Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 16/11/2004It's days like today that make you glad you're not a PR person. Actually, that's most days… but the worst sort of PR hell is caused by clients attempting to aggressively manage a story from a long way away.

Tuesday 16/11/2004
It's days like today that make you glad you're not a PR person. Actually, that's most days… but the worst sort of PR hell is caused by clients attempting to aggressively manage a story from a long way away. This time, it's all the fault of Scoop Wearden, who will insist on taking notes when people say things and subsequently writing them up.

In this case, it's iPass who came up with the story. The company is a Wi-Fi aggregator: buy an account with them and you can connect to hot spots from lots of different companies. At least, that's the way it works in America -- Scoop was having a conversation with a couple of iPassers and pointed out that European coverage was conspicuously lacking. "Why not Openzone?" pondered Wearden.

"Oh, we want to buy -- but they have to want to sell," said one of the guys. A little later, Graeme found himself in conversation with the CEO of BT Wireless Broadband who said: "We'll get round to them, but we're sorting out the big guys first." So far, so good -- it's BT dragging its feet, thought Wearden, and wrote it up.

Oh dear. BT gets shirty with iPass, who it thinks went whinging to the press in some sort of cack-handed attempt to hurry things along. iPass, which didn't mean it like that at all, is therefore furious with us, and the hapless PR company is thrown into the arena to try and get the story pulled. Graeme is sympathetic, but plays the 'If you tell us what we got wrong, we'll be happy to fix it' card. Apart from a tiny issue of how one of the parties was described there wasn't anything factually incorrect, so the story stood. Sorry, Annabel.

At which point, the head honcho in the US gets stuck in and emails Graeme. It is late at night in the UK, but our man is online and gets it. It is not in the nature of the Diary to pull its punches, but having seen the exchange of emails in question all I'm prepared to say is that young Scoop's assertiveness training has worked. Also, he really shouldn't send contentious emails after watching England play an atrocious game of football.

This morning, it's left to the PR to patch things up. Which she does with remarkable skill -- bridges are rebuilt, kind words exchanged and promises made of better communication in the future. The moral of the story is, American companies: if you hire a local PR, then listen to what they tell you.

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