Monday, June 17, 2013

29 Million Google results in 1 week

Last week, my good friend (and client) ultra-marathon swimmer Chloƫ McCardel attempted her dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. Although thwarted 11 hours into the 170 km swim by severe jelly fish stings, the direct preparation for the swim took around 9 months.

The publicity required to support such a swim was intense, essential, and formed an integral part of the entire strategy. The resulting media coverage, and the subsequent online trends, say much about the shifting power of the media, but also cement much about what we should already know.

In the months prior to ChloĆ«’s attempt, a search of her name returned about 10,000 results on Google. At the peak of interest during her swim, that figure rose to a staggering 29,000,000. And while the ‘power of the internet’ and discussions on social networks and blogs contributed to that figure, the vast majority of the search returns were due to mentions on sites owned or controlled by traditional media. That is: TV, radio and newspapers.

This demonstrates that even in this exciting age of online media, the fundamental core of traditional publicity foundations must not be overlooked when mounting a promotional campaign. 

While the penetration enjoyed by ‘new media’ works to the advantage of every publicist, the mere fact that so many ‘traditional’ media outlets also have a significant online presence, insists that any campaign must never brush-aside traditional media as being irrelevant or old fashioned. Clever publicists use all opportunities to leverage further interest, and depending of the budget, the allocation of the ‘spend’ must consider the multiplication effect gained using conduits that already have significant market presence. 

This should all sound very familiar.

It sounds a lot like the modus operandi of PR people prior to the rise of online. 

Tim Stackpool manages ultra-marathon swimmer Chloe McCardel’s media and publicity. For a free copy of Tim’s Top Ten hints for Better Publicity, visit here

Monday, February 11, 2013

James Bulger - 20 Years On

Were he alive today, little James Bulger would be 23 years old this year. But it was as a toddler in the UK that James went missing from his mother’s side in February 1993 while shopping at the Bootle Strand in Liverpool. A couple of days later, his remains were found on the railway tracks a few kilometres away in Walton. Beaten and assaulted, the horror story continued when the suspects in James’ murder were identified by security footage as being two 10 year old boys, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. 

Devastating the community and James’ family (his Mum and Dad subsequently split), the perpetrators’ families also had to move, assuming new identities, while their respective sons undertook ‘rehabilitation’ in prison.  The pair was found guilty on 24 November 1993, making them the youngest convicted murderers in modern English history. They were sentenced to custody until they reached adulthood, initially until the age of 18, and were released on a lifelong licence in June 2001. In 2010, Venables was returned to prison for violating the terms of his licence of release.

Twenty years on, the mourning continues for little James, his memorial lies at the local Kirkdale Cemetery, where his grave is found under a tree with a note that reads "James's Special Place".

The questions remain today: “How could this have happened?”, “What sort of children are they?” And “where is our moral fibre?”

The events were a sad indictment on society in that place at that time: high levels of unemployment, low or no incomes, a great divide in social classes, and a lack of care for those already considered ‘lost’. While taking a young life would be hard to ever forgive, the subsequent lives of Venables and Thompson have not been pleasant either. Thompson, hidden beneath an assumed identity, lives under constant parole, while Venables, always considered the most impressionable, has been returned to prison for subsequent violations, succumbing to drug and alcohol abuse. Rumours of them having been ‘exported’ to Australia were categorically denied by the UK and Aussie government.

So now, so many years on, we wonder if society has learnt anything from the treatment of these offenders, undertaking the most heinous of crimes at such a young age. Does anyone really appreciate the consequences of their actions at such an age? Can a broad approach be taken against such actions, or must each be considered case by case?   

And while liberal advocates might argue that Venables and Thompson were too young to be tried as adults, or that the judge should never have released their names or photographs, the ultimate sympathy can only go to James’ family, virtually destroyed by those events 20 years ago, and the change in the attitude of all parents who subsequently became more cautious and suspicious whenever taking their toddlers on a trip to the shops after the events of February 12, 1993. 

We often quote certain dates as being those of when “the world changed”. That was one of them.

requiescant in pace James Patrick Bulger. 16 March 1990 – 12 February 1993.

(pic: James Bulger. It was released by his Mother to the police and the public in the hunt for her son's killers)