KFC comes clean after making up fictitious food blogger

Bloggers have taken the world by storm in the last few years. [Insert personal praise for Prime Time here]. Why? Because, the content they post is C.A.T: credible, authentic and trustworthy.

The social influencers that have risen up out of the ranks – having turned their hobbies into businesses – may be slightly compromised thanks to the introduction of #spon and #ad hashtags, which are required to clarify when they’re getting paid to say nice things about products. But, the micro bloggers who still turn up to work and find time to write about what drives them are able to remain true to themselves – which is why they’re still one of the most trusted sources for accurate online information.

So, to read that KFC (the brand that pushes the line with crude content when it comes to its digital activity anyway) cat-fished customers by creating a fictitious clean eating flogger (food blogger) to promote its Dirty Louisiana burger is quite outrageous.

Figgy Poppleton-Rice has a blog, Instagram and Twitter account with almost 30,000 followers combined and the idea to make her up came when the fast-food chain’s marketing team realised that 80% of the top-selling books on Amazon were about healthy living.

KFC's fictitious blogger Figgy Poppleton-Rice

In an attempt to reverse the trend – and capitalise on a slight lean towards fitness fatigue – it used social listening to plan a tongue-in-cheek campaign. Using Figgy to drip-feed countless images of kale, almond milk and cauliflower rice, it was part of a bigger piece to reveal the brand’s dirty burger, which has since generated millions of views and thousands of shares and comments on its Twitter and Facebook profiles.

A novel approach, most consumers have taken kindly to the campaign (which was mostly driven by KFC due to its potential reach) because of its humour and talkability. It’s even generated global PR coverage with articles on Mashable, Men’s Health and Yahoo! to name a few – although all of these publications did call KFC out on its stunt.

 

But, looking through the campaign, it didn’t matter. In fact, I can see why it worked so well. KFC researched its target customer, developed an anti-customer persona, and tied this with current trends to craft a relevant campaign that its actual audience would find hilarious.

Which prompts the question: Will more brands be willing to push outside of its comfort zone in an attempt to create unique content that’ll grab attention?

As long as the preparation towards the big reveal is balanced just right, most marketing teams will have the prowess to pass it off while having good fun with their followers. It’s a win-win situation.

In an industry where marketers are at constant risk of ‘content shocking’ their audiences (producing irrelevant content that consumers simply can’t keep up with), it’s a great example of content-first advertising that’s both interesting and entertaining.

With less than a month to go until April Fools’ Day, I hope KFC has still got buckets full of energy to make the most of this opportunity too.

Did PwC calculate a PR opportunity when it handed out the wrong Oscars envelope?  

As I type this blog, thousands of people are probably Googling PwC, but not for accountancy advice. The professional services giant is more likely to be researched for the award-winning role it played in the Oscars 2017 ‘Best Picture’ blunder.

Genuine mistake or risky PR stunt? 

Either way, it took the 88th Academy Awards ceremony from hero to zero when presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway named La La Land as ‘Best Picture’ instead of Moonlight, which was resolved when film producer Jordan Horowitz humbly handed the statue across. [Click the link to watch *that* moment via the BBC News website.]

Opening up the Evening Standard tonight, the awards ceremony not only dominates the front page, but continues inside with a colourful double-page spread with four mentions of PwC before page 4 – including an image of Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz who are the only officials who knew the identity of the winners before the announcements are made and carry back-up envelopes in a briefcase.

Are PwC's officials to blame for the Oscars 2017 blunder?
So, with two opportunities to get it right, why did it all go wrong? 

Coincidentally, the last time PwC made headlines in the Evening Standard was when over 150,000 people signed a petition demanding a change in the law, after one of their female receptionists was sent home for refusing to wear heels to work.

Just days after Cullinan boasted to the media that PwC’s contract with the Oscars never comes up to tender due to the quality of its work, which is based on trust and accuracy, the company has been forced to grovel (while making headlines across the globe).

Golin‘s Michaela Gray makes an interesting point on PR Week that the incident is unlikely to shake the organisation’s reputation among its predominantly business audience. So, no damage done. But, the cynical media consultant in me thinks PwC had everything to gain, considering this is the first time I’ve taken any notice of their involvement in the film competition.

Looking at its website, it’s gone above and beyond to squeeze dynamic content out of its partnership. From social media posts and official biographies to behind-the-scenes videos and interactive ballot maps, Cullinan and Ruiz are even held up as celebrities in their own right for having the inside track.

