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The Interview That Wasn’t

1 Mar

Image by Bill Couch, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Some time ago, a PR I hadn’t worked with before pitched me an interview with their client, and I agreed. The client fitted in to a piece I was planning, and the show looked like it would be good fun.

The interview never happened.

Here is why.

The interview was scheduled for a Friday afternoon. The client was based in the US, the PR in London, and I’m in Edinburgh. This is not unusual, this sometimes makes it more interesting, and for these types of interviews, I’ve found that Skype works best.

A week before the interview, I when I was on my way to meet a potential writer for a coffee and an informal interview, the PR emailed me.

The client mistakenly thought they had offered to speak to you today not next Friday.

They are free NOW but not next Friday.

Any chance you can speak to them now?

They’re on: [US Number]

Unfortunately, when I got this email, I was on a bus, on my way to meet a writer, with no recording equipment to hand. Besides, I did not have the budget to phone a US number, it would cost more than the fee I’d be paid for the interview.

I emailed back a sympathetic no, explained I was busy, and asked if we could arrange an alternative date. The PR agreed. And the following week we agreed to do the interview on the Thursday afternoon.

A few days before the interview, I email the PR to ask if we’re still ok for that date and to ask if the interview can be done by Skype. This is what is usually offered when the client is in another city and country, and more importantly, it’s free.

The PR doesn’t email back until the day of the interview, three days later.

Hi Amy, I hope the interview goes well today. The Client doesn’t have Skype, but here is their number. [US Number]

It’s the same number as before.

I emailed back and explained that my fee for the interview would not cover the cost of calling the US. Would an email interview be a suitable compromise?

No. I’ll set up a conference call. 

They send over the dial-in information. I thank them, and say I’ll email once the interview, which is scheduled for 14:30, finishes.

I prepare, and dial in just before 14:30, and I wait. The waiting is not unusual, I don’t think I’ve ever done an interview like this that’s started on time, even when the client has my number and calls me themselves.

I wait, and watch the clock on my laptop whenever I look up from my notes,




When I worked in online marketing, I can remember the guys in my office advising me to never wait too long for a client to dial in on a conference call. I think they’d wait for around ten minutes and then hang up. I once waited 20 and they said to just hang up and get on with my work. The client would reschedule.

But, this is a little bit different. I’ve heard of journalists being made to wait hours for their interviewee. Not that I have hours to wait, it’s I’m feeling anxious now.

Finally, I email the PR:


Hi, is the client still ok to chat? I’m on the line, and they haven’t dialled in yet.


Can you just call their number and I’ll pay for the call by BACS transfer?

I hang up.

I read the email a few times.

Can you just call their number and I’ll pay for the call by BACS transfer?

Can you just call their number and I’ll pay for the call by BACS transfer?

Can you just


their number

I’ll pay you

by BACS transfer?

The offer is a solution to a problem, but it’s problematic. First of all, the admin; doing the call, getting the bill, sending an invoice.

Secondly, and most importantly, they have offered to pay for the cost of an international phone call because I said my interview fee wouldn’t cover it. But accepting the money makes me feel uncomfortable. Questions run through my head as I weigh up my options:

If people found out I’d taken money from a PR company for the cost of an international phone call, all they’ll hear is:


(for the cost of an international phone call. )

What if I accept the money and totally destroy my reputation in the process?

What if I accept the money and they then use against me?

What if they emailed me again with another client and said something like:

Oh, hey. Remember that time I helped you out with the phone call? Well, I’ve got someone else I want you to interview.

Yes, it’s dramatic but, it could happen, and I don’t really know what to do and if I take th-

It’s funny, interrupts a little voice in my head. That’s the second time they’ve tried to get you to phone the client with no warning.

I get in touch with my editor.

She listens to the whole story, from the payment offer, to the US phone number, to the changing of the interview time and asks me a very important question that I hadn’t considered.

“Do you still want to do the interview?”


“Then don’t do it. The onus is on them to make the client available for interview.”

I email the PR, and tell them that this arrangement won’t work for me or the magazine.

They email back almost instantly.

Please call me.

I don’t.

My editor messages me.

“The PR has just phoned the office.”

Minutes later, another email arrives.

I’m waiting for the editor to phone me to sort out. 

I message her.

No, I won’t be, she says.

I look at his email again. There’s a kind of smugness to it.

I’m waiting for the editor to phone me to sort out. 

The calm little voice pipes up again.

It’s almost as if he phoned the editor to try and force you to do the interview. Just like he tried to get you to phone the client’s US number on short notice.

I log out of my email and get on with other things. He emails again later that evening.

Hi Amy,

Sorry about today

How about you send a Q&A and I’ll get it back to you ASAP

Suddenly, that email interview I’d suggested a few hours ago was a suitable compromise after all? I forward it to my editor.

“How about no?”

The next morning, another email is waiting for me.

Hi Amy

I am speaking to the client tomorrow before they go away for a 2-week holiday so can get your answers done if you send me a Q&A today

Oh look, says the familiar small voice, it’s another time dependent demand, because all the other demands and the attempt to get you in trouble with your editor didn’t work.

