Winning the war

Mark Borkowski flew into LCC in February for a powerful session that brought PR in its many and varied forms to the attention of a wider audience around the university, some of whom may have held more than just a dose of cynicism towards it in the past.

I hope I didn’t embarrass Mark too much when I revealed that, along with Nicky from Westlife, he has long been one of my PR pin-ups.  What he had to say also did much to bring together the advertising and PR (as opposed to marketing) communities in the audience around their often over looked shared interest in the creative, and the power of the story.  The clip above is from a BBC Three programme Mark did called How The War Was Won – and I hope that all of us in the communication game can spend a little more time discovering more about what each other actually do, so that we can better integrate rather than fight (and if not, at least take advantage of each other’s thinking).

Having said that, I cannot resist one more dig at my marketing colleagues.  I stumbled across this promotional film about the UK city of Birmingham from the 1970’s, narrated by the great Telly Savalas.  It is priceless.  Film/video can be an over-priced channel of communication in PR, better reserved for advertising if it is to be effective.  It has its uses, and when carefully planned and executed, it can be the most powerful of PR channels, creating new realities, and providing controlled access to things we otherwise wouldn’t see.  I once used it to good effect for a campaign that involved then Corrective Party leader Miss Whiplash providing access to her brothel on film for an internal Lib Dem campaign in the early 1990s on the legalisation of prostitution.  Such a film was more powerful (and practical) than any leaflet, event or piece of media relations – although the campaign still failed!  

However, the Birmingham example I felt demonstrated perfectly where the person commissioning the film just hasn’t applied any ‘reality’ brakes, and as a result, becomes poor marketing rather than good PR.  Over 30 years on, it makes for much mirth, but at the time, hearing the Kojak actor asserting that “this is the view that very nearly took my breath away” beggars belief.  Does he really say that this is “my kinda town” during what is “spectacular cherry blossom time in Birimingham’s Bourneville“?  Look out for Mrs Taylor at the over-40s competition.

Three cheers for Mark Borkowski introducing the story of how he used Olive from On The Buses‘ (above) pet dog to promote a talent show at a Stratford Theatre, inventing a story about its ability to dance to the theme tune to the Streets of San Francisco.  As well as resulting in much media attention, it inadvertently led to traffic-calming measures on a notorious piece of road – and all without a single paw being moved.  It potently demonstrated what PR can (and possibly shouldn’t) achieve, as well as introducing the pickled egg eating beauty to a whole new generation.  “Ow, Arfur…..”

I was going to explain my absence from this blog for some weeks.  Too boring for words for the most part (you guessed it, workload), although there has been an issue that all the topics that I found it the easiest to come straight to my machine to write about would have been impossible for me to say anything about.  The issue raised in the Edelman report about middle-ranking people (don’t you just love the self-deprecation?) being represented more for an organisation is a fascinating one.  The transparency demanded by social media, and peddled by me in lectures on PR is still not something that most organisations, particularly in the public sector are actually anywhere near making a reality of.  I am not going to make an issue of it just to give myself content to blog about – just yet!


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