Say cheese - why the Fauxmagerie created such a stink in the media (and the tasty titbits it offers
n BBC London plus many more. I picked up on it for the regular newspaper review slot last Monday that I do for the Globalist programme on Monocle radio but, blimey, I had no idea how this particular story would run and run. At the time of writing The Times’ online coverage, for instance, has nearly 500 comments below it.
Why so much media interest? It’s just a shop that sells cheese, after all. And yet, I’ve found myself discussing cheese extensively in the media training that I’ve done over the last week as I look at what makes a media story.
What makes a good media story
When Rachel Stevens, 26, and her sister, Charlotte, 30, opened the Fauxmagerie, a vegan cheese shop in Brixton, they could never have imagined, I’m sure, the stir that it would cause. But this extensive and remarkable media coverage tells those who work in corporate communications a lot about what makes a media story and how journalists work.
The story behind the Fauxmargerie and the stink that it’s created (sorry, couldn’t resist it) has a number of the elements of a good media story. For a start it ticks the human box beautifully. You’ve got two sisters who have done what many of us have so often thought of doing – they’ve set up their own business. Rachel left a job at Marks & Spencer to do it. Sorry to sound crass but, after all, this is the media that we’re talking about, the fact that the Stevens sisters are female entrepreneurs and relatively young also adds to their appeal.
The fact that it can call itself "the first plant based cheese monger" is great for the purposes of the media. Almost anything that is first is good for us.
The Vegan Zeitgeist
There’s also a whiff (I know, I know) of the zeitgeist about this story since veganism is huge at the moment. According to the Vegan Society there are around 600,000 vegans in Britain, but that figure is clearly rising. One thing that editors love is a trend. I often tell my media training clients that as a journalist I regularly find myself writing “A growing number of…” or “More and more people…” When we find one person or organisation doing something it presses the “unusual button” but when we’ve got three or four instances, it’s officially a trend. (Look, I’m a journalist, OK, not a scientist).
The Fauxmagerie media coverage includes an element of confrontation. Sport, politics, wars, hostile takeovers, feuds – journalists love a good row. Whether it’s organisations, people or ideas, one side against another makes for a great media story. Not only that but this one also has a David and Goliath dimension. As The Times reported: ‘Within days they had received a complaint from the trade association Dairy UK, which accused the sisters of misleading customers by calling their vegan products “cheese”’.
Using case studies and human stories to get media coverage
According to Dairy UK, also as reported in The Times: ‘It concerns us that consumers are being misled with the use of dairy terms like cheese by the plant-based sector.’ To which many might say: ‘Oh, don’t be so po-faced about it.’ Luckily, though, for the purposes of a good story, the organisation clearly has little sense of humour.
We in the media love it when a large organisation picks a fight with an individual. How many times have you read about an energy supplier hounding a little old lady or the HMRC apparently persecuting a family or small business?
The Fauxmagerie's location in trendy Brixton is also another big tick in the media interest box, since so much of the media is still London-focussed.
Why controversy interests the media
Finally, the story of this controversial cheese business offers great opportunities for the sub editors to have fun with puns. The Times talks about the event creating a stink while the Guardian subs opted for “to brie or not to brie.”
It might be cheesy, sorry, cheesy, but the Fauxmagerie illustrates so neatly what makes a media story and how even a small business can generate huge coverage in the press, on TV and in social media.