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May

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Gavin & Stacey | Botswana Elephant scandal | Love Island

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

Last week we predicted that the Prime Minister's resignation would dominate the headlines and that the unfancied Rory Stewart might be a dark horse as her replacement. We were right about at least one of those things.

While we're on predictions, a couple of weeks back we prophesied that viral marketing could be a great tool to increase the fame of women's football...the England women's team backed up that hypothesis but did so with a hand-wringingly cringe re-write of 'Three Lions' worthy of Bill Nighy's character in Love Actually.

We also talked about James Charles and how 'Cancel' culture is creating new levels of accountability for Influencers, something we saw again this week in the escalating feud between YouTuber brothers Deji and KSI. So you win some you lose some.

And you don't have to take our word for it - all of our trends are now archived on the Borkowski Website. Now let's look at what else happened this week!

Gavin and Stacey: a sitcom comeback success?

The week kicked off with the announcement that legendary sitcom Gavin and Stacey will return for a Christmas special this year, almost a decade since it ended.

Bringing celebrated sitcoms back to try and reach a new generation has been commonplace lately and results have been mixed; from the disastrous (Dad’s Army, Yes Minister, Open All Hours, Porridge), to the mediocre (Only Fools the musical, Will & Grace across the pond) to the really quite good (Partridge, Still Game if you’re Scottish).

The successes tend to have some from making a virtue of how society and humour have changed since the original. It may only be 10 years old but the Gavin and Stacey first existed in a lovely bubble - pre-Brexit, pre-Fake News, and pre-James Corden being world famous. If it succeeds it could be because its writers see humour in old characters trying to get to grips with this uncomfortable new world.

Another indication as to its likely success is the motivation behind bringing it back.
The answer to this probably lies with James Corden. Ruth Jones has been successful since, but G&S is still the biggest thing she’s done so her motives aren’t mysterious, whereas Corden is now the US primetime heavyweight behind Carpool Karaoke, so doesn’t need this. But he’s also reportedly loathed within the UK television industry, so if he’s ever going to make a significant return to acting or UK screens in general, he’s have to do something to build a swell of good-feeling first: a Gavin & Stacey special which honours the original could do that, but not if its primary purpose is to be a James Corden showreel.

 
Botswana Elephant scandal could create another Bell Pottinger

Following the government of Botswana’s controversial decision to lift the ban on hunting elephants, they have sought out the advice of an American public relations firm. 42 West is an agency primarily known for work in Hollywood, listing Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as clients in December 2018.

The firm might do well to remember the fate of Bell Pottinger, which collapsed after accusations that they deliberately encouraged racial hatred in order to keep President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, currently facing corruption charges, in power.

Perhaps this is what happens when PR firms get too big and drink their own Kool-Aid. Bell Pottinger believed they could get away with anything; maybe the same can be said of 42 West. But not every crisis is fixable. Some issues are simply too unambiguously immoral to spin.

It might have been wise for these agencies to seek outside advice for themselves. In a world that increasingly demands an ethical approach from business and media organisations, PR professionals must be able to take a long hard look at their own practices. If they don’t, scandals like these will continue to consume the industry.


 
Love Island: How long can hype drown out moral qualms? 
Season 5 of Love Island commences next week having increased its audience sevenfold between its first and fourth seasons to an average of nearly 4 million last year.

Reputation-wise it hasn’t all been roses since then; the suicides of two former contestants implicated the show in a wider scandal about the duty of care owed by reality producers to their contestants’ mental health, most acutely when the Jeremy Kyle Show was cancelled for similar issues earlier this month.

Eyebrows have also been raised at the apparent half-heartedness of the show’s attempt to increase the diversity – particularly body diversity- of its contestants, prominently during a widely debated interview with the Radio Times.

But what impact will this have on viewing figures? The answer is ‘probably not much’; media coverage of the new series has been fervent and our impression is that anyone engaged with popular culture will at least dip in-and-out of Season 5 with scant regard of the moral questions the show’s comms team have been toiling to answer.

