Archive for November 23rd, 2006

The charming face of public relations

Speed-reading the daily papers this morning, I noticed that an old quote I’d made about the Paul McCartney v Heather Mills divorce battle was resurrected
as a nib inThe Times.

I originally made the comment on BBC Radio Five News and Sky News when the media was feverishly speculating about the leaked court papers.Considering my angst about quotes being filleted and then used at a later date by l those who want to take me down a peg or two, (OK, so I deserve it on occasions), I thought I would reiterate the point.

Weeks ago I came out to say that in the PR war I thought it was very astute move by Heather’s llegal team, Mishcon de Reya, to bring the old corporate war horse, Shimon Cohen to the party. I have to confess I know the veteran Cohen: I met him years ago when he worked on the Andrew Lloyd Webber (whoops, Lord Lloyd Webber) account for Tim Bell (whoops, Lord Bell). I had offered an opinion about ALW in a magazine article and he was quick to snail mail (yup it was that long ago, people still used the post to make a point) me his thoughts on my position.

We agreed to have coffee to settle the issue and we parted as professional pals. He made his client’spoint and I saw the other side of the issue. I recognised how difficult his job was, working at the time for the Lloyd Webber organisation,which he handled with charm and grace. Some of the great PR operators, particularly in Tinsletown, have a magnificent way of saying “no” – or being firm -without slapping their proverbial dicks on the table.

It’s a skill that isn’t easily taught. I believe the elegance of media relations is being lost and is being replaced by a hardcore paranoia driven by a belief that the news and feature media is the enemy. I advocate that the trade needs to spend less time pinging one-line emails and more in building meaningful relationships with the press – the people that so many of those starting in PR industry seem to dread.

The Blogosphere and the digital ghetto grow minute by minute, and are a fabulous outlet for instant opinion. But even in the age of 24/7 wi-fi and hand-held broadband access, you can’t beat good old-fashioned human contact

Branson loves Wii

Launching the VirginMegastore’s new uber-stellar space in Manchester on Wednesday, I was overwhelmed by Richard Branson. I have long been a big fan of his flair as a publicist and I scribbled a feature in Campaign some time ago eulogising his brio.


Watching him at close quarters, tirelessly working his butt off, never showing any signs of flagging, I wondered how many chairmen of corporations would have met their responsibilities with the same amount of good humour and vigour.

I watched him spend his day giving interviews and charming the pants off some rather cynical business hacks. It’s never easy repeating the same things,yet somehow RB has an inbuilt skill in giving the same sound-bite a fresh edge.
Equally impressive was the real connection he had had with his staff. Branson turned up to the “after-show” party for his employees and spent hours mingling with them, playing computer games and engaging with their banter. Incidentally he seems to be huge fan of the new Wii (pronounced as the pronoun “we”, IPA: /wiː/) Nintendo’s seventh-generation video game console. However is doing the PR I have the photographic evidence. It was clear that he genuinely enjoys their company.

I got a real sense of his passion for his business in all its forms. His success is not only due to his skill at putting the art of publicity at the core of his brand – it’s backed up by his authenticity. And that gives the Virgin empire a heart and a soul.