As everyone gets fatter over Christmas, the papers get correspondingly thinner. But blithe publicists and seasonally idle reporters should have a care.
A canny publication, keen to peddle some strange line to credulous punters, can cash in on the slack and set the entire media agenda.
I don’t want to point a finger at the Daily Mail for example, but this bastion of the nebulous demographic that is Middle England has suddenly become deeply exercised about Jamaicans, Yardie turf wars and cocaine-smuggling.
The Daily Mail is now the official drug capital of Fleet Street.
According to the Mail, one in 10 people entering the UK from Jamaica is a hired mule stuffed with 100 condoms of cocaine which is subsequently released onto the British market by laxative-toting Yardies.
This one in 10 figure has been stated as absolute hard fact – no conditionals, no questions asked.
As a result, it’s become big news, which has been taken up by the rest of the media with grateful alacrity.
Radio 4’s Today programme hauled in high commissioners and diplomats, and hapless publicists from Air Jamaica found their post-Christmas snooze interrupted by a nightmare PR meltdown from hell.
It’s a classic case of hijacking the agenda and driving a campaign so hard that the rest of the media has to jump on board.
The Daily Mail does it with particular finesse, for its very particular constituency.
Remember its valiant stand against rip-off petrol prices, and its campaign to topple the devil Evans who dared to smash Sir Cliff’s Millennium Prayer on his Breakfast Show, then banned the Rock Knight’s entire oeuvre from the Virgin airwaves?
Both campaigns started at the Mail, spread like wildfire across the rest of the media, and resulted in comprehensive victories for folk whose heads (but maybe not their houses) are firmly rooted in the shires.
So all students of PR – take note. A paper that sets out to control the media agenda can ambush an industry overnight. Especially under the cover of a comfortably lazy, post-Yuletide haze.
Suddenly, the silly season doesn’t seem so silly after all.