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3 PR lessons from Bob Geldof

In May, the Victoria and Albert museum held a series of events on the subject of public relations (PR).

Entitled Always Print The Myth: PR and the Modern Age, the evenings are curated by entertainment PR professional Alan Edwards to provide a unique insight into what, for some, is a mysterious world.

PR is about communicating with a wide variety of audiences, and someone who does that better than many is Sir Bob Geldof.

And in a relaxed setting, Geldof took us on a journey through his rich and varied career to date.
So what did we learn?

Challenge the status quo
Now I am not talking about standing up to Francis Rossi and co., who opened 1985’s Live Aid show at Wembley, but rather the fact that PR is about being bold to get noticed.

Geldof recounted a story from school where he had been reprimanded for distributing China’s ‘little red book’ to pupils. His father pointed out that the Catholic Church had been extolling the virtues of its ‘little green book’ (the Catholic catechism) to Geldof for twelve years and perhaps it was fair to recognise other points of view.

Be provocative
In the early days of Geldof’s music career, he did much of his own PR; contacting local media and producing gig posters. One such communication showed a long leg in tights and a stiletto, which had some sections of the feminist community up in arms until Geldof pointed out it was his own leg.

Make a difference
Not all of us are going to write and record one of the most successful Christmas charity songs of all time, or put on groundbreaking global events that unite the world for a common cause. However, too much PR and content is done for the sake of it and has a tendency to say the same things.

As the philosopher Confucius said, “If you’re going to speak, make sure it’s better than silence.”

So the next time you ask your agency to write a press release on your latest product and expect to see it in the FT, ask yourself, is this really making a difference and relevant to that audience?


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