By Beatrice Aidin, award-wining freelance consumer journalist 

In a commercial property unit late last summer, I got that jolt in my stomach that means one of two things. Had I fallen in love, I asked myself? No. But nearly as good, I was onto a good potential story.

A few weeks later, the subject (a customized off-site wardrobe operated by an iPad app for the super-rich) became an article in the Financial Times.

What happened on that journey from potential story, to publication in such a prestigious title?

Well, first off I was offered an exclusive.  Secondly, competitive analysis demonstrated that the subject matter was one of a kind. Thirdly, the PR had the facts and figures at her finger-tips. And last but by no means least, the PR encouraged me to see the venture and took the time to arrange it. The fact that the PR person was open to just letting me see the offering beyond her description, was the most appealing aspect.

Being a freelance consumer journalist as I am, has lots of advantages. The one that I would highlight the most is being able to take the experience that PRs offer you.  For the difference in consumer media in the last decade has become that the experience is ever-more crucial to the reporting. Searching online has its place, but now every 6 year old in the world seems to know how to Google. Journalism now is visceral and has to be from a position of a certain amount of authority (bloggers do their good part too here).

So here is where I think we can all learn – the PR, the client, the journalist, alike.  When you are looking for a feature for the consumer press, research via overheard conversations on the bus (put down those headphones!) or walking into stores, to notice what is selling and what is not. Are people shopping? Are they carrying designer shopping bags or high street ones – or nothing at all? Read the business pages. It might not be the time to pitch or ask a journalist to write about a new £50 lipstick. If folks can’t afford it, they won’t read your copy – and as a journalist you don’t want to seem as out of touch as say, yikes, a politician.

And that’s why, for most stories in the consumer media, it is a mixture of the new, the experience, the observation backed up by facts and statistics. It is however most importantly a good trusting relationship between a PR and a journalist, with allowances for what the client wants but also what is achievable, especially during this shaky economic climate.

An advantage to working with a freelance consumer journalist on your coverage is that they can spend more time developing an idea and pitching it. The thing about being freelance is that you can seem to waste a lot of time, but the avenues that have been explored normally get re-routed down to a cul-de-sac for a feature in the future.

One take away is one of my fathers’ maxims: ‘Time spent on reconnaissance is time never wasted’. As a freelance journalist if you can, check it out! If you can see all the ideas and products that your readers don’t have access too, then hopefully you will get that stomach rush of a great story. Either that, or lucky you, you are in love.


You can follow Beatrice on Twitter: @beatriceaidin

You can read her blog: 

Beatrice Aidin is Winner of the Johnson & Johnson National Newspaper Journalist of the Year Award, 2011 and the P &G National Newspaper Beauty Journalist 2011.

The consumer PR content calendar is full of those “natural” opportunities, that the seasoned PR professional loves and hates in equal measure. Valentines Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Back to School, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Halloween, ‘Movember’, Christmas… the list goes on and on.

This year, adding to that mix are two extra summertime “PR opportunities” (as we and our clients love to call them).  Both neatly plug the “occasion gap” that tends to take place in the early-mid summer. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (5th June) and The Olympics: London 2012 (27th July-12th August) – both give brands the theoretical chance to emotionally engage with their audience over a shared national occasion.

For London 2012, the chance is indeed theoretical in the most part, though… The Olympics, with all of the associated jurisdiction, means potential engagement riches for worldwide partners that include global power-brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonalds and P&G, and London 2012 partners including BMW, BT and EDF – but not for chancer brands trying to tactically “jump on the bandwagon”.

So it’s no wonder that it’s the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee instead, where we’ve already seen brands exercising their creativity to engage with their audience. It’s been fascinating from a brand perspective, to watch how brand managers and their marketing and PR teams, have embraced this seasonal opportunity for patriotism – often sprinkled with some distinctively British humour.

So, what makes Britain, British?  What makes Great Britain, Great?

The marmite sandwich of course! Or sorry, should that be the Ma’amite sandwich? And of course, it could only be on Queensmill. A very patriotic looking and sounding sandwich indeed.

And what about the traditional British cup of tea and a Kitkat at 3pm?  Or as it will be for a limited time only, a Britkat.  Or if you’d prefer a bit of variety in your chocolate, how about a box of Jubilations, perfect for sharing around at your jubilee party?

Quintessentially British too of course (much as some of us may like it not to be) is the garden gnome. Which is why B&Q was one the first brands to take the opportunity to create a patriotic limited edition. Introducing Diamond Jubilee Gnomes – B&Q’s opportunity to cash in on the “royal”ties.  Riches that will be seen in terms of PR value more than sales value, “one” suspects.

All of these limited editions are quintessentially British, all with a bit of humour (some of which makes us cringe even as we laugh).  Some could say that this sums up the Royals themselves too.

Happy Jubilee Bank Holiday Weekend from all of us at Firefly!

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