And this is the first time that this holiday has been mentioned, too.

I don’t reply.

That evening, I go to an event and when I get there, I bump into my editor.

“Oh,” said my editor, “That PR phoned the office today and said you’d agreed to do an email interview.”

I tell her I hadn’t.

“We knew it was bullshit.”

I try to laugh it off, but I’m angry.

I’m still angry.


PR Post Mortem: Valentine’s Day Spoiler Alert Edition

13 Feb
Image by ButterflySha, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by ButterflySha, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

There are some things that I don’t miss from my years as an editor;  the responsibility, not having the time to write, and having to deal with the time wasters that would contact me for any number of pointless reasons.

However, recently I realised that I did miss something about being an editor: the many bad PRs I used to receive. I still get them from time to time, and I’ve had a few weak ones recently, but the main problem with these PRs is that they are poorly targeted; after all, why would you contact an arts journalist about a financial news story?

But finally, I have one. I finally have a PR that can be featured on the PR Post Mortem. I’ve removed as much as I can about the product, because it’s not the company’s fault that their PR company didn’t use the best approach. So without further disruption, here is the first PR Post Mortem of 2014, and it’s all about Valentine’s Day, baby.

Dear Amy, [Yo, yo!]

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, [REDACTED] has released the first ever [REDACTED] of Truman Capote’s classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s [The name of a film or a TV Show goes in italic typeface, not bold. It’s funny, because I’ve actually never seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s], narrated by the inimitable Michael C. Hall, best known for his award-winning roles in hit US dramas Dexter [Italic?] and Six Feet Under [Ou est italic?]. I wondered whether you would be interested in featuring this exclusive [REDACTED] in your Valentine’s Day coverage. [What is Valentine’s Day coverage? Why would I cover Valentine’s Day?]

Hall, who has won two Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Golden Globe Award for his on screen [It’s on-screen] appearances, gives an exceptional performance in this one-off special narration, far-removed [ahem, it’s far removed] from the gritty roles he is best known for. [Yes, I know who he is, thanks]

Telling the story of Capote’s most beloved heroine, Holly Golightly, Hall’s dulcet tones [Why did you make these words bold?] and honeyed vocal abilities [And this? This doesn’t even make sense] are enough to make any modern Golightly swoon. But as this unrequited love story unfolds, it is Hall’s absorbing storytelling ability [Again with the bold letters, do you think I can’t read?] and gift for expressing each characters emotional vulnerability, that are guaranteed to weaken knees across the nation. [Oh really? I’m Scottish, love, we never go weak at the knees]

Available to download from today, the [Product] is a unique Valentine’s gift idea [Please stop making some words bold, it’s really quite insulting] for a sweetheart or even a curmudgeon [CENSORED DUE TO UNFORGIVABLE SPOILER ALERT, SEE BELOW].

[I decided to take out the final sentence of the above paragraph because the PR gave away the ending of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Now, I know it’s a classic film, and millions of people have seen it, and millions of people have read the book, or both, but I haven’t. I’ve never seen or read Breakfast at Tiffany’s. While this PR Numpty was not to know that, I’m genuinely irritated that they’ve revealed THE ENDING TO THE FILM. Would a critic give away the ending? No, so why would a PR? I’ve removed this sentence because I won’t have the film ruined for anyone else. Thanks, PR Numpty.]

This celebrity [IT NEVER ENDS!] offering is one of many exclusives produced and published by Audible. Other famous on-screen lotharios [URGH] who have lent their voices to [REDACTED] include Elijah Wood, Benedict Cumberbatch, Johnny Depp, Damian Lewis, Colin Firth, Matt Dillon, and Samuel L. Jackson. [I really don’t care.]

[Wait, Cumberbatch, you say?]

If you would like to feature [GAH! Tell me more about Cumberbatch!] this exclusive [REDACTED PRODUCT NAME] of Breakfast at Tiffany’s [Would it kill you to use italic typeface for the title of a film?] in your Valentine’s coverage [There is no such thing as Valentine’s coverage on The Taylor Trash], would like to receive a free version for review [NOPE, NOPE NOPE], or to find out more about reviewing [REDACTED’S] latest releases, please do not hesitate to get in touch. [Oh, I’m not hesitating, I won’t be in touch. Ever. YOU RUINED THE ENDING OF BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S FOR ME.]

Many thanks,

PR Numpty

What They Did Right

  • They addressed me by my first name and spelt it correctly
  • Thankfully, they didn’t try to link this story to the recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Truman Capote in the 2005 film, Capote. Some PRs would.
  • They mentioned Cumberbatch

What They Did Wrong

  • They pitched me an irrelevant product,
  • “Valentine’s Day Coverage”, my arse
  • Any Mention of Valentine’s Day in general
  • So many unnecessary, patronising and just plain stupid words in bold typeface
  • Not using the italic typeface for film and TV show titles
  • Not enough Cumberbatch

PR Post Mortem Recommendations

  • Less bold
  • More italic
  • Only the worst type of person gives away the ending to a film
  • Never email me about Valentine’s Day again
  • Cumberbatch, please


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