What can Lady Gaga teach you about PR?

Lady GaGa on stage at the Radio 1 Big Weekend

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Last weekend saw Europe’s largest free ticketed music event take place – Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Carlisle. Alas, I wasn’t lucky enough to be there, but curiosity got the better of me and I couldn’t help but check out online some of Sunday’s headline performance from Lady Gaga.

She is one of the most outlandish mainstream performers the world has seen in a long time – yet the public love her.

Some clients can be afraid of anything which is too ‘out there’. But, whatever your opinion of her, perhaps Lady Gaga is proof that people are a lot more open than we think.

So, with that in mind, here are five things PR pros can learn from her:

1). Be inventive

Lady Gaga appeared on stage in a coffin, wearing a PVC cat suit and a plastic baby bump. Odd, yes. (Although perhaps not a patch on some of her other outfits – meat dress anyone?!). Her approach is certainly creative. And creativity and innovation is something which in PR we should have in abundance. We should be able to come up with inventive, innovative, yet viable, ideas for clients at the drop of a hat. Take the time to regularly brainstorm with your team – come up with ideas which aren’t restrained by budgets or client briefs. Even if you don’t use the ideas they are still useful for keeping that ‘creative on-switch’ working, as well as providing a bank of material when your campaign needs a vital dose of ‘oomph’.

2). Don’t go too far – unless you can handle the repercussions

Usually shrouded by glowing reviews, Lady Gaga’s ‘Alejandro’ video has caused outrage in some circles, with MTV asking ‘Has she gone too far?’ The controversial video features sexual and religious imagery which is a bit too much for some people’s taste. Although creativity is important – it is also important to remember that it’s subjective. Think about your audience – will they find it amusing, exciting or insulting?

3). Support what you believe in  

Lady Gaga is mostly seen in the press for her weird and wacky dress sense, and for hit single after hit single – but she’s also been in and out of the papers for her charity work. Charity partnerships are a great way for any brand to raise awareness of itself, get in the public eye, and build compassion. Lady Gaga’s charity work includes quitting Facebook for the Keep a Child Alive charity, designing a charity bracelet for the Japanese earthquake appeal, and performing at a benefit concert for the Robin Hood Foundation.

4). Be current

Splashed across the press after her appearance last weekend was Lady Gaga’s homage to the royal couple, Kate and William. The singer dedicated a cover of Nat King Cole’s classic jazz tune, Orange Coloured Sky to the couple and admitted that she wished she’d been part of their big day. Linking into the news agenda and ‘piggy-backing’ onto the hype surrounding current affairs is a great way to gain more coverage for your clients, and something all good PR pros should be able to do.

5). Always exceed expectations   

Lady Gaga was half an hour late to the stage – leaving many fans wondering where the loyalty was. Always strive your utmost to meet client expectations – and where possible exceed them. This should be across all aspects of your campaigns; great ideas and amazing content count for nothing if you’re always late or never keep promises.

Diary of a Cornish Pasty: fight for brand recognition

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Cornish Pasties - the new Champagne

When I heard that the Cornish Pasty – the meat and potato filled comfort food which has been a staple of British diets for years – had been given protected status by the European Commission earlier this week, I thought there must be something we can learn from this humble food stuff.

The protected status means the pasty now has the same standing as French Champagne and Jersey royal potatoes. It can only be called a ‘Cornish Pasty’ if it is actually from Cornwall.

Now that’s strong brand positioning.

Putting my bloodhound nose and journalistic instinct to good use I managed to track down a diary belonging to an authentic Cornish Pasty and discovered that there are some vital lessons that brands and communicators can learn from his journey.

Mr Authentic Cornish Pasty’s Diary:

2008:

I tell you what I am fed up with imposters trying to steal my identity. Only I am a true Cornish pasty – what gives these other meat filled pastry’s the right to use my name when they’re second rate citizens and prepared no where near Cornwall. Pff! That’s it. I’ve had enough.

So I’ve approached the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) which has agreed to give me support to take my case for Protected Food Name (PFN) status to the EU.

I’ve always been passionate about who I am and what I’m trying to say to my customers. I know what it is that I offer and why people should choose me over anything else.

But what gets me is how many brands there are out there that are trying to sell themselves when they aren’t even sure who they are or what sets them apart from others.

In a world where every man and his son are fighting for acknowledgment and attention from consumers, peers and potential business partners, finding your own brand identity and protecting it above all else is vital.

Finding your differentiator, your USP, is imperative; and it needs to be portrayed in everything that you do from your website, to your business cards, to the quotes you give to the media.

2010:

I’m going to fight for my identity – but first off I need to think about exactly what it is I want the world to see me as. What messages am I conveying?

The Cornish Pasty Association (CPA) have described me as ‘a pasty with a distinctive ‘D’ shape and crimped on one side, with a chunky filling, made up of uncooked mince or chunks of beef with swede, potato and onion and a light seasoning’. I should be slow baked.

Not bad, hey.

Now apart from making me hungry, this level of detail got me thinking. Communicators really could take a leaf out of my book. Prepare some proper strong, detailed key messages and make them the foundation of everything you do.

After all what’s the point in liaising with media, tweeting, doing email campaigns and updating your website and blog if you aren’t actually clear on what it is you’re wanting to say or what it is you want to achieve?

It’s like me promoting myself and people thinking I’m a sausage roll.

Positioning yourself properly is imperative. Take the time to really think about your place in the market and what sets you apart from others. These in turn become your key messages.

2011:

Yay! I’ve won! You can now call me ‘Mr Authentic Pasty’, thank you very much. My Cornish counterparts the ‘Cornish Clotted Cream’ and the ‘Cornish Sardine’ won the status last year so I feel I’m in good company.

Now I’ve got my identity sorted I’ll be keeping a close eye on my competitors to make sure no one is infringing it.

If you aren’t quite as high brow as me with your own ‘stamp of authenticity’ then it doesn’t matter. You should still be keeping an eye on your competitors and market and making sure that you are consistently fine-tuning your brand and ensuring that your USPs and key messages are still clear and valid.