Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Victoria Derbyshire | Commentator Culture | James Corden: Busted | the Harrywagon

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

This week we're looking at another panning for the BBC, James Corden's latest cringe, the risible state of commentator culture and the inevitable Megxit bandwagon. We're too ivory tower to lower ourselves to discussing #dollypartonchallenge though ;)

Another fine mess for the BBC
It’s been a mixed week for the BBC. Citing changing viewing habits and the need to make cuts, the Beeb announced their decision to axe the award-winning Victoria Derbyshire show. Firing is never fun, but a routine cancellation quickly became a communications crisis when the show’s host claimed that she first heard the news herself from a story in the Times. Meanwhile tributes poured in from both the viewing public and other seasoned journalists.
Elsewhere, the broadcaster announced that veteran war reporter Fergal Keane is stepping down from his job as BBC News’s Africa Editor due to suffering from PTSD. The statement was brave, open and empathetic, the gold standard for organisations managing staff with mental health issues.
All this is a welcome reminder to the BBC and others of the importance of internal communications. Keep your staff onside and treat them with respect, before bad news becomes something much, much worse.

The nadir of the commentariat

Do you remember the late 00s? When pundits worried about a lack of political engagement threatening democracy?

Halcyon days.
You weren’t always having to consider the political implications to every inane decision you make.

You weren’t having to worry about if a sausage roll was vegan or not – and why that matters. You could have a mug of coffee without vaguely wondering about the carbon footprint of each bean.
There were things out there that weren’t politicised. Nature shows were about nature, not the impending collapse of the planet. Dating shows were about dating, not about sexual politics and the spurned fantasies of the patriarchy.
Progress is tiring, but its opponents are awful.
You can make a good career quite simply by reacting against messy progress, against people who are doing their clumsy best to change the world for the better, in order to inspire adulation from the rank and file of the embittered, lazy and close minded. The tiresome American shock-jock style has entered the British mainstream and suddenly we see grown white men telling BAME people what racism is. Their punishment? Naughty-but-nice coverage across the countries front pages, massive sales boosts and (this was my personal last straw) comparison with Leonard Cohen.
It’s enough to make you miss the time that having a political interest was considered suspicious and nobody cared because everything wasn’t flashing red.

James Corden and the search for authenticity

Towards the end of last year when speculating about the reasons for Gavin & Stacy’s much-chronicled return to our screens, we hypothesised that James Corden’s motivation was partially to try and recapture the adulation he gained while originally playing Smithy. In the intervening decade, while his career has skyrocketed, Corden’s popularity in the UK has flagged, and so it was little surprise that the knives came out quicker than you could say ‘Et tu, Brute?’ when evidence emerged that Corden’s publicity megalith Carpool Karaoke is in fact staged in a stationary car towed by a truck.
While this isn’t surprising (consider the camera angles and Corden’s seemingly kamikaze use of the steering wheel) and probably wasn’t even his decision, one charge levelled against Corden is the specifically West Coast chat show host-flavoured tang of inauthenticity that follows him everywhere. It started with fawning laughter on UK panel shows, evolved into publicly brown-nosing David Beckham, metastasised into a sycophantic Late Late Show sofa manner which would make Jimmy Fallon blush (and he’s the man whose star-f*ckery is such a barrier to asking awkward questions that he couldn’t even muster one for Donald Trump), and prickles regularly with such stories revealing image-obsession as his revelation that he wears spanx on television.
It might be petty to lay this all out but the Carpool Fakery will be used as another exhibit in the case against James Corden as a try-hard, image-obsessed social climber. Celebrities who can turn it on for the cameras are commonplace, icons emerge when they’re secure enough to rise above the stage management and burst out of their management-imposed cotton-wool wrapping to show a glimpse of their authentic self.

The Harrywagon Gets Rolling

Flies are inevitably swarming around the remains of Megxit and a couple of nuggets of opportunism have stood out for us. The first was a carefully placed Canadian tourism advert from Expedia next to a Harry and Meghan story in the Evening Standard. This was both an astute piece of news-jacking at a time when Canada is definitively being trailed as fit for a(n ex) Prince, and the eye-catching audaciousness (crassness) generated enough headlines for the marketing department to get more than their money's worth.

The second is a South Park / Family Guy style animated comedy about the Royal Family coming to HBO Max, with Prince Harry voiced by none other than the people's swashbuckling posho Orlando Bloom (Orloomdo Bland to Kermode and Mayo).  it's a good gimmick but how the jokes (particularly if aimed at Americans) will sustain over a whole series, is less clear cut. 

