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Made Up PR: 01 – get involved with this fictional PR scenario to win a signed copy of Brand Anarchy

As the great philosopher Ace Ventura once said, fiction can be fun. With that in mind, then, humour me as I tell you about an idea I mentioned in this update a couple of weeks ago. My hope is that this will appeal to both students and people working in the industry.

Although at its core is and will continue to be the place to read about and watch the best in PR and marketing stunts and campaigns, I want to introduce a slightly more interactive element.

With that in mind, welcome to the first ever fortnightly ‘Made Up PR’ (#madeupPR, if you please).

Here’s how it will work:

  1. I give you an entirely fictitious PR scenario.
  2. Based on the scenario, you assess the situation and propose a PR solution in the comments section. Your proposal should be 200 words maximum – no need to get too detailed, just write a quick summary of what you would do (e.g. would you go for a headline-grabbing stunt, a longer campaign or something else entirely).
  3. Site readers, your friends, family, colleagues, and anybody else you care to mention it to vote your answer as the best by clicking ‘like’ in the comments section.
  4. The comment/solution with the most ‘likes’ within two weeks – basically, by the time I next propose another scenario – wins.
(Any questions, contact me by emailing or tweeting me either @PRexamples or @GoodandBadPR).

The prize up for grabs for this, the first Made Up PR, is a signed copy of Brand Anarchy, the new book about PR and brand communications by Stephen Waddington and Steve Earl, courtesy of Mr Waddington himself. Stephen and Steve are the co-MDs at London-based Speed Communications and have more than 40 years’ experience in media and communications.

Brand Anarchy: Managing Corporate Reputation (to give it its full title) has had a great reception since its recent release with Alastair Campbell (ex-Director of Comms and Strategy for the Labour party) among those talking the book up. Read ex-PR Week digital editor Peter Hay’s review here.

Sound simple? It really is. It’s all a bit of fun, so, without further ado, here’s the first fictional scenario.

Made Up PR: 01

Average Jim’s Gym is, well, your average gym, owned by a man called Jim. The gym is priced competitively and offers month by month contracts with no further obligation.

Jim opened the gym recently because he was sick of conveyor-belt fitness chains, whose interest in members began and ended with their signature on the contract. The only problem is that Jim’s gym is relatively basic and significantly lacking in one key area – very few people know it.

Jim’s gym is located right in the heart of Tubsville, a highly-populated city where the street benches are made of reinforced steel and there’s an oxygen mask on every corner. In short, the populace isn’t particularly interested in exercising. Jim’s main competitor is a large centre nearby, which is used predominantly for its spa facilities. Average Jim’s has a spa, but Jim hopes to promote the benefits of health, fitness and a resting heart rate of less than 100 beats per minute above getting hot and sweaty with barely-clothed strangers.

Jim isn’t sure whether to advertise with his local paper, The Unfitizen, or try another form of marketing. He has a couple of thousand pounds to spend and wants to ensure whatever is spent translates into new members within the next few months.

How should Jim promote Average Jim’s Gym to potential members who have little to no interest in exercise, with a modest budget of approximately £2,000? The health of the citizens of Tubsville is in your hands.

Answer below in no more than 200 words, being sure to include a way to contact you (email/Twitter etc). The comment with the most ‘likes’ within two weeks (by the next time I propose another scenario) wins, so make sure you share this post after you've commented. The winner will be announced in the next update of Made Up PR.

Good luck and have fun!

  • Chris

    Create a short education and awareness video exploring child obesity and the effects on later life, based in Jim’s neighbourhood, interviewing prominent figures in the area to share their opinions on the matter, as well as highlighting the lack of local resources. The video is then circulated through social media channels and delivered to local education outlets/businesses/networks (also by those who contributed to it in their own ways). After a week, Jim hosts a series of free, outdoor exercise classes with discount membership opportunities in highly visible areas (local parks/town centre/train station, etc etc)

