Words by Melanie Trombetta, currently in her third year of BA (Hons) Public Relations.
‘We are continuing our series of PR guest lectures at London College of Communication with Mark Borkowski, who joined us Thursday 21 November to tell us about where PR stands and where it’s heading to.
A vast subject that Mark brilliantly covered in only a short hour, through Wispa bars, the infamous gorilla drummer and (my personal favourite) a flying midget (don’t worry, I will explain the last one!).
‘‘It’s all about confidence’’
As Mark pointed out, there are currently 40,000 journalists and 60,000 PR practitioners in the UK. These numbers were multiplied by ten within the last 30 years; consequently we are evolving in a highly competitive environment.
Mark called us ‘’the most important generation going forward’’ who need to wake up and embrace this title if we don’t want to get our lunch money taken by competitors.
Another factor influencing our current industry is advertising budgets which are being eroded; therefore there is an increasing demand for PR alternatives. What makes us different is that we ‘’believe in the power of the crowd: PR works because it understands the herd. If you can influence and control it, especially on social media, you can be ahead of the game.’’
“Love the haters!”
Love them, accept them, and embrace them; they will generate public discourse and you want to be able to control this disruption. One ‘ideas’ man understood this better than anyone else; the (very) disruptive publicist Jim Moran. In the 1950’s, Mark’s ‘’hero’’ came up with the idea of flying a midget above Central Park to promote a cereal bar.
The police put a stop to this operation before it even began. Although it was never likely to actually happen, whilst Moran was pleading his case in front of a judge, the PR stunt was highly reported in the media. ‘’ It’s a sad day for capitalism if a man can’t fly a midget in New York City’’ Jim stated, in what would have been the most delightful tweet in history – if only twitter existed back then.
Looking at disruption of your own ideas will benefit you and your clients. Mark encouraged us to go out of our comfort zone and ask ourselves, ‘’what is the most fearless thing I can do for my brand? ‘’
“Journalists are desperate for stories”
People love stories, whether they happen to be true or not. We have to be able to think about stories that will motivate motion; therefore they need to be spreadable and insightful. However, be careful of what Mark calls ‘‘idea porn’’ which has no value.
Get your story set up with the right timing and context, as Mark explained, ‘‘stories told in the morning are very different than those told at the pub while holding a pint (…) strategic planning must become adaptive strategy’’.
Ideally, amplify your stories by using celebrity endorsement and controversy; people seek ‘social validation’ and therefore are more likely to engage in the celebrity-linked story, as it gives an opportunity for them their very own ‘’social capital’’.
To sum the lecture up, Mark told us not to be afraid to take risks – and encouraged us to use every tool available, whether it be storytelling, data collection, news jacking or twitter trolls. Final conclusion? Long live the haters!’
Download Mark’s presentation here.
Next PR guest lecture: Thursday 23 January with Simon Redfern, Director of Corporate Affairs at Starbucks UK.
The series is kindly supported by Lissted, the social media monitoring service.
Read about BA (Hons) Public Relations at LCC