Here at Borkowski towers, we’ve just finished wrangling a media call to out a wonderful story.
Once upon a time, Jeremy Paxton, owner of our client the Lower Mill Estate, received an earnest letter from the son of a prospective buyer. The letter, sent by six year old Leo Park, enquired politely as to whether the new house being designed for he and his mother, Jade, would have a chimney large enough to accommodate the weighty personage of a certain Santa Claus come holiday season. We persuaded Lower Mill that, as a self build service, it was their duty to fulfil his request.
What’s more, all parties involved agreed to appear before the media to bring this heart-warming Christmas tale to the eyes of the world. We helped Lower Mill and the media to capture the moment at which the chimney was taken for a test run, with a cheery Santa lowered into the chimney via a crane. Lower Mill were prepared to go that extra mile to sell the house and raise a few smiles. As the old saying goes, you get the publicity you deserve.
From the Daily Mail and the Telegraph to Emirates 247, from CBC America to the Times of India via Radio 2, The One Show and plenty more along the way, the happening captured the imagination of reporters and audiences alike.
A dream story, but one which was an absolute nightmare to organise. Rarely have I appreciated to such an extent the value of a good client: Lower Mill uncomplainingly took on the herculean task of keeping Health and Safety happy.
Time is money, yet the estate’s building company were forced to cease activity for the day as their staff could not be allowed to work around such maverick goings on. Jeremy Paxton had to personally assume the title of health and safety executive for the day to keep the insurers happy, a role which involved him personally going down the chimney before Santa. Finding a crane company willing to lift humans was an odyssey in and of itself: turns out there’s only one in England, and they don’t operate without a fully qualified driver and banksman onsite at all times.
The struggle of operating PR within the new economy is mammoth both for agencies and for clients. In simpler times, I took an elephant for a walk, had motorbikes driven through traffic, dangled circus performers by their hair, wrapped houses and helicopters, staged custard pie fights and swordfighting workshops, built chocolate billboards and had a full-blown party in a fish and chip shop. For all of them I had the full support of the client- always a necessity- and yet rarely were we asked to justify ourselves as much as we were this month, dropping one Santa into his most natural of habitats.
Social media and all the other new age publicity concepts have a huge role to play, but you still haven’t achieved real traction until you’ve brought something into the physical world, an increasingly fraught process. When I’m called upon to judge the PRWeek awards and other industry gongs, I always take the time to think about the sheer effort, belief and trust that’s gone into making remarkable things come about.
As the great Jim Moran once said, “It’s a sad day for American capitalism when a man can’t fly a midget on a kite over Central Park.”. The health and safety anoraks are closing, but they haven’t won yet. With the right client and a lot of chutzpah, you can still do incredible things. Just be prepared for the hard work, the stress and the heady joy if it succeeds.