La La Land hands over the Oscar to Moonlight
But, this content didn’t translate into high engagement on social media until it issued an apologetic statement, which generated an almost 10,000% uplift in shares compared to its other backstage Oscar posts on Twitter and an average rise of 25,000% compared to its general corporate communications.

Hmmm, maybe they’re professional after all? 

The mistake gave the show a thrilling narrative – suspense, shock, sadness and sharing – which the audience embraced (Twitter memes are the greatest form of flattery, right?) And, whether PwC continues to be associated with the event going forward, it’s guaranteed international PR, marketing and digital coverage in 2018 when Oscars season hits the headlines again to remind people of who the new cohort of nominees have to live up to.

PwC's Oscars 2017 Twitter apology
What do you think? Will PwC be ‘moonlighting’ in other ways – away from the Oscars – next year?

If I ruled the company…

If you haven’t already noticed I’m pretty opinionated. But, in my defence, which hard-nosed PR and marketing blogger isn’t? 

We’re just a couple of weeks into 2017 and I’ve already caught myself using the phrase, ‘It’s not how I’d run my company’ – an easy statement to make when you’re not in charge of very tight budgets and vocal employees.  

But I still think it’s important to humour myself, believing that I do know what I’m talking about when it comes to business management. Care to join me? 

Here’s a round up of ‘ooh-er’ initiatives I’ve spotted savvy media agencies adopt in an attempt to recruit and retain talent. 

Goodbye Skint January
I’ll forgive Ready10 for using the colloquial term ‘skint’, (I prefer the classier quip ‘broke’) for proving it listens to staff and giving them the option to be paid twice in the New Year, to make up for an early payday in the run up to Christmas. 

Supported with money management advice and guidance during the festive season, this genuinely helpful ‘staff-first’ approach is just one way the agency stands out for the right reasons.

Golin B&B
Recognising that the cost of living in London creates a massive barrier for young people crafting a career for themselves in the capital, Golin‘s giving its next cohort of interns a break by footing their accommodation bill for the first month.

Accompanied with 0% loans for their initial rent and deposits, as well as reimbursing interview travel costs, this ethical approach goes a long way in levelling the playing field for all graduates. 

Go Growbot!
Digital agency Spongecell has begun using Growbot, a tool which monitors online conversations between colleagues and identifies praise based on predetermined keywords. If it spots an example used in a group chat, it’ll reinforce the compliment with a cheeky one-liner such as ‘You’re kind of a big deal @Donna’. (Aww shucks)

Aiming to deliver positive feedback in real-time, it seeks to motivate staff and, as a result, encourages people to give praise as much as get it by taking it out of the private inbox and into the public office. 

These are just a few ways that London agencies are making a difference to staff. But, you don’t need endless pots of money to get employees’ attention. 

After all, people just want to feel listened to, valued and inspired.

  

Here’s a few classic company perks:  

  • Flexible holiday allowance
  • Showcase sporting events  
  • Duvet days and birthdays off
  • Buddy system for new starters 
  • Middle management leadership programme   
  • Friday afternoon fizz 

That’s not to say creativity is dead. It’s very much alive in the form of Perkbox – a company dedicated to offering personalised benefits to subscribers via its website – proving there’s a healthy appetite (if not for PR’s sake alone) for original ways to reward staff.

What would your dream perk be? 

A dirt cheap PR stunt to promote a town of millionaires

When Kylie sang about being lucky (lucky, lucky, lucky), she must’ve been talking about Romford – because it’s no secret that the town has generated 51 millionaires since the National Lottery began in 1994.

With such a golden reputation, communications agency Threepipe was invited to capitalise on this to ensure everyone knows about Romford’s good fortune. And, what better way to spread the word than by installing a phone box in the high street for local people to share their lucky lottery numbers with random callers – to spread the joy? 

You have to hand it to the Romford Town Management Partnership which recruited the agency. For a campaign which prides itself on making locals rich overnight, it’s an incredibly quick and ‘dirt cheap’ PR and marketing stunt. 

All Threepipe have actually arranged is branding for an existing public pay phone, some callers from across the country to ring at the right time, coordinated statistics for a media release and manned a video camera – although the end film does do a good job of highlighting the positive and friendly nature of Romfordians. 

