Purposeful PR: Smashing Gender Misconceptions With A Children’s Book

This month (March 2019), we worked on the launch of a very special children’s book that has big ambitions: to break gender stereotypes about the jobs females do in traditionally male-dominated industries and to push some very pertinent messages to children – that the world is their oyster; that they can pursue ambitions and understand that gender needn’t be a barrier to progression; that they may discard negative conceptions that say: ‘that’s not for girls’ or, indeed, ‘that’s not for boys’.

Kerrine Bryan is an award winning electrical engineer, STEM ambassador and the co-founder and face of independent publishing house, Butterfly Books. Bryan herself is a great role model, having broken many class ceilings. She is black, working class, brought up by her mother and grandparents in Birmingham, and was once discouraged from going to university but became the first in her family to pursue higher education to succeed in her field.

It was when she was acting as a STEM ambassador, volunteering to do talks about her job across the country to children in schools that she discovered how misconceptions about the profession of engineering had already been set in the minds of children aged 12 and above – misconceptions of which she believed to be partly responsible for the lack of gender diversity in typically male dominated professions, not just engineering.

She thus began writing children’s books as a means of addressing these misconceptions and instilling the idea in children that they can be whatever they want to be … gender shouldn’t be a deterrent for pursuing dreams. My Mummy Is A Scientist, My Mummy Is An Engineer, My Mummy Is A Plumber all serve this purpose, articulating this through pictures and rhyme to capture the imagination of 4 to 7 year olds, before such misconceptions set in.

Launched a few days before International Women’s Day 2019, My Mummy Is A Soldier is the fifth book in the series and a collaboration with the British Army that showcases the diversity of careers females undertake within the organisation – everything from medic to dog handler, lawyer to pilot.

Lieutenant Colonel Deborah Taylor, who led the partnership between the British Army and Butterfly Books and – through various engagement initiatives – has helped the Army raise wider public awareness of the diversity of jobs women undertake within the organisation, commented:

“Since the integration of women into the Regular and Army Reserve, there has been an increase in their number across the broad range of trades, skills and professions in the Army.  We have senior female soldiers and officers who have had long and exemplary careers in the Army serving both at home and overseas in all types of operations from war-fighting to humanitarian relief.  They have won medals for their bravery and worked alongside their male counterparts in the same conditions, with the same equipment, in the same locations.

 “We are a public organisation who support the nation and it is important that the general public have the opportunity to see us and to know we are a reflection of them and are made up of all genders, ethnicities, religions and sexualities.  This book in particular is looking to show how women participate in the Army. Females serving in the Army today are generally united by one common experience: when they were young, they were supported in their vision to work in the armed forces.” 

front cover with font

Doing the PR for this campaign has been quite a special experience; not only because it put us in touch with real everyday heroes from every walk of life but, at launch, during a book reading, we were able to see just how engaged children from the local primary school were with some of the jobs women undertook in the Army. They asked lots of questions, played with instruments, dressed up in fatigues and sat in the Army bobsleigh. There was curiosity, wonderment, fun. These elements can often be lacking in education, where there is a definite need to inspire – especially in disciplines (like Maths) where take-up of study at higher levels is drastically waning. What does that spell for the future of UK innovation? Only time will tell.

Kerrine Bryan and Lieut. Col. Taylor were featured in the Financial Times for the initiative, with further appearances on BBC World TV and BBC World Service Radio, while BFBS filmed at the launch. Where Brexit and the Michael Jackson documentary was cannibalising news of the very kind that needs to inspire during these despairing times, it was good to get a piece of the ever shifting news agenda.

PR can, in many respects, can at times be a thankless profession. Working with truly likeable brands with inspirational entrepreneurs at the helm of a venture with a true social purpose, can make all the difference in feeling that you are, in some way, contributing to helping the world become a slightly better place.

This piece of Sun coverage is worth £55,502.00

So, one of us was having a bit of a desk tidy the other day (de-crumbing the keyboard, giving the desktop a spot of Mr Muscle etc) when I stumbled upon this thing of beauty, carelessly filed away among a pile of yellowing newspaper cuttings and an old advertorial booklet selling some demonic looking porcelain dolls, compression socks and 3-pack polyester trousers (hmmmm, I wonder whether they need PR).