But Love Island’s rise has been meteoric, and this kind of upwards momentum is never perpetual. Big Brother, the show’s most comparable predecessor, saw its audience slump consistently after its fifth season, so we may be witnessing Love Island’s natural peak. Unless something sensational happens this year, then the issues, which until now have been drowned out by hype, may become harder to ignore, in which case TV’s most famous island might start to crumble and sink.
 
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Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Next Tory leader | Tesla's new Absolute Unit | 'Milkshaking' as PR strategy

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

Well well well. The bloody Prime Minister just went and resigned. It's going to be tough to oust that from the front pages for a couple of weeks..!
 

Next Tory leader? The runners and riders

According to oddschecker.com, the top Tory leadership candidates are Johnson, Hunt, Gove and Raab, and according to Guido Media: we can already see the remaining Conservative MPs already begin to sidle towards their preferred choice. A race that has been running just out of sight since the exit poll at the last General Election is now edging into view before it finally bursts into the open on June 7th.
Here are the communication strategies that the Borkowski team would recommend to each of the big hitters.
 
Boris Johnson
The last time an early frontrunner ended up winning the Conservative leadership race was a long, long time ago – and the longer the race, the more chance of an upset. But the Democratic race proves to us that it can be done. Joe Biden and Boris Johnson are similar in a couple of ways – both are household names, and both have gained popularity because they shoot from the hip (in a manner which raises questions about their ability to lead and manage). Johnson should do what Joe Biden is doing – big set-piece speeches to demonstrate charisma and statesmanship, but limited exposure to journalists and the public in order to minimise the chance of a gaffe. It’s simple – make sure every word Johnson utters in public from now until election day comes through a teleprompter. Privately, target the MPs with the smallest majorities and show them polling on how unpopular your rivals are.
 
Jeremy Hunt
The insider’s choice and the candidate least prone to populist demagoguery. Unfortunately for Jeremy Hunt, he campaigned for Remain and that will be used against him day-after-day. He has already spent months preaching the merits of Brexit with the lonely zeal of the converted, but in trying to win over the Brexiteers he’s fighting a battle he’s already lost. Hunt would be better to stay quiet, let Johnson soak up the punishment that comes with being the frontrunner until he stumbles and falls, and position himself as the steady hand in order to sweep up the panicking Cameroonian moderates. Run quiet until the polls narrow.
 
Michael Gove
Michael Gove is a Machiavellian genius and by far the best out-and-out politician in the race. As such, he will almost certainly have a diabolically brilliant plan already locked and loaded. His comms team should just step back and ponder the sheer magnitude and cunning of whatever he has ready. In the meantime, he should get Tom Tugendhat, (the next next Conservative leader) in front of the cameras to make his case. That should solve the ‘whatever charisma is, I don’t have it’ problem that beset the last campaign.
 
Dominic Raab
Raab needs help from his comms team almost as much as Johnson. This is the guy who thought balancing some books on his windowsill would make him look like an intellectual. This is the man who has a rich history of saying offensive things (including the classic British worker ‘lazy’) and this is the man who famously wasn’t aware of Britain being an island until he’d reached the highest level of government .
With all that in mind, there’s only one thing to do; bang the drum of populism as loudly as you can. Promise the undeliverable, demand the fantastic and condemn the sceptical. It’s a playbook as old as time, and the good news is he won’t need to pay the normal price of personal integrity. He already sold that cheaply, a long time ago.

But there are a few decent people running: One in particular - Rory Stewart. He is approachable, intellectual, has military experience, and boasts a hard-fought reputation for loyalty and a good, considered manner with the media. Up against the gaffe-prone Boris or Raab, or a scheming Michael Gove, he might come across as the only adult in the room. With the correct media strategy, he could be dangerous (to his rivals, not the country).


 
Tesla hire themselves an 'absolute unit' to revamp social media strategy

Automotive firm Tesla has hired Adam Koszary, former social media manager at The Museum of English Rural Life, who previously engaged in a bizarre exchange with the company’s maverick billionaire owner Elon Musk.

The Museum’s account exploded in April 2018, when Koszary tweeted a picture of an oversized ram, referring to it as an ‘absolute unit’. 36,000 retweets since it was uploaded – not bad for a picture of a sheep.

