Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 11/4/05You know how paranoid big companies are about the press (yes, cuddly, friendly, harmless people like us). You know, if you work for a big company, how seemingly random decisions can come rattling down from unknown higher strata of management to completely muck up some carefully planned and perfectly working strategy.

Monday 11/4/05

You know how paranoid big companies are about the press (yes, cuddly, friendly, harmless people like us). You know, if you work for a big company, how seemingly random decisions can come rattling down from unknown higher strata of management to completely muck up some carefully planned and perfectly working strategy.

A story comes back from Andrew Donoghue on his trip to Norleans to see Hyperion flog its expensively complicated software to expensively complicated businesses using expensively complicated sentences. I do not intend to dwell on business analytics, for the very good reason that even to utter those words will darken the skies with brimstone-scented PRs with eyes the colour of smouldering coals clutching twenty-para press releases and non-refusable offers to meet Marketing Directors (EMEA) in hotels near Heathrow. That way madness lies.

But I will dwell on what happened at last year's Hyperion bash. It's a user conference, so there are users there. The press like talking to users because that's who we write for, and some of the highest-powered users are generally corralled into round tables and the like for semi-formal discussions. At last year's European conference, one of Hyperion's superusers was a guy from British Airways' IT department, who'd agreed to get up, sit down and give out for the press, as part of a panel in front of an audience of his peers.

All was going well and the various panel members were being herded into position when BA Bloke (let's call him Nigel) got a tingle on his mobile. It was BA's central PR office. "Whatever you do," Control commanded, "don't talk to the press." (this, strangely enough, really is a large part of a press relations office's job). "But I'm taking part in a public debate with them about, oh, now" said Nigel. "Don't tell them your name, Pyke," said Control, and hung up.

Which led to a most bizarre situation. Nigel was sitting on the panel, but responded to questions with a mute shrug and an apologetic smile. But what one PR can break another can fix: with a certain degree of aplomb, the Hyperion PR said "Well, I'm not press. You can talk to me, right?" "Of course", said Nigel. And so the Hyperion guy repeated everything the members of the press asked, word for word, and Nigel was delighted to give full and useful answers.

There's always a way. If you're lucky, it'll make someone who deserves it look ridiculous.

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