curry loving great grandmother, 103, in social care PR success story
Friday, July 24th, 2015
on behalf of Bupa Care Services
Award-winning social care PR team know how to spice up any story
ANYONE who has ever set foot in the world of public relations will be well aware of just how unpredictable the media industry can be and the erratic pace at which it moves.
There are the times when a story that you worked long and hard on, that you were certain would be an immediate hit, is instantly quashed by an all-consuming breaking report that barricades the nation’s news.
There are the times when you are convinced it is simply too busy a week for anything to possibly penetrate the media mould, and are pleasantly surprised when a couple of the local weeklies run your piece.
And then there are the times when you strike the PR jackpot.
But it doesn’t come by accident. It’s a skill that’s honed by years of journalistic experience – and the smart knowledge that sometimes what it takes to make a story sing for the media is not so much the detail, but the headline.
When Bupa first informed us that one of its Dundee residents – Margaret Phillips – was soon to celebrate her milestone 103rd birthday, our Edinburgh PR team determined that a celebratory press release would be just the ticket to honour the super-centenarian’s wonderful long life.
As is the regular procedure, I called Bupa’s Balcarres Care Home where Margaret stays to find out a little more about her and what she believed had contributed to her extraordinary longevity. It was recommended I contact one of her two daughters, Jacqueline, who couldn’t have been more helpful in detailing the story of her mother’s life.
It was a truly fascinating tale to listen to, all about an energetic and enthusiastic woman who had spent many years of her life living in India – even giving birth to her second daughter in Calcutta and honeymooning at the famous Taj Mahal Palace & Towers Hotel.
And her key to long living? A love of Indian cuisine and a tot of whisky every night before dinner. “She certainly makes a mean curry!” Jacqueline told me.
With the press release drafted, all I needed was a catchy, attention-grabbing headline. I tossed around whisky and Indian cuisine-related puns in my head for a good ten minutes (‘Centenarian Spice Girl’? Anyone?), before pitching it to the trusty office team. Together, we took a step in the right direction, settling on Ross’s semi-witty ‘Keep Calm and Curry On’ title.
It wasn’t until the release reached our director Raymond Notarangelo that there was an Eureka! moment: “What about ‘The Nan Who Loves Naan’?!” he exclaimed. And just like that, Margaret’s celebratory birthday release had its perfect headline.
What Raymond also let slip to me was the inside knowledge – from his near 20 years as a journalist – that often a story can be catapulted up the news queue simply because the clever headline or ‘schedule line’ has caught the eye of the news editor and can be worked up into a bright pic lead story.
The release was then issued to the local care press on Tuesday morning, achieving a nice piece of coverage later that afternoon in the Care Industry News.
Early on Wednesday, we sent Margaret’s story to all the Scottish nationals and, assuming it would take a little while for journalists to pick it up from their inbox, we headed out for lunch.
When we returned, just 15 minutes later, Ross’s phone was already ringing. It was a journalist at the Dundee Evening Telegraph who was keen to run with the story but in need of a couple more details, which we supplied. From then on, the media enquiries came rolling in.
Over the course of the afternoon, we were contacted by The Courier, The Daily Mail, Radio Tay and he Press Association – all clambering to tell the story of the great gran who naan.
By Thursday, Margaret had been renamed ‘Supernaan’, and was verging on national stardom. Our creative naan story was the dish of the day in a whole host of influential titles, including The Scottish Sun, STV News, The Herald, The Courier, The Evening Times and The National, to name but a few. As the story was picked up by the Press Association and Yahoo.com, the article also lead to coverage in titles as diverse as Asian Today and Jersey Evening Post.
The fantastic coverage generated exemplifies how our Edinburgh-based PR team are skilled in finding the right angle for any story. While our care client Bupa recognise that any birthday over 100 is a significant landmark, we go that extra mile in story-spotting to dig deeper and ask more questions than anyone else. If it wasn’t for our positive probing, we would never have discovered Margaret’s fervour for spicy curries, which was swiftly served up by the national press.
Aside from our determination to pick out the golden nuggets of any story, what also steers success in the Holyrood PR office is teamwork. Had I chosen to sit and mull over relatively amusing food idioms rather than involving my colleagues, we may never have had the light bulb moment which eventually led to a spread of national coverage.
When it comes to securing such wide coverage, there is no one specific ingredient for concocting a story full of flavour. Instead, the recipe for hot success is a combination of always working thoroughly and diligently – while keeping a constant eye on adding a creative edge.
From all of us here at Holyrood PR, we would like to wish Margaret Phillips a super 103rd birthday. We also rather think that here is ‘naan’ better than Holyrood PR. Oops, we’d done it again.
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Private: Alicia Simpson
The profile and biography of public relations professional Alicia Simpson, a junior account executive with award-winning Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh.View Private:'s Profile
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