Delivering Big Publicity Ideas

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Wiley vs Stormzy (vs Eminem) | Laurence Fox | Billie Eilish x Bond | Awards Season | McGregor | Toxic Workplace

In the six months that have elapsed of January so far (or so it feels) it's been pretty hard to steer clear of Harry and Meghan, World War III and Brexit. This week we've given it a bloody good go with observations on diss tracks, woke James Bond, Award Season, Conor McGregor's reinvention and Laurence Fox's tedious self-destruct. 

Wiley vs Stormzy (vs Eminem): Rap Promo in all its forms

The diss-track has transcended rap music and mutated into currency that anyone can cash-in on, particularly clout-thirsty YouTubers.
But it’s been a while since we’ve seen two heavyweights publicly slugging it out. Enter Wiley and Stormzy: the pioneer of grime vs Glastonbury 2019 headliner, publicly beefing and exchanging blows through diss-tracks released 24 hours apart. Fans, media, social went mental.
There were no losers. Wiley, ‘the godfather of grime’ has successfully piggybacked on Stormzy’s mainstream success releasing 3 tracks (not including the diss-tracks) off the back of the beef and announcing himself to a new young audience of Stormzy fans. Stormzy has reaffirmed his position at the top, nodding acknowledgement to his forebear as he plugs his no.1 album released at the end of 2019.
From the sublime to the ridiculous of rap promotion, Eminem dropped an album today which nobody asked for, which included a song in which, coming across as an ageing shock-jock, he referenced the Manchester Arena bomb attack.
It was a bizarre comms strategy meshing the early noughties I don’t give a f**k approach of making lyrics eye-catchingly offensive (on an album featuring that famous punk renegade Ed Sheeran?!), and the mid-noughties tactic of dropping an album unannounced; the combination has produced a desperate attempt for relevance which fell flat on its face.

Laurence Fox: Another Whiney Man Who Feels Threatened

I think everyone can all agree that we would like to live in a meritocracy. A country of level playing fields, firm referees and an opportunity for us all to get what we deserve. Which is why it’s so painfully, endlessly boring when prominent privileged men become so rattled when someone points out to them that by merely being born a white Englishman they were given a huge head start.

It’s no comment on what can be controlled - their skill and industry. It’s merely an understanding and acknowledgement that BAME men and women find it harder to get visas, get home and work contracts and that our society is littered with examples of white men who have not only failed upwards, but have lurched to the stratosphere fuelled by nothing but catastrophe.

Woketopussy: Billie Eilish and James Bond's continued pitch to millennials

You have to hand it to the James Bond producers. The announcement this week that young superstar Billie Eilish will write and record the theme for the upcoming 25th film in the series was just the latest in a series of Herculean efforts to modernise the tired brand. With national treasure Phoebe Waller-Bridge writing the script and Lashana Lynch playing the next 007 agent, No Time to Die will be the wokest Bond film yet. 
With clever moves like these, those involved have helped to shake and stir the series into something very different, fit for the 21st century, while somehow still retaining a sense of the original. Bravo.

Oscars look lost-er as BAFTAs get DAFTA

As the film, television and music industries toil to better reflect the diversity of modern society, their major awards are near-perennially seen as a missed opportunity to give a platform to minorities achieving extraordinary things in their field.
Anger about the male-pale-stale system seemed to reach fever-pitch in 2015 when #Oscarssowhite took off, but in an exasperated editorial in Variety this week, its founder April Reign outlined the various ways in which she and her fellow campaigners are still fighting a losing battle five years on.
The Oscars’ lack of a female Best Director nominee and almost-total lack of POC to receive acting nods was topped only by the almost comically homogeneous BAFTA nominations, in which both Margot Robbie and Scarlett Johansson were nominated twice in a best actress list which was so white and blonde that ginger-haired Jessie Buckley was the closest nominee to providing any diversity.
Throw in a hugely male set of BRIT nominations and you’ve got a grimly uninspiring outlook for minority artists.
The communications solution is simple; transparently make the selection process more diverse without aping the Booker and Turner prize’s strategies of hedging their bets by crowning joint winners in the hope of pleasing everyone.

