During my career, I have had the good fortune of working with the best of PR consulting & agencies, who always delivered and more; if not, accepted the mistake and ensure that it was not repeated.
Today we have ‘Free Lancers’ as the next agency, working with clients who are also looking at Project work and cheap at that too.
Thanks to my so called food love, which I tweet, write, blog about; I have been receiving a fair amount of invites. Have attended a few earlier, before it became a bcc mass mailing shite and you ended up there with another 50–100 people, barely interacted and then the next day the follow up of when would you blog about it started.
As somebody, who did not make his living and is old enough to pay for visit and repeated visits, I took a step back and started refusing, also going to the extent of writing my Rules.
Episode 1 — An agency which is reputed enough to claim number of restaurants amongst its roster, got in touch with me via CEO and three other consultants, all writing about different brands and asking me to visit, after reading my written rules and confirming that the Brands are ok with it. I made out a time table, shared it with them, they said would check with the brand, came back a couple of days later, with different dates, times (in any case by that time, my options were screwed)but since they were polite, I agreed. The day 3 of us were to go for lunch, I get a mail at 10.30 am saying the outlet is undergoing a menu revamp. Then similar excuses for all other outlets including one which said Brand CEO was travelling ☹ when he was actually having a drink with me. Finally, I said, Thanks but No Thanks.
Episode 2 — A famous liqour brand approached via a friend, so agreed to attend. After a couple of days, I receive an apologetic text & email from the liqour brand head, asking me to send a profile about me and the other 3 people accompanying me. This really boiled me, but again the friendship intervened and I did so, the Star hotel which is actually struggling for business had the audacity to write back 1) Two of the people do not have blogs, so cannot be considered 2) You have to come and taste the liquor between 4–6 pm. My answer to the friend & hotel was $#@%&@$%&
Episode 3 — A call received, ‘Are you attending xyz?’ Me: Have you sent an invite? When was this? No, we have not sent, but you are a friend of the GM/Chef so s/he must have invited you. I said Nope. Asked the Chef/GM, who said, I don’t think you would like the crowd, so why would I invite you.
Episode 4 — New opening, new launch of an MNC brand. Invited by the CEO personally, but a working day, sent my regrets. Agency person calls to find out why have I not blogged about the product.
Episode 5 — New pub/bar/brewery opening, invite sent, looked interesting, confirmed for a day so that plans can be accordingly made, however no response; yes maybe like every other time, the yes or no will happen by 6 pm
A lot of my younger friends say, that the agencies are scared of you. Duh! They why would they do shite like this? A lot of my old friends, restaurant owners also laugh at me. I feel that times have changed — Conceptualising, planning, innovation, politeness are no longer the hall mark.
Social media has made it easier, to get the hurrah done and dusted. There are too many easy to access and free loaders who are willing to write what is required. But, I may be wrong, and it may just be me who is to blame; however the brands do not realise the bad publicity this gets them! But hey many of them are not in for a long haul.
My recommendation to PR agencies would be:
1) Learn how to distinguish different invites and treat them accordingly.
2) Politeness never goes out of style
3) In the service business, referrals are the way to grow.
4) Keep learning from your mistakes, ensure you do not repeat the same ones again.
My recommendation to Brands would be:
1) You are the ultimate owner, do not just hand over.
2) Treat this as a partnership, PR companies will come and go, customers remain forever and get more customers, also do PR on your behalf.
3) Learn to differentiate the faff from the original.
4) Step in to accept the Agency mistake and win back customers.