Tag Archives: PR

Trash Interviews Chris Hislop

8 Jul
Chris Hislop, image by Flavia Fraser-Cannon

Chris Hislop, image by Flavia Fraser-Cannon

The subject of Arts PR fascinates me and as a writer, I’ve seen my fair share of good and bad examples of it. But, for years, I’ve longed to interview an Arts PR and find out what it is that they do exactly, why they do it and find out what happens on the other side of the divide.

Luckily, Chris Hislop, a former critic and Arts PR, readily agreed to an interview when I approached him. Here is the interview published below in full, which covers star ratings, changing career from a critic to a PR and the monster that is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

You’ve been a playwright, actor, director, reviewer, editor and many other things within the theatre industry, what was it that made you make the leap from arts journalism to arts PR?

It’s the only thing I was any good at! No seriously – I’ve been working in theatre for over 10 years and I’ve struggled to find that job that a) I’m really good at and b) can sustain my life financially.

I was never a truly dab hand at the acting or directing, and whilst I loved reviewing and editing it wasn’t really sustainable. PR is the only place I have found both of those.

What was it that made you go into arts PR specifically? Was it a case of the right opportunity coming up at the right time? Or a case of fuck it, why not try this?

After losing a job as an editor, I was desperate – and a PR I knew needed a new assistant. It was a field I’d dabbled in before, so I thought it might be a good fit. There was an element of “fuck it, I need a job, I have a baby on the way”, but luckily it worked out very well – I didn’t expect it to go so well, but I think I’ve finally found a very natural calling for me in the theatre landscape.

You’ve worked within a PR agency and as an independent PR afterwards, how do these two worlds compare?

Chalk and cheese. Agency work didn’t suit me at all – while there’s an obvious excitement in working for huge clients (my first official event was at the Big Brother House!!), there’s a lot of focus on the brand and image of the PR company, on being seen to do things a certain way… it felt a lot like it was more about dressing up and going to posh events than about the art. More than a little bit snooty. And everything so corporate – branded giveaways, company colours, letterheads – all felt so fake.

However, I will say that I think that experience was very much coloured by the particular agency I was working for – I have since spent a lot of time with other PRs, some of which do agency work, and found that this is more about this particular PR than the industry as a whole. I would generalise that independents move more quickly, can be more interactive and flexible, and I much, MUCH prefer it.

Before you were a PR, what did you think PRs did all day, and how does this compare to your experience as a PR?

It’s almost exactly as you might expect. Lots and lots and lots of emails and phone calls, plenty of time in meetings, lots of visiting rehearsals and getting stuck in, and one or two press nights a week with copious drinking.

It’s fulfilled everything I expected it to – the only thing that surprised me was how lonely it can be when you’re spending days working without meetings or anything, and then it’s much like other work-from-home jobs – you, a laptop, a cup of tea, and that’s it.

In our email correspondence, you said a really interesting phrase, ‘The dark side of PR’, in regards to your experience when you started in the industry. Can you expand on that? Is this something that you feel is present within the whole industry? 

I think there’s a “dark side” to most industries – there’s good practices and bad practices everywhere. PR has a reputation as a “dark art” because it’s a bit mysterious – people don’t really know what a PR actually does, or whether it’s predominantly skill or a well-maintained little black book of contacts that you’re buying. It’s also incredibly hard to quantify, yet is always paid handsomely. It’s very easy to abuse all of those qualities.

And that’s where this “dark side” comes in – it’s very easy for bad practices to become a modus operandi. For example, I maintain a low price structure, and charge less than £1000 per project on principle – I don’t raise prices for companies that might be able to afford more, but I do reduce if companies can’t afford me but the work sounds good, I have time and they clearly need the help. I could easily hike prices up and do less work, but that’s not what this is about for me.

However, a PR can easily stiff a humongous cultural boondoggle with money coming out of their ears for large sums of money, and then try and charge the same to the lowly fringe/Off West End/touring show – and because people don’t know any better, they assume that’s the going rate and just pay it.

And that’s just one example – there are so many others: individual PRs hiring other PRs to form an agency but employing them as freelance to avoid minimum wage and benefits, bosses bad-mouthing their juniors to make themselves look good (because image is everything), blatant lying about work done because it’s so difficult to track, slagging off clients behind their backs, slagging off other PRs (even calling them “the enemy”), sending colleagues to meetings/events because you “can’t be bothered”… I’ve seen all of these and, when called on it, the reaction is always the same – “it’s what everyone else does”.

Which, thankfully, isn’t true – there are plenty of brilliant PRs out there. There are people who work tirelessly, who focus on the art and the criticism and the line where they engage, who talk to each other and are friendly, even polite when it comes to swapping clients… Nobody’s perfect all of the time, but luckily there are plenty of people out there separating the wheat from the chaff and then talking to each other (and their clients) about it.

So, long answer but yes – there is a “dark side”, but it gets uncovered. People come and go in this industry quickly.

What’s really funny is that PRs and journalists are so similar; PRs want reviews for their clients, journalists want to publish reviews in their publications, so we have a shared goal, in a way. But it seems that we can rub each other up the wrong way. Why do you think that is?

I think the goals are similar, but not same: a journalist wants to review/preview the hottest, most exciting new thing that’s going to get their publication bought/read, and the PR is trying to convince the journalist that their latest client IS that hottest, most exciting new thing – whether they actually are or not! I think there’s quite a widespread belief that PRs are quite disingenuous – whatever their client says, they parrot, regardless of whether it’s true or not. And I think this is partially true – all the PR has is what the client says about the show, or previous work they’ve experienced.

This is why I try not to give value judgements of a show I’m working on before I’ve seen it – and I always wait until press night to watch a full run for exactly that reason. If it’s shit, I can’t keep pitching it well!

I think journalists also like to think (and rightly so, in some cases) that they are cultural arbiters – they know what’s going to be good. So someone telling them what’s going to be good will always rub them up the wrong way – no need to explore or have spent 30 years doing this, some yahoo PR will send you everything you need to know to write a short news item and suddenly even the smallest, most inexperienced reporter can replicate your insight.

It’s no surprise that PR has flourished as journalism/media has become much more complicated and multi-platform – with such a scattered way of engaging with the press, do you need more members of the press, or more people to get your story to the last few journalists left?

I can’t go any further without asking this question, how did it feel to suddenly go from being the reviewer to being the promoter?

Very strange! I used lots of phrases like “switching sides” and “defecting” when I did because that’s how it felt – like I was betraying the profession and joining the other side. It feels less like us-and-them now – a couple of months was enough to see that, actually, the work is much the same, just who you’re writing your copy for is different. And I miss being as opinionated as I used to be 😉

Did you have any misgivings about making the transition from critic to PR?