Last month Musk changed his Twitter bio to those same words and made the image of the sheep his profile picture. This prompted a witty response from Koszary, who changed the Museum’s own profile picture to an image of Musk’s face. Hilarity ensued.  

Koszary was due to start a new job at the Royal Academy but subsequently announced that instead he would be joining Tesla as Social Media Manager. The news comes as Musk faces pressure from his legal team to rein in his tweets, and stop speaking out of turn. At the same time, Tesla’s share price is slipping, and investors worry the firm is running out of money.

Whether the decision to hire Koszary came from Musk himself, we don’t know. But clearly someone at his company has recognised that social media is not just an extension of traditional communications channels, rather a place where reputational battles are won and lost. Elon Musk is the public face of Tesla, but he looks increasingly burnt out and burdensome on the firm. Switching the responsibility for their image to an undeniably witty social media strategist could be a very astute decision indeed.

 
Stop the 'Milkshaking' before public develops Lactose Intolerance

Put yourself in the shoes of Nigel Farage. At the helm of a well financed, well organised party – with another unlikely electoral triumph in sight but having to deal with the final attacks that come as you hurtle down the home straight.

And boy did they come.

Firstly, Gordon Brown makes a rare speech in Glasgow to launch a broadside into your party's opaque funding process and its mysterious donors. With an undimmed eye for a soundbite he says you ‘Won’t be remembered as the man of the people but as the man of the Paypal.’ 

Secondly, Buzzfeed breaks a story which includes a film of you pitching your party to a room full of far-right ex-Scientologists with close ties to Vladimir Putin. Worse – it is quite literally taking place in a private room at the Ritz. 

Lastly, you are walking through Newcastle city centre and someone throws a milkshake at you and you’re both the subject of sombre think pieces and the laughing stock of Twitter.

This allows you to do two things. Wrench the media’s eye away from the two painful and carefully timed attacks, paint your opponents as inciting violence, and in doing so paint yourself as a humble victim whose arguments are so formidable that your rivals must resort to physical attacks.

You started the day being painted as a stooge of the Kremlin and you’ve ended it doing your best Gandhi impression – and all it cost you was a McFlurry to the chops.

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Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Jeremy Kyle | James Charles | German Women's Football Team | Aldi

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

If you’ve been enjoying these trends you might also be interested in listening to boss man Mark Borkowski on the Media Masters Podcast this week on which he talked to Paul Blanchard about the future of the industry as well as giving hot takes on topics such as Brexit and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

LISTEN HERE

To this week: the big media news has undoubtedly been the canning (after a short stay of execution) of the controversial Jeremy Kyle show by ITV after the death of a contestant shortly after filming.

Around the fringes of the crater caused by this bombshell it’s been an active week of stunts, from Air BnB resurrecting the Spice Girls Bus, to Hawksmoor making the most of a staffing error involving a £4,500 bottle of wine, and even encompassing an all-Tweeting, all-farting Donald Trump robot in China.

 
Jeremy Kyle Show: The burning questions

First let’s address Jeremy Kyle: the sorry chain of incidents from suspension to leaked emails to cancellation has thrown up a range of questions:

Does this signal a wider crisis for ITV?

Is this the end of exploitation reality TV as we know it?

Should the makers of Love Island be worried?

What next for Jeremy himself?

Can he eventually emerge from his own train wreck with reputation intact?

…perhaps as a candidate for the Brexit Party?
 
 
German Women's Football Team: Could Virality help Equality
 
It took The Germany Women's football team all of 88 seconds to form a brand and identity, devoid of their male counterparts.

We play for a nation that doesn’t even know our names
We've been European champions three times, right? Wrong! Try eight times.
Since we started, we haven’t just fought opponents.

Even the English subtitles on their viral team announcement this week tell an incredibly powerful story.

They address the prejudice they’ve faced with defiance and dignity. The trolls that have stalked women’s football since its professionalisation have been difficult to shrug off. Former Arsenal player and pundit Alex Scott has struggled to deal with the toxic and incessant abuse plaguing the Twittersphere.

