Wednesday 7 June 2006

The small world of Frank Gitt

Business people tend to approach PR consultants for one of two reasons. Either they believe that their company is misunderstood and undervalued by the outside world, and want to raise their profile in the media to address this. Or they know that what they do is understood all too well, and want to keep it out of the papers at all costs.

The latter always presents the bigger challenge, not least because it is hard to justify the usual huge bill when the evidence of success is a completely empty cuttings file. This partly explains why I have always been inclined to refuse assignments of this sort. The other reason is that if the media have got it in for a company, I find it’s usually for a pretty good reason.

Like all City people, I typically make a judgment on whether I like someone, and want to work with them, within a minute of meeting them. At the risk of sounding smug, I’m rarely wrong. The only snag is that it is a two-way trade, and the number of people who instantly like and want to work with me has always been pitifully small.

A couple of years ago, I mistakenly listened to the newly appointed ‘Director of Human Resources’ at a long-standing client for all of 15 minutes, as he told me where I had been going wrong, before I told him where he could stick his job. A complete waste of 14.5 precious minutes of my life. I am gratified to note that the subsequent performance of his business amply demonstrates that I should have been the least of his worries.

Paul, my image and branding consultant, believes that my dull, nondescript and non-alliterative name is a serious professional handicap. He thinks I should re-brand myself as Frank Gitt – the PR who tells it like it is. But I tend to answer the phone by saying my surname, and the consequences of opening every conversation with the word ‘Gitt’ are too awful to contemplate.

On the same subject, I once suggested to a client in the bus sector that they should re-brand themselves as Slick Transit and hire a receptionist called Gloria Mundy, just for the joy of hearing her answer the telephone. Unfortunately none of the management had benefited from a classical education, so it fell on rather stony ground. A bit like this column, probably.

Keith Hann is a PR consultant who’d welcome some small change for a cup of tea.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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