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Monday, November 17, 2008
PR Stunts? A formula for the perfect Yorkshire Pudding
From Tim Hayward at the OFM blog. His bit about PR stunts is so true, especially for a slow news day. Get a formula in a press release and you usually get coverage! Pick up a copy of the Metro any day of the week and you will find a survey, a formula and a picture led story which is usually wacky and grabs readers' attention.
Tim writes: "I'll be honest here at the outset. I used to work for a PR company that made something of name for itself as the originators of that greatest of stunts, the 'Formula Story'. It was a simple and brilliantly effective trick. There's nothing a hassled journalist with a deadline loves more than a nice meaty 'scientific' formula. It looks great on the page, it has a wonderful quasi authority to it and laying it out in big type - or best of all, in chalk on a blackboard - gives you a lovely cheap, space-filling illustration. It was a sure-fire hit. It seemed that the press would print almost anything we set up. We had formulas for the perfect bacon sandwich, the most likely day of the year for a successful marriage proposal and a rigorous mathematical proof of the anaphrodisiac effect of underarm moisture, all paid for by bakers, internet dating companies and deodorant manufacturers. We had a little black book of media-friendly academics who, for a suitable emolument, would assign a research assistant to creating a formula. The best were so media-friendly or hungry for departmental publicity that they'd even give a couple of meaty quotes-to-camera wearing a white coat or a comedy bow tie.
These days, I make a lot less money on the other side of the fence but you'll forgive me for being more than a little cynical about any news story that features a scientist coming up with a formula for anything - if I read a headline saying that Einstein had discovered that energy was equal to mass times the speed of light squared, my eyes would flash to the end of the story to see which power company was behind the release.
So imagine my delight at yesterday's story of a scientist opining on the perfect Yorkshire pudding. I scanned the copy for the name of a flour company, a purveyor of powdered gravy or the Yorkshire Tourist board and found nothing but the Royal Society of Chemistry and John Emsley, a scientist from Yorkshire, sharing a perfectly innocent recipe.
I can't tell you how clean and redeeming that feels. A story based on nothing more than geekery, love of food and regional pride. I can't, even at my most venal and cynical, see it having any underlying commercial point beyond a little well deserved profile raising for the RSC - and if the Royal Society of Chemistry have turned the filthy ways of PR to their own ends, then, good on them.
It's truly heartwarming proof that not everything in the world is crap and I can think of no better way to encourage it than to reproduce the recipe in full …
The Royal Society of Chemistry Yorkshire Pudding
Ingredients Tablespoon and a half of plain flour 1 egg Half milk, half water to make a thin batter Half a teaspoon of salt.
Method Put flour in a bowl, make a well in the middle, add the egg, stir until the two are combined then start gradually adding the milk and water combining as you go. Add the liquid until the batter is a smooth and thin consistency. Stir in half teaspoon of salt and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Put beef dripping into Yorkshire pudding tins or into one large tin but don't use too much fat. Put into hot oven until the fat starts to smoke. Give the batter a final stir and pour into the tin or tins. Place in hot oven until well risen – should take 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve Always serve as a separate course before the main meal and use the best gravy made from the juices of the roast joint. Yorkshire housewives served Yorkshire pudding before the meal so that they would eat less of the more expensive main course.
NB: When the batter is made it must not be placed in the fridge but be kept at room temperature