It’s an empowering video, but more than that they’ve created an identity for themselves which is totally separate from the footballing juggernaut that is the German men’s team – something women’s football teams have struggled with since they went professional.

Understanding and harnessing the power of social media isn’t exclusive to the women’s game. The Ajax men’s football team have developed a distinctive formula of social media marketing under the leadership of Marc Overmars and Edwin Van Der Sar which has flourished over the past 12 months.

The club has successfully appealed to their current talented crop of players (a group reminiscent of the legendary ’95 champions league winning team) to create emotive, engaging videos that foster team spirit, and have complimented the team’s scarcely believable on-pitch success this season to galvanize the club’s brand in a market dominated by financial superstructures.

This kind of social media engagement is having a huge impact on consumers and professional alike.

 
James Charles: A 'make-up call' for Influencers?

Earlier this week, James Charles, the 19 year-old make-up mogul and nascent social media giant, lost millions of followers across his various platforms after fellow influencer, make-up artist (and Charles’ personal mentor) Tati Westbrook posted a video explosively accusing him of betrayal after Charles promoted a direct competitor of her Halo Beauty brand.

On one hand one wonders if JC’s actions really justified him being labelled ‘a danger to society’ by fellow beauty influencer Jeffree Star, unfollowed by others like Kylie Jenner and Shawn Mendes, and having his channels flooded with videos documenting his devastating loss of followers and fans smashing up his makeup collections.

Then again influencers’ social media posts are their livelihood. They shouldn’t post anything without thinking it through, and the evidence suggests that Charles’ original post was, if not duplicitous, then at least incredibly na├»ve.

It’s too early to properly quantify the extent of the damage done by his former mentor, but this week’s drama is a warning sign to influencers everywhere that their industry is now sufficiently established that every decision risks repercussions if not weighed-up strategically: the Wild West era of Influencer marketing is over.

 
Aldi Square Sausage: Not with a banger, but with a whimper (in Scotland anyway...)

Aldi’s announcement that they were ‘introducing’ a square sausage (a delicacy that has been a mainstay of fry-ups North of the Wall for decades) has caused something of a ‘stramash’ in Scotland. We asked our resident Scot to review the announcement:

“A week that should have been triumphant: our Lord and Master Sir Andy Murray bending as low as his resurfaced hip would allow him to accept his knighthood should have monopolised the headlines from Teuchter TV to the Auchenshoogle Gazette and even the ‘Gonnae No Dae That’ Podcast.

But our mighty protector’s moment of glory was usurped by a classic example of cultural appropriation, racism and overall imperialist English arrogance as an (admittedly German-owned) supermarket chain decided to erase the culinary heritage of 5.4million people in one product announcement.

Lorne Sausage, or ‘square sausage’ to the uninitiated, was advertised in a Scottish newspaper as early as 1896 and has been the lynchpin of breakfast since time imemorial: it is a Scottish enlightenment marvel, perhaps our nation’s greatest feat of engineering since the television. Imagine it; a sausage that fits in a breakfast roll without rolling out!

For years expats have told the heathens of this revolution in design, mechanics, cuisine, art even, only to be shut down (‘what’s wrong with regular sausages?’) and now, finally, we gain the mainstream recognition for which we have spent centuries fighting atop the bones of our ancestors only NOT TO BE CREDITED with popularising it.

If this had happened in 2014 we’d be sawing a Panama Canal-style trench through Berwick-upon-Tweed as we speak. I feel sick with rage just thinking about it.”
 
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Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Royal Baby | Jurgen Klopp's | Danny Baker | Anna Sorokin

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

It's been a fairly Rule Britannia week this week, we've had the arrival of Royal Baby Archie, the heralding of a new golden age of English club football...and a race scandal ensuing from a crass act of public auto-defenestration by a formerly popular figure. 
 

'Meghan can't be the star of the show'

Check our the Borkowski blog for a full and frank review of Team Sussex's seemingly unilateral approach to announcing the globally anticipated birth. Here's an excerpt: 

"Meghan must quickly understand that she can’t be the star of this show. Her celeb friends may be able to put out their own content and points of view and get away with it, but if any of them are advising her to do the same, they are giving misguided advice. She can’t. But she can be the star of her own show if she plays her hand more subtly and carefully and keeps the old guard on her side."

