Blurred lines of pr: beyonce, bloopers and a #pricelesssurprise


Although far from record breaking, this year’s BRIT Awards saw an average of 4.6 million viewers tuning in to see whether their favourite artists would win anything. Before the show had started, James Corden was staving off jibes that the BRIT Awards have become rather boring. He silenced commentators by saying, quite fairly, that it is down to the people to make the party.

Before the day, the event sponsor showed up to make a timely distraction from Corden. Mastercard’s PR agency appeared to have been caught red-handed asking journalists to give branded So-Me coverage in exchange for a free ticket. But they also threw a free car ride to the event so I guess it levels out.

It seems that the phrase ‘a moment on the lips, forever on Twitter’ could be fitting here – as time went on, Mastercard’s promoted hashtag #PricelessSurprises gathered momentum and there were red-faces all round as journalists, PRs and public alike mocked the agency’s questionable plea for coverage. The campaign achieved national coverage and undoubtedly made a generous contribution to the record-breaking 4.17 million tweets generated by the BRIT Awards 2014, making it the most tweeted-about TV show ever in the UK.

The slip-up highlighted a salient point. Twitter has become a sensitive spot in the collective heart of the nation – it is a neutral, free platform where everyone has a voice; we are free to vent emotions and to be united with others.

A host of #PricelessSurprises back-tracks appeared: ‘Good press coverage is hard to bribe. For everything else there’s Mastercard. #PricelessSurprises’ But PR moves fast, and it wasn’t long before Daft Punk were dropping their trousers revealing bright green ‘Lucky Pants’ on the red carpet. Or was that Paddy Power? Either way, it was a cheeky, super-simple stunt that got some great coverage for the Irish gambling brand and was definitely fun.

Events like the BRITs are a hot-bed of opportunity for PR. The excitement of a live event can be seductive and, arguably, much more volatile than corporate brands are the celebrities themselves who attend the event.

Whichever way you look at it, PR is a fast-paced industry and it’s not for the faint-hearted, but dealing with #PricelessSurprises, however minor, is part of the job. A smooth sea did never make a skilled sailor, so they say. If we have learnt anything from this Twitter frenzy it’s the need for a carefully managed social media campaign with a clear strategy in place from the word go. Even that initial conversation can shape the end result and a simple misunderstanding of the rules of engagement can ruin what was once a great media relationship. It can take years to build a brand reputation and let’s face it, in today’s world, only minutes to tarnish it.

So were the BRITs boring this year? You tell me, ‘cos I wasn’t watching, I just tuned in via Twitter.