Anyway THIS is one of the first ever pieces of coverage I secured as a junior publicist 9 years ago for a (now very little known) dating website – which, let’s say, you probably wouldn’t want to visit these days unless you really felt you had run out of options …

The SUN copy

Product aside though, this is what possibly many PR industry bods would describe as a ‘PRgasm’.

Sprawled on one page of technicolour print on Britain’s biggest selling national newspaper, The Sun, resplendent with company logo, URL link plus insightful on-message quote from company spokesperson (the dating website’s ‘relationship expert’), this piece of coverage is worth a whopping £55.5K in advertising terms today.

Pure tabloid fodder, we commissioned a survey looking into people’s cheating hearts and discovered that people of Britain (OK, sample size: 1K) really couldn’t resist hogging their metaphorical cakes AND eating it. Quite naughty I suppose. And tabloids, of course, like naughty.  The campaign cost all of £0 to implement, thanks to the dating website’s lively and opinionated userbase who loved doing the multiple choice questionnaires, and thanks to a wonderful media relationship I had with the then features editor (we had some great phone conversations brainstorming questions that would elicit the cheekiest, funniest and most enlightening answers – getting people to dish the dirt and ‘fess up, but in a truly anonymous way obviously).

Following publication of this piece, the website (according to the developer’s data) received 35% more web traffic that day (pretty good considering this was not an online piece with a  click-through link – readers had actively seen the URL and sought out more information about the company when they were at their computers) and an additional 10% subscriptions of the free service.

Looking back though with a sober and analytical eye at what this piece of publicity would’ve contributed to the dating website’s general image, any discerning person looking for a bonafide Mr or Miss Right, a wedding, or a long-term romantic partnership would probably poo-poo this service (despite the great name-check) because anyone would think that it was harbouring a commune of love rats; dare I say it – it had become a waiting pool for potential Jeremy Kyle candidates (and we all know the show’s ‘stars’ somehow seem to be having a hell of A LOT of sex. How do they fit it in? Don’t they work?!).

Still. I had always, always, secretly hoped that, from this particular line of work, someone somewhere out there would have found true and resounding lasting love as a result of spotting my piece of coverage in a national newspaper, hopped onto the website, trawled and spotted a rare and precious gem of a person, met them, fell in love with them and then … well, I have a bit of an Auntie Cilla moment and will buy a hat for the website’s first ever wedding.  As is stands, I will never ever know.

But, hell, I’m a true romantic so maybe it did happen, but the happy couple are publicity shy. Or maybe they don’t want to advertise the fact that they found each other on a dating website.  At best, I can only fantasise what a joyous occasion it would be to put ‘1 marriage’ down as a result of PR exposure I secured on an evaluation document. What joy. Imagine the ROI on that? Immeasurable and priceless. After all, you can’t put a price on love.


MEET THE DESIGNER – Shanna Melville Bridal Couture featured in Whimsical Wonderland Weddings

Bridal couture – in fact haute couture of any kind – is just one of those things you can never really truly appreciate until you understand just how much artistry, skill, creativity and fiddly man hours it takes to craft a tangible, wearable creation. It’s frankly awe inspiring.

Our incredibly talented client, the designer Shanna Melville of Shanna Melville Bridal Couture – a Wimbledon Village boutique – exposes in this exclusive interview with influential wedding blog Whimsical Wonderland Weddings – the exact painstaking processes involved in creating a dress from her new bridal collection, which – by the way – is inspired by the warm balmy days of an Indian summer (ah, remember those?).

Lashings of tulle, silk organza and mind-bogglingly intricate Indian hand bead work are the aesthetic identifiers of this collection, which is devastatingly feminine and flattering to any figure. Indeed, the pictures of her creations can show you just how you can be transformed into the best version of  your lovely self, on your Big Day.

Read  the full article here


Styling | Bergorf and Green

Cakes |  Cakes by Robin

Hair | Gwen Brits-Beenz

Make up | Tiffany Cartwright

Photography | Rohan Clinnick


Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 16.07.59

Ornate beadwork around the torso and a low v-neck to flatter the décolletage in this vintage art-deco inspired design

Eco & sustainable design boutique E-Side spotted in the Telegraph Magazine

We’re always dead chuffed when a gorgeous and different independent store, like our lively E-Side client, gets its creative wares featured in amongst the usual big brand retailers in shopping round-ups like this. We love diversity and difference and will choose this route anyday over the convenience of buying gifts ‘all under one roof’.