READ THE FULL THING HERE
 
 
Klopp: Football's best PR man
 
Everyone looks to the worlds biggest success stories and tries to retroactively attach their own attributes and principles onto them, so that they can feel a bit better about how they approach life and about how in turn life rewards those like us. So here’s an attempt to discuss Liverpool FC manager Jurgen Klopp’s brilliant PR approach without falling into that trap…and allowing the fact that our office is full of Chelsea fans to taint our analysis.  
 
Mr. Klopp is obviously a brilliant man manager, a tactician whose on-pitch innovations push at the boundaries of tactical knowledge (particularly in terms of pressing), and of course a magnetic public figure. We know all that – but what we don’t all know is how seriously he takes his teams’ press coverage, and how clever he is at ensuring his press department is helping the club to the top.
 
I read recently about how a younger Jurgen marched into the Dortmund press office and heldforth on how he wanted his press to reflect the team because he understands that tone is incredibly important. Specifically he wanted press releases to remove references to ‘injured players’ or to ‘injury problems’ when it came to a particularly cruel run of injuries. Instead he directed his troops to refer to the ‘opportunities’ for young players and the chance for up and comers to ‘rise to the occasion’ and ‘seize their chances’.
 
It seems so simple, but at the very top of any business, any advantage can give you every advantage. So, he might be one of the greatest football managers of his generation, but he gets it – he can come and work with us any time.

 
Danny Baker and the anatomy of an apology

Disclaimer: this isn’t about whether what he did was right or wrong, or whether what happened to him as a result was right or wrong. This is about whether his reaction to both of the above was the right one or not.
 
It wasn’t. His first apology finished by saying ‘I guess it’s my turn in the barrel’, he has repeatedly made it clear that he understood that what he did was wrong, but also claims that he told the BBC to ‘fuck off’ when they were lecturing him, before hanging up. 
 
It’s not difficult, but people get apologies wrong over and over again. If you want to have an apology taken seriously then don’t be self-pitying or aggressive. It’s childish and it’ll cost you. It doesn’t matter what else you write or say, it won’t ring true.

Now he’s been sacked and at time of writing Danny’s more serious apology has just been released. First sentence: it’s been the worst day of his life, that’s enough – no matter what comes next, it’s hollow.

 
The Dark Queen of self-Promotion and why she deserves a statue

Today, future heroine of Hollywood blockbuster biopic and current cult hero Anna Sorokin was sentenced between four and twelve years for blagging New York’s richest elite to the tune of $200,000. Apart from being a tantalising image of what's possible with too many cajones and too few principles, she is a lesson at what a Catch Me If You Can crook looks like in the modern age.
 
Since the dawn of humanity there have been those with a superhuman ability to bluff anyone into submission; Anna possessed a uniquely 21st century version of this superpower: she had to use her Instagram posts to convince that anyone photographed at that bar, with that meal, at that table, simply must be the heiress she claims to be. Every experience was another opportunity to be carefully captured, packaged and relayed to prying eyes. Today’s top-tier blaggers have to be at the top of their game when the cheque comes and online.
 
Yes, she’s a thief – but she’s still a hero. She falls into a proud historical tradition that includes some of Britain’s most well loved icons. Think about it, she is beating the exact same path down which ‘Lord’ Byron strutted hundreds of years ago. He ended up at the head of a column of Greek soldiers with Europe’s most beautiful women littered in his wake. She ends up with four to twelve. Yet another black mark against social media’s impact on society.

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Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: The Guardian | Turner Prize V Stagecoach | Council Elections | Woodstock 50

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

It's Friday and we're eschewing such anthropomorphic PR capers as Sonic the Hedgehog (or whatever that thing was) and Veggie Percy Pigs to focus on the Guardian, corporate patronage of the arts, the local council elections and Woodstock 50 (or lack thereof...)

Journalism, not profit, key to the Guardian's revival

Are rumours of the death of newspaper journalism exaggerated? This week The Guardian, often seen as the least commercially robust of the remaining print giants, announced its first operating profit for more than two decades.