Not really – it felt like a natural progression, once the dust had settled. At the time, I just needed to support my family – and the speed and comfort with which I took to it was more than enough to banish any lingering worries.

Journalism is changing and while theatre bloggers are becoming increasingly visible and respected, there seems to be another side of the coin, sites that pop up overnight, unscrupulous writers, people with little media training and no idea of press ethics, people with some kind of ‘agenda’, the list goes on. As a PR, how do you choose who to approach and why?

On the whole, I give everyone a fair try – in the end, the more coverage I secure for my client, the happier everyone is. But if it becomes clear that certain sites are operating under dubious circumstances, or just not run very professionally, they tend to fall off my list. It’s very hard to tell these days which is which – but normally working with the same editors most days will give you a good idea which one to work with and which ones to avoid.

I also think, though, that this is the way journalism is headed – opinionated single writers with little editorial control, so the above problems will just become more prevalent. It’s really a question of quality – if the writing’s good, it’s hard to be too judgemental!

What would you say the biggest challenge is when you’re trying to get those all-elusive critical bums on seats? 

The big national newspapers. They’re all collapsing in terms of sales, trying to plug that hole with an online presence that has to be free, thus brings in no revenue except advertising, and the inches spent on arts coverage is shrinking daily. Unless it’s the West End or very high-profile, getting a national in is very difficult indeed.

The bizarre thing is, it’s not as if a national review actually helps that much in bringing in an audience – local papers and industry-specifics like The Stage have a much better audience return, but that’s what the clients always want – nationals.

What’s the quickest way for a client to piss off their PR?

Assume they know better than you do. I’m not saying I always know better (FAR from it), but there are industry practices that come and go, and producers often blithely assume, even though they’ve hired someone who specialises in this area, that they know better. This is where PR being the “dark art” bites PRs in the ass.

Some fun examples – the producer emailing/phoning/tweeting at high-profile journalists who’ve already responded to a press release, hoping that a personal, not-at-all embarrassing prostration will help them get that elusive review; the producer rewriting the press release because “your copy was too sales-y” and then journalists contacting you asking what the copy means; the producer angrily telling you that the journalist’s review is “wrong” (because it’s bad) and asking you to call the editor… and that’s all this week!

In the same vein, what do some journalists do that really piss off PRs?

It’s hard to get pissed off with journos – they’re working for next to nothing, so everything they do is a huge boon. I find that journalists who’ve been around the block a bit can be a little tetchy about whether they’ll have to sit next to bloggers, but that’s more them bemoaning their failing industry than moaning at you.

I think it’s editorial inaccuracy that really grinds my gears – when a review is published with the wrong title, or the lead actor’s name is wrong. It drives the entire company mad and makes me feel pernickety when I contact them about it. No one wins.

Kate Copstick made a really good point on the Grouchy Club podcast recently when discussing reviews. To paraphrase, she feels that a lot of people think that they are entitled to a review at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Is this something that you’ve come across with a client, or a potential client, and if so, how do you deal with it?

All of the time! That isn’t just an Edinburgh problem at all… I think I’ll answer this with an example, as it really proves the point:

A recent pitch for work saw me being interviewed, and the client said that the main thing they wanted was a Guardian review. Everything else came second – The Guardian was all that she really wanted. I explained that we can certainly pitch for The Guardian, but in the meantime I would also focus on widespread blogger support, as they have a large shared audience, and local newspapers/TV etc. as that seems to do more for audiences. This client wouldn’t have it – it’s The Guardian or nothing! – so I didn’t get the contract.

That client then found another PR (who promised The Guardian, evidently). The show had little blogger support, little local support, but The Guardian did come – after months of pleading emails, tweets and general hand-wringing. And they hated it.

Did they hate it because they didn’t like the show, or because they were badgering into attending? Hard to say. But this producer’s sense of entitlement lost her a paying audience, the respect of her peers, and she paid a fortune for the second PR – for nothing.

Obviously, that’s an extreme example – but yes, feeling like you’re entitled to be seen because you’re making an effort is catastrophic. If you feel entitled to be reviewed, hire a PR – they’re going to stand you the best chance of being covered, but don’t think that you’re special. There’s over 3,500 shows this year – nobody’s THAT special.

If one of your clients was unhappy with a review of their work, what would you do to help them?

I’m a big believer in owning your bad reviews – unless you’re working in a nice big theatre with an excellent reputation, most of your audience is going to be friends, friends of friends and people who read reviews of Off West End/Fringe plays – that’s not a humongous cohort. You need to make sure that everyone in that grouping knows about your show, knows that it’s happening, and knows that you believe in it. That you care about it.

If The Stage turns around, gives it 1 star and says it’s awful – own it. Post it on social media. Make it a clarion call to all of your friends – “The Stage slagged off my play – what do you think?” That will get you more audience than you might think. Rally your supporters – and get them to rally their supporters to come down and support you. You’d be surprised how well that works 🙂

I have to ask; star ratings: yay or nay? 

Yay – it’s an easily digestible shorthand that is a huge boon to marketing (there’s on 140 characters in a tweet!). It’s reductive, but so is a review – it’s just LESS reductive. It’s an easy way to get one person’s opinion – worth your time or not? It also depends on your audience – if you’re writing short online reviews with lots of punk and panache – star rate. If you’re writing a 1000-2000 word think-piece that eruditely examines the piece – there’s no need.

 

In a similar way, how do you feel about the much-maligned three-star review? Are they good, or do they get unfairly maligned by performers, PRs, etc?

The problem with 3 stars is that it means absolutely nothing. Is the show good? Sort of. Bits work. It’s fine. It’s the kinda of endorsement that has completely the opposite effect – it makes the show sound boring. It didn’t get you passionate about it or angry with it. It didn’t engage or interest you enough to care.

But it does also have a place – there are plenty of shows that fall into that category. Shows that are perfectly grand, but there’s nothing really stirring about them. The problem isn’t that the 3 star review exists – it’s that 3 star shows exist.

What’s the biggest challenge that you’ve had to face as a PR, and how did you overcome it?

Going independent. Agency work may have had its problems, but it was secure. I told myself that I would accept a large pay cut and work with my partner at the time to make ends meet – but also set myself the goal of exceeding my previous employer in terms of clients and income by operating more fairly, engaging with artists directly and just being nicer and less back-biting.

Big ambitions, with the knowledge that I probably wouldn’t succeed at all of them – which I think is how one writes a vision statement! The tussling with the previous agency at first was fierce, but has now died down – and I’m certainly earning more than I did being an underpaid minion.

I feel like I’m doing everything I set out to do, and being rewarded for it fairly – but the challenge now is to keep that going!

At the moment, it seems like the only way for young people to get their foot in the door of the arts, be it PR, performing, writing, directing, etc, is to do unpaid or poorly-paid internships. How do you feel about this practice? 