Conor McGregor and the art of the comms counter punch

Reputations are easier to build than rebuild, and no business inflates and destroys reputations with the frequency and magnitude of the fight game. That is why the rehabilitation of Conor McGregor’s reputation deserves great respect. Only a few months ago, after being humiliated by the most dominant male fighter on planet, he was filmed failing to topple an old Dubliner with his titanic left hand. Further ugly allegations underlined the impression of a man out of control and in freefall. Then came a sudden retirement announcement.
Yet, a couple of days ago there he is, sat on stage at a pre-fight press conference – where he is famously as aggressive and dominant as he is in in the cage – and a journalist asks him a difficult question. The journalist is immediately smothered by boos, before both the promoter and Conor’s opponent step in to defend him. Conor doesn’t say a word in his own defence. He is so powerful he doesn’t have to.
Why? Because as long as keeps his PR clever, then people will remember the glory and forget the mud – these two managed it.

Work is Killing Us

A shocking set of statistics caught our attention this week. PRWeek’s Mental Health Survey 2019 revealed that 64.7% of communications professionals suffered from mental ill-health, up from 60% last year. On the management side, only 56.2% of employees felt their organisation is ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ supportive of staff mental health issues, significantly down from 90% last year.
All this amounts to a pretty bleak picture for the industry. But it’s not just PR that is suffering; employees in pretty much every sector of the UK economy now work longer hours, with little by way of work life balance. Widely used apps like Slack are increasingly regarded as fuelling this fire.
This isn’t inevitable; our neighbours in Germany, for example, work roughly 325 hours a year less than we do, and are more productive as a result. Ironically, overwork is making us less efficient. If we don’t change our ways, the results could be catastrophic.  
Delivering Big Publicity Ideas 

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Ricky Gervais | Wild Fire Celebs | Carlos Ghosn

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

Where to start? We’ve still got the Bounty bars in our festive Celebrations tins and already we’ve had WWIII, brewing in the middle east, a continent on fire in the South Pacific, and a fissure open in one of the world’s most famous and powerful families. We’re not going to touch USA-Iran, and you can find MarkBorkowski's hot takes on Megxit in all good media outlets. but other than that let’s try and make sense of the whole mess that is 2020.

Ricky Gervais: Did he win or lose from Golden Globes?

Let's start proceedings with a good old debate shall we? We've all seen the Gervais monologue; we asked two Borkowskites with opposing views to lay them down for us. 


Are we taking Ricky Gervais’ monologue too seriously?
Gervais’ antagonistic brand of comedy is designed to provoke. Considering the monologue was the key talking point post-awards ceremony and went viral – as far as Gervais is concerned – job well done.
Like him or loathe him, his brazen attacks on the Hollywood elite were watched and discussed by millions.
One of Gervais’s best jokes of the night – the DiCaprio line – was a particular highlight but also serves as an important observation: it’s very difficult to hold Hollywood to account.
As the clip proves, DiCaprio’s womanising is nothing more than a laughing matter for the Hollywood establishment. As the #metoo movement continues to develop, it’s extraordinary that DiCaprio seemed to enjoy Gervais’s joke being directed at him, as the industry sat and laughed.
Bear this in mind when dismissing Gervais’s attacks. He’s one of the few that can openly grill A-listers, stripping the sugar coating from their shenanigans on a global platform. Despite the growth of influencer culture, traditional celebrities still hold a huge amount of power. Bursting that bubble occasionally, as Gervais has done in the past, is not only funny. It’s necessary.


‘I don’t care’, was the key refrain throughout Ricky Gervais’s monologue as host of the Golden Globes this week. Making clear this year will be his last, his total lack of interest became his biggest punchline.

The jokes were not nearly as biting as he made out; the audience’s response was lukewarm at best (and his main defenders seem to emerge from the MAGA and Incel communities). At the same time as lampooning actors who ‘know nothing about the real world’, the millionaire with homes in Hampstead and New York City was drinking his own Kool-Aid.

Aggressively positioning yourself as a bold truthteller, willing to comedically go where others won’t dare, simply doesn’t work when those you are criticising make speeches with more relevance and emotional power. Maybe it looks like woke posturing from outside. But the next generation of contrarians should take heed: if the awards ceremony is to survive these changing times, apathy won’t be good enough.

Wildfire Saints 

To preface this next bit let’s be clear: The Australian bushfires are tragic and scary, the firefighters and volunteers battling them are heroes, and anyone who donates to help the cause is doing a good thing.
That being said, a number of public figures are delivering their donations in such a way that suggests they’ve got half an eye on their media profile…

This almost definitely doesn’t apply to Celeste Barber, whose Facebook fundraiser to help the fire victims and those aiding them is the biggest in the site’s history. She is now making headlines outside of Australia for the first time in her career, but this doesn’t appear to be the result of calculation; she did a good thing and good things are coming back to her.

