Alex gives his take on the media’s response to Theresa May’s dancing.
If there’s anything we can assume about Theresa May’s future based on the past couple of weeks, it’s that she’ll never be a Strictly Come Dancing champion. Those awkward jives that she showed when dancing with children in her trips to South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya were so questionable (and frankly hilarious) that they became an internet hit. But amongst all of the memes and the laughter at the expense of the Prime Minister’s moves, there’s a PR lesson that we can learn from Mrs May donning her dancing shoes.
How many of us can state the reason why the Prime Minister paid a visit to Africa? After doing some Googling, I see that she was meeting with the presidents of three African countries in a bid to build trade ties with growing African economies. But that’s not what the headlines are saying – they’re focusing on her dancing. I wonder if the headlines would have related to the trade ties if she didn’t show her moves? True, all she was doing was building relationships which just standing there might not have achieved. But perhaps if she didn’t dance the media would be more likely to portray her as the leader striving for the UK to get good trade deals as the Brexit deadline looms.
While Theresa May’s dancing wasn’t a PR stunt as such, it raises the question whether grabbing the headlines to raise awareness for a cause can actually distract people from it. Going to extremes could actually lead to making little or no difference. Take Lady Gaga’s meat dress that she wore back in 2010. The media was quick to report on it and it became a popular talking point, but how many of us could state the message she was portraying? Given that it was part of the campaign to repeal the US government’s ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, it could have boosted support for a cause she supported if the link was more direct.
Both famous figures and brands should take note of how much is too much when it comes to PR activity, and when it can go against you. PR pros often have to push clients to say or do something controversial to boost the chances of hitting the headlines. But sometimes that can mean getting coverage for all the wrong reasons, and as a B2B PR agency we keep that front of mind. Whatever the stunt a brand pulls, it’s key for it to stay on message and relevant to what the business does in order to achieve the PR objectives set at the start of the campaign.