“Culture has come to Margate,” he declared. “I am down here every two weeks and each time there is a new shop, café or boutique hotel opening.”*
The recent PR campaign for the reopening of Dreamland Margate has blown me away. Not only have the agency completely reinvented the brand from tacky theme park to nostalgic paradise, but they’ve managed to secure coverage in some of the top media in the country. For a time, all you could read about was Margate and I recently found out that two of my friends (in their late twenties) spent an entire weekend there – proof that good PR hits the consumer even when they’re not aware of it.
Now, the brief for this project may not have strictly fallen into the “arts/culture” category, but the PR behind this campaign transformed it into a cultural – and cool – vintage attraction. I once attended a CIPR event hosted by Buzzfeed (the masters of viral online content), where they revealed the three themes behind their social media strategy: “nostalgia, humour and identity.” This is what the agency saw in Dreamland Margate – a place where grown ups could run around a brightly coloured fairground, lick candy floss off sticky fingers, pull on roller skates and play in amusement arcades until they felt dizzy – how many PRs can offer journalists the chance to spend a day back in their childhood fantasy?
Another recent PR campaign that really impressed me was The Globe’s Titus Andronicus. Soon everyone (media included) was discussing the bloody scenes that kept making members of the audience drop like flies. Curiosity got the better of every theatre fan in London (including me) to see if they could withstand the gory performance without fainting. Was this a PR stunt? Was there something in the smoke? Who knows – but every night the show was sold out.
A more poignant example is the recent publicity surrounding the Chinese artist and political activist, Ai Weiwei, and his new exhibition in the Royal Academy of Arts. There was uproar in the media with the fear that he wouldn’t make it to his own exhibition launch, as the Chinese government wouldn’t allow him a passport to travel. Eventually, worries were put to rest as he posted an Instagram selfie, proudly holding up his new passport with a smile, and social media exploded in an applause of hashtags. I went to see the exhibition on the weekend and the queue was an hour long – a PR motive or not, everyone’s talking about it.