  • Target Tubsville on their terms, get creative and slowly change perceptions so people want to adopt a healthier lifestyle and understand easy steps to take. Make it non-threatening, so no buff bodies in lycra!
    Jim’s audience is local. Media outlets are Tubsville Gazette/Herald, T.103 FM (local radio) and local TV news, and local online community at Tubsvillonline.
    Jim needs local advocates: a local councillor and MP would support a get-fit campaign.
    1: Build collateral of online articles and links on about state of Tubsville’s health, reasons to get fitter, even Top 10 Tips! Content gives people something to talk about and reasons to visit Jim’s Gym online.
    2: Stunt launch. Be-ercise and Shop-ercise. Launch Jim’s Gyms so people see how easy and non-threatening it is. ‘Normal’ people in pub & supermarket do flashmob style exercises walking around the shop or to/from the bar. The local councillor, MP, celeb, and school headmaster are all involved. Media film/photo flashmob, interview Jim, advocates & locals. Gives visual, fun and newsworthy stories, while Youtube videos go viral locally.
    3. A school campaign – fitness literature & classes at schools – getting pupil power to pressure parents into being fitter.
    Ongoing sustain comes later

  • Nikki

    First create the right type of awareness
    – Target locally and put on a one-off free fitness day with activities throughout, e.g. ‘Zumbathon’ for the ladies, an fun area or obstacle course for young kids and ‘Super Spinning taster’ for the most athletic.
    -Ideally this should be set up in or around the gym, enticing passers by to get involved or just take away some information.
    -Enthusiastic staff would be the key, this doesn’t cost much and would get employees excited about the brand as well as potential customers.
    -Invite local businesses to join with the venture e.g stalls and shops, healthy option eating places etc, this would increase promotion and community links as well as generate free local PR coverage. 

  • @MillyJody

    Jim’s gym should stand as the place for fitness and fun.
    – Jim should offer one or two free fitness session days with various activities: “Dance like …” that teaches choreographies from famous music videos i.e beyoncé’s single ladies/ ballroom dancing courses for women and couple/ game+play for children/etc.. Participants will be educated on consequences of obesity on health too and how to avoid them.
    – A video of these free sessions will be released on Youtube to show that fitness and fun can match.
    – Initiate a “Lighten Tubsville” program with the city council. The program will offer prices reducing to the civil servants;
    – Invite the local paper the Unfitizen workers to a free session (that will later lead to an article entitled “the Unfitizen goes fit”) of fitness.
    – Venture with local restaurants and supermarkets to offer free courses of healthier cuisine to the Jim’s Gym members.
    – Initiate a program called “I care”, a fitness chain in which each new member can bring one person who will benefit of a period of free trial.
    – Release short videos every two weeks that shows a new exercise, create Facebook page with a chat each week where members can share their motivational tips, ask questions, being given answers on fitness, food, etc..
    Getting Tubsville’s citizens shapes in shape won’t be easy but Jim can make it!


  • For me the USP for Jim is that his establishment allows users to join without any long contracts, so I’d centre my attention on promotion around this fact — particularly since the big chains tend to either tie you in long-term or if you do want to go on a rolling contract you pay through the teeth.

    That and that Jim’s gym is average and for the average user.

    I’d build on a social media campaign inviting failed gym goers to take part in an online campaign called ‘Fitter in forty hours or your money back’.  Taking an approach that users attend the gym an hour a day for a minimum of three days a week for three months and follow a health and fitness plan devised by Jim.

    For those taking part, weekly updates through social media can track progress — further acting as a reason for the competitors to not lose their drive — and for the overall winner of the campaign a year long membership for free.  

    This not only brings in social media buzz and helps to build a community, but the overall winner could help form the basis for a press release to the local Unfitizen along the lines of: ‘I shed the pounds, now I’m saving them’ detailing the campaign and exposing the business without paying for advertisement space.

    It is by no means a risk-free approach.  Handling applicants would be time-consuming to ensure they have a program that will help them get fitter.  But since Jim is struggling for business this shouldn’t be a problem.

    There is also the question of driving enough traffic to see the social media campaign in the first place.  This would require some PR work in targeting publications to raise awareness.  I foresee a pre-release to local press would work through inviting a journalist to take on the challenge and see if they too can get ‘fitter in forty’, perhaps even ultimately playing a part in the final release.

    This could also transfer to blogger invites to those interested in health and fitness.

  • @brownsam

    I’d simply pay willing fat people from Tubsville to come to the gym.  £50 each should do it.  I’d make them get on the treadmill and have a ‘stooge’ use a remote control to up the speed until they fell off (this remote may have to be substituted for a large prodding device if such a remote doesn’t exist).

    This would of course be filmed and put on YouTube on Average Jim’s Gym channel which is called ‘Fat people falling over’.  Each video would finish with the line ‘If you’re morbidly obese, the internet is laughing at you. We can help’.