Let’s talk brass tacks – there aren’t that many jobs in the arts. There never have been, and as budgets and grants reduce, they’ll become even fewer. An entirely generation was sold that going to university and studying the arts would get you a job in the arts – and it’s turned out not to be true. Actors are sold this in drama schools every day – that there’s plenty of work out there for them. It’s a lie.

So when you have an armada of young people who desperately want arts jobs but have no cash to employ them, what do you do? Employ them for cheap, or nothing at all – it’s all worked like clockwork, although I don’t think there’s a shadowy overlord anywhere cackling maniacally – I think it’s just down to some very bad education policies in the mid-80s.

But aside from that – it’s an unpleasant reality that many arts jobs are earned by virtue of spending some time working for free. And I think the real arbiter here needs to be the person accepting this kind of work in the first place.

If you’re working for free for a company that GENUINELY can’t afford you and you’re doing work that you value – I say go for it. If even one of those points doesn’t apply – stand your ground and demand something. Is someone getting richer from your free time? Is there no way to create a salary for you? Is the work even any good? You need to ask yourself all of these questions to even consider this kind of work – because if it isn’t, the people employing you aren’t people you want to be associated with in the first place.

I realise that this question might be a little odd, and I don’t mean it to sound disrespectful, but do you think theatre companies need to hire a PR company? Should they shell out big bucks for a big name agency? Go for someone like you? Or do their own thing?

Unequivocally. PR being handled by non-PRs is embarrassing to watch – the rules change every day, sites and editors come and go so quickly that, unless you’re spending every day at the coalface, you’re not going to know how to even begin to approach journalists.

Now, I don’t believe that bigger money means a better PR – it’s about equivalence. Is the PR you’re hiring working at the level that you do – similar theatres and companies? Frequently? Then they’ll know who to pitch your show to. Is the PR you’re hiring working with a lot of different people? How many at one time? Are the shows always the same? Is there going to be a problem with overlap? Then find someone who isn’t, or talk to the PR about it – they can’t be in two places at once or email the same journalist 6 different releases on the same day – who’s getting the short shrift?

As a side note – this is a particular problem in Edinburgh. I’m handling 8, but they’re all different – Shakespeare, modern, kids shows… But if your PR is handling 25 new writing shows, you’re gonna get lost.

Scout them out. Ask other producers/arts professionals you know for suggestions. You’re hiring this person – it should be someone you can get on with, someone who you can trust, and someone who looks right for the job. Don’t just go with the first person you meet – take your time, interview properly. How they make time for the interview and how amenable they are to making your life easier is a good indicator of how much of their time your worth.

Ask about how they work – ask about practices, who they would approach for your show and how. Of course, I’m in favour of PRs like myself – one-man bands generally are busier but won’t fob off your work on an underpaid assistant who only works 11-2 Wednesdays to Fridays.

Generally speaking, you should be hiring someone who understands you, how you work, and your plans. Someone who shares in your desire to see the show put up (send them a script – see how many of them actually read it!). Someone who you click with.

That being said – PRs are professional shysters. They specialise in getting on with people quickly and well, so look out for the common techniques: mirroring (where they imitate your body language); NLP (using language to make it sound like they’re brilliant and they understand); wearing sexy/revealing clothing (yes, seriously); not to mention outright flirting, accent mimicry and a thousand other little tricks. The fact that you get on immediately might just be how they operate. And this is said as someone who does all of these – well, not quite all (I look terrible in a push-up bra).

What advice would you have for anyone doing their own PR at the Fringe or elsewhere?

Oh heavens – I could go into endless dos and don’ts, but I think, if you can’t afford a PR, the main thing you need to consider is what it is about what you’re doing that’s interesting. And be brutal with yourself – challenge your beliefs that something may or may not be interesting.

Ask friends, both industry and non-industry – you want both to attend. Come up with one main argument – this is the main focus of your release. Then TELL EVERYONE. Contact everyone you know who is a journalist, knows a journalist, once shared a lift with a journalist – if you don’t tell anyone your show is on, why on Earth would they come and see it?

Full details of Chris Hislop’s clients, including the shows that he’s working with at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year, can be found at his website, www.chrishislop.com

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The Things an EdFringe PR Cannot Do and Other Observations by an Absent Critic

27 Aug
Image by Anne, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by Anne, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe finished yesterday, on Bank Holiday Monday, which meant, as Edinburgh regulars like John Fleming know, that all the shops in the city were open, but all the banks were closed. Welcome to Edinburgh, we do things differently in August.

This year, I also decided to do things differently by taking a year out from the Fringe after five consecutive years of reviewing at the festival. I popped a quick “I won’t be at the Fringe, sorry” notice on my Contact Me page, and cleared my diary for the entire month of August for the first time since 2009. It felt good.

Despite the much-needed break, my absence gave me a mild case of the fear of missing out, and so, I often sauntered through Bristo Square, Fringe Central, North Bridge et al, to see what was going on. On one of these trips, I met my friend Beryl for coffee. There are two things that you need to know about my dear Beryl: Beryl is not their real name but they are A Very Good Theatre PR.

“The thing is, ” began Beryl, after inhaling her colourful cardboard cup of frothy, overpriced coffee, “that a lot of the national critics have stayed away from the Fringe this year, which some clients are finding very hard to accept.”

“I have this one client; they have a great show, they’ve had consistently good reviews, but they want the national press in, and I can’t contact journalists who aren’t at the Fringe and have no intention of coming to the Fringe.”

The lack of well-established broadsheet publications at this year’s festival has not gone unnoticed, and some of the biggest names in theatre criticism, such as Ian Shuttleworth and Mark Shenton have chosen to stay at home.

“But, they just won’t listen.” Continued Beryl. “I’ve sent them emails carefully explaining why the National press aren’t coming to review them. If they hadn’t had any reviews then I would understands, but they’ve had over 10 reviewers so far, and that’s still not good enough. In fact, they’ve started demanding that I do things that I just can’t do, it’s not my job and it’s not how PR works.”

“What kind of things?” I asked, cradling my own freakishly expensive cup of joe, “I’m impressed that you’ve managed to get 10 separate publications to review their show, that’s incredible! There are people at this festival that dream of getting just one review!”

Beryl gazed miserably into her spent cup of corporate pick-me-up and explained: “Most of our contact has been via email, but the other day the producer phoned me, he’d just finished reading The Scotsman‘s review of the show and he didn’t like that they’d given it 3 stars.”

“You need to phone The Scotsman,” he said, “and get them to change it to 4 stars.”

“That isn’t how it works!” I cried.

“I know,” sighed Beryl, “I tried to explain How It Works, but he was having none of it. He also didn’t like it when he ‘discovered’ that the reviewer was – shock horror – a freelance journalist – not a staff writer and that they were – gasp – only 24.”

