Why Paul the Octopus Made World Headlines

=== Why Paul the Octopus Made World Headlines ===

By Thomas Murrell MBA, CSP International Business Speaker

According to online reports Paul the Octopus (reportedly hatched January 2008) is a common octopus living in a tank at a Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany.

The sea creature became internationally famous for correctly "predicting" the winner of Germany's seven matches at the 2010 World Cup, as well as the final.

During the divinations, Paul was presented with two boxes containing food in the form of a mussel, each box marked on the outside with the flag of a national football team in an upcoming match.

Paul ate the mussel from the box with the flag of the winning team in four of Germany's six Euro 2008 matches, and in all seven of their matches in the 2010 World Cup. He correctly selected a win for Spain against the Netherlands in the World Cup final on 11 July by eating the mussel in the box with the Spanish flag on it.

With all the media attention he has been subject to death threats, song dedications and Iranian dissent.

On July 12, 2010, Paul was retired from making predictions.

"He won't give any more oracle predictions – either in football, or in politics, lifestyle or economy. Paul will get back to his former job, namely making children laugh," according to his keepers.

So we won't see him make a prediction for the Australian Federal election.

As a reward for his accurate predictions, aquarium staff presented him with his very own replica World Cup trophy garnished with his favourite food – mussels.

He made all the big news channels, BBC and CNN for example and made media headlines around the world.

Why was it such a big news story and what can we learn from it?

**1. Quirky and Unusual**

"Dog bites man is not a story, but man bites dog is" is a common phrase used to describe news.

An octopus predicting 8/8 wins in the world cup is quirky.

What quirky and unusual stories can you pitch to the media?

**2. New Benchmark and Perfect Record**

His predictions were 100 per cent (8/8) correct for the 2010 World Cup.

Paul's apparent success was considered to be comparable to a run of luck when tossing a coin.

University research has shown that under the hypothesis that Paul was equally likely to choose the winner or the loser of a match, and neglecting the possibility of a draw, he had a 1/2 chance of predicting any single result and a 1/256 chance of predicting eight in a row.

So this perfect record is very newsworthy. If he predicted six out of eight wins it would not be as newsworthy.

What records or new benchmarks are you setting that can be newsworthy?

**3. Controversy**

Iranian president **Mahmoud Ahmadinejad** criticized Paul several times during a speech in Tehran, which took place in the weekend of 24–25 July 2010. Ahmedinejad accused the West of using the octopus to spread "western propaganda and superstition."

This controversy just added to the news value.

What controversial issue can you make a comment on as an expert?

**4. Conflict**

A local businessmen in O Carballiño a town in Galicia, Spain collectively raised around A$60,000 as a "transfer fee" to have Paul as the main attraction of the local Festa do Polbo festival.

**Manuel Pazo**, a fisherman and head of the local business club made assurances that Paul would be presented alive in a tank and not on the menu. Sea Life Centres rejected the offer nonetheless.

After accusations of betrayal by the German newspaper Westfälische Rundschau, the Spanish prime minister **José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero** promised to send a team of bodyguards to protect Paul, while the environment minister Elena Espinosa said she would give Paul protection under conservation laws so that Germans do not eat him.

What is the conflict angle for your story pitch?

**5. Comedy**

Paul and his predictions have been spoofed by various segments of the media from across the world.

On the web, applications and websites exist that support and spoof Paul. A website called Paul Predicts went online soon after the 2010 World Cup.

Another popular application called Pulpo Paul went online soon after the World Cup. A song for Paul was made on YouTube and was used on CNN when they did a report on Paul.

The media loves humour. How can you find a comedy angle in your next story pitch to the media?

**6. Sex**

Like advertising, sex sells a story in the media.

The latest story on Paul is that he is going to be a father.

How can you make your story sexier to the media?

**7. Visual**

Visual media like TV loved the story because of the moving pictures.

The flags were critical to the packaging of the story.

**Matthew Fuller**, a senior aquarist believes it was more than luck and the flag shapes and colours may have influenced the outcome.

"[Octopuses] are the most intelligent of all the invertebrates and studies have shown they are able to distinguish shapes and patterns so maybe he’s able to recognise flags," he was quoted as saying.

**Vyacheslav Bisikov**, a Russian biologist, agrees that it is possible for an octopus to become attracted to a striped flag like the Spanish one.

How can you make your story visually appealing to the media?

(Source Wikipedia)

Please consider: Tuesday September 7th 2010, Subiaco Arts Centre, Perth, Australia
Writing and Pitching Winning Media Releases
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