The PR week: The good, the bad and the bizarre from the last seven days

Your rapid-fire, no holds-barred run through of the last seven days in PR, as viewed by PRWeek Asia Head of Content Gary Scattergood

Narendra Modi is the most active Asian political leader on Facebook (Narendra Modi)
Narendra Modi is the most active Asian political leader on Facebook (Narendra Modi)

Private view

When it comes to Facebook, it seems like there is no distinction between personal and private – especially if you are a world leader.

A Burson–Marsteller World Leaders on Facebook 2016 study charts the use of the social network by the political class over the past eight years, and says it has become the go-to social media platform for leaders to engage with their constituents.

It’s no surprise that comms savvy global leaders such as Barack Obama, Narendra Modi and Indonesian president Joko Widodo want to be present where vast swathes of the population are active.

But increasingly, their activity is becoming as personal as it is professional.

As Jeremy Galbraith, CEO of Burson-Marsteller Europe, Middle East & Africa and global chief strategy officer points out: "It is also very refreshing to see that successful politicians on Facebook behave just like any other Facebook user, sharing pictures of their home life, holidays and their children."

Whether anyone actually wants a glimpse into a politician’s garden shed/holiday home or kid’s birthday party remains to be seen – personally I can happily live without it.

One thing is for sure, though, such openness on social media doesn’t leave politicians much wiggle room the next time they complain about press intrusion into their private lives.

Monkey business

Surely asking NGOs if there are any brands they hate is like asking a turkey if it wants to cancel Christmas.

Still, NGO-tracker firm Sigwatch saw fit to do it and provided the top 10 most loathed companies in the eyes of the good people who toil in the UK non-profit sector.

You won’t be surprised to see the usual suspects Shell, BP, VW, Barclays and HSBC featuring prominently.

Nestle also appeared in that list, but also made it into third place of the most respected brands, something Sigwatch founder and managing director Robert Blood said was a remarkable achievement.

"Not many years ago the firm was viewed by most NGO's as simply too obdurate to deal with," he said.

"Then in 2010, Greenpeace hugely embarrassed it over palm oil sourcing, effectively accusing Nestlé of murdering orangutans.

Blood added: "Nestlé clearly used this ‘learning moment’ to rethink its relationships with NGOs."

We assume, more importantly, it also used this ‘learning moment’ to rethink its relationship with orangutans.

Fatness freaks

There is a rich history of brands getting lost in translation when launching campaigns in China – Pepsi famously attempted to use the slogan ‘Pepsi brings you back to life’, which translated to ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave’. This week Nike was accused of a similar blunder.

A Chinese New Year version of its Air Force 1 shoe, which bears ideographs meant to express new-year blessings, instead appeared to instruct people to pile on the pounds – which, for a sports brand, is a bit odd.

The words ? ('fa') and ? ('fu') in traditional Chinese characters appear on the heel area of the left and right shoes.

When seen separately, the words are associated with festivity, meaning 'be rich/prosperous' and 'have fortune/luck'. But when viewed together, they form a phrase meaning 'get fat’.

Nike maintains that each pair of shoes contains only one message, meaning consumers would have to mix and match pairs to get the ‘get fat’ wording.

Still, ten laps of the track and 100 push-ups to all involved, just to be on the safe side.

Movers and shakers

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group appointed Camilla Chiam as its new APAC comms VP, while Karen Flynn said goodbye to Siren, the PR agency she started, after it became fully integrated with Havas Worldwide Singapore. In addition, Fulford PR and Brand Rapport joined forces to become Roco Communications in Asia.

In the US, FleishmanHillard named JJ Carter its first global COO; Jim Olsom left Starbucks to be United Airlines’ comms head honcho; and Ketchum’s Kathy Jeavons switched to Story Partners.

Across in the UK, ex-Downing Street advisor and former News of the World editor Andy Coulson moved into the PR world; Kev O’Sullivan, co-founder of Surname & Surname, left for Bell Pottinger; and Stephen Day at Burson-Marsteller was promoted to a top-level role alongside the firm’s UK chief exec.

Over to pitches, where Bench PR in Australia won two tech startup accounts; The Body Shop International retained Another Word Communications; and The Economist hired Lansons as its UK PR agency.

Final thought

Barely a week goes by without a piece of research carried out by a PR company/consultancy/market research outfit landing in our inbox. How useful these are to clients and the marketing role they play for PR agencies will be tackled in-depth in one of our forthcoming Deep Dive features. However, James Thompson, global managing director of Diageo Reserve, has fired the opening salvo.

"We’ve been offered expensive but apparently penetrating insights into millennials along the lines of ‘millennials are stressed and don’t feel valued’," he wrote. "This is as helpful as a research survey would have been on a similar generation in the 1960s saying "young people enjoy sex and guitars."

While we are inclined to agree with his rationale, we trust young people today still find time to enjoy such 60s pursuits.

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