How PR is like Connell’s chain from BBC’s Normal People

It’s safe to say that the breakout star from BBC drama Normal People is Connell’s Chain. After premiering in late April, the curb chain worn by the lead character has not only gained its own Instagram account, with over 160K followers, but actor Paul Mescal’s (Connell) personal chain is currently being auctioned off for charity and has already raised over £14,000 (yes, we have bid more than once). Nobody could predict that a simple silver chain would cause such a stir, and become the most talked-about feature of the entire show - but here we are, drooling over a necklace. 

In this blog, we explore the parallel between the enigmatic power of Connell’s Chain and the world of PR. 

Shareability/getting people talking 

Just like the chain, one of the most important aspects of digital PR is shareability. In simple terms, our job is to find the ‘Connell’s Chain’ and put it at the heart of a campaign to get people talking. Sure, it wasn't easy to predict the chain’s fame, but it’s all about future-gazing. Social media is your best friend when it comes to finding your next big viral PR idea; it’s so important that we are monitoring the trending topics and conversations people are having, as there is no point in pitching an idea if nobody is going to talk about it.

Whether it be creating a custom Twitter hashtag for your campaign, briefing and pitching your brand spokesperson to offer comment on current topics, or executing quick sales data from your brand and sharing with the media- PR is the shareability, virality part of your marketing strategy. This is how we earn people’s attention, and then respect.

Adds value throughout

It can be said that the chain had a consistent role to play across the entire series, acting as the complementing feature to Connell’s character throughout the beginning, middle and end of the storyline. Similarly, just like the chain provides value throughout, digital PR has a role to play across all layers of the Purchase Funnel, acting like the rocket fuel to your entire marketing strategy and amplifying your efforts at the awareness, consideration, and conversion stage.

Traditional thinkers may see PR fit squarely into the consideration stage, sometimes crossing over into the awareness stage. However, the dynamics of digital channels mean that PR can now have an impact at the conversion stage too. Take for example a campaign based on partnerships with social media influencers. This can be used to drive referral and affiliate sales, plus, with the rise of shoppable social, it’s an area that offers huge potential for PR. Campaigns that generate opportunities for shoppable social can benefit all stages of the funnel. PR adds value throughout.

Connection 

Just like the chain connects around Connell’s sleek and muscular collarbone, the chain has also connected the nation during this worldwide pandemic. You could also say that PR is the ‘connecting chain’ in your marketing strategy. Traditionally, PR has been focused on media relations, including crafting strong relationships with journalists for your client. More often than not, clients separate PR and marketing activity.

But, it’s essential that brands understand the connection between marketing and PR, as separating them often leads to missed opportunities. PR and marketing perform much better when we work together and create a brand strategy that will work on both sides.

In short, something as unassuming as a silver chain on an (unquestionably) handsome man’s neck has connected the nation, and PR can be harnessed to do the same for your marketing strategy.

 

 


Recognising kindness for Mental Health Awareness Week

Fanclub has always recognised the importance of being kind and it’s rooted in our company value of ‘playing nicely’. Kindness has also been chosen as the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week. The positive impact that being kind can make on both our physical and emotional wellbeing is extraordinary; everything from protecting your heart to reducing stress and anxiety - kindness has it covered. In these uncertain times a small act of kindness has never been more powerful. With this in mind, in this week’s blog we felt that it was worth highlighting the acts of kindness we’ve witnessed in our own lives recently to share the kindness around.

Hannah 

I’m part of the not-so-lucky bunch that’s been forced to celebrate their birthday in lockdown. While at first it seemed dull, I’m lucky enough to have some brilliantly creative friends that helped me celebrate from the comfort of my own home. My friend Liddy, a graphic designer, has been creating ‘Stay at Home’ inspired prints, designing and sharing one-a-day since lockdown was announced, and she created a special birthday edition print for me that really put a huge smile on my face! Check out her prints, they’re sure to make you smile too.

Fab

I think we all know how awful the pandemic has been. So rather than indulging in my usual pessimistic thoughts - who doesn’t like to complain? - I’ll instead focus on one of the biggest positives the coronavirus has brought us; community spirit. Despite my extremely approachable resting bitch face, you’ll be surprised to learn that I haven’t ever really engaged with my neighbours beyond doing an awkward nod in the street in their direction. 

