Public Relations – Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Another hapless ‘PR person’ achieves the dubious distinction of a mocking mention in the Evening Standard’s City Diary section. (Sadly, I can’t link to it, so you’ll simply have to accept my word on this one.)

The gist of the article was that said hapless ‘PR person’ put a call into the City desk, requesting that, when writing about Boots (the company, not the footwear), journalists should refer to the company as Alliance Boots – not just in the first para, but throughout the story. Suffice it to say – as I presume the request was couched in less-than-requestful terms – the story’s pay-off was simply “no – get a job”.

Now. We’ve all been there. Client fiercely protective of company, its reputation and its brand equity, and also – in cases where two entities have come together and combined their names – very mindful of the politics that go with it. Unfortunately, many clients also believe (and it’s not necessarily a bad thing – how else could they deal with the long hours and the sheer tedium of much of what they do?) that the company they steer, and they themselves (by default) are the most important things in the entire universe.

This, inevitably, leads them to believe that the outside world will dance to their tune and that they simply have to snap their fingers and their bidding will be done. In this case, the fingers they’re snapping take the form of a pin-stripe-suited associate at Finglebum Snide Travesti Partners, financial PR advisors of this parish. Who, mindful of their obscene retainer, pick up the ‘phone and make arses of themselves and the profession as a whole.

Journalists often have a good whinge around how the PR profession doesn’t understand their needs and their constraints. In fairness, PR people often have a whinge around how they’re treated by the media – and both parties have a point.

In this case, however, Finglebum Snide Travesti Partners let the side down. They are financial PR advisors. So advise. Tell the client that their company is getting decent coverage, and that the coverage is having the desired effect – communicating corporate messages to the required audience. Remind the client that their company is a strong one, and that the shareholders are unlikely to even notice that a journalist has not used the company’s full (proper) name. Advise the client that making an issue out of this may, actually, have an adverse effect.

Like clearly demonstrating to stakeholders that the company is run by anal-retentives, who quite clearly have too much time on their hands and therefore are not involved anywhere near enough in the frying-of-bigger-fish department.

(NB For the purpose of this post, I have made all sorts of assumptions. In the interests of providing balance, I accept that the fingers that were snapped may equally have taken the form of an in-house communications advisor. I am prepared to concede that Finglebum Snide Travesti Partners does not exist, although it probably should. I will go as far as to propose that no fingers may have been snapped at all and the ‘phone call made to the Standard’s City desk may have been an off-the-cuff, spur-of-the-moment decision by an inexperienced junior. All this being said, my point still stands.)

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