Dr Mumbo

Memo to PR industry: do not post live animals to journalists

‘Tis the season for giving, but Dr Mumbo was concerned to see journalists today tweeting they had been sent a live butterfly by a Sydney PR company.

photo (4)He would like to remind the industry that we’ve been here before, remember Advantage Adelaide and the whole dead goldfishgate anyone?

To Dr Mumbo’s mind live animals do not make good presents for journalists. Full stop.

Indeed, Dr Mumbo senses the PR company Free Publicity knows this as its director Vanessa Free’s first question to him when he rang was: “Are the butterflies alive or dead?”

This latest butterfly promotion is being run by Free Publicity on behalf of the TV show Under the Dome which is out on DVD today.

“It’s is directly from the actual TV show. It is a dominant theme in the series and so that is what we are replicating,” said Free.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 3.19.49 PMIn Free Publicity’s defence the company did take steps to ensure the journalists would be around when the butterfly was delivered to accept the live animal.

Free said thus far none of the five butterflies they had sent out had turned up dead and they had taken steps to avoid it happening. “We had a one hour demonstration and we take it very seriously the staff have been trained in the care of them,” she added.

But that training doesn’t really help the hapless journalist whose office suddenly becomes a butterfly sanctuary does it?

“We worked very closely with the company that supplied them and they were very happy with the process and that was really important to us because they are the experts,” Free said.

“As long as they were happy with everything that was happening then we were happy.”

Dr Mumbo is more of a sceptic on using living creatures for PR, particularly as we learnt in 2011 these things always start out as good ideas.

Dead_gold_fish-468x403Sure, the whole “be the big fish in a small pond — come and test the water (in South Australia)” goldfish bowl may have seemed like a clever idea at the time.

But when a journalist receives a dead goldfish, butterfly or other creature, they’re not going to be all that inclined to write stories about you.

Well at least not positive ones…

Update 4.30pm, December 4

Vanessa Free has also sent this explanation through to Dr Mumbo:

We have worked extremely hard on the process of these 5 butterfly’s that were sent out. There were clear instructions provided to the media, contact made with the Journalists 1 hours prior to confirm they were at their decks and this was appropriate and contact made with them immediately after the courier had dropped the delivery off. We also worked very closely with the experts that work with Butterfly’s day in day out (called Butterfly wranglers) to ensure this was a positive experience for everyone. As I’m out of the office I can 100% confirm this process for 4 out of the 5 parcels – the 5th I’m waiting for the publicist to confirm with me I believe this was News.ltd whom I know she has now spoken to and provided him with a clear outline of the process we have taken.

Update 8.40am, December 5 

Dr Mumbo’s spies tell him that Redfern PR agency Adhesive PR also did the same stunt for their client Trend Micro back in late August.

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 8.21.57 AMIn this case the butterflies in envelopes were to promote “virus protection for social butterflies.” Get it?

The “fun creative mailers” for this campaign saw the agency send out boxes with the live animal in it with the label “60% of social butterflies fall victim to an online threat”.

At this point Dr Mumbo is starting to wonder whether the bigger threat to butterflies, social or otherwise, isn’t from Sydney’s PR industry…


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