“I explained that the writer, despite the mortal sin of being younger than 25, was, in fact, a well-respected critic and an award-winning reviewer who writes for several national publications, but he still wasn’t happy.”

“And they haven’t paid me.”

I slammed my coffee down. “So, in a festival of 3,193 shows, performed in 299 venues, in a year when critics seem to be abandoning the Fringe, you and you alone, have managed to convince 10 critics to review this one show, and they haven’t paid you?”

Beryl nodded. “They paid a deposit but they were meant to pay the first instalment on the 1st of August, which they haven’t. I’ve been emailing the producer about it, and he’s ignored me.”

A few days later, I sent Beryl a text message to ask if the producer had coughed up the money.

“Nope.” She replied, “But I did get a phone call saying the lighting designer hadn’t been paid and the producer had given them my number…go figure.”

Beryl, like I said earlier, is A Very Good Theatre PR. But even Very Good Theatre PRs can’t control reviewers because reviewers have free will whether we like it or not.

You can control the show, you can control advertising and you can control yourself, but you cannot control the reviews.

There will always be things that your PR cannot do, so don’t demand the impossible and pay your staff, for God’s sake, because bad press travels fast before, during and after the Fringe.

The 25 Worst Things About Being an Arts Journalist Today

12 May
Image by Thomas Leuthard, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by Thomas Leuthard, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

1. Knowing that you could not exist without the arts, but the arts could exist without you on some level.

2. The realisation that you are only ever as good as our last piece, and that last article you wrote wasn’t so great.

3. Finding out what you will only ever be as good as another arts journalist’s last piece, and they really fucked up on that one.

4. The assumption that your words have killed dreams/careers/films/plays/bands stone dead.

5. The constant fear that your words have, in fact, ended the career of a promising director/actor/playwright/writer/musician.

6. The never-ending misunderstandings about what it is that you actually write about, because the umbrella term ‘the arts’ means different things to different people.

For example, if you were to mention that you’re an arts journalist in public, the chances are that somebody in the vicinity will demand your opinion on their latest painting or exhibition, which leads to an awkward conversation where you have to explain that you don’t actually review ‘visual art’, or whatever it is that they do, and that if they’d let you finish your bloody sentence then this awkward conversation would never have happened.

(Obviously, being polite, you will never say the last part of that sentence out loud, but you’ll be screaming it inside your head. Repeatedly. With lots of swear words.)

7. Knowing that you can’t always review the things that you want to, due to time, money and editorial pressure. This will sometimes lead to only the big films/plays/bands getting written about, which is neither right nor fair.

8. Downright cynicism. About everything. Ever.

9. Genuine hunger for the arts being replaced by genuine hunger for food, because you don’t have any money left after paying your bills, thanks to your meagre earnings.

10. The comments on our reviews/previews/articles. The horror. The horror.

11. Juggling your arts journalism work with another job. Sometimes two other jobs.

12. Exhaustion from having 2 or more jobs.

13. Frustration from having far too many jobs and not enough time to dedicate to arts journalism.

14. Knowing, that by not being able to spend enough time on your arts journalism work, that you are disappointing people, including yourself.

15. That nagging sensation that what you do isn’t actually journalism at all and is probably more like PR. An inkling that isn’t helped by this famous quote from George Orwell.

16. The realisation that you will never be able to write as well as George Orwell, and that he probably wouldn’t have liked you very much, anyway.

17. Finding out that a potential writing opportunity is unpaid, but will be great for your portfolio/exposure/experience, according to the editor, who gets paid to get people to work for free.

18. Knowing that your bank will not actually take payment in the form of exposure in lieu of actual cash, even though you assured them that said exposure could lead to paid work “…in the future”.

19. Seeing that other, inexperienced writers will take that unpaid work, thus enabling those companies that can and should pay their workers get away with not paying them.

20. Repeatedly and mysteriously dropping off press distribution lists, which means that you have to sign up to the same press distribution list every few months.

21. Missing exclusives and other important news because you are no longer on said press distribution list for some reason.

22. Being added to distribution lists that you most certainly didn’t sign up to, because someone got hold of your email address.

23. Receiving a badly written, poorly researched and completely unsuitable PR from a PR company, and knowing that the person that wrote it makes at least twice your yearly salary.

24. Your publication running out of budget.

25. Your publication running out of space, because they have to sell more ads now.

PR Post Mortem: Brew What Your Mama Gave Ya!

21 Mar
Image by The Smithsonian Institute, used under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by the Smithsonian Institution, used under a Creative Commons Licence

Nothing brings the Bad PRs out of the woodwork like a national celebration, and in the UK, the next big day of celebration is Mother’s Day, which takes place on Sunday, the 30th of March, unlike Mother’s Day in the US, which is in May.

The following PR appeared in my inbox late last week, and it was so bad that I felt I had no other option but to share it. As usual, I have stripped out any identifying information about the client, because it’s not their fault that their PR/media person has written and submitted such a poor PR. [UPDATE: After publishing this piece on Friday, a few people quite rightly argued that this PR could have been influenced by pressure from the client, which is true. I was more than a bit unfair in my original throw away comment about the PR/media person, and I perpetuated a misconception about PR companies. Sorry folks, I’ll be more open-minded next time.]

However, in some ways, I really hope somebody from this company can eventually appreciate that this PR is about as useful as a chocolate teapot to everyone involved.

Anyway, terrible, terrible puns aside, here is the worst PR I’ve received so far this year.

Are you going to give her an “old bag” on Mother’s Day? Or are you going to make her a nice cup of [REDACTED’S] tea? [What? Old bag? Her? Are you calling my mother an old bag?]

At last, an alternative to the messy tea bag ~ [REDACTED]~ [Hold up, did you use two tildes (~) there? That makes no sense, as a tilde means ‘similar to’ or approximately. You need to use a hyphen (-).] the new way to drink a richly flavoured and fragrant cup of Organic [Why the capital O?], Fair Trade [Fair trade, unless you’re talking about The Fairtrade Foundation, in which case it’s two words] tea. [Also, I’ve never had a problem with tea bags, they suit me just fine.]

You remove the [REDACTED] from its water and it does not drip ~ NO MESS. [NO NEED FOR CAPS LOCK, OR A TILDE]

It’s made from triple laminate food grade foil that goes in your recycling bin after use ~ NO WASTE. [I’ll be honest,  you’ve lost me, I don’t care.]

Unlike a tea bag it does not require squeezing nor wringing to extract the flavour ~ NO BURNT FINGERS. [Has anyone ever burnt their fingers on a teabag? You can use a spoon to remove the tea bag, you know. Have you been making tea with your hands all this time?]

