Top & Flop of the Week: Vaccine film on target, influencer's Dubai debacle

PRWeek shines a light on major brand, corporate and individual successes and failures of the past week.

Top: Stars converge to target ethnic minority communities with vaccine film

The phrase ‘a group of celebrities’ isn’t always followed by positive news, especially in our current predicament, but in this case it certainly is.

Well-known British Asian figures including comedians Romesh Ranganathan and Meera Syal, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, cricketer Moeen Ali and TV presenter and author Konnie Huq have featured in a campaign film from Media Hive urging people to get their COVID-19 vaccination.

It centres on a video co-ordinated by Citizen Khan creator Adil Ray, whose aim is to dispel vaccination myths for people from ethnic minority communities.

The effort is in response to how badly those communities have been hit by the pandemic: not only suffering a disproportionate number of cases and deaths, but also being more reluctant to receive the vaccine. A recent poll commissioned by the Royal Society of Public Health suggested just 57 per cent of black, Asian and minority ethnic people would be happy to have it, compared with 79 per cent of white people.

It is also believed 'fake news' is likely to be causing some people from the UK's South Asian communities to reject the COVID-19 vaccines. Dr Harpreet Sood, who is leading an NHS anti-disinformation drive, said it was "a big concern" and officials were working "to correct so much fake news".

Addressing the lack of confidence in the vaccination programme, Ranganathan says in the video: "There's no chip or tracker in the vaccine to keep watching where you go. Your mobile phone actually does a much better job of that."

The campaign has the feel of something necessary, in response to a real and urgent need – on this occasion, celebrity action as a force for good.

By Rob McKinlay, head of audience engagement

Flop: Influencer needs better answers

It's a strange time for influencers. Many of the more savvy 'creator' types – Joe Wicks, Munya Chawawa et al – have thrived in the lockdown from a business perspective, giving the public a lift in these dark days.

But for those who rely on product-heavy photo shoots and other activities in exotic climes, life has, for obvious reasons, been tougher. It's little surprise they're eager for things to remain as close to normal as possible, and for many that has meant jetting off to Insta-friendly locations like Dubai.

This creates obvious comms difficulties amid current travel restrictions and a general sense of gloom back home – as fitness influencer Sheridan Mordew found out this week in an uncomfortable interview on ITV's This Morning.

The influencer, who has been in Dubai since the start of the year, claimed her trip was essential for her mental health and to provide content to followers. This argument immediately seemed disingenuous after presenter Phillip Schofield pointed out that her fitness videos were filmed inside her apartment. "Other influencers work from home and haven’t stretched the rules as you have," he said.

Co-presenter Holly Willoughby also pointed out that the rules on travel have nothing to do with mental health.

A particularly infuriating moment was when the influencer, who went on the show after receiving criticism on social media for posting from Dubai, urged her critics to "be kind". This seemed merely an attempt to stop valid criticism, which it clearly failed to do.

Mordew isn't the only influencer plying her trade from abroad, but putting her head above the parapet with such a high-profile interview, without better answers to key questions, was not a sensible move.

The incident poses wider questions for brands about whether influencer partnerships that require travel could backfire during the crisis.

But for now, at least one influencer has hopefully learnt an important lesson about the media – and about her own messaging, which was thoroughly out of touch with the national mood.

By John Harrington, UK editor

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