PR

mouse-click miracles.

I’m sorry to inform you, but “liking” that photo will not save that baby.

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“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Gandhi.

Perhaps we’re all searching for a tangible miracle within our sometimes steel-clad, disenchanted world. Perhaps it’s because growing up to be a ballerina or a fire-fighter just doesn’t cut it anymore. But contributing to something that will change the world? That means something. That commands our respect and admiration. But perhaps we’ve taken it too far…

Before I get going I would like to clarify some things from the outset. Of most relevance to what is to follow: I am not a particularly charitable person. That wasn’t a deliberately self-deprecating comment, but rather a realistic one. I enjoy doing volunteer work, but I haven’t done much recently (although that is something I am going to work on this year). I don’t contribute that much money to charities or other worthwhile causes. I don’t campaign or attend rallies. I don’t fundraise. I don’t work at an NGO or charity and I don’t have any particular intention of doing so within the foreseeable future. Basically, I could be doing a lot more to help others and the world.

I would also like to emphasise that I do not intend to mock any of the causes or societal issues that I may mention. They all have real and devastating impacts on the lives of individuals throughout our world.

Disclaimer: over.

So, I may not be a particularly benevolent person, but occasionally I’ll like a photo or status on Facebook in a gesture of sincere clicktivism. I’m sure you know the type: the one where if we reach 1 million likes will mean the difference between a chronically sick child’s life or death. Or perhaps a #makeupfreeselfie for breast cancer as you may have noticed mingled into your Facebook newsfeed over the past week.

That has to count for something, right??

Well, actually, no. I don’t think so.

Sure – social media is a useful tool in driving a marketing or PR campaign. Personally, I think that a campaign without a social media activation and strategy would probably be minimising its potential and reach… unless you’re targeting non-social media users! And yes, social media has been really beneficial to individuals who are suffering in some very practical ways.

Take, for example, a dog I follow on Instagram. Yes, you read that correctly: I follow a dog on Instagram. Nice one, Alex. But to be fair, this isn’t any dog – it’s a hilarious French Bulldog named Sir Charles Barkley (You can call him Barkley for short). And with over 175K followers, Barkley’s posts travel far from his Seattle home. So far, his account has been used to find missing dogs and reunite them with their owners and raise money for pups who need expensive surgery in a similar way to how people who are seeking missing family members or a bone marrow donor have used Facebook to facilitate their search.

I’m not for a second doubting the power of social media in helping to raise awareness about certain issues and causes and that it can be really positive and powerful.

But tell me, how is sharing that photo of that baby actually going to ensure that it lives?

How is liking an animal rights photo going to save that pig?

How is retweeting Amnesty International really going to help those in need?

How is following World Vision on Facebook going to make a difference in the lives of children and communities in developing nations?

How is posting an attention-seeking status to the effect of “I want to do it on the kitchen bench” (which just happens to be a ‘secret thing amongst women’ about where you place your handbag down when you arrive at home) going to raise long-term, meaningful awareness of breast cancer?

How is supposedly divulging which colour bra you’re wearing (which is a similar thing where the colour corresponds with your birth month) going to change anything either?

How on earth is a makeup free selfie going to see an end to cancer? Please, do tell me. Ok, evidently it vaguely got my attention because otherwise I wouldn’t be typing this sentence, but have I done a breast check since seeing one of those #makeupfreeselfies? (I’ll give you a hint: two letter answer – first letter N, second letter O.) Bad Alex.

Makeup-free selfies, in and of themselves, can be positive in helping to promote a healthy, realistic body image (as long as they’re not being used as an excuse for fuelling our vanity). And if this week’s campaign was about that, then I wouldn’t be going on this mini-rant, because I have a lot of time for initiatives which help people to develop positive body image. But the last time I checked, my selfies weren’t finding a cure for cancer or encouraging my friends into doing breast checks.

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So, evidently I’m the Grinch of Breast Cancer awareness. You’re welcome to get pissed off at me.

You may disagree with me, but really, who the hell are we kidding? It’s great that we want to get involved and do our bit. But why don’t we do something which is meaningful, that is going to make a difference. We can contribute through the donation of time or money, for example. No, it may not get as many likes on Facebook. It may not make you look quite as baben on Instagram. It may not make you look like the socially aware, caring person that you wish to portray yourself as being.

But perhaps it could actually make a difference.

Alex x

Epilogue: And now that I have finished my little rant I guess this is the part where I ensure that I’m not a hypocrite by going out and contributing in a more meaningful way myself. #watchthisspace

PS: To the anonymous person who passed on a message to me through our mutual friend over the weekend – thank you! Also, come and say hi next time?