Also, the [REDACTED] innovative design lets you use it to stir the tea ~ NO NEED FOR A TEASPOON. [But if you had a teaspoon in the first place, then you’d wouldn’t need REDACTED.  JUST BUY MORE TEASPOONS, PEOPLE.]

To make a cup of [REDACTED], you simply remove the [REDACTED] from its paper envelope, put it in a cup, add boiling water and gently stir the [REDACTED PRODUCT NAME] for a few minutes. Let it stand for a minute to further infuse, then use the [REDACTED PRODUCT NAME] to stir in your sugar and milk (if required when making english breakfast tea) [You mean English breakfast tea]. It will now be fully infused, so remove the [REDACTED PRODUCT NAME] and tap it once on the edge of the cup to discharge any excess water, then pop it in your waste recycling bin.

Each [REDACTED PRODUCT NAME] is packed at point of origin using premium grade, organic tea leaves, harvested, selected and processed in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) [Sri Lanka hasn’t been known as Ceylon since 1972. It’s called the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. What next, will you refer to Iran as Persia?] Fair Trade estates.

Eleven different blends are available, so there is a blend of tea to suit all tea lovers! [Praise be to tea.]

black teas: ~ english breakfast, earl grey and apple cinnamon [English breakfast tea. It has a capital E. While we’re at it, there should be a capital B at the start of this sentence.]

red teas: ~ jasmine lotus, strawberry and vanilla peach [Capital letter at the start of a sentence, please.]

green teas: ~ ginger, lemon grass and peppermint [Capital letter.]

herbal infusions: ~ fruit “goji” berry (caffeine free) and herbs n’ honey (caffeine free) [Oh, I give up.]

To obtain a 15% discount, use discount code MOTHER at [REDACTED]. [Nope]

Or click on this link: [Link removed, sucker]

[REDACTED PRODUCT NAME] can be found at several tea and coffee shops and are also being served at hotels, spas, restaurants, hair salons and beauticians. 32 piece packs of [REDACTED] and 3 sizes of Mahogany boxes (an office/ bar box, a restaurant/hotel box and a boardroom/hospitality box) full of assorted flavours, can be purchased from selected retail outlets or on-line, [Online is one word. ONE WORD.] from [REDACTED].

Thank you for taking the time to read this and please do not hesitate to contact me for more info or samples. [Nope. Oh, you’ve subscribed me to your email subscription service! I have just unsubscribed.]

Infuse your Passion! [I’ll infuse your head, mate.]

PR Numpty. [Yes, they did put a full stop after their own name, bless.]

What They Did Right:

  • Nothing, absolutely nothing

What They Did Wrong:

  • This is not a press release, as it doesn’t contain any news, the tone is highly promotional
  • If you just want to promote something, and have your words published verbatim, then don’t write a press release, BUY AN ADD.
  • Poor angle – “Mother’s Day? Oh, mums like tea, let’s push our client’s tea product. Hooray!”
  • No introduction or hello
  • Fairtrade/Fair Trade
  • English breakfast tea
  • On-line is not a word
  • SUDDENLY, TILDES, EVERYWHERE
  • Let’s be honest, this is a really boring email
  • General errors – no capital letter at the start of a sentence, etc
  • Referring to Sri Lanka as Ceylon – I think this was to use up words and try to look clever
  • Adding me to their mailing list
  • Emailing me in the first place

PR Post Mortem: A Mysterious Academy Award Prediction

28 Feb
Academy Awards Image by Doug Kline, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by Doug Kline, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Rubbish PRs seem to be a bit like buses; none for ages, and then three utter beauties come along at once. Some plucky agencies must have read my last PR Post Mortem post, where I admitted to missing their terrible PRs, and suddenly, I’ve had them in abundance in the last week.

With it officially being ‘Awards Season’ I received the following PR earlier this week. As always, I’ve removed all mention of the client and the PR company, in order to protect the innocent, and my second PR Post Mortem post this year, is all about predicting the winner of the Best Picture award at the 2014 Academy Awards, which will be broadcast on the 2nd of March. But, will they be proven right?

Hello there, [My name isn’t “There”, my name is Amy]

I thought you’d be interested [Oh, did you?] in this analysis from [REDACTED] that looks at the web surfing habits of people who have the same characteristics as the mysterious Oscar [You mean the Academy Awards, surely?] voters to determine who they are most likely to vote for:

4 Non-Contenders – Captain Phillips, Her, Philomena, Nebraska

2 Near-Misses – The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club

3 Challengers – American Hustle, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave to win Best Film Oscar [It’s called the Academy Award for Best Picture]

London, 26 February 2014 – The Oscars [Ahem, The Academy Awards] are voted for by a group of around 5,800 people that the Los Angeles Times discovered are much less diverse than the average film-going public [SHOCK HORROR!] – they’re older (86% are over 50), [OLDER?!] white (94%) [Oh God, no!] and male (77%) [Not surprising].

Based on its own data, [REDACTED] knows that this select group tend to have a love of sports cars, [Oh really?] high-end clothing [Is that so?] and exotic travel destinations [Wait, how are you getting this data?]. Thus, [REDACTED] can predict which film this group are likely to vote for based on the interests – analysed through web surfing habits – of thousands of people with these same demographics and interests, aka ‘lookalikes’. [Oh, I see. Actually, I don’t see. How did you get hold of these “web surfing habits”?]

Four Non-Contenders
There are nine films up for Best Picture but, based on lookalike modelling, [Say, what?] Captain Phillips, Her, Philomena, and Nebraska, have almost no chance of winning [Harsh]. Fans of Captain Phillips, for example, have high regard for films like Warm Bodies (a romantic zombie comedy) [Yes, I know what Warm Bodies is] and The Last Stand (a Schwarzenegger action film with Johnny Knoxville) [Yes, I know that Schwarzenegger makes action movies. Have you seen Commando? Now THAT is an action movie]. The fan base of Her are far too into science fiction [There’s no such thing as being ‘far too into Science Fiction’] and technology themes than would be acceptable for the average Oscar voter – nearly 20 times more likely. [Riiiiight. So, what you’re saying is the average “Oscar Voter” is a bit stupid? Yes?]

While differing tastes among Oscar [Academy Awards, dammit] voters counts these films out, social status puts paid to the other two. Philomena fans are the least affluent of the nominees, being 2.8 times more likely to earn less than £30,000 a year. [Yes, but, how do you know this?] Nebraska is the true art house favourite, with a young urban audience that is decidedly aspirational – in fact, roughly half spend considerably more than they earn. [But how do you know?]

Two Near-Misses
Although serious contenders The Wolf of Wall Street (too selfish) [Bankers, amirite?] and Dallas Buyers Club (too unselfish) [Or compassionate?] won’t win either.