Chaise longues woven from old remnant rags and t-shirts; dining chairs moulded from old Coca-Cola plastic bottles; funky lampshades upcycled from washing machine drums and spraypainted in acid colours – these are definitely things you won’t find on the high street!

Anyway, the lovely folk at Telegraph Magazine chose to feature E-Side’s paper dino craft kit in its Stocking Filler gift guide for children. And happily (last time we were informed), the piece of coverage generated sales and significant traffic to the website on the day.

Now that’s what we like to hear 🙂

Picture 18

‘Indian Summer’ is inspiration for latest bridal collection by London designer Shanna Melville

Picture 166

Intricate ethnic hand beading, French lace and Italian printed silk organzas give this season’s dresses a delicately regal look

Ornate beadwork around the torso and a low v-neck flatters the décolletage in this vintage art-deco inspired design

Despite the season’s nip and chill, the warm temperate days of a long Indian summer have provided the inspiration for London designer Shanna Melville’s latest collection of bespoke handmade bridal dresses (www.shannamelville.com).

The dresses launch exclusively at her Wimbledon Village-based boutique (14 High Street, Wimbledon Village, London, SW19 5DX) this month.

The collection features intricate ethnic beadwork painstakingly handcrafted over 60 hours by seasoned artisans; delicate French lace detail and swathes of opulent Italian printed silk organza – the latter of which has proven increasingly popular among brides-to-be looking to add a touch of regal elegance to their bridal couture.

Soft, floaty romantic dresses with full chiffon skirts, muted tones of champagne and blush and daring low backs feature prominently in this collection, which gives a carefree, spirited ‘bo-ho’ chic feel to the final look.

Shanna Melville’s bridal couture is handmade in her workshop beneath the boutique by an expert and dedicated team of seamstresses. Due to the intricacy and complexity of some of the designs, it can take up to six months – from consultation right through to final fitting – for a wedding dress to be made.

Shanna Melville comments: “The warm hazy sun of an Indian summer might seem like a distant memory in the dead of winter but I wanted to capture the romance and playful, carefree spirit we feel when we bask in beautiful weather. There’s lots of movement in some of these designs, with luxuriously floaty fabrics giving a flattering, elegant silhouette that billows and swirls with just a sway of the hips; it’s as if the fabric takes on a life of its own.”

Shanna continues: “These dresses allow a versatile transition from day to evening, with light and incredibly feminine fabrics embellished with delicate beadwork and French lace that gives the dresses an accent of after-dark glamour – perfect for the ceremony and for partying the night through.”

The Collection

 “Chloe” dress

Shanna’s ‘Chloe’ dress fuses lustrous, free-flowing fabric with intricate design that elevates ‘bo-ho chic’ to almost regal heights

Layers of beautiful light silk tulle give this incredibly full and floaty Chloe bridal gown both movement and personality. Featuring a sweetheart neckline and a delicate French quarter lace v-neck embellished with Indian hand beadwork, the overall look fuses lustrous, free-flowing fabric with intricate design that elevates ‘bo-ho chic’ to almost regal heights.

“Audrey” dress

A structured hand-beaded bodice gives this dress a neat, feminine silhouette

A pretty, feminine bridal gown featuring lashings of silk tulle and chiffon to give the dress lightness and movement, but with a structured hand-beaded bodice to provide comfort and support as well as cutting a trim and flattering shape.

“Rose” dress

The most arresting feature of the ‘Rose’ dress is its sweeping low backline framed by delicate French lace

This ‘sheath’ dress gives the wearer a tall, elegant silhouette and is designed to really celebrate the female shape. Silk crepe and layers of tulle again lends the dress a fluidity of movement. The most arresting feature of the Rose dress is its sweeping low backline framed by delicate French lace and a uniform row of silk buttons that run beyond the small of the back – all of which combine to accentuate yet flatter the curves.

“Peony” dress

Swathes of luxurious Italian printed silk organza is very on-trend this season

A beautiful, free-flowing halter neck wedding dress made with swathes of luxurious Italian printed silk organza. Cut full circle, the Peony dress gives the wearer a tall, elegant shape. The dramatic low backline tapered off at the waist to the small of the back is finished off with a silky length of ribbon tied in a bow, to complete this simple yet stunning look.