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An editorial post script:

Since writing this I’ve found out that the #makeupfreeselfie trend has in fact raised a couple of million quid in the UK. This is great stuff. However, I know it may sound cynical and critical, but I find it repugnant that people were only, seemingly, spurred into action by the fact that doing so contributed to their social media self-promotion. For me, the idea of giving isn’t about the giver, but the recipient. 

In addition to this, I’d love to recommend Clementine Ford’s article in relation to the topic. She’s ace and so is her piece. Find it here.

Ax

first kiss.

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One of my close friends has recently started her post-graduate studies in publishing. Last night we sat in separate rooms, tapping at our various keyboards. However, I disrupted our workflow quite a few times as I trailed in to talk to her: either to distract myself from my job applications or to be able to share some inane thought I’d just had. As I walked in yet again I sat down, looked over her shoulder, and she offered to share the uni task she was working on with me.
Her task? To write about her first kiss.

I sat there, mesmerised. It was dripping with the first taste of sultry lust and the collision of longing, curiosity and hesitation. A smoky, sweaty romance where beautiful things happen in forgotten places.

Naturally, I interrogated her. As it turns out, this wasn’t exactly her first kiss after all: sure, it was definitely based on a real kiss from her early-mid teens, but she explained that she chose to use this one instead of her real first kiss as this was far more interesting.

A happy coincidence of academic syllabus and pop culture, her task happened to be extremely pertinent as social media has been inundated with first kisses over the past week.*

Or, more specifically, these first kisses:

Yeah, you’ve probably already watched it by now, but come on – you know you want to watch it again.

Now. Let’s chat.

You probably know the story by now: that the filmmaker Tatia Pilieva asked 20 strangers to kiss on camera. 36,299,275 YouTube hits and one parody later and we have the latest darling of Things That Go Viral. And then it came to light that the film was actually produced for LA-based fashion label, Wren, in which all of the dames are dressed. People also Googled the ‘kissers’ who starred in the film only to find that they were creatives of the semi-famous variety (models, musicians, actors et co.)

“OUTRAGE!!! ALL OF THOSE EMOTIONS ARE FAKE!! WE HAVE BEEN DECEIVED!!” we cried. Our Wednesdays seemed a tad less meaningful. All our dreams of making out with that babe from the floor below in the work elevator were unceremoniously quashed.

Oh, please. Let’s all get over ourselves.

Firstly, according to Wren’s Melissa Coker, those twenty people were strangers who genuinely didn’t know each other or what task they were going to be asked to perform prior to the filming [1]. Nor did they know when the cameras were rolling (or not) during the filming. Coker reassured us that what we saw was real, adding that all of the participants were friends of either Pilieva or herself. (They just happen to have some pretty attractive friends, don’t they?)

Either way, what we’re left with is an incredibly powerful video and a clever marketing and PR campaign.

So, what made First Kiss go viral? Why won’t my YouTube clip get 35+ million hits within four days? That’s because a clip of you discordantly humming Katy Perry songs just isn’t… doesn’t… don’t worry about it.

Quite simply, First Kiss taps into our innate desires and reaffirms our connection with those around us. The film captures, rather beautifully, a moment of shared human experience. Pilieva allows us to witness a moment of incredible emotion, sensuality and vulnerability. Kissing someone for the first time is something to which we can easily relate – reflecting our homo sapien desire for love, relationships and sex.

But Pilieva and Coker haven’t just crafted three minutes and 28 seconds of emotionally-charged black and white bliss. No. They also injected their work with some subtle social commentary. Most of the participants were paired with someone society would deem “normal and appropriate” for them in terms of age and personality (eg: twenty-something babe with twenty-something babe). However, First Kiss shakes things up a little by pairing a guy in his early twenties – who could well be gay (what do you guys think?) – and a woman in her late fifties. I found it refreshing and lovely to be reminded of the structures which our world, as a whole, subscribes to and to see those norms pushed against, if only briefly.

This theme of taboo is pervasive throughout the film: firstly, through the concept of kissing a stranger – the acting upon of a fantasy. Secondly, the fact that these kisses have an audience… of millions. Voyeurism has, obviously, been one of our favourite pastimes since the early 2000s. Thanks to our addiction to reality TV the idea of watching people cooking, sewing, building, talking, fighting, shopping, eating or even kissing isn’t by any means new. However, the moments captured in First Kiss do provide the viewer with something that we do not normally have the opportunity to observe. We witness a series of intensely private socially abnormal moments, and our presence (in the form of the camera) serves to compact the apparent nervousness of the participants.

On a practical note, like many viral campaigns, First Kiss was designed to be easy to share across social media platforms and to leave many questions unanswered. The fact that it was posted by someone who was relatively unknown and was intentionally designed with no semblance to a traditional ad, has only further fuelled its popularity.

