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The five toughest sell-ins of the month

After such a brilliant response to my ‘tough sell-ins’ column, with industry folk sharing their horror stories (from cat food for humans to ‘monkey-shaving day’at the zoo), the publisher of PRmoment Ben Smith and I have been discussing what a monthly round-up could look like.

We weren’t sure if a periodic compilation would be possible – would there be enough stories in circulation that would render us empathetic towards the PRO who had to sell it in?

Well the good news is – yes there are – there’s bucket loads of them frequenting our news outlets every single day. So what’s the bad news? Well, that there’s bucket loads of them frequenting our news outlets every single day, many of which shouldn’t have been sold in the first place because they don’t reflect the skill and craft I know this industry is capable of.

However, I think it’s important to point out that this isn’t a ‘PR turkeys of the month’ column. This is focused on ‘tough sell-ins’ – so in some cases labelled ‘tough’ because the story is breathtakingly crap, but in others perhaps the subject matter isn’t an easy one to broach (see skiing mammals and anything relating to sexual intercourse).

So without further ado, here’s the inaugural digest of the top five toughest sell-ins of the month.

1. Dog story number one. When I spotted this I didn’t know whether to admire this PR firm for piggybacking at such speed or cry into my Coco Pops. I could be making wild assumptions here, but my guess is the client was sold a “celebrity reactive workstream”, enabling eagle-eyed execs to offer famous bereft pet owners freebies in return for social posts. The result? A story about Molly-Mae (of Love Island fame) receiving a “paw print bracelet to commemorate her puppy who has passed” (which appeared within 48 hours of Mr Chai’s passing). Given this coverage appeared in the news section of a national newspaper (!) this ambulance-chasing tactic has clearly yielded fruit, but it doesn’t detract from the fact I’d rather eat my own dog than have to sell it in.

2. Dog story number two. Dog owners take more selfies with their canines than with their lovers (for those wanting to dig a bit deeper into these findings – apparently if you own a dachshund you’re most guilty of this). Here’s me and my dog Harley, clearly proving this made-up PR theory may indeed be, erm not made up.

3. I suspect a sex-based story will always end up in the monthly round up. That’s because there’s only one thing more awkward than talking about sex with your parents, and that’s talking about sex with a random journalist over the phone, pre 10am, fuelled only by Nescafe. These PROs however did a stellar job, achieving blanket coverage for this – “The G-Spot does NOT exist according to scientists – which will be a relief to the 22% of men who say searching for the G-spot is their main aim during sex.”

4. The PR folk selling this in knew they were onto a good thing when able to highlight a behaviour pattern amongst the not-remotely-generic-but-media-are-more-likely-to-take-a-press-release-with-them-in-the-headline millennial demographic. Apparently, the avocado-munching MTV generation throw away 633 meals a year because they don’t know how to reheat leftovers.”

5. Last but not least – “one in four Brits find spiders “creepy” – with women more likely to be frightened of spiders than men.Whoever sold this in, you get points for triumph over adversity because you secured national print coverage from rather weak findings (the headline you had in your head was WAY higher than one in four, right?). Unfortunately for the PRO, the brand was missing from the coverage which must have been the ultimate gut-wrench (although one might argue you’ve done them a favour).

Written by Sophie Raine, managing director, consumer brands at PR firm Ketchum London

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