Can you help with a survey?
Every once in a while I’m asked to offer my perceptions and on-the-spot, non-googled knowledge of a travel company. This is usually to help with a new-business pitch – “the travel journalist Richard Mellor, with whom we chat regularly, currently thinks that you operate dogging holidays in Derbyshire” – but can occasionally be to bravely establish the perception of current clients. There’s bravery associated with that; in a way, it’s effectively saying “how well have we done are job?”
I never mind being asked, even if the request comes with an imminent deadline provided apologetically. As it is essentially requesting an unpaid favour, however, I’ll only do it if a) the person or company has done me a significant kindness in the past, or b) time permits.
And time rarely does permit. To give you an idea, I’m currently working remotely all or most weekdays for the Times and Sunday Times travel desk on shifts; before starting those at 10am, I try to fudge-headedly get up at 6 ot 7am in order to do three hours or so’s work on other clients or projects, to write up trips, to answer emails, to pitch, to scan the news for angles or to write self-despairing Roxstars columns. In the evenings, I’m too zonked to do any more than check whether Leicester have fired Brendan Rodgers yet or watch endless River Monsters repeats. “Fish on!”
While these are positively superb problems to have, they do make it hard to participate in such surveys, and to tell you that I’d always thought Hotel Sunshine was a Madonna song, not a resort in Bulgaria. Even so, please do ask me – and not just if you