Wednesday, November 03, 2004

PR, tolerable!

I’m pleased to report that I may have stumbled on the recipe for a Tolerable PR Person. I know I’ve already blogged obsessively about these creatures, but this is a view from the other end of the bridge – for I actually spent some decent time in the company of one today. This was, again, during a car drive along Gurgaon’s tortuous roads (which incidentally I’ve also blogged on before, meaning there might soon be nothing left for me to blog on). To my surprise, I didn’t have to reach for an oxygen mask once during this trip. So, based on above experience, here are some of the things PR people should do if they wish to become tolerable, at least to me:

Don’t genuflect; treat us as equals. ‘Us’ meaning journalists. Shake our hands, look us in the eye the way Doc Holliday might have regarded ol’ man Clanton at the OK Corral. Was it Churchill who said "Cats look down on us and dogs look up at us but pigs treat us as equals"? Well, I love cats, like pigs and just about tolerate dogs.

Don’t indulge a journo’s high-handedness (or what might appear to be high-handedness): while we were travelling, conversationally I expressed doubt about a claim the company had made in its press release. Now this sort of observation is usually the cue for PR people to throw themselves to their deaths from speeding vehicles, or at the least blubber senselessly about how they have poor families to support and so we should write a favourable story. This woman did neither: she just clucked her tongue, raised her eyebrows in exasperation, looked off-handedly out the window and remarked on what liars corporates are. Paradoxically, this had the effect of putting me at ease. I felt like I was talking to a real person.

Stop spamming needlessly. Even when you’re not interacting with them for a story, some PR people will send you messages on Mondays and Tuesdays saying "Hi! Hope you have a good week!", and then on Thursdays and Fridays saying "Hi! Hope you’ve had a good week, and have a good weekend!" Wednesdays are kind of lonesome. But it gets much worse when you are working with them. They’ll send you a message after the meeting, saying "Thanks for your valuable time. The client much appreciates" and if you don’t respond, they’ll call 10 minutes later asking if you got their message of thanks.

Be Bengali: this might sound facetious, but it’s a very effective trick. Unfortunately, Bongs are usually too intelligent to work in public relations – or, if not, at least intelligent enough to know that they shouldn’t work in public relations. My fellow traveller yesterday was an exception to the rule, and so it was a shubho trip.

Shake well, serve at room temperature.