“Grace” dress

Ornate beadwork around the torso and a low v-neck flatters the décolletage in this vintage art-deco inspired design

This is an elegant, vintage-inspired art deco wedding dress cut slim to give the illusion of height. Made using soft silk satin, the Grace dress features ornate beadwork around the torso, a low v-neck to flatter the décolletage, and further delicate beadwork embellishments towards the hem and train that gives the dress a touch of old world glamour.

‘Polly’ dress

Beautiful beadwork on the bodice of Shanna’s new collection have been handcrafted by artisans in a process that takes up to 60 hours of intricate craftmanship

 A delicate silk chiffon wedding dress cut slim for a chic and elegant finish. The bodice is intricately hand beaded and features a beautifully crafted low v-back line.

To view Shanna Melville’s latest collection in its entirety, and to browse earlier collections, visit www.shannamelville.com.

Prices start from £2,000. Consultations are by appointment only.

For press enquiries, high res imagery, product loans and further information, contact Andrea San Pedro at ASP PR, email: andrea.sanpedro@asp-pr.co.uk, tel: +44 (0) 7970 468982.

– ENDS –


Styling: Bergorf and Green www.bergdorfs.co.uk

Cakes: cakes by Robin www.cakesbyrobin.co.uk

Hair: Gwen Brits-Beenz

Make up: Tiffany Cartwright www.tiffanycartwright.com

Photography: Rohan Clinnick www.rohanclinnick.com


Notes To Editor

About Shanna Melville:

Shanna Melville's Wimbledon Village-based boutique where all her creations are crafted

 Couture wedding-dress designer Shanna Melville’s bespoke bridal gowns make any bride’s dream come true. Shanna has been designing dresses for twelve years, but it was only after her own engagement did she discover her passion and innate talent for designing bridal wear.

After working with two established designers, Shanna finally opened up her own bridal boutique in Wimbledon Village, London, in 2007. Her gowns are akin to artwork, with a single creation taking up to six months to make using fabric that has been delicately and painstakingly handwoven in her workshop by an accomplished team of artisans.

Creative consultations and fittings are conducted by Shanna herself, and she is involved in every step of the process – from planning and design to the finished creation. A wedding dress is one of the biggest and most important purchases a woman will make in her lifetime, and Shanna works very closely with her clients to ensure that the vision and dream of the perfect dress becomes a touchable, wearable reality. Expertly tailored to bespoke specifications, the final dress will always flatter and fit the bride like no other garment will.

Shanna Melville’s bridalwear collection encompasses a timeless elegance that celebrates femininity and exemplifies exceptional craftsmanship, producing dresses with a style and grace that will never age.

Consultations are by appointment only. Prices start from £2,000.

Visit www.shannamelville.com for more information and to browse through previous collections.

Twitter: @shannamelville

Shanna Melville, 14 High Street, Wimbledon Village, London, SW19 5DX

Tel: +44 (0)20 8946 8446

Press Enquiries

If you are a journalist requiring further information, high-res images, product loans for shoots or an interview with Shanna Melville, please contact Andrea San Pedro at ASP PR, email: andrea.sanpedro@asp-pr.co.uk, Tel: +44 (0)7970 468982


A sculptress of felt: from penguins & purses to ostentatious chandeliers, meet designer and ‘Queen of Felting’ Gillian Harris, founder of the colourful Gilliangladrag brand in this month’s Prima Makes

Picture 60

Before we started working with the quirky and madly colourful Gilliangladrag brand (www.gilliangladrag.co.uk), the art of ‘felting’ was a bit of a mystery to us.

To the unacquainted, feltmaking is a process of binding raw wool tops (that’s the unspun fluffy stuff plucked fresh off the backs of lovely British sheep) and binding the fibres together – either by way of ‘stabbing’ it multiple times with a barbed needle (HUGELY cathartic and very much like voodoo – but without the black magic and probably way more productive) or by rubbing and rolling it in a bamboo matt (the same used for sushi) with a sprinkle of warm soapy water.