Fans of The Wolf of Wall Street play to a stereotype distasteful to the typical Oscar [Academy Awards] voter. They are very wealthy – 9.6 times more likely to earn more than £150,000 a year, 6.8 times more likely to be investment bankers, and 4.6 times more likely to buy an imported Italian suit [Where are you getting these facts?]. They also have a high interest in celebrities like Heidi Klum (10.7 times), Megan Fox (8.4 times), and Britney Spears (8.3 times). [LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE]

At the other extreme, Dallas Buyers Club fans are a more caring type, one not really in sync with the stereotypes of Hollywood. They are the most likely to be expecting a child (11 times), to be dog owners (8.3 times), to be vegetarian (7.3 times) and to be primary school teachers (6.5 times). [So, Hollywood is full of childless cat owners who eat meat and don’t work in education? It must be Hell on Earth!]

The Three Challengers
The three remaining challengers – American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave – enjoy broad appeal, with none of the baggage of the other films. [I don’t know, 12 Years a Slave is a pretty heavy film, man]

A simplistic demographic approach would suggest a narrow win by American Hustle over 12 Years a Slave. As viewers get older or wealthier, they increasingly prefer these films – in complete contrast to Gravity – but Caucasians are most likely to be fans of American Hustle. [Those damn Caucasians. Did you ask any other demographic, like, you know, people of colour?]

However, people living in Los Angles [Uh, you mean Los Angeles?]– and in other major US cities – are more likely to be fans of 12 Years a Slave. American Hustle fans tend to be found in the next tier [The next tier? Like a cake?] of cities such as Philadelphia, Denver and Phoenix.

So what comes out on top when considering all the demographic, social and interests: socially well-established older white men living in Los Angeles [Yay! You spelt it right!] who (broadly speaking) have a love of sports cars, high-end clothing and exotic travel destinations? [Sounds like a Republican’s wet dream, if you ask me]

Taking all the factors into account shows that 12 Years a Slave will narrowly beat American Hustle to Best Picture. [Care to stand by that prediction, Mystic Meg?]

[There was a rather bland graph here. I’m not sharing it because it’s boring]

Unsubscribe [Oh, you bloody bastards!]

What They Did Right

  • PR was timely and about a subject that’s relevant to a cultural blog
  • They revealed, that yes, Hollywood is controlled by rich white men, just as we all thought

What They Did Wrong

  • Not using my name, my name isn’t “There”.
  • They didn’t use my name, yet they seem to think I’d be interested in their PR.
  • THE EVENT IS CALLED THE ACADEMY AWARDS.
  • IT’S CALLED THE ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST PICTURE – if you’re going to send out a PR about how good your data is, then you need to get some basic facts right.
  • Mysterious, mysterious data – what is this data? How did they get it?
  • I have no idea how they know some people’s “web surfing habits”.
  • Why should I write about data this mysterious?
  • Assuming I don’t know the plots and stars of Warm Bodies and The Last Stand.
  • Spelling error “Los Angles” – a pretty significant mistake.
  • It’s a VERY long PR.
  • It actually gets quite boring, and it could have been very interesting at some point.
  • Bland graph.
  • Signing me up to a third-party mailing list without my knowledge or permission means an instant unsubcribe request.

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
  • GIVING AWAY THE ENDING TO A FILM THAT I’VE NOT SEEN
  • 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

Seven Alternative Job Titles For Arts Journalists

11 Dec
Image by Gwendal_ used under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by Gwendal_ used under a Creative Commons Licence

Freelance Journalist

With publications haemorrhaging money like stuck pigs on a daily basis, they’ve been forced to lay off staff writers to save money. The downside of this is that lots of immensely talented writers have lost their job security.

The upside is that many publications have a freelance budget and will be looking for writers, people who are just like you and me, looking to pitch stories, meet new contacts and get paid for it.

The downside of that is you are competing with some of the industry’s best and most well-known journalists for work. Some publications are terrible at paying invoices on time and you won’t have a guaranteed income from month to month.

Good luck!

Content Creator

A bullshit job title created for journalists by non-journalists who are trying to sound relevant in an increasingly digital age.

Created by online marketer-types to make accepted industry terms like copywriter seem redundant and oh so retro. Journalists do not “create content” journalists write news stories, reviews, previews, interviews and other fun and important things.

See also: Web Content Guru, Web Editor, Word Architect and Senior Syntax Engineer (I might have made some of these titles up. Yes, I definitely did.)

Contributor

A more acceptable title for someone who contributes articles or other works to a site or newspaper. Falls between a staff writer (someone employed by the publication on a full-time basis) and a freelancer, who work on a more casual basis. (see Freelance Journalist for more information).

All in all, this isn’t the worst title on the list, it’s just that’s not very clear; are contributors writers, photographers, artists or editors? This could be one for the corrections and clarifications column.

Sub-Editor

If you’re a struggling journalist, one way to make a bit more money is to find work as a sub-editor for a publication, which means that you’ll be correcting everyone else’s grammatical, factual and ethical errors, and getting very little in return for it. Except money.

While sub-editors are needed badly, they don’t seem to get a lot of respect from their fellow hacks, perhaps because they can sometimes get a little too enthusiastic with the delete button. However, every paper needs a sub-editor, and a lot of journalism schools offer short courses in the subject, so, it could be a fun and enlightening way to make some extra money.

Dramaturg/Special Advisor

The most commonly asked question about the role of the dramaturg is usually, “What’s a dramaturg?” It may sound a bit like the theatrical illness outbreak du jour, “I can’t come to rehearsal today, I woke up feeling like a dramaturg this morning”,  the role of the dramaturg is essential to a theatre production.

Put simply, a dramaturg could be described as an in-house critic; a person that researches, provides cultural and historical insight into the text, liaises with the director, playwright, designer and other crew they are also sometimes as a translator, or a simple communicator who provides critical feedback on a piece while it’s in production. A dramaturg wears many hats, and does several different things depending on the company, the production and the venue, so a good dramaturg is knowledgeable, adaptable and ready for a challenge.

This means a dramaturg could be the perfect role for a theatre critic seeking a new direction in their career, or a those looking to diversify their skills. In film, or another art form, a critic could be a special advisor, which is a particularly useful role for arts journalists with specialist knowledge of a certain era in film, director or subject.

PR

The relationship between PRs and journalists can be strained at the best of times, but more and more journalists are turning to the so-called ‘Dark Side’ and relaunching themselves in the world of PR. From a business and financial point of view, this makes a lot of sense, the pay is a bit better, you can use your many journalism contacts, etc, I’ve often found that the best PRs are the ones that have worked as journalists.

While some might wrestle with the idea of not reporting the news, and instead pitching ideas that could become big news stories, for others it’s become a way of life. PR pays very well if you work for a good agency, and have a senior position, which would suit many cash-strapped journalists in our era of austerity.

