28 Jun 19

Weekly Media Trends (28 Jun 19)

28 Jun 19

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Baffling Boris | KimK Kimono Kontroversy | Classical Revival | PR's PR Problem

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

There have been some frankly bonkers occurrences this week in the worlds of fashion, politics and even dear old public relations, while the Classical Music 'revival' continues to mutate interestingly. We've taken a look at some of the most talked about stories...but before anyone asks, we're not even touching Snoop Dogg vs Gazza. Some things are beyond our powers of analysis. 

Boris continues to blunt self-inflicted hatchet job

A century ago, Einstein theorised that light bends around dense objects. In 2019 we’d like to propose a parallel theory: media and public relations logic, in any form, bends around Boris Johnson.

In an eventful week, the likely Prime Minister in-waiting has ridden out what feels like a grand karmic hatchet job. Although, despite having several justifiable axes to grind, the anti-Boris league has found its blows blunted by his innate ability to distract from important issues using diversion, obfuscation and tittle-tattle.

He had help from his Brexiteer media cheerleaders to dismiss last weekend’s reported domestic row as a Remain stitch-up, although did his utmost to court ridicule by allowing publication of a ludicrously stage-managed photo of himself and his partner loved-up anew in what looks like the Aristocratic Buffoon enclosure at an alien petting zoo (which in any case is speculated to have been taken before the domestic).

Unabashed, he faced the media for the first time in his leadership campaign (quite the feat of restraint for a man who, previously, was not so much fame-hungry, as apparent host to some form of ravenous, celebrity-fixated tapeworm) secure in the knowledge that the first question wouldn’t be about policy.

But he did get a few policy questions, which he doesn’t like, and actually ducking questions about his personal life didn’t sound very fun. In an increasingly tight spot, he produced a masterstroke to create ANOTHER layer of distraction…Borisception.

He seized on a mercifully benign question about his hobbies with a meandering salvo about making model buses out of wine boxes, and before you could say “Invertebrate Protoplasmic Jellies” he had launched another viral story which distracted from any effort to hold him to account other than via conspiracy theories.

Donald Trump is the current gold standard in terms of a public figure being immune to their own incompetence: this week showed that he might have competition.

KimK's Kimono Kontroversy

Kim Kardashian West came under fire this week as she announced a new shapewear line called ‘Kimono’, which was accused by Japanese social media users as being an act of cultural appropriation. The kimono is a key part of traditional Japanese culture, and the co-optation of the word for a collection of 
(let's be real) fancy spanx understandably left some Japanese poeple feeling their heritage had been ridden over roughshod .

Kim responded to critics by standing firm, saying the word Kimono was a “nod to the beauty and detail” of the robe and that she has “deep respect for the significance of the kimono in Japanese culture.”

Whether Kardashian was guilty of ‘cultural appropriation’ or not, it is highly unlikely that she was ignorant of the issues involved in her decision. The Kardashians, especially Kim and her mother Kris Jenner, are skilful self-publicists, some of the most effective manipulators of media attention working today.

By sparking a topical and highly charged debate, Kardashian has attracted global attention to an otherwise unremarkable clothing line, using controversy to generate attention just as she has throughout her career.

The very fact that critics are complaining of cultural appropriation highlights that, like all the best self-publicists (BoJo included), she has carefully obscured the ruthless cynicism underpinning the positioning of her various ventures. It wouldn’t work for everyone, but for Kim Kardashian West, all press is good press. 

Classical Music revival: can new streaming service hit the right note?

In a frantic world, increasing numbers of millennials are seeking salvation from their worries (collapsing eco-systems, terrible political leadership, no money, gluten) by listening to classical music.

But as anyone who has prescribed a quick dose of Chopin to take their mind off the awkward hand-touching and feet-treading on the tube will attest, Spotify’s stream of curveball songs into algorithm-generated playlists – even when not ignoring classical music completely- is anathema to one of its great pleasures - the steady building of an intricate musical movement.

Enter Primephonic. An app aimed at taking advantage of reviving interest in classical music. Where Spotify and Apple are built to reflect genres where artists regularly release their own unique work, Primephonic helps you find your favourite composer, their best work, and a range of recorded versions of it. It’s a subtle order change that works for classical music, but won’t work for pop, jazz or anything else.

But will it take off? Perhaps – it sounds like a better experience, but that’s not always enough to make an impact in a landscape where the pop-dominated streaming behemoths still hold the music industry in their gargantuan grip. But if Primephonic are loud and proactive - unafraid of a sprinkling (and no more) of KimK/BoJo-esque stuntitude- their model looks substantial enough that it could bring the attention, and library of music which they need to build in order to truly compete.

PR needs to do some PR for itself

The PR industry has a PR problem. Once you strip away all the process, Public Relations– and all of its hifalutin spinoffs- boils down to three things:

Do people know you exist? Do they know what you do? And do they like you?

The first is interesting. People have heard of Public Relations and the name of the industry seems self-explanatory. But are they conscious of its impact on their day-to-day lives? A couple of years ago we did an experiment – now a work of outsider art in Mark's office which we revisited on Instagram today- to highlight how much of the news is shaped by PR. The answer to ‘how much’ is ‘almost all of it’ but our visual representation never fails to raise disbelieving eyebrows.

Then, do they get what we do? According to PR Week, 92% of people think that PR professionals lie, misinform and hide the truth. It’s a damning report that ultimately stems from a lack of public understanding about the nuts and bolts of the job, which shows that the process of PR done well is something without a public profile.

The survey also kind of begs the answer to the third question about whether we're liked. And it doesn’t help the matter when a PR company is being accused of rigging a government campaign to build a £100 million Holocaust memorial next to the Houses of Parliament.

So people aren’t conscious of the industry, derive negative impressions of us from a misunderstanding of what we do, and – even when they clear these hurdles- are confronted by a public image of PR companies placing themselves on the clear wrong side of history, before history has even been written. PR needs some good PR.
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