The fact that this profit has come at the expense of a reported 450 jobs makes talk of a revival a bitter pill to swallow for some in the media world, but if you dig deeper into the work the Guardian produces day-to-day there are some green shoots of hope.

Simply put, they’re nailing it lately with big, viral profile features; interesting exclusive targets, written about with humanity and personality have proved a potent formula with recent examples including Simon Hattenstone’s potentially definitive pieces on Ant & Dec and Pete Doherty, Hadley Freeman’s gut-wrencher on Tony Slattery and Kira Cochrane’s gentle but dramatically effective probing of Zac Efron on his portrayal of Ted Bundy,

Whether in the red or black, it’s journalism like this, alongside their important investigative work, social campaigning, and platforming of progressive voices, which will keep The Guardian alive.

Turner Prize-Stagecoach: Caution over corporate Patronage of the Arts 

Another week another cultural behemoth divorcing its corporate benefactor for reasons of morality, (small ‘p’) politics and, above all, reputational risk.

This time it was the Turner Prize and Stagecoach announcing a mutual decision to end the bus company’s sponsorship deal due to (let’s call a spade a spade, shall we) homophobic historical views expressed by chairman Brian Souter.

This is the third such major parting of the ways in art alone over the past year, after the Serpentine Gallery very publicly refused financial support from the controversial Sackler family in February and, at the tail end of last year, the National Gallery ended its 12-year association with Shell in the midst of environmental protests.

It’s a proliferating trend in the culture sector and, given the amount of private money already fuelling the engine, and the need for big corporations to find a cultural outlet, one that’s only going to increase in prevalence and controversy.

It’s been said frequently that tobacco and arms are the only traditional no-go areas in terms of arts sponsorship, but the emergence of LGBT rights issue, Drugs and the Environment (specifically issues caused by big oil) as barriers to association with certain companies should be a warning to both culturally minded corporations and arts organisations seeking funding that the practice of corporate arts patronage is entering choppy waters.

Council Elections lesson: People want clarity

Yes, the Tories have been punished – but that is typical of a party that has been in national government for 9 years. At time of writing, they have lost a massive 762 councillors. But the pressure is on Labour having lost 88.
 
These parties share many things - uncharismatic and clumsy leadership, vague domestic policies, vicious activists and ugly infighting; but it is their split-personality approach to Brexit which has driven these disastrous results.
 
A year ago, the parties fought each other to a standstill at 35% each, today it’s 28%, only the second time that the vote share for the major parties has dipped beneath 30% since 2013.
 
The British people aren’t happy; in this week’s elections they turned back to former go-to alternative the Lib Dems in parts, but the overall results reveal a prevailing orthodoxy of ‘none of the above’, as Independent candidates recorded the biggest gain.
 
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to either of the major parties. To repackage a truism - if you stand for nothing, then you’ll fall to anything.



 
Woodstock: The next Fyre Festival

Woodstock 50 has been cancelled. Whilst details are still unclear, Fyre Fest 2.0 is a tagline that event organisers are desperate to avoid at all costs.

On one hand, you couldn’t recreate Fyre Festival if you tried; stranded on an island with no food or shelter – far less music- total chaos ensues…and the only authority figures are Ja Rule, a rich idiot sociopath and an old head who really understands the importance of Evian.

On the other hand: that fear is enough for investors to pull the plug.
The Woodstock funders’ statement read:

We don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name, while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees

The chat about health and safety might not seem very Woodstock, but there are some other big names trying to save face here: Live Nation, AEG – billion-pound brands. They cannot afford a Netflix documentary or social media live stream about how crap they are, particularly in an unforgiving climate even for music festivals which function properly.

But you can’t fault the ambition. Curating a line-up that would appeal to the old guard of Woodstock and the millennial festival-goer could’ve paid off. But the announcement didn’t satisfy either.

So there’s only so much you can spin this as pragmatism: Woodstock will only turn 50 once – you can’t do it again.

Was the warning of Fyre Fest Woodstock’s saving grace?
 

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