    The Daily Mail would be outraged, the coverage would be huge, and the link juice would be stellar.

    The unfit and overweight people of Tubsville, out of sheer fear of being judged by the internet, would sign up in their droves.


  • A Sutton

    Rewards worth working out for. Partner with local businesses to offer rewards for working out. Free skinny lattes for every 100 laps completed in the pool. Half price hair-cuts for attending the Head-Bangers-Rock-Inspired-workout. After work bus passes picking people up from the train station at peak hours to take them to Average Jims. Free crèche for kids for regular users. For every month they renew their membership they unlock extra benefits – extended opening hours, guest spa passes.
    Use owned and partner social media channels to spread buzz in the local area – including rewards for FourSquare check-ins, Facebook Likes and Twitter #tags. Use budget to create a simple app that monitors progress and integrates with social media channels to record and collect rewards easily whilst automatically updating personal feed.
    Spurn the usual workouts (Spinning/ Thighs, Bums and Tums) for ones that relate to exer-phobes. How about a ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ theme workout. 20 mins juggling warm-up followed by a 10 minute ‘Sob Story’ breathing exercise, 20 mins ‘Hit the Buzzer’ circuits and a Irish-dancing warm down. A ‘Soap-tastic Slim-down’ timed with evening soaps – 10 laps for every time Dot Cotton lights up, 20 press ups for every short-skirted scene on Hollyoaks. Target local media (print, radio, TV news) using a local celeb as spokesperson with photo opps and a competition to join the celeb in a suitably themed workout.

  • Rob Ashwell

    Register for the world dodgeball championship with the dribs and drabs of the community that want to keep your gym alive. 

    You may need to beat a team of brownies on route and get help from dodgeball legend Patches O’Houlihan but you can reach the final if you play with heart.

    You’ll also probably fall in love with the rival gym’s lawyer in the process.

    The publicity from appearing on the sports channel ESPN 8 – The Ocho – will help attract significant footfall for the average Joes – uh Jims – Gym. And by betting the £2,000 on yourselves (and winning) you’ll be able to turn that into millions. mwa ha ha ha.

    Either that…


    Reaching general people
    1) Do some research into what activities potential members might do other than eat / break benches – what they’d like to do.

    2) Using this information get friends / staff together to do a few live (fun & simple enough for ahem, the larger person to think they can do it too) demos, dances around the town during lunch hours and whilst people watch hand out flyers with discounts that alert to the gym, the relaxing spa – get involved then relax at our spa… or similar

    3) Look into establishing brand awareness activities – community bike rides or park walks for various levels.

    Reaching target groups – 1st has to be mothers / children
    1) Create classes specifically for mothers and their children – 
    They may not care for their own health, they probably will for their child’s
    Toddler yoga, swimming lessons, etc

    2) Create a space and time for mums to meet after the class to chat over coffee – in the gym or partner with a nearby (already aspiring mummy hq) coffee shop 

    3) Create flyers for mum places – libraries, coffee shops, doctors, midwifes etc

    4) Use the remaining money to instead invest in advertising in a local mum’s magazine or website

    I personally prefer the dodgeball tournament, but I think that might have already been done :)

  • Sian Emily Hughes

    Jim should organise a flash mob of attractive and slim people of all ages in the city centre doing fun-looking exercises. He should distribute flyers explaining the health and appearance benefits of getting fit (and with a free gym and spa pass) to the people who are watching this. He should also make sure to film this flash mob and distribute it as widely as possible online. 

    He should organise a fun exercise class that focuses on all round health and wellbeing, rather than a boot camp type body breaking work out, and invite journalists from the Unfitizen, the local TV and radio stations, and local VIPs to attend for 4 weeks free of charge. He should encourage them to stick it out for the 4 weeks and blog about their experiences; how they’re enjoying it and how much better they feel. 

    He should also partner with a local supermarket in creating a structured, but simple and family friendly diet plan. The supermarket should offer half price gym membership to any one who buys 75% of the ingredients for the diet plan, and Jim should offer half price ingredients for the diet plan for anyone who signs up to the gym. 

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  • I’d send the world’s greatest, most effective press release to the Unfitizen. Unfortunately your imposed word limit prevents me from detailing how this press release is so effective, but trust me: it is! #Imaginative

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