It was the stunt of the week – the unknown pop singer heading for the top of the charts thanks to webcasts from her basement flat. And it didn’t just make Sandi Thom an overnight sensation. It’s done wonders for the media profile of Quite Great, a PR company from Cambridge.
But just how will they benefit? Yes, it’s true that new clients will be beating a path to their door (if they have doors in deepest East Anglia), but I’m concerned that it won’t help entertainment PR get a fair deal for its clients.
Because the sad truth is that entertainment PR doesn’t pay. Not even when you have a big ‘hit’ like Quite Great did in the broadsheets this week: a rare example of the double-whammy when the publicist gets as much publicity as their client.
The reason is because entertainment PR delivers The Lifestyle. Too many boutique operations are so thrilled by the chance to buy into The Lifestyle- that they can’t command a decent fee.
As anyone in business knows, you can’t set your price high when there’s someone prepared to undercut you. And in entertainment PR there’s always someone ready to work for next to nothing – it’s got to be the most attractive job in the world because half the country believes it involves little more than going to glamorous parties and rubbing shoulders with celebs.
Truth is, most successful PR firms sell their image by touting the big celeb names they look after, but make their money from the dull and boring corporate clients (or in my case, exciting and interesting corporate clients).
And while Quite Great will already be reaping the rewards of massive broadsheet coverage of their ‘was-it/wasn’t-it’ stunt, their accountants may be less impressed when they start to do the sums.
The outside world – the non-PR world – of course will continue to believe that this sort of front-page publicity makes its recipients rich beyond their dreams. But ask Pete Bassett, the boss of Quite Great, if he’ll be holidaying in the Seychellesor taking a caravan in Clactonthis summer. Metaphorically, of course, Pete.
The people who do well out of entertainment PR are the people who always do well: the managers, the lawyers, the agents; the executives in record companies and film companies who spend every waking hour taking ‘meetings’ and have never had an original idea in their lives.
Meanwhile, so long as the creative folk are content to bask in the shimmer of reflected glory in return for a good table at the Ivy/ House – or, if you’re in Cambridge with Quite Great, perhaps a Little Chef – the price will never be right.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think my table is waiting…