Unemployed

I’ll see you in the dole queue.

PR Post Mortem: The Best of EdFringe – Part Two

22 Aug
Image by Manic Street Preacher, shared under a Creative Commons License

Image by Manic Street Preacher, shared under a Creative Commons License

As the Edinburgh Festival Fringe draws to a weary close, I’ve been busy not just reviewing, but also compiling the very best (read, worst, definitely the worst) of the EdFringe PRs that I’ve received over the last few weeks.

So, without further ado, here is PR Post Mortem: Best of EdFringe Part Two:

What’s My Name?

Hi guys! [Um, hello. That’s uh, that’s not my name.]

Just a little message letting you know our brand-new comedy, [Show Name] is currently in a run [In a run? Where’s it going? What charity is it running for?] at the Fringe until 24th August. We’d love it if you could come along and review us! [Exclamation Mark]

Seems a strange time to email, but I’ve only been switched on to your publication [And what publication is that?] and I really liked having a peruse through your site. [Say my publication’s name. Say MY name.]

Hope to see you there, if you can make it! [Why did you put an exclamation mark here?] Don’t hesitate to get in touch via phone or email.

Peas & lurve, [WHAT]

PR Numpty

Journalists Live in Scotland, Too

Hi Amy,

I just wanted to get in touch to see whether you still have reviewers at the Edinburgh Fringe this week? [Well, I live here, so yes, I do.]

I just wanted to make a couple of recommendations for review [I have a feeling these recommendations will be biased] if any of your team would be available, these are [Show Name and Show Name]

I’ve attached press releases for more info [Oh Goody] on these as well as a list of all the shows I am looking after in case the others should be of interest also.

Thanks and best wishes,

PR Numpty

Review Our Amazing Something

Hi Amy, [Hello!]

We are working on this amazing online piece which is taking place on Monday [Great, what is this piece?] throughout the day and I wondered if there is any way of putting a link to it on your site at all? [You want me to link to a project I know nothing about?] Or if one of your reviewers would be interested in spending the day with it? [Spending the day with it? What is it?]

[Website Link]

Hope all’s fine and dandy. [Well no, it’s not because this email tells me sweet Fanny Adams about your ‘amazing online piece’.]

Px [A kiss? Oh no, wait a minute, I remember this guy – it’s 22 attachments guy!]

Well, If You Say Please…

Pleasereview these shows … [Pleaseuse spaces]

Thank you! [Wait, that’s it?!]

Mx [Another kiss? Why I outta…]

[The show details were below the text of the email. No, thank you.]

Not An EdFringe PR, But…

Hi – I thought your readers may be interested…please let me know! [You know nothing about my readers]

As the Carnival approaches this week on August 25, I thought you might like to use this great interactive infographic [Oh no, not another infographic] from [Promotional Business Gift Website, yes, that’s right, a PROMOTIONAL BUSINESS GIFT WEBSITE]

Since its inception in 1966, the Notting Hill Carnival, held in August annually, has grown into the largest street festival in Europe. Did you know that a record 1.5 million people attended in 2012 and it brought nearly £100 million to the London/UK economy? [No, and I don’t care]

· History of the event: Was originally a ‘Caribbean Carnival’ aimed a smoothing over race relations following the Notting Hill race riots the previous year. [A ‘Caribbean Carnival’, eh?]

· Entertainment/Celebrity Elements: High-profile artists such as Eddie Grant, Wyclef Jean, Courtney Pine, Jamiroquai and Burning Spear have participated [Yes, I know what the Notting Hill Carnival is, thanks]

· Top Trends in Food: Caribbean street food is one of the highlights of Notting Hill Carnival dating back to its roots. Turkish, Chinese and Indian are also popular. [Am I eating the food? Will I get to eat the food? No? Well then, I don’t care]

· View the graphic: To learn more…[Nope. Nope. Nope.]

If you plan to use the infographic we would love to know and ask that you please attribute a link to [Promotional Business Gift Website, who clearly want a link more than anything else]

Thanks,

PR Numpty

What They Did Right

  • Two of the PRs used my name
  • That seems to be it

What They Did Wrong

  • Exclamation marks – why?
  • Not knowing that me and most of my writers are based in Edinburgh
  • Not using my name
  • Not using the publication’s name
  • Unclear/undefined projects
  • Kisses – we are NOT friends
  • Lack of spaces
  • Begging me to review shows
  • 22 attachment guy getting in touch again
  • INFOGRAPHIC

PR Post Mortem: The Best of EdFringe – Part One

4 Aug
EdFringe Flyerer 2010 Image By  used under a Creative Commons Licence

EdFringe Flyerer 2010 By <p&p> Image Used Under a Creative Commons License

Since the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (or as some people insist on calling it, ‘Edinburgh’, like nothing else happens in the city for the rest of the year, like it’s a more modern version of Brigadoon, without Vincent Minnelli’s somewhat skewed vision of Scotland) has come around again, it’s time to analyse the best, the worst and the unforgettable in Edinburgh fringe PRs.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the very first PR Post Mortem dedicated to the wonders of the EdFringe PR.

I would Like You to Interview My Penis

Hello [Hi!]

Talented character comedian my penis is available for interview if you are interested.  [Chronically underpaid journalist is unsure if this is a character? Or…an actual, like, wang?]

After years on the sketch circuit my penis [ACTUAL WANG ALERT! ACTUAL WANG ALERT!] is hoping to finally get his big break in my Edinburgh show Wrong Way and is looking for press opportunities. [So, this IS a pitch for an interview with a real penis]

I am e-mailing you on behalf of my penis [Oh dear] as he is very shy [Oh Gawd], so if you would like to speak with my penis [Wang!] it would have to be via e-mail. [I will not be ordered around by a penis]

Me and my penis look forward to hearing from you. [Can penises hear? What’s the plural or penis? Penai? Peen?]

HD

I Can Haz Attachments?

Hi Amy, [‘Sup?]

I hope you are well. [You’ve caught me at that awkward moment between TV series. Game of Thrones is finished, but Breaking Bad hasn’t started yet. What’s a girl to do?]

I just wanted to ensure that you had our press releases for this year’s shows. [EdFringe shows? EIF shows?]

Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you need anything further at all. [That sounds fair enough, I’ll go read your sign off]

px [A kiss? On the first email?]

[Oh, there’s a couple of attachments.]

[That’s more than a couple of attachments.]

[There’s more than 10 attachments]

[There are 22 separate attachments.]

[Why would you do that? What have I done to deserve this?]

Short and Sweet

Hello, [Howdy]

I have attached a ‘media release’, I hope you find it interesting. [Um, thank you?]

Thank you [You’re welcome, but who are you?]

Geoff W [Ah, Geoff, that’s great. What can I help…is that it?]