But, to add some extra clout to the story, it would’ve been good to see the area matched with the ‘unluckiest’ town in the UK to even out the good fortune. Or, even ask a local millionaire to pledge to share their (next) lottery winnings with someone else; should they be lucky enough to win twice. 

 Did you know Romford is the luckiest town in the UK? 

It’s these sort of hooks that would’ve taken the stunt from a local story to a potential heavyweight – meeting its objective to drive national awareness in the run up to Christmas. 

That said, the activity did generate some national coverage in the Daily Expresstrade coverage on Gorkana and also within local rags such as the Essex Enquirerbut it’ll be lucky to get anymore without sprucing up the story.

I’m surprised the campaign wasn’t translated online via social media over the weekend to highlight awareness during the National Lottery draw – if only supported by geo-targeted advertising. Has it missed a trick? 

At Prime Time, we’ll be watching this partnership with interest to see how the creative ideas continue. 

How Instagram is looking after users in mind, body and spirit

To be sung to the tune of Diddy’s anthem: The B. The U. The S. The Y, I’m busy.

Work is all too easy to blame, but it’s not the only reason I’m feeling a little ‘arghhh’. Even planning shopping trips and holidays has become stressful thanks to the list of jobs they create.

Working through such tasks takes time (more than I’ve got) which is why I occasionally remind myself via the medium of yellow post-it notes that productivity is key.

After casually writing a memo to my future self (Back to the Future‘s Marty McFly stylee), to sustain momentum and not drop the ball, (unless it’s to make a sweet cup of tea to keep energy levels up) I returned to work to find that the rest of the digital marketing team had led an intervention using post-it notes (obvs) to instruct me to eat, take regular breaks and generally not feel solely responsible for the entire organisation’s business objectives, least of all on a Friday. When did they get so smart?

Touched by their thoughtfulness I did what any savvy social media manager would do – posted the evidence on Instagram.

Can Instagram's mental health feature help change young lives?
Liked over 20 times (hey, I didn’t say I was a successful social media manager), it provoked comments from caring friends also reminding me to look after myself.

So, it was interesting to read in the same week that Instagram has launched a feature giving users the opportunity to report worrying posts, which prompts the recipient to read a supportive message signposting them to useful organisations.

With recent research from the Young Women’s Trust revealing that over half of people aged 18-30 are worried about their future; four in 10 feel worn down; and a further one in three are worried about their mental health, it’s no surprise Instagram has (finally) recognised the role it plays in protecting and empowering young people.

I ‘grammed’ my PC picture for fun but, on reflection, I wonder if there was more to it? I certainly try not to wear my busyness as a badge of honour (because these days who doesn’t have one?) but it’s always comforting to know you’re not the only one paddling like a duck underwater.

If a friend, or indeed stranger, were to have anonymously sent me a message I probably would’ve worried more about the state of my personal branding. But, one thing’s for sure. I definitely would’ve taken notice and, at the very least, have been assured that the feature works.

Although only currently available in the US, this move – which is part of the brand’s new #PerfectlyMe initiative which champions the development of a positive online culture – is set to roll out globally soon.

Looking between the frames, filters and hashtags, as Generation Z continues to live out its life online, all social media channels should unite with charities to look after their target demographics.

It’s not a tick-boxing CSR exercise, it’s a potential lifeline.

Is it ever acceptable for a dictionary to be a dick on social media? 

Manning your organisation’s social media control decks is both a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand you’re in the privileged position to be the sole voice of the company. Whether you spend all day responding to customer service queries or exercise your poetic licence to raise awareness, there’s no limits to how digital channels can be used.   

That’s the message you push in job descriptions anyway. The honest truth is that you have to bat away some curveballs sometimes. And, the bigger the brand, the more frequently you have to be ready to strike. Day in, day out, sometimes it’s tempting to just tell it like it is. 

At least that’s what US dictionary brand Merriam-Webster did last week. Sharing words of the day and language facts with its 124,000+ Twitter followers (over 6,000 more than the Oxford English Dictionary to put it into context), it tweeted a link to an article posing the question: Can ‘mad’ can be substituted for ‘angry’?

 It all started with a question 
The original tweet generated over 500 shares, but the story didn’t end there. Gabriel Roth, senior editor of political magazine Slate, jumped off the back of this question and began comparing the brand to an easygoing parent. On the surface they’re everything you’ve ever wanted but in the end you begin rebelling against them due to a lack of rules. 

