Shocking PR survey

Being creative to generate media coverage is one thing, but the PR team working with Comma (a major player in motor oil and car care products – whatever that means) has produced a truly shocking PR survey.

The press release claims that SEAT drivers the worst at basic car checks – revealing three of the worst publicity-hungry habits:

  1. Extrapolating from limited research
  2. Creating a threat based on a huge leap of unproven logic
  3. Throwing in a spurious event as a hook to the story

At least we don’t have a quote from a dodgy academic or psychologist – but these other PR crimes are bad enough.

There is no clear data presented to substantiate the headline against SEAT drivers – or any logic for the linkage to a particular brand and oil checking behaviour.  Percentages of respondents per brand is a ridiculous calculation – you may as well look at signs of the zodiac, colour of the car or any other odd variable.

The extrapolation claims that more than 5 million motorists never check their oil level -which apparently is based on 17% of the respondents (this is reported by Halfords – although its “research” put this figure at 23% of motorists).

As usual, the counter figure of 83% checking their oil – or 44% doing so at least once a month, isn’t seen as worthy of highlighting because the data doesn’t fit the PR agenda.

The threat is that motorists could face a “£1,413 repair bill (average)” – but this isn’t clarified in the release beyond saying it is based on Warranty Direct data.  What is the chance of such a repair occurring isn’t considered.

And, then let’s have a pseudo-event – National Oil Check Week 2009 (June 15-19).  Last year this was a day when motorists were urged not to become a “dipstick” – that at least was an amusing use of language.

Awareness weeks and days are such a cliché:

A quick Google search reveals that in the US, it is currently National Rip Current Awareness Week, National Headache Awareness Week, Tire Safety Awareness Week, not forgetting Lead Poisoning Awareness Week in Ohio (not to be confused with the International event later in the year).  And, it is National E-Security Week in Australia.

Then we have the whole series of “take your something to work” days – dogs, daughters (and sons, or child) – or we’re urged to celebrate Secretaries’ Day (sorry – that’s been rebranded for administrative professionals) and numerous other opportunities to buy a card or promote a product.

Maybe there is no harm in all these non-news activities – and in some cases, an issue is raised onto the public agenda.  But, it seems a lazy and trivial way to address a safety or health-related issue – and yet another annoying piece of clutter when used simply for promotional purposes.

Check out the list on Holidays for Everyday – how much effort is spent on trying to “create awareness” around all these pseudo-events?

And in case you’re interested – today is Ballpoint Pen day.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.