will agree, at times it’s a tough gig – relentless and with very little thanks from the media for the decent story you put their way – or from the client you landed coverage for.
The brand values are often so overpowering that it becomes easy, even with a bit of news sense, to get caught up in the product and the key messages. We are all guilty (at times) of losing sight of what makes a decent story.
Often we get it right – a brilliant stunt, an amazing stat based piece, a perfectly timed, topical story which literally flies into the papers and goes crazy online. But a lot of the time, we scrape the barrel and we clutch at straws, which isn’t easy, especially when the client has given us very few straws to clutch or barrels to scrape.
Sometimes, we need to take a step back from the product, the service, the brand. We need to strip it all back and look at the people behind the scenes, the ones who make the whole thing tick.
This has been a winning formula for us this month – it’s a formula which can largely be overlooked and undiscovered, however when it’s done well looking at the human angle can be simple and highly effective.
When we started working with Bristol Rovers earlier this month, my co director (and ex Sun journalist) Doug, sniffed out some brilliant detail about Kitty Thorne – the club’s oldest fan – and, it transpires – the oldest football fan in the UK. This had national news story written all over it, especially when we found out that she had attended nearly every Rovers home game since her first match in 1954 – when she traveled to the ground by steam train. She had made the 52 mile round trip from her home in Trowbridge around 1,500 times to see her beloved team in action. With pictures, the story made some lovely pieces including the Times and Metro.
And today we landed a picture-led piece for our client M&S with a story about their Easter Egg tester. Following an interview with the lovely Alex Emerson-White – we discovered she eats up to 130 bars of chocolate a week – that’s a colossal 13lbs of chocolate – and she gets paid for it.
Earlier this week, I tuned into The Billion Dollar Chicken Shop – the first episode of a new BBC2 documentary series about KFC. Essentially it’s a behind the scenes look at the people who work at the fast food mecca. At first I was deeply cynical but the programme managed to question my judgements.
It showed the real passion of the people working there and to my surprise they didn’t appear to be the mindless automatons I had envisaged. In fact the majority of them really care about what they do and there is an awesome management infrastructure based on the recognition of the people who work there – even if it is frying chicken.
Clearly, I have been sucked into some kind of KFC propaganda, but my point is – essentially people are interested in other people – it’s natural, anthropological – we look at other humans and we want to know their story.
We look at other humans with love, admiration, jealousy, respect, disdain – we compare ourselves to them. Quite simply other people fascinate us.
And when humanising a brand like this, it ceases to appear as a “faceless corporate entity” – it becomes real.
If we believe in these people, we start to believe in the brand – and that’s a winning PR formula.