Odd? Yes. Funny? Yes. Called for? Not really. But, if Twitter was reserved for relevant content, it’d be less than half the size. 

What’s brilliant about this entire social media exchange is Merriam-Webster’s six-word direct reply to Gabriel: No one cares how you feel.

 Merriam-Webster owned Gabriel Roth on Twitter 

The mic-drop of social media marketing, the community manager was able to sum up everything I was thinking while reading up on the story on PR Daily with pure swag. And, I wasn’t the only one to appreciate the droll humour, as it’s accumulated over 17,000 re-tweets in less than a week. 

Gabriel has written about his experience of being publically ‘owned’ by the brand, questioning that once a company isn’t worried about the impact its actions could have on its bottom line or reputation, all rules go out the window. 

Some would say that’s when the real fun begins. All of a sudden, the company is in control of the conversation – not the consumer. And, in this case, it gains all the kudos and none of the drama. 

That’s not to say Gabriel hasn’t gained from this exchange. He’s picked up notoriety (standard 15 minutes of fame), followers and article views. But, while he continues to respond to the viral after effects, for Merriam-Webster it’s back to business as usual. My hero. 

It just proves that the best types of PR can’t be planned. It’s trusting your best players to steer the ship, using gut instinct to manage the waves and see you through to the other side of the storm. In Merriam-Webster’s case, it didn’t even consider putting its life jacket on. 

That’s what makes this brief breakaway from convention so brilliant. 

How would your brand fare in a conversation like this? Replicate at your own risk. 

Why Captain Morgan’s right to challenge the US Constitution

We all know that most brands are good at PR, but very few are effective at adding value to the wider conversation. They’re frightened to have an opinion for fear of rocking the boat and alienating their customer base.

Of course, companies can also push the boundaries too far. Think Paddy Power who just doesn’t give a ____ (any bets on what I’d like to write?) But, those that sensibly align with issues, which are relevant to their audience, stand to gain talkability, loyalty and column inches. 

Interestingly, Captain Morgan hasn’t just scrolled through Google Trends to find a topic to get behind. Instead, it’s done its homework and began campaigning to change the US Constitution to engage Millennials

 Captain Morgan for President? 
Having identified that people under the age of 35 cannot serve as President of the United States, it’s started a movement by petitioning to change the law – all for the price of an advert in the New York Times, a hashtag (#Under35POTUS) and some digital video spend.

 Captain Morgan puts pen to paper 
At a time when the political agenda is rife; not just down to the Clinton vs Trump battle but the Brexit aftershock too, it’s a shrewd move by drinks brand Diageo. Especially when you consider that the pool of customers this campaign is relevant to is considerably smaller, given that the legal drinking age in the US is 21. Perhaps that’s the reason this social experiment is a slow-burner for the brand – with little over 3,500 / 100,000 signatures on the White House petition secured to date and a campaign tweet generating just 35 re-tweets so far – but I don’t think it matters. It’s significant that the Captain is even starting the conversation.

It’s not the first time a Diageo drink has spoken out. Smirnoff has long ‘come out’ as a supporter for same-sex marriage using the slogan ‘Every pairing is perfect.‘ Since then it’s continued the crusade, taking ownership of the topic to become a thought leader, by partnering with BOB to create limited edition #LoveWins vodka bottles in the colours of the Pride flag.

But don’t be fooled. This isn’t a call for brands to pluck issues out of thin air and stick them in a communications strategy. Just because something’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s positive. American Apparel and GAP are both guilty of using natural disasters to push products which, quite rightly, were rejected by the public. (Even as I type this I can’t believe those marketers thought it was a good idea!)

At Prime Time our advice is to start small. Use social monitoring to see what your customers are talking about and brainstorm some ideas about where you naturally fit into the conversation. Then marry this up with what you could actually say that’s worth listening to. 

Now, excuse us, while we pour a drink and research how to become an American citizen. We’ve got work to do. 

Andrew Castle serves double fault after making ‘sexist’ comment

It was only earlier this week I professed my ‘voice crush’ for Andrew Castle. I don’t know why, but Great American Songbook tracks sound so much better on Smooth Radio when he introduces them. 

So, I was disappointed to hear he’d been dubbed ‘Creepy Castle’ after making an unnecessarily sexist comment during the Marcus Willis vs Roger Federer match at Wimbledon. 

