Student ‘finishes essay in nightclub’ and gets a first for it – a PR twist in the story

Category: Agency News

By: Rich Leigh

In the last few days, a bit of a storm has been brewing.

The situation – student finishes essay in nightclub, gets a first for it

21 year old Lawrence Kemp, a second year student at the University of Gloucestershire (just down the road from our main office in Gloucester), was filmed on Snapchat completing a 2,000 word essay during both the pre-drinks and in Moo Moos, a club in near-by Cheltenham.

Here’s the video:

Lawrence even apparently got a first for the essay. The press, and channels like Unilad, ate it up.

So far so good, right?

The first twist – it was staged

Only, all isn’t as it seemed. The truth is, it was fake. It had been staged as part of their degrees to see if they could make a piece of content go ‘viral’.

Danny Cotter, the student behind the Snaps, said:

It was for one of our modules called ‘shortform’, in which we were told to make a video and try and get it to go viral. We were given a lot of freedom with the brief, so we wanted to make something that was relevant and topical.

It’s the end of our student year so everyone’s under pressure with work and exams – we thought why not play on that and try and get the video on a platform.

The mistake – not fessing up

The students, Danny and Lawrence, make one big mistake here.

They appeared on BBC’s Points West, our regional news show, talking about the lack of checks made by press, which isn’t technically true.

Press Association – as highlighted in this frank piece on Gloucestershire Live – “is one of the world’s most thorough and reputable news agencies”. They shared the news and video only after contacting the students directly to establish the facts behind it, and were told it was legit.

Peter Clifton, editor-in-chief at PA, said,

Under detailed questioning, Mr Kemp maintained that the story was accurate, and this continued when he gave us further quotes to confirm his delight at getting a first for the work. He also provided a picture of his exam result. Mr Cotter’s account corroborated the story.

So, when pressed for the truth, they insisted it was real, instead of keeping schtum to protect the reason behind the stunt, or confessing.

It’s pretty intelligent as a piece of content to test the public and media response to unverified ‘news’, a topic we have all been discussing ad nauseum recently. It was well-thought out, and played on a truth – the pressure students are under come end-of-year. It was always going to be well-shared, and I’d venture that journalists and the public would still have shared it had the students ignored every message. Almost certainly not PA, but others would have done.

They lost the opportunity to highlight the lack of verification in the press the second they said it was real, and I’d suggest it’s not a drum they bang again.

The second twist – a job offer

If Danny or Lawrence are interested, I’d like to offer one or both of them a paid 3 month (minimum) internship after their studies finish.

They clearly have something about them.

They showed an ability to come up with something worth sharing, reading the situation well. They used the technology available to them to do so.

They made a mistake I’m sure they’re sorry for, but when you’re young and you get carried away during a situation, it’s not surprising.

We could teach them how to do things properly – to channel their creativity and enthusiasm into stories well worth sharing on behalf of clients, without falling foul of the press. As an employer, I’m always looking for evidence of ability and experience, which is difficult to pick up on in interviews, and this demonstrates that they have something to build on – an evident spark.

So, Danny and Lawrence: if you’re interested in a paid role after you finish your studies, I’d be happy to hear from you. Give our office a call, tweet me @RichLeighPR or email me directly, pr at radioactivepr dot com.