My herogram this week goes to Dave Smith, a member of Co-op’s in-house PR team, for his act of supreme bravery. What did he do to win such an accolade? Drum roll please... Dave took a call from a journalist. That’s right, not all superheroes wear capes!
Within minutes of my request for information about the Co-op’s work on modern slavery, Dave was on the phone. There was none of this ‘Let’s set up a call for two weeks’ tomorrow at 9am’, even though I promise I need no more than five minutes of their time (in fact, less than the time it takes to synchronise diaries). Nope. Dave simply dialled the number.
And guess what: he didn’t ask for a list of questions in advance. It was just like the old days. He briefed me on the subject. I asked questions. He answered. And, like the old pro that he is, Dave knew all the answers. He didn’t need to get back to me with further information or because he needed to refresh his knowledge of the facts.
And finally, he didn’t ask to view the article before it appeared. I know! I nearly fell off my chair too.
Admittedly, I have known Dave for more than 20 years, so perhaps he trusts me, but it is increasingly rare to find people working in public relations who don’t want to control a journalist’s output.
In the early days of my career, PRs would cheekily offer to ‘check’ my articles to ensure I didn’t ‘look silly’. I fell for it a couple of times, only to receive a ‘checked’ article that bore no resemblance to the one I had sent. As I got more experienced, the PRs wouldn’t dare. Now, it seems to be a standard request.
As for the list of questions, the request usually follows a detailed conversation whereby I explain what I am looking for. ‘That’s really interesting,’ says the PR. ‘Could you put that in writing with the questions, please?’
And the real problem with submitting questions? The answers! Ten questions can be distilled into a bland corporate statement that addresses none of the issues raised. It’s not fake news we should be worried about: it’s faux news.
Thanks Dave. It was nice doing business with you.