There was probably a shade more strategy behind Kaylen Ward’s also-laudable fundraising efforts, which involved selling nudes to raise funds. Had her method been less creative she’d probably not be on the media map.

Then there’s established Australian celebrities aiming to donate in ways which maximise awareness of the cause and show them as decent people. Ash Barty, the popular women’s world no.1 tennis player, donated 100% of her prize money from the Brisbane International. Awesome, right? But she then lost in the first round, so expect her to replace that promise with straight cash. Nick Kyrgios, the tennis world’s in-house brat, got creative, donating A$200 per ace in all his January tournaments. It was an uncharacteristically classy move executed with trademark puckishness.

Then there’s the A-Listers for whom failure to act would’ve been a black markagainst them. That’s Margot Robbie and the Hemsworths, who admirably stepped up to the mark leaving no doubt about their affection for their homeland.

Perhaps most cynical of all was Kylie Jenner’s $1m donation, made after she was accused of hypocrisy for expressing sadness at the disaster before posing in Louis Vuitton slippers made of mink fur.

Carlos Ghosn & The Court of Public Opinion

It has long been obvious to the Borkowski crisis team that the lightning speed of communications has resulted in crisis strategies being made redundant. Embattled moguls the world over traditionally bunker down with their legal teams to build a bulletproof courtroom defence for months on end. Only these days, they emerge blinking on courtroom steps to find that in the court of public opinion they have already been long ago been found guilty. A judge can clear your name, but they’ll never be able to rebuild your reputation.
Perhaps Carlos Ghosn is the first person to have realised this the true ramifications of this. This week he came out of hiding in Lebanon, wild-eyed and angry in front of a Powerpoint presentation. But this was just the last step in his communications strategy. It follows filmed complaints of allies, the commissioning of his autobiography, and carefully choreographed media appearances. Seeing him on stage gesticulating and snarling to the worlds press, then conducting lengthy interviews with individual journalists, you can already see the write ups filled with sparky, compelling soundbites, rather than dry, legalistic quotes.
It might be too little too late, but Mr. Ghosn has put himself in a stronger position than any of his damned compatriots.

Politics Corner

It was a week full of omens.

The last intervention in the final Brexit statement by the outgoing Brexit secretary (probably also the last frontbench job that Steve Barkley MP will ever hold) was made by Marc Francois. As arguably the most historic moment in Britain since the financial crash, the Iraq war or Rebekah Vardy being outed, ticked into legend, the hand of history was batted away by the bray of ‘BIG BEN MUST BONG FOR BREXIT’.

We can at least thank Mark Francois for proving Claude Junker’s famous saying, ‘we all know what to do, we just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it’, by doing the absolute opposite – doing the unnecessary and ensuring himself a massive majority (up by 12% since 2017).

In the interest of political balance however, Barry ‘the inconsistent’ Gardiner’s kamikaze run at leadership was one of the most remarkable in modern time. Just as Jo Swinson and Jeremy Corbyn must go down as the worst tag-team leaders of British parties in modern history, Gardiner launching his leadership salvo way too late to stand any chance at all, and from an Abu Dhabi environmental conference…which he travelled to by plane. The hard left is in disarray, stuck behind ‘RLB’, a candidate identical to Corbyn in principles but somehow even less charismatic. No wonder the rumour is that Barry is merely the latest casualty in the tinkering of a panicked ‘king maker’.

A new decade has its tone set early.

Fast Food Wars pt.289474738

One of our takeaways from last year (PUN INTENDED) was that fast food brands are responsible for a supersized portion of the proactive publicity in the headlines and several of the big hitters have exploded out the blocks in the new year. Greggs backed up stunts with morality by paying all their workers a £300 bonus owing to the success of vegan sausage rolls. This was mainly a well-received move, although it did open them up to criticism which demonstrated how much public relations is becoming a ‘let he without sin’ industry.

Burger Kings also pulled one over old foes McDonalds, cleverly playing the long game to demonstrate their Whopper’s superiority to Ronald’s Big Mac, with the response from the Golden Arches being the unveiling of a new spokesman, famously enigmatic and cantankerous rugby player Joe Marler.  It’s moderately funny but an odd move. The Kings wins this round for us.

Delivering Big Publicity Ideas 


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