And now that it has everyone with access to an internet connection talking, Coker has generated a huge amount of publicity for her brand. Personally, from watching First Kiss I associate the Wren brand with understanding what it means to be human – sensual, real and raw. In my mind it’s a brand which is not afraid to step outside the boundaries of the norm to try something new. And I dig that.

What do you think? Do you feel cheated after the discovery of the ‘fabricated’ nature of First Kiss? Do you think it was effective in terms of Wren’s marketing and publicity? Do you just to make out with a stranger?**

Alex x

*Unless you are living under a rock. And if that’s the case, then good for you, man.
** You and I both.

[1] http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1723997/first-kiss-video.jhtml

#socialmediafails: part one

Realising that I’ve let social media warp simple things like saying “please” and “thank you”.

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I’m going to take what I think is a fairly safe bet and guess that you, my darling reader, are pretty good with that whole social media thing. Right? And thus, I’m going to assume that you know a fair bit about social media and its continual impact upon communication and so many other related spheres of our 21st century lives. Blah blah blah. For the love of peanuts, tell me something new!

Well, despite having read plenty of articles on the subject and having spent many hours doing utterly arduous first-hand research in the field, there have still been times when I’ve been surprised by just how much social media had affected my relationships.

An example?

Well, I can think back to a time during the age of social media when I went out of my way to make my friend’s day. Good lord, I busted a gut. I spent quite a bit of cash. Hours were spent planning it. There were tears just getting my arse there. And I’m glad to say that I think I made her pretty happy.

And do you know what I wanted (and expected) in return? A social media shout out. Yes, that’s right: I wanted her to thank me publicly by posting a photo, tweeting or writing an update about what I’d done – which is f-ed up on so many levels that it is giving me mild brain damage. How the hell did I get to the stage where I not only wanted, yet also expected social media glorification in return for what I’ve done? How did it get to the stage where this would be my first response if a friend had done the same for me?

One source of influence which pops to mind are the handful of fashion bloggers I follow on Instagram. Perhaps you follow some too? If so, you’ll notice that when they are gifted another gorgeous skincare collection/bunch of flowers/handbag they make sure to post beautiful images of said gift whilst ensuring to tag the gift-giver, thus directing their followers to the company’s activities, as a way of thanking them.

A particular example of someone who does this on a regular basis is Margaret Zhang: a chick who goes to the same uni and me… and, whom at the ripe old age of 20, also happens to be a prominent fashion blogger (the type that gets to attend New York and London fashion weeks). And yes, I do sometimes feel like a bit of an underachiever when I see what she’s just posted. 

An aside in regards to Miss Zhang: in some ways I find it funny that I enjoy her work so much, seeing as my taste is so very different to hers – but I always enjoy seeing how she pairs really interesting pieces and I guess observing someone else’s style develop from a distance has a beauty of its own… In addition to this, I love the way she writes – it’s always a beautiful combination of irreverence, substance, depth and a sort of lyricism.

Ok. Margaret tangent over. We were talking about social media shout outs.

Here are some photos she has posted over the past couple of weeks:

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You’re smart enough to figure out which Insta and description correspond with each other:
A belated Valentine’s Day shout out to her bf. #cupcakes.
A shout out to Tommy Hilfiger for her pre-show flowers and trench coat. #asyoudo
A shout out to her friend who sent her roses.
A shout out to the hotel booking site (and subsequent hotel) used during her stay in London. #LFW

Firstly, how come I don’t get showered with flowers and cupcakes and trench coats?? Hmm?? Answers, people!

Secondly, perhaps seeing posts like these from various sources multiple times a week could help explain my shockingly entitled mindset. See, I’ve allowed this to become my normal…

But the thing is that for Margaret, this is part of her work as a fashion blogger as every time she gives a company or brand a shout out it’s generating them the positive publicity they desire. What’s more, my guess is that some of these brands pay her to post these shout outs as part of their PR strategy and if not, it’s her way of her reimbursing them for their free products.

Except, Alex, you are not a fashion blogger who is being showered in free shoes. Although I obviously wouldn’t complain if that was the case. Duh. No, instead I am me. The thank yous I give and receive are not driving a potential 124,000+ people to my website with a single post.

Fashion blogging aside, most importantly I’ve realised that in this process I lost all perspective. Rather than making my friend’s day, what I was doing for her became an opportunity for me to look good in the eyes of others. If I remember correctly, that’s the opposite of what gift-giving is about – it should be about the other person and not myself and what I can gain from it.

What’s more, now that I’ve thought more about this particular instance, it has become increasingly clear to me that, it was I who should’ve been thanking her, not her thanking me.

So, to my lovely friend, it may be belated, but I hope you had a great day. Thank you for letting me share it with you and, in doing so, for making my day. Thank you for making my soul blossom.

Alex x