Wednesday, March 17, 2010
PR F@#k Ups
A f@#k up is a f@#k up in any industry - this is not a dig at PRs...I am one after all, and one doesn't like to scheiben in one's own nest. But - where there's a f@#k up, there's a lesson to be learnt. Some of the standard FU's in PR world are typos in media releases, forgetting to BCC everyone, forgetting to invite someone important, drinking too much at your own event. Yawn. Let's get onto the juicy stuff:
A couple of years ago a PR friend called me for advice about something one of her staff had done. Let's call my friend Polly PR and the rogue staff member Wilma Whoopsadaisy. The scenario was thus: they ran an event where the client stated the bar tab was to stop at $3,000. At the end of the event, the venue manager came over with the bill, which was in excess of $5,500. Polly obviously flipped and asked why they hadn't stopped the tab when it had hit the pre-arranged limit of $3k. They stated they were never told this. When questioned, Wilma said that she had clearly communicated this, and even produced the email with this instruction at the office the following day. Upon viewing the email Polly was satisfied that her company and client were in the clear, and that the venue was liable for the excess spend.
However, the venue owner brought Polly over to his office to show her the email he had originally received. It had no mention of the bar limit, which was in the email Wilma had presented. Yes, Wilma had doctored the email and added that crucial one-liner. And obviously, the only answer was to fire her immediately.
After hearing this story I immediately called a meeting with all my staff to discuss. The most important lesson here, is the mistake was not a fireable offence at all - but the cover up most certainly was. I wanted my girls to understand we all fuck up...but you have to own it. Don't EVER lie or cover up, or you'll be shown the door sooner than you can say Seek.com.au.
The same goes for PRs who party on into the night after media events and call up the next morning for the day off coughing, or with a "stomach bug". Granted, this happens across every industry in the world but probably more in ours given that attending events is part of the job. I always said to my girls, you can't bullshit to someone who used to bullshit (I stopped in my early 20's I swear!). If you have a big night, own it. Back it up the next day. Being hungover will annoy me, but being hungover and lying about it is the first step towards the exit.
Slightly off-topic but I have to mention: Back in the Breakfast PR days one of my gorgeous non-drinking girls (yes there is one non-drinking PR in this town) once had a few drinks at one of our events and actually ended up in hospital (warning: this is what happens when you don't drink). To my utter disbelief she turned up to work at 8am. It was a Friday and I told her she could go home, no problem. She insisted on staying and I couldn't get her to change her mind, so at lunchtime I said - darling you've proved your point, you're a battler - but go home now! She again refused, and worked until 6pm. I thought she was insane but I had to admire her dedication to the job.
Back to topic: the deception of PRs who resign and then steal important databases from the business. It happens alot - a friend of mine even caught an intern sending crucial databases to her hotmail! Talk about effing up your career before it even gets started. The funny thing here is - over the years when my valued staff left, if they asked me for media databases I always allowed them to take them. I figured they'd worked on them for years and had earnt them. But if I caught an employee stealing them as she walked out the door, well...cue the sound of a thousand bridges burning here.
Another story is when a PR company hired a major international star to front a campaign for an equally major Australian brand. The Account Manager on the project was - let's call her Milly Muddled. Milly failed to read the celebrity's contract which stipulated no one-on-one interviews would be taking place, and promptly went ahead and organised one with every major media outlet. When her Director discovered the mistake, she asked Milly to cancel all the interviews. For some bizarre reason, most likely to save face with the media outlets, she didn't cancel them. Instead, when the star turned up, he was confronted by Milly asking him quietly (behind her boss's back) to do some interviews with the media patiently lining up behind. Needless to say, he was Not Happy Jan. Apparently she had figured he would just be OK with it on the day. Needless to say, she managed to piss off the star, her bosses, her client and the media all in one, totally avoidable, go. Silly Milly...
Another pearler happened just a couple of weeks ago, and must be seen to be believed - and heralded as a warning for all. This example is from one of my fave sites Mumbrella about a Sydney PR who got caught hiring actors to pretend to be real people for a story, then went on ACA himself later to confess his deception. Apologies go to the lovely Jothy for repeating it here...but it did air on ACA after all. Click here to watch the disaster unfurl: http://tinyurl.com/yhn82wa.