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Silly season round-up

PR’s have often seized upon the ‘quiet news’ period, falling during August and early September in the UK, to release quirky, light-hearted stories that would otherwise be hard to place when the news agenda is fuller.  So, although the silly season has rightly been cut short due to the Syrian crisis, here are some of my favourites.

Cook in the dishwasher

Well done to Lisa Casali, an Italian cook and environmental campaigner whose cooking in the dishwasher cookbook ‘Cucinare in Lavastoviglie’ caught the attention of UK food media during the silly season.  This is exactly the sort of story that gives me a chuckle.   Is she serious?  Yes. Lisa Casali’s advice of packing food such as fish and cous cous into glass jars or vacuum packed bags and putting them in with a dishwasher cycle to cook was tested and verified by journalists from the Daily Mail and Telegraph, amongst others.

Pregnant panda

News of a pregnant (or possibly pregnant) panda had the UK’s media in a tizz early August because there has never been a baby panda born in the UK. As Edinburgh Zoo opened its doors to TV crews, photographers and inquisitive reporters from across the country, Tian Tian sat looking despondent and bored.  A wonderful story which would have caught the attention of the media at any time of year but was exploited even further during the silly season.

London Zoo’s animal weigh in

Another animal story – this one is well executed by London Zoo through captivating photography and video showing some of the more ingenious methods used to weigh all 19,000 animals.  The data is logged annually and shared with zoos across the world to allow them to share information about species.

Giant ‘fatberg’ clogs sewer

Solidified fat and other debris can cause serious blockages in the drains and sewers maintained by utility companies.  At the end of July, residents in a south west London suburb reported problems flushing their toilets. Thames Water found the cause was a huge lump of lard and debris, weighing 15 tonnes. Its media team kicked into action and issued photography and video along with a release, calling the clog a ‘fatberg’ and comparing it to the size of a bus with the aim of encouraging the public to think twice about what they dump down the drain.  The story was picked up by BBC,  ITV, Metro, Channel 4, The Independent, Sun, Mirror and  Telegraph amongst others.

‘Walkie talkie’ building melts car

I can’t resist including the story about London’s ‘walkie talkie’ building melting parts of a Jaguar car.  As the temperatures in London’s city centre soared during the first few days in September, the evidence did appear to show that the sun shining down from this concave glass building construction did melt some of the car’s body work and wing mirror.  I love how the public got caught up in the story. There were shots of someone trying to fry an egg in a small pan. I was even tempted to go and visit the scene myself to experience the soaring temperatures!

Silly season stories aren’t always so successful though. Many are questionable in terms of their relevance and execution as these two examples show:

The Horniman Museum’s competition in August, urging the public to take a toy walrus on holiday and send snaps back to win £20 caught the attention of South East London media (S E London shopper amongst others).  I can’t see the point in this story because the museum’s gigantic one ton stuffed walrus is residing in Margate and any resulting publicity would surely have a goal to raise awareness and encourage people to visit the museum, but the walrus isn’t even there until September.

As the south of England basked in unseasonally high temperatures, Tenterden Chamber of Commerce in Kent decided to put up its Christmas tree lights on 30 August and posted a picture on its Twitter feed, asking residents what they thought.   A resident was quoted as saying “Nobody wants to think about the cold winter coming up – we want to enjoy the sun while it lasts not start thinking about presents, turkey and snow.” Too right!

And if you think that the ‘silly season’ is just a PR gimmick, then Sheffield Hallam University’s Dr David Clarke’s findings into the origins and purpose of ‘silly season’ will make an interesting read when it’s published.

What are your favourite silly season stories from 2013?  Please get in touch with me to share them.

And if you’ve enjoyed reading this post, then you might want to check out these examples of some of my favourite campaigns, or take a look at the PR training courses that I run.


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