Spies, Supermodels and Media Mayhem
Unless you’ve been drowning yourself in a vat of vodka, you probably heard about Salisbury saga.
You know the one… Back in April, Sergei Skripal and his daughter were left hospitalised for several weeks after coming into contact with a nerve agent called Novichok.
Traces of the poison were found at the Skripal’s home, a pub they visited prior to lunch in Salisbury and the restaurant – Zizzi’s Italian – where they ate.
It is believed that the Russians were connected to the attempted murder of the former Russian spy.
There were accusations, denials and a complex a plot as normally only seen in movies.
Then, curiouser and curiouser (as they say in Alice in Wonderland), another attack was linked to the drama.
In June, Dawn Sturgess and her partner Charlie Rowley were exposed to Novichok in nearby Amesbury, after handling a contaminated perfume dispenser.
And, as if the ensuing dark twists and turns weren’t enough, an even more bizarre sub-plot came to light more recently.
The saga of the Russian model, the rat poison and another Italian restaurant.
Seriously, you couldn’t make it up.
Attempted murder No. 3?
Russian-born lingerie model Anna Shapiro claimed she and her husband were targeted by Moscow at the weekend.
What’s more, they were apparently just moments away from the bench where Shapiro and his daughter were found – foaming at the mouth – earlier in the year.
Anna and her husband reputedly fell ill at Prezzo restaurant on Salisbury High Street.
Talk about an emotive end user experience of Italian food lovers in the City. I’d personally stick to Chinese, despite being partial to pasta.
And it’s no wonder the residents are reeling at all this talk of another attempted murder in their once quiet, picturesque, Wiltshire Cathedral City.
Seeking the Limelight?
With regards to this third ‘incident’, though, it seems that Shapiro might be a bit of a faking flake.
Even The Sun newspaper (which, as we know, loves a bit of high drama) pulled the exclusive interview that they did with Shapiro. They claimed it was for legal reasons. But they also put out a statement distancing themselves from her.
So perhaps it was really all a hoax after all?
Shapiro – who claims, on social media, to be a “London model living life to the max. Passion for travel, culture and healthy living” clearly loves living life in the limelight.
And ok, her father may actually be a Russian General as she claims but, really, would the Russians try to kill her with strychnine – rat poison – simply because she had turned her back on her homeland?
I don’t know much about the Russians, but this seems a little far-fetched, even for them.
Even her links to and interests in the UN and Chatham House, the international affairs thinktank, don’t really give anyone any reason to bump her off.
What’s more, Shapiro has some dubious friends, including ‘Fast Eddie’ Davenport, who is known for throwing risqué parties filled with movie stars and rock gods.
Oh, and the likes of Shapiro. She has a photo on her Facebook page showing her in nothing but her smalls, lounging on a four poster with Davenport and another guy who were both sporting pyjamas.
Makes you wonder if the lingerie model had something other than rat poison in her system when the poisoning story started to sound like a good idea.
Any links between the Shapiro tale (be there any truth in it) and the two former novichok incidents have been dismissed.
Of course, investigations into the Prezzo rat poisoning claims are still underway. Bars and restaurants were evacuated and tests were carried out to try and detect the presence of poisons.
And what about the consumers in all this? Never mind the poor businesses in the firing line.
Customers are fickle creatures. Loyalty would be straight out of the window if end-users thought they’d have to poke through their penne checking for the presence of poison.
It’s no real surprise that Zizzi in Salisbury closed its doors following the Skripal saga. Their website claims it’s a temporary thing but, considering we’re now five months down the line, it’s not looking good.
The problem is, people believe what they read. Especially online.
Hoaxes and hysterias have been around for a very long time. Con men are as old as the hills.
So, just because something is printed, specifically when it comes to the internet, does it really make it more plausible?
Not at all.
Bullshit is just that, no matter whether or not it’s floating round on the internet for all eternity.
People like to be the centre of attention, that’s the problem. Certainly in this day and age when they are more likely to get their five minutes of fame thanks to social media.
And that can be damning to businesses. Just ask Zizzi. And Prezzo who are likely to suffer from the recent dramas too.
Consumers don’t want an emotive end-user experience that’s going to be detrimental to their health or anything else.
Head off the hoaxes
And, for some reason, fake news travels faster than the truth.
On the flip side, hoax marketing, when done properly can turn into a viral boost for a business, but you have to tread with extremely caution. Let’s face it… you don’t want to send your customer feedback management team into overdrive.
Therefore, my advice would be to avoid it all together, unless it’s a light, humorous April Fool that will appeal to your customers.
A large percentage of the population now get access to their daily news online, often via social media channels. Because of this, word can spread around the globe faster than lightening.
So, make sure you know what channels your consumers are frequenting.
Do they triumph in Tweeting? Perhaps they love LinkedIn? Maybe they are Facebook fanatics? Or Instagram idols?
They could possibly use all of them.
So, find out. If you haven’t already, I’d suggest investing in some end-user experience monitoring to discover more about your audience and better understand how they work. (Get in touch – we can help!)
At least, then – if you put yourself in the shoes of your consumers, you will be one step ahead of the game.
Read what they read. See what they see.
And head any negativity that’s out there about your business off at the pass.
Because if you don’t, and people start spreading nasty rumours with your name at the forefront and you miss it, you’ll be saying ‘Proshchay’ to your brand before you know it. And you won’t be able to blame the Russians.