 

I Know You, I Know I Know You

Dear Amy, [Hello there!]

Our paths have crossed at the Fringe before [Nope] (I think we may first have been introduced by REDACTED?) [We were not introduced by REDACTED because I have never actually met REDACTED, so definitely nope]. Are you covering the festival this year? [I live here, so yes.]

I am returning this year with three really strong shows [Super]– all from acclaimed companies (two of which are returning to Edinburgh following hugely well received recent shows) and with interesting concepts. I’d love to know if you would be interested in previewing these in some way. [Ok]

[This section redacted to protect the shows, which do sound really strong, I agree.]

Do let me know if there is something we can do together, if you’d like to book in to review, or if you need any more information. [I’ve got all I need, thanks.]

Best wishes,
PR Person

[After I got this email, I found out that this PR person had sent the exact same email to an editor I know. However, this editor was not at the Fringe last year, and had also never met REDACTED. Sneaky.]

Perhaps the Politest PR Yet

Hi Amy, [Hi!]

Hope I’m not breaking protocol by sending this through [Protocol? What’s that?] but we would like to invite you to see and review my company’s show at this years Fringe. [That’s very polite, thank you]

Thank you in advance for your time: [Girly squeal!] please see below for our press release for our devised production [REDACTED] We are performing every day and we would be delighted if you could make it. [Since you have been so polite, I would be delighted if you would have me]

Please do get in touch with any info, image or interview requests. We love to chat, It would be great to hear from you. [Another girly squeal, you know why? Because it’s NICE TO BE NICE]

All the best,

Nice PR Person

Once, Twice, Three Times a PR

Dear Amy [Hello!]

It’s a pleasure [Give yourself over to absolute, pleasure] to send you the press release for my 2013 Edinburgh Fringe show, [REDACTED].

[Short and sweet, but that’s alright]

Best wishes

Person Doing Their Own PR

Dear Amy [Hello again]

I have pleasure [How much pleasure are you getting from this?] in sending you the press release for my Edinburgh Fringe 2013 solo show, [REDACTED].

[This was the same PR just with a different show name. I feel dirty.]

Best wishes

Person Doing Their Own PR

Dear Amy [Oh, it’s you]

I’m delighted [You’re delighted this time are you? Great!] to send you the press release about my new album launch and Edinburgh Fringe crowd funding project. [Well, at least it’s not about another show]

Best wishes

Person Doing Their Own PR

What They Did Right

  • Most PRs began with my name
  • One of the PRs was very, very polite
  • The Penis PR is just unforgettable

What They Did Wrong

  • Not giving me enough information in the email – this is the one chance you get to personalise your introduction and give the reviewer and idea of who you are, what you are offering, and why the journalist should care
  • Sending the exact same PR twice, followed by another, very similar, PR. It’s pretty lazy, and not very pleasurable either.
  • Why 22 attachments? WHY?

Post Mortem Recommendations

  • Be nice
  • Have an unusual/memorable angle to your pitch
  • Don’t be shy
  • Take the time to write a different email for each show or event
  • DON’T ADD 22 SEPARATE ATTACHMENTS TO YOUR EMAIL

PR Post Mortem: I Don’t Care About Your Discographic

30 Jun
Disco Image by PTGreg, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Disco Image by PTGreg, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

One of the main gripes I have with bad PR is that some PR companies and PR officers don’t research the publications that they contact, and so, I often get press releases that aren’t in my publication’s remit. Sadly, this is something that happens quite often, and it annoys a lot of journalists. Welcome to PR Post Mortem; a new feature on The Taylor Trash, where I unlock the archives and examine the cold, dead cadaver of bad PR pitches past.

This press release was sent to my TPR account (and remember, we only review theatre) by a PR company specialising in promoting film.

Hi Amy [Hello!]

Hope all’s well? [I can’t complain, I’ve had a long day at work, I’m watching season five of Sons of Anarchy at the moment, how are you?]

Festival season has arrived [Oh no, please don’t let this be about a music festival] – Glastonbury is upon us! – [I never go to music festivals] and disco is making a smash return this summer. [ Making a smash return? Disco never died to us fans, PR lady] Leading the way with his iconic brand of dance and funk is one man hit factory, Nile Rodgers. [Oh yes, I’ve heard of Nile Rogers, he’s one of the most talented musicians/composers/producers/Guitarists around, but why have you made his name bold?]

Before Nile is joined by the rest of his band, Chic, on the West Holts Stage at Glastonbury on Friday night, [I won’t be at Glastonbury] Warner have produced an exceptionally informative Discographic, [You mean an infographic?] covering the copious members of pop royalty Rodgers has worked with including Madonna, Davie Bowie, Michael Jackson, Will Smith and most recently Daft Punk! [Why is this in bold as well? I know who these celebrities are. Is it something to do with getting lucky? Bad joke, sorry PR lady, but I can read, you know.]

Brush up on your Chic knowledge and take a look at the graphic by following the link below: [I know a lot about this band already, because I love disco, so, no.]

The Chic Organisation: Up All Night is out to own on July 1st 2013 and can be pre-ordered here: [Not linking to this, sorry]

For any questions or if you would be interested in receiving a review disc let me know. [So, this isn’t an invitation to review? You just wanted to send me your shiny ‘discographic’? I feel dirty]

All the best,

PR Numpty

I love disco, I love Chic, I love Nile Rodgers, but I hated this approach. However, the best part of this PR was hidden in the footer, underneath the signature, where I found this little snippet of joy.

This message was sent to Amy. If you no longer wish to receive email from us, please follow the link below or copy and paste the entire link into your browser. [Link]

This PR company not only sent me a PR that was irrelevant to my publication, but they also opted my email address into their email distribution service, which I never agreed to, which I then had to opt out of in order to avoid additional pointless press releases.

However, this is not the end of the story; a few days after I received this email via this mail distribution service, I received a similar email directly from the PR company which I also had to unsubscribe from in order to opt out of further correspondence. Oh, the joy.

What They Did Right

  • They began with a greeting
  • They used my name
  • They kept their pleasantries short

What They Did Wrong

  • They pitched a theatre publication a film/DVD story
  • They included a pointless ‘Discographic’
  • They assumed that I didn’t know about Chic/Nile Rodgers – I do, which they didn’t realise, but they assumed that I (and other journalists they contacted) were ignorant of the joys of D.I.S.C.O.
  • They signed me up to a third-party mailing list without my permission
  • They subscribed my email address to their internal mailing list without my permission

Post Mortem Recommendations

  • Pitch the right publication
  • Research the journalist
  • Just because infographics are ‘in’ doesn’t mean you should include one in your pitch
  • Don’t subscribe email addresses to a mailing system. Ever.
  • Ah, freak out!
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