Wimbledon commentator Andrew Castle makes a sexist slip-up 
He commented on Willis’s girlfriend’s looks saying: “It’s a pity my dentist doesn’t look like that,” and quickly felt the wrath of upset viewers who called him out on social media for his sexist remarks. 

But, the real problem is how he failed to nip the issue in the bud. 

Rather than ‘smoothing’ things over by apologising, he decided to reply to a particular tweeter who asked him to just concentrate on the tennis – branding her ‘earnest, humourless and probably no fun at all.’ 

Since when is it acceptable to ‘serve’ sexism with a side of bitterness?

 Andrew Castle's bitter tweetI’ve previously blogged about the importance of social media silence. Rather than adding fuel to the fire, celebrities, brands or individuals should use the time wisely to:

  • Review the situation: What’s happening? What impact is this having on the brand? 
  • Resolve the situation: What’s needed? Plan next steps to reduce any negative impacts
  • Reflect on the situation: What could’ve prevented this happening in the first place? What processes need to be out in place to learn and develop from this? 

As Castle’s spat continued, and a small number of complaints rolled into the BBC, he then proceeded to apologise in the most insincere way possible

“Obviously never mean to upset anyone. If I did then I apologise.”

Perhaps he thought he had nothing to worry about after winning support from Jennifer herself who tweeted him to say she’s taken no offence to the comment – something he shared on Twitter to help with his defence.

 Jennifer rushed to Castle's defence 
Wimbledon has already moved on from the incident, but the media hasn’t. The Guardian, Independent and Mail are just a few titles which have run the story ‘nursing’ the issue – which has divided Twitter users. 

Some say it’s lecherous. Others say it’s a compliment. I just agree with those who say it’s irrelevant. 

His role is to add value to the tennis and light-hearted banter, addressing women’s looks, shouldn’t be part of his remit. 

What do you think? Will Castle learn or make a double fault again later on in the tournament?

Twitter allows brands to target users through emoji

My friends all know that I love three things: Bulldogs, Michael Jackson and emoji (order subject to change).

I can’t help it – each one makes me smile, lifts my spirits and puts a spring in my step.

And, I’m loving that the latter is still riding high with users and brands alike. A trend that’s set to continue when Unicode 9.0 updates its offering with 72 new images on Tuesday 21 June.

Emoji knows no prejudice. It offers fair-game for commercial and non-profit organisations, big and small; inviting everyone to think more creatively. Chevrolet, Dogs Trust and, most recently, Cosmopolitan are just a few companies using the icons to connect with users in a fresh way.

It was just a few weeks ago I threw down a gauntlet for New Look (a brand which features emoji regularly in its subject lines), challenging the fashion retailer to personalise my communications with the correct race.

Will New Look be the first brand to personalise content by race?
But, perhaps we’re closer to this milestone than I expected.

Twitter’s set to celebrate World Emoji Day next month (17 July) by giving brands the chance to build campaigns targeting users based on their emoji use. For example: Tweeted a burger icon recently? Burger King could now follow up on this by offering you a discount. Or, if you’re frequently sharing your ‘frustrations’ with an aubergine, Durex might help meet your needs (ahem).

Personalisation, based on factual information (ie, location, interests, buying history etc) is no longer a choice for brands, it’s an expectation. In its simplest form, all organisations should be addressing consumers by their first name, but anyone who’s anyone knows the scope is far wider. The biggest challenge is to strike the balance between useful and creepy data usage.

But, targeting based on sentiment, feelings and expression is fresh and novel for Twitter. Unlike Facebook, which encourages people to express themselves via a range of reactions, emoji is a quick win for the micro-blogging site.

But brands will have to determine if infiltrating online conversations with authentic and relevant responses to trigger brand awareness is enough. 

Sorry chatbots! Automated responses won’t (or at least shouldn’t) be good enough for this mechanic.

Twitter transforms emoji into keywords for campaign targeting
With Twitter canning its ‘buy’ button to focus on other areas of the business, sales results will be limited.

But, that’s ok, there’s much more to gain. Here’s Prime Time‘s predictions:

  • Increase in bespoke hashtag-emoji combinations to help brands to interpret users’ sentiment more effectively
  • Improved social media listening tools to help brands react to people’s moods within minutes
  • Brands to integrate more emoji into its marketing materials to trigger brand affiliation
  • Increased competition between brands to see which can respond to users’ moods most effectively eg fast food chains

How do you feel about brands listening in and jumping off the back of your tweets? Leave your comments below.