It’s compulsive, addictive stuff. The possibilities of felt, we discovered, were endless. Hell, you could quite viably sculpt the Statue of Liberty from the stuff, if you had enough sheep, time and arm power.

Felting is still a long way off from before becoming a mainstream craft like knitting, sewing and crocheting  – but with pioneering designers at the helm of this ‘movement’ – we’re going to be seeing a lot more felted madness and colourful creations bloom before our very eyes in the not too distant future.

Gillian Harris, author, self-styled ‘Queen of Felt’ and proprietor of the Gilliangladrag brand is arguably one of the felting movement’s most prominent ‘sculptors’, carving out everything from penguins and purses to ostentatiously eccentric chandeliers – and all, essentially, from fluff. Even her Surrey based wool emporium where she holds her popular craft workshops and produces her own felt making kits is rather appropriately called ‘The Fluff-a-torium’.

Walking into this rainbow-coloured-alternative-world is akin to a chocoholic stepping into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. It is sheer, tantalising eye-candy for the creative with bursts of pinks, mints, fuschia and canary yellow blossoming from every corner or the room. It’s a fascinating sight to behold and I challenge even the craft-shy sausage-fingered among us to not be inspired to give something ‘creative’ a go.

This month (November) Prima Makes magazine features Gillian in a Meet The Designer feature – with nuggets of information from the Queen of Felt herself on what inspires her and why she set up shop in the first place. Read it here for a quick dose of design and inspiration.

Within our humble little team, we’re always finding new ways in which to grow creatively, through reading plenty and doing lots of cultural things. Museum visits, yoga, watching film noir, zorbing, standing on our heads and being mindful and – yes – even felting – has all contributed to the PR creative process. Try it and you will see that felting is SERIOUSLY meditative stuff (and in this meditative state can some of our most colourful creative ideas derive) – just don’t zone out too much; you might find yourself stabbing your fingers with the rather evil looking barbed needle … OOOF!


Gillian Harris’ felted chandelier, as seen in her book ‘Carnival of Felting’ (published by Colins & Brown)



Sunnies that put the ‘oo’ in bamboo and help an eye clinic in rural India – as seen on Grand Designs (Dec 14)

We’re excited because the lovely E-Side (our luxury eco & sustainable design retailer client) has had one of it’s dead cool products featured in the December issue of Grand Designs.

US label Proof’s stylish sustainable wooden sunglasses have been cited as a great Christmas gift for the “Eco Warrior”. Know of a stylish and earth-conscientious soul who’d love one of these bad boys?

Individually handcrafted and rendered in a variety of beautiful, eco-friendly woods such as ebony and bamboo, Proof’s unisex shades look classically cool and also contribute to a good cause. For every pair you buy, a portion of the sale price goes to supporting charitable causes and projects worldwide, including an eye clinic in a rural, underserved area of India.

Pick up a pair here: http://www.e-side.co.uk/product/Bud_Ebony_Gold

Picture 26

Luxury furniture makers Barbara Genda Bespoke Furniture appoints boutique consumer agency ASP PR as its retained press office


Luxury furniture makers Barbara Genda Bespoke Furniture (www.barbara-genda.co.uk) has appointed new consumer boutique agency ASP PR as its retained press office operation.

ASP PR will replace incumbent specialist homes and interiors PR agency In The White Room this month.

The account will be headed up by founder and director Andrea San Pedro, an ex-M&C Saatchi PR consultant with 10 years experience in consumer and lifestyle comms. The agency, which is just two years old, has a number of independent retail, design and crafts brands on its books including eco and sustainable design e-tailer E-Side, quirky crafts brand Gilliangladrag founded by author and ‘felting queen’ Gillian Harris, babies and children’s boutique Hop Like A Bunny and wedding dress designer Shanna Melville.

ASP PR will be tasked with delivering on an integrated communications brief, publicising the furniture maker’s work across all relevant consumer lifestyle and interior titles. Barbara Genda is a small, highly skilled and passionate London-based studio. The company specialises in creating and developing beautiful interior design solutions for all spaces – from walk-in wardrobes and in-built media centres to children’s playrooms and ergonomic home offices.

For more information and high-resolution images, contact Andrea San Pedro at ASP PR, email: andrea.sanpedro@asp-pr.co.uk, tel: +44 (0)7970 468982.

– ENDS –