Since the lockdown began, I’ve joined the local community WhatsApp group, sharing local things to do and resources we’ve found online to help with pandemic-induced anxiety. But the best part of it all is my next door neighbour. At least 3-4 days a week she’ll share home baked goods, her first attempts at maki rolls and even strawberry daiquiris! Unfortunately, my house’s culinary skills leave something to be desired, so in return we’ve been helping her on shopping trips and bought her a hamper of snacks and wine. 

So to Yasmin; thank you! And may the pandemic leave behind this brilliant sense of community spirit. 

Camille 

Stories of people’s little kindnesses have been endlessly uplifting during these past two months, and I’m lucky enough to work on a client that rewards its own employees for the kind ways in which they help their customers. Every week I write a summary of these actions for the client newsletter and am always warmed by the various acts of kindness. One that sticks out in recent memory are the two employees who made sure that one woman, isolating alone with her vulnerable elderly mother, received not only a full food shop but also flowers and chocolates for Mother’s day (unasked for)! 

Emily 

Since being stuck at home, I’ve relished the doorstep bundles of pick-me-ups and support from kind friends and neighbours. I’ve had all manner of useful, edible, fun and sentimental gifts dropped at my door in times of emotional and practical need- from cake, to boardgames, to potting soil; most have been unsolicited. Knowing that people are thinking of you and are kind enough to go out of their way to show it, even if they don’t know you well at all, has literally made all the difference to my mental wellbeing over these last few weeks

Adrian 

Watching the pandemic unfold was nothing like the movies. In the main, there was no rioting in the streets; no overbearing policing of lockdown; no ‘iron fist’ of governance. Instead, we were stood on our doorsteps applauding key workers.

 The spirit of generosity and collaboration to ‘get through it’, extended to the corporate world. It’s been uplifting to see companies step up the COVID challenge, whether that be by re-allocating resources to create ventilators or hand sanitiser, providing free bikes to NHS workers or countless donations of time and goods.

In the 1950s there was a management theory called ‘Stakeholder Capitalism’. Its protagonists put forward a view that companies should serve society as a whole, rather than its shareholders. 70 years later, the one positive thing that could come out of this pandemic is a kinder version of the economy. And after centuries of wrecking ourselves and the planet to serve the old economy, boy do we need it. 

Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric said it best when he said, “On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world”. Life in a pandemic has provided a glimpse of a smarter and kinder way to live and work.

Jess 

My mum is a teacher in a West London primary school and when lockdown hit it quickly became clear that the school had many already struggling families where parents had now lost their jobs, with nothing to fall back on many of the pupils faced going hungry within the week. The school sent out a plea for help and within 3 days we had gathered enough donations from our friends and neighbours to fill our car twice over. The generosity of people towards complete strangers was overwhelming and it’s amazing to know that what may have been a small act of giving for one person made a huge amount of difference to someone else. 

Paul 

I live in South East London not far from Lewisham Hospital and the speed at which the local community galvanised behind the vulnerable and key workers has been nothing short of amazing. 

More often than not it has been the local independent retailers and restaurants who had to shut up shop that gave their time and resources for free.  From the florist delivering free bouquets to the self-isolating elderly, to the Indian restaurant that has cooked and delivered over 1,800 free dinners to frontline staff,  this has truly been a time where neighbourly spirit has been reborn.

Emilee

Since moving to London from Canada 3ish years ago my parents, who still live in Canada, every year embark on a journey across the pond to visit me in the Big Smoke. Unfortunately this year, due to Covid-19, they had to cancel their travel plans. Being in lockdown, this has been particularly hard on me as at the moment I don’t know when I will be able to see them again. 

In usual parent fashion, when my parents do visit they usually bring me a load of Canadian goodies, which can be chocolate, chips (yes chips, not crisps), cooking products, etc. We tend not to send other large items in the mail due to the high costs involved- but as they knew I was feeling a bit down they thought they would surprise me with a little package from home to cheer me up! The package included my favourite ranch dressings, seasoning salts, and cheezies (a better Canadian version of a wotsits). Needless to say, I will be stocked for a while. 

So, to my lovely parents - thank you for brightening my day and hopefully we will be reunited soon! 


Fanclub favs: Binge-watches

There has been a wave of ‘pandemic productivity’ talk across social media, advocating that now is the best time to write that novel you never knew you wanted to write, become a home fitness guru like Joe Wicks or bake enough bread to feed the entire Great Britsh Bake Off crew. But honestly, sometimes you just need to sit back and enjoy good Netflix series binge.

As a further three weeks of lockdown is now upon us, and we’re all compelled to #stayhome and spend more time indoors than we ordinarily would, the team decided that for this weeks ‘Fanclub Favs’ we’d share our favourite shows that we’ve recently binge-watched. All you've got to do now is get comfy and let that autoplay feature do its thing.

 

Emily: There’s a reason why The Sopranos still has an evergrowing fanbase. I remember downloading every season on Limewire, and it was worth every single hour over the week it took to download. Aside from it being the best TV show ever made (yada yada yada), the style moments (CC sopranosstyle on Instagram) are worth it alone. I don’t have anything else to say except to get your friend’s NOW TV log-in and commit.

 

Hannah: I’m going to go mainstream here and say Tiger King. Not only will the series take you on a weird emotional rollercoaster-ride, but you’ll also start to understand the majority of memes that are currently circulating across social. The Netflix documentary follows the life of big cat zoo owner Joe Exotic, whose personality is even more eccentric than his name, and his feud with rival zoon owner, Carlos Baskin. Be prepared because there’s a lot more drama involved in being the owner of a zoo than you might first expect.

 

Camille: Like others have said, I’ve found it hard to pick just one favourite show to binge-watch. But for me, in times of stress or hardship (or global pandemic) I tend to find it difficult to focus on new shows, preferring instead to fall back on comforting old favourites. Depending on mood this could be Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars or Gossip Girl. But my all-time favourite show to binge-watch has to be Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

A show with great writing, jokes, fashion, love interests, subverted gender roles and an infallible moral centre, Buffy has everything. Plus it’s nice to watch something where the bad guys are clearly signposted and easily vanquished (though don’t get me wrong Buffy and friends have their share of moral ambiguity sometimes). In a nutshell, Buffy is a tiny blonde superstrong “chosen one” destined to fight vampires and demons and save the world. She’s also in high school. It’s binge-watching comfort food, and right now that’s something we could all do with. Because, as Buffy says in the Season Five finale, sometimes “the hardest thing in this world is to live in it.”

 

Emilee: This is a tough one, as I have been watching so many shows recently it’s hard to pick just one. If you know me, I have always been a sucker for a reality show, and before moving to London I was hooked on a TLC show called 90 Day Fiancé. If you haven’t heard of the programme before, it’s an American reality TV series that follows couples who have applied for or received a K-1 visa (fiancé visa) in America and then have ninety days to either marry each other or break up. Since moving here, it’s been a struggle to find the time to keep up, but since I have more time than ever now I am hooked, again. With numerous series and spin-offs, it’s a perfect show to entertain and pass the time. 

 

Adrian: It takes me forever to watch any series. My TV time depends on how long my children will allow me to watch a show for (we have terrible sleepers, and rarely have more than 45 minutes before one wakes up). So binging seems like a luxury to us! But, we do love a good series and have enjoyed dark comedy thriller Killing Eve seasons to date. Both Villanelle and Konstantine are style icons for us. And the drama and humour make for a great escape once the kids are in bed.

 

Fabian: I am a serial binger. As soon as a new album, TV show or documentary comes out, I’ve usually gotten through it at least twice within 48 hours. And now we have a lot more time on our hands, I feel like I’ve seen and listened to everything in existence across Netflix and Spotify. So I’ve used the pandemic to binge a new channel; YouTube. There are certain shows I’ll never miss on YouTube (Unhhh, which is one of the sites most popular shows, and Skincare by Hyram are weekly events for me), but one channel that has really caught my attention and warranted a huge four-hour binge the other week comes from YouTube Natalie Wynn aka Contrapoints.

Wynn is a transwoman that explores counterarguments to right-wing rhetoric, discussing everything across politics, gender, ethics, race and philosophy in video essay formats. A firm favourite of mine is her exploration into masculinity and the rise of ‘menism’, which raises some very valid points on the negative aspect of feminism; men have no new framework of masculinity and therefore feel ostracised, ultimately creating the rise of ‘menism’. If you’re looking to really get into her channel, her essay on cancel culture is a must-watch. The almost two-hour video explores the cancelling of makeup YouTuber James Charles, and then descends into Wynn’s experience of being cancelled by the non-binary and trans community. 10/10 would recommend.

 


Fanclub's Top Podcasts You Need To Listen To Right Now

According to Rajar, the UK’s audio measurement company, 6.1 million adults listen to podcasts in every week. Do you?

 

We certainly love a good podcast here at Fanclub, so here a few of our favourites for you...

 

Adrian’s picks

Where to start…here are just a few to get you started that I listen to regularly - Tim Ferris Show, HBR IdeaCast, The Echo Chamber, and The Adam Buxton Podcast.

 

Emily’s picks

True Crime Garage is hosted by two guys who drink beer and discuss true crime cases. Even though they're sometimes a bit insensitive and crude, I really like the informal approach to each case and the conversations that come out of it. How To Curate Your Life talks to different creative entrepreneurs about their work-life balance. It's super interesting to hear women talk about their journey in business- including how honest they are about the hardships along the way.

 

Georgie’s pick

Sword and Scale – because I’m really into murder (I’m not a psychopath).

 

Joey’s pick

The Heatwave - it’s DJ mix sets and radio shows playing Bashment music - if you want to feel like you’re at Notting Hill Carnival all year round, these are for you.

 

Jonny’s picks

How I Built This is my go-to for awesome founder stories from Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard to Power Rangers Haim Saban. City AM’s Unregulated is a great for anecdotes from entrepreneurs too. And for a more light-hearted listen, The Food Programme have great shows, featuring interviews, trends and stories on everything related to food.

 

Matt’s pick

James O’Brien is unmissable in Unfiltered by Joe. With guests including Robert Webb, Eric Cantona and Alistair Campbell, you can be sure to get an atypically hard-hitting and heart-warming accompaniment to any commute, coffee or Cantona love-in.

 

Megan’s picks

My Brother, My Brother And Me - a hilarious and silly advice show with advice that should never be followed. I really enjoy the infamous Clt Alt Delete - interviews each week and some really interesting conversations.

 

Naomi’s picks

The High Low - perfectly combining serious, important conversations such as the #MeToo movement, the refugee crisis, and current political topics, with light-hearted but nearly as important conversations (at least to me…) about the Kardashians, Taylor Swift and prosecco.


More than a pout: The power of the selfie

By Megan Linehan

Entering the grand open space of the Saatchi Gallery and turning left into the first exhibition room, you are met with an unusual sight- a Rembrandt self-portrait on a T.V. screen.

The first room of the From Selfie to Self-Expression reframes the masters for the modern era, placing portraits into a screen, next to a Huawei phone (the smartphone manufacturer who teamed up with the Saatchi Gallery for this exhibition) which encourages viewers to ‘like’ the picture a la Instagram. The growth of technology has changed the way we view images, and ultimately how we as a society behave, perfectly exemplified by the exhibit.

Suddenly with technology, the power of image is not the reserve of talented painters, of photographers who can afford film, or advertisers who can pay for a billboard. Nowadays, everyone has the power to express themselves, and share it with millions online. The exhibit explores this, not only reframing the masters, but also by placing them next to selfies created by Kris Jenner (the matriarch of the infamous Kardashian clan) and various memes that undoubtedly you have seen shared across the internet (including a man who looks remarkably like Jesus).

We are in an era of democratised expression and art, where technology has opened the floodgates of pouts and poses.  And its effects are not only seen in the exhibit content itself, but also in its attendants.

In one large room, a cacophony of voices bounce off the walls, as a projection of thousands of videos (or vlogs, if you’re down with the kids) are played on loop against the walls. While this is an impressive sight- it is not the only interesting thing in the room. I helped at least three different groups of people take pictures of their silhouettes against the walls, witnessed someone film a vlog against the wall with a selfie stick, and joined in the creation of excited Snapchats.

Technology has given us the chance to express ourselves and share our world view. While selfies are often blamed for society’s down fall, they can be a tool for sharing a moment that might have been lost - even if it is only because your eyeliner looks really good that day.

An image tells a thousand words and a selfie can be shared by millions, the selfie is everywhere. The selfie is a mode of communication that should not be ignored- it’s a medium used by all, from world renowned artists to your mother accidently opening the front facing camera. A selfie can be a joke between friends or a piece of art; it’s a bodily movement that has been elevated to be a key part of this era’s cultural zeitgeist. Such a statement is validated with this exhibit. With this exhibit, the selfie has been permanently placed as a part of our culture that isn’t something to look down on; it’s an art form for all.


Five 2016 sporting campaigns at the top of their game

By Joey Green

June and July saw Euro 2016 and Wimbledon hitting our screens, which was an emotional roller-coaster to say the least.

We saw England’s embarrassing exit from the Euros 2016 AKA Brexit 2.0, Murray’s Wimbledon win, Iceland’s terrifying Viking clap (it’s why we lost, right? Riiight?) and the infamous scratch and sniff incident from Germany boss Joachim Low, bleeugh.

However, we also got to see brands utilising the events of the year so far, to engage consumers. With big sporting events like these, it’s inevitable that many brands want to jump on the bandwagon. As Rio 2016 approaches, let’s see who cut through with the most inspiring and creative campaigns?

Carlsberg

We’re a big fan of Christ Kamara in this office so when Carlsberg packed him off on the tube, dressed as an older gentleman to reward unsuspecting tube travellers who offered up their seat with tickets, we loved it. Part of the ‘If Carlsberg did substitutions’ campaign, it’s funny, it’s heart-warming, it tackles an on-going discussion about offering seats and it got a tonne of coverage. Kudos to Carlsberg.

Evian 

In order to engage Wimbledon fans and those that like to shake their bootay, Evian launched their ‘Wimbledon Wiggle’ (a move inspired by tennis players) campaign where they asked consumers to send in moves, which were posted on the Evian Facebook page. Here at Fanclub, we love a campaign which utilises user-generated content and the likes of Jonathan Ross, Mollie King and Holly Willoughby all got involved with the wiggle.

Copa 90

Bringing together football and current technology trends, Copa 90 created a chatbot specifically for Euro 2016 to keep fans in the know throughout. Content included everything from guides to articles. Although not in-your-face creative, we like the use of new technology trends to reach an engaged audience and actually provide value, the innovative idea received a lot of pick-up in the tech press.

Orange

Continuing with the innovation theme (oh, we do love to see how people use data), we want to give a nod to Orange who analysed each day’s tweets during Euro 2016 to see which nation’s hashtag was used the most and lit up the Eiffel tower in that team’s colours. Again, use of data, a landmark, and some great colours, made a lovely GIF.

Morrisons

After Andy Murray took home the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, Morrisons rebranded its Wimbledon store to Murriwins, complete with sign. Although the store did it before after Murray’s 2013 win, you have to give some credit for recycling a great, quick-fire idea (and hopefully the sign).

With Wimbledon and Euro 2016 out the way, we’re looking forward to seeing what Rio 2016 will bring.


‘Don’t kill the new biz prospect’, And other tips from AbFab

By Georgie Travis

We had a team night out this week to see the eagerly anticipated Ab-Fab film.  As a bunch of PR professionals, dressed in knock-off Lacroix, oversized sunnies and fluffy sliders it seemed fitting to preface the showing with a steady bar crawl and slew of prosecco; off to a good start then.

Booze and pizza aside, the thinly-veiled ‘purpose’ of seeing Ab Fab was to gain a few pearls of wisdom from Eddie and co. on how to run a ‘successful’ PR business.

We braced ourselves; the characters were rumoured to be based on the antics of PR luminary Lynne Franks, who captured the zeitgeist of London in the eighties with her party planning prowess and representation of London’s elite. What we got was 90 minutes of PR mis-haps, fits of laughter and a whole long list of what NOT to do. And here they are.

  1. Don’t push a new business prospect off a balcony (especially a national treasure such as Kate Moss)
  2. Client retention is key. Don’t wind up your existing ones or attempt to hide from them by pretending to be manakins
  3. For event success, the recipe is as follows: obscure fashion designer + ridiculous, hard to pronounce name= surefire hit; the fashion masses will flock
  4. Keep budgets in check- you don’t want to be stuck without any of that ‘hand money’ for emergency situations
  5. Never underestimate the power of the PA, however flaky she may seem

 

The film was belly-laugh funny, with enough celebrity and fashion-world cameos to fill the guest list of Patsy’s next LFW pardee, and then some. The fashion didn’t disappoint either, with outfits from London’s emerging fashion darlings Shrimps, Charlotte Simone, Ashish and Anya Hindmarch taking centre stage.

Favourite cameo? It’s a toss-up between Rebel Wilson’s unexpected turn as a passive aggressive air stewardess and of course, Queen Kate, ever so elegantly tumbling off the side of a building into the Thames, only to appear days later wondering where the party was at.

Sweeties, you simply must see it!


Sex doesn’t always sell – our guide to PRing taboo brands

By Sarah Boulton

The sex toy industry is an innovative, brave and boundary-pushing industry and yet this is not very often reflected in the PR and marketing surrounding companies in the sector.

Some of the popular PR tactics by brands in this space include; feature pieces in health and relationship columns with stories around “making partners happy” and “best positions to try on Valentines Day”, partnering with a popular red top celebrity and hoping this prompts lingerie sales, survey stories, pages and pages of survey stories – my personal pet hate is the “110% of Brits have had sex at an office Xmas party” which seems to do the rounds every year. While survey stories offer some level of awareness, they don’t work as hard as other shareable stories, especially digital ones, which also benefit SEO. Integrating with SEO is really important for this industry where digital sales are key – because they offer some level of anonymity for the buyer.

Overall these tactics are effective, no doubt, and I’m not saying they don’t have a purpose or that we’ve not been guilty of using some of these tactics before in the past. Sex and sex toys are seen as a taboo subject in the UK and a softer, guided approach will make an audience feel safe and build trust with a brand, especially if you are targeting a female audience. However, with the increasing exposure of sexual topics in popular culture such as “50 shades of Grey”, and the changing approach to sex in the general culture (with the prevalence of hook-up apps etc.), it is not such a shocking topic anymore even amongst this demographic. Hand-holding is no longer needed but instead being a cheeky/kinky partner or guide is a strategy that will reap PR rewards.

So, here are our key tips on how to do brave and creative PR in this sector:

  • Be the safe yet kinky guide and cheeky partner – basically this involves taking on a PR approach that adopts the “person who’s been to the party before” personality. As I mentioned previously it is historically a brave industry and therefore brands can be confident in who they are as a company and can see humour in the industry as well as understanding the importance of education and changes of perception. We really liked Hot Octopus’s (a brand that is not afraid to mock itself) simple but effective “best job in the world” campaign were they were offering a job to the public for testing their naughty products.
  • Break taboos – a successful PR campaign should work to break down taboos and spark conversations about sex or sex toys. One of the brands that we admire the most for doing this is Pornhub, their sleek, stylish and funny campaigns never fail to get people talking about the subject of porn regardless of the awkwardness of the topic. For example the great Christmas advert campaign with the grandad and gift card had everyone giggling in the pub and sharing across social media, read about it here if you missed it!
  • Build a psychological net – seek comfort through topics the general public feel comfortable with and can laugh at using cultural references. This is a strategy that most of our campaigns with our client Bondara, the second largest online adult toy retailer follows. For example, when we made an Iron Throne made out of dildos for the new series of Game of Thrones last April, which received over 200 pieces of coverage, and in the run up to the last election when we produced a mock political broadcast video using blow up doll version of the leaders, which was tweeted by Channel 4’s political correspondent and was requested by Channel 4 and the BBC for use in the election day coverage.

To find out more about this strategy and how we PR taboo brands, do drop us an email at naughty@fanclubpr.com.