MY SOCIAL media strategy – sticking a postcard advertising my services on the pub noticeboard – is already paying dividends. I’m ‘working’ at home when the phone rings. There’s an appallingly amusing family of scrotes screaming at each other on Jeremy Kyle, but I press ‘pause’ and answer it anyway.
It is a plummy-voiced woman calling from the next village down who launches uninvited into a breathless spiel. “I’m a stay-at-home mum who’s launched her own kitchen-table business and I’ve got a very exciting revolutionary product and I want to be an inspiration to other mothers and my husband says I need to get some exposure and he says I need the services of a public relations expert to spread the word about this totally, totally exciting project…”
She finally runs out of breath and I carefully compose myself, adopting my totally alien but economically-essential new, professional persona. “Of course I can help, “ I hear myself saying. “Tell me more about this revolutionary product…”
(It’s going to be cupcakes, isn’t it? It’s always cupcakes. Please don’t let it be cupcakes.)
“Well,” she says, “I’ve been watching all the television cooking programmes and I’ve always been a reasonable cook, so I thought I’d launch a range of home-made cupcakes.”
(I told you so. Cupcakes. Fucking cupcakes.)
“So,” I smarm, desperately looking round for my ‘PR for Dummies’ crib sheet that a friend has kindly prepared. “What would you like me to do for you? What do you want to achieve?”
“I need publicity… exposure,” she says. “Can you get me into some magazines and newspapers?”
“Well, yes,” I partly lie. “What publications were you thinking of?”
“Oh, the usual suspects. Marie Claire, Grazia, Bella… that sort of thing. Oh, and local radio and television as well. It’s a really good story, don’t you think?”
Yes, well, it might be in your circle of friends, but it’s one that’s been told a thousand times before. Marie Claire? I’ll do well to get you six pars and a picture by calling in some favours at the local weekly. Still, must persevere. Bills don’t pay themselves.
“Right. I’d better pop round and see you, “I say. “I’ll bring a contract. Shall we say a six-month retainer to begin with?”
“Jolly good,” she replies. “I’ll pop a batch in the oven now. You can then drop them off at local shops as samples this afternoon.”
I return to Jeremy Kyle. There is a woman with a tattoo on her neck trying to discover which of six assorted fairground workers is the father of little Tallulah Waltzer. She’s having a better day than I am.
I KNOW it’s nothing to do with me any more, but my love for local newspapers still runs deep. So I was more than a little irritated when yet another know-nothing academic popped up to announce that the regional press should make yet more cuts in staffing if it is to survive. It’s an argument for another day, but just to show the chap’s understanding of the art of communication, I offer you the following quote:
“[It] is likely to require not only deeper horizontal and vertical integration of operations… but also strategies that demonstrate greater lateral integration with the digital economy.”
If anyone can explain to me what that actually means, I’ll give them a free fucking cupcake.
The Grey Cardigan has been in newspapers since the days of hot metal and expense accounts. After a lengthy career as chief sub on several regional newspapers, plus a multitude of shifts on the nationals, he was appointed editor of the Evening Beast in 2009 before being ignominiously 'rationalised' last year. He is currently collecting gas in jam jars in case the Russians cut us off. @thegreycardigan