Practice makes perfect for PR in Dundee for Care Home & Resident

by Chris Fairbairn

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Astonishing snowball effect for curry-loving gran is lesson in the power of public relations – and nothing to do with luck

don't rely on lady luck when public relations can ensure business success on social mediaWHEN news that a madras-eating 104-year-old was to be named Scotland’s Curry Lover of the Year, the media reaction was simply astonishing.

The fact that Margaret Phillips attributed her longevity to the spicy food struck a chord with besotted news outlets, eventually notching up 400 articles across a dizzying range of media.

Yet it would be all too easy to attribute the success story to plain, dumb luck.

So let us correct any such notions by borrowing a phrase that is widely attributed to golfing legend Gary Player: “The harder we practice, the luckier we seem to get.”

29-MAR-curry-granSee for yourself just how viral the story went by checking out our post on the 300 plus items of coverage scored when we announced Margaret had been shortlisted for the curry award


The fact is that luck had little to do with this success story. In reality it was hard graft, story spotting abilities and skilful PR management behind the success. We’re delighted for Margaret, her family and her many friends at the Balcarres Care Home in Dundee – and we’d like to take this chance to toot our own horn, for the role played by Holyrood PR.

More importantly, if you own or manage a business, you should read on because this is sure to hit a nerve with you too – since this is exactly the kind of success story your business could be enjoying by working with experts who tease out the positive stories you don’t even realise are there.



Margaret Phillips, 103, puts her long life down to love of curryWhen it comes to helping a business like yours to feel lucky in the media it is all about working the story. There are many things Holyrood PR can do help get the right results. Here are a few of them:

A storytelling mind-set
Working with our clients to find those hidden stories is what we are all about. In fact, it is summed up perfectly in the simple vision which drives us at Holyrood PR: “To run our business by transforming the everyday into what makes us proud.”
There is no luck involved in finding and digging out these stories in the everyday work of ordinary businesses. It takes a nose for a story, endless optimism and a persuasive nature, when even the people working in those businesses find it hard to believe that anyone would be interested in the nuts and bolts of their operations.

Scottish public relations agency Holyrood PR in Edinburgh offers a guide to sexy PR for any businessDo you worry that your business isn’t sexy enough for PR success? Find out how we have helped unglamorous businesses enjoy the kind of PR successes normally reserved only for consumer brands.  

This is exactly how we uncovered Margaret’s story in the first place, while working on behalf of our client Bupa Care Services, which operates around 30 care homes in Scotland, including Balcarres, where she has lived happily since 2013.

Story Spotting Skills
As part of our efforts to promote the work of dedicated staff and carers in its homes, we are constantly working to find stories that may catch the eye of the media.
Anyone celebrating a birthday beyond 100 is usually of interest, particularly to local papers.
But we go further than simply reporting a landmark birthday. We carry out as much research as possible, interviewing staff, relatives and others to get a fuller picture of the people involved.
That was how we came to interview Margaret’s daughter Jacqueline and to hear the amazing background to her mother’s life, including two stints in India, where she developed her lifelong love of spicy cuisine, which Margaret believes is one of the secrets of her long life.

Story Packaging with Aplomb
Even when you know you have a cracking tale, that is just the start. It still needs to be packaged in a way that is likely to appeal to the media. Making sure the story is written in a newsy style which gives full justice to the human interest angle is a skill which all staff at Holyrood PR are constantly developing and improving on.
Meanwhile, we also give careful thought and consideration to eye-catching hooks and headlines which help a story to stand out when pitched to a journalist; hooks that get their attention quickly during a phone call or catch their eye when they are dealing with a congested email inbox.
In this case, the credit goes to one of the directors of Holyrood PR, Raymond Notarangelo, who came up with the memorable line of the “Nan who loves naan” – and a legend was born.

Visual communications
The final element in this fantastic tale was to source images. Visual communication is essential to the success of any story, but when working with frail, elderly people there is also a need to be extremely respectful.
So, we worked carefully with both Margaret’s family and the care home staff to get all the necessary permissions and to get photographs which they were all happy to use.


Holyrood PR in Edinburgh help spice up the media coverage for leading are providerLike the golfer said, in this life you make your own luck by putting in plenty of practice.

Once you have put in the hard work to “get lucky”, the next secret to success is spotting such opportunities and squeezing every ounce of value and benefit from them. You might call it “riding your luck”.

Our original sotry about Margret’s love of curry and how she she believed it had contribuged to here long life, generated a fine haul of media coverage back in July 2015, . In fact, around 25 articles were generatedput.  And that was to put Margaret’s name firmly on the minds of the panel who choose Scotland’s Curry Lover of the Year – even though we didn’t know it at the time.

 It turned out that Margaret’s name had been put forward by anonymous members of the public who had read our original story. When the organisers got in touch with us in March 2016 to let us know Margaret had been shortlisted for the title, we knew exactly what to do to.

That’s because we are an agency that believes that every story opportunity offers multiple bites of the cherry.

Edinburgh PR agency show how they help clients achieve more media coverageRead our essential guide to explain how your business can benefit from clever PR campaigns that offer more bites of the cherry



Working in extremely tight timescales, we used a two-part approach to ensure the story would be as widely told as possible. Working with the awards organisers, Margaret’s family and the team at Bupa’s Balcarres care home we produced another media release.

Within hours of the story being fed to a hungry media, the tale of Margaret’s nomination had graced more than 300 news outlets across broadcast, print and online, appearing the length and breadth of Britain and beyond, making her a media sensation for a second year running.



A public relations photograph of a very hot and spicy curry, by Scottish public relations agency Holyrood PR in EdinburghhBut we still weren’t finished. We knew Margaret’s amazing back story made winning the title a very real possibility – so we prepared another release, to be in issued in the event of her winning. And she did!

At 104, Margaret was unable to attend the ceremony itself, but our release made it clear that everyone in the care home would be enjoying a special “curry night” to mark her amazing achievement.

The follow-up release, issued the morning after the Scottish Curry Awards, saw Margaret’s success reported in scores of further media outlets, including local and national newspapers and news sites all across the UK.

What’s more, BBC and STV News picked up on Margaret’s tale and visited her at Balcarres care home to film a package for the evening programme – with the BBC News journalists also bringing Margaret’s favourite prawn madras along as a gift.

While we feel lucky to have been part of Margaret’s story, we can say with confidence that luck had nothing to do with the amazing media coverage generated. We did what we do best and planned out how to tell the story on paper, online and on air, creating millions of opportunities to see positive messages about our valued client, Bupa Care Services along the way.

In addition, as the world of media is always changing, we like to keep one step ahead of the game, and make sure our clients are too. So we also shot a short video for Bupa, to ensure the care provider could share success via social media channels and help bring more people to its website.

If it wasn’t for our positive probing last summer, we would never have discovered Margaret’s fervour for spicy curries, which led to her incredible award win for our spice-loving centenarian. And we’d never have had this amazing chance to create tens of millions of opportunities to see positive messages about Balcarres Care Home

Your business deserves to have its stories spiced up and celebrated

Even before we had heard Margaret’s story we were advising businesses – like yours – how to spice up their PR efforts

We think every business deserves this kind of success – and we’d love the chance to speak with you and let you know how we could help you to reach a huge audience with positive messages.

It cost’s nothing to chat and getting in touch couldn’t be easier. Simply call us on 0131 561 2244 or take seconds to fill out the simple form, below, and we’ll get straight back to you:

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Chris Fairbairn of Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

Chris Fairbairn

Chris Fairbairn is an Account Director with award-winning public relations agency Holyrood PR. He is part of an expert PR team delivering PR services to a wide range of clients from headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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