Friday, 18 December 2009

My big new business drive

Public relations: it’s not rocket science. Nor brain surgery, nuclear physics or Chinese algebra. Between you and me it’s more like, well, common sense.

For a start, try being polite to people and answering their questions, ideally without telling them a pack of lies. It’s not that hard, is it? Unless, of course, you are one of those individuals who “does not suffer fools gladly” as they always write in obituaries (in the past tense) as code for “he was a complete and utter bastard”.

Some years ago I had a client who was, without question, the rudest man in the world. We used to try and excuse him by saying “He’s really just shy”. The more perceptive analysts and journalists would throw this claim back at us with some more colourful descriptions of what he really was, none of which is suitable for printing here.

The funny thing is that I’ve been using the same excuse about myself for decades. I don’t like talking on the telephone full stop (always a bit of a handicap for a PR man) and I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than cold call a potential client. The resulting comparative lack of business success I have always attributed to shyness rather than the real cause, which I now recognise to be simply laziness of absolutely colossal proportions.

This did not matter when I was quietly winding down to a retirement of steadily increasing poverty, made bearable by the prospect of premature death. Now, thanks to a column published in this very slot, I find myself required to keep earning until I am at least 80 to support my frighteningly young family.

“So you want some more work?” people ask encouragingly. The only snag is that my commitment to being Britain’s most honest PR man compels me to reply “No, I want more people to pay me for not doing anything.”

As a new business pitch, it’s not working too well up to now, even when I point out how much better off we would all be if we had paid our bankers for doing nothing rather than letting them pretend to be rocket scientists.

I wonder whether modern medicine and psychology can offer a gentler cure for idleness than the traditional boot up the backside?

Keith Hann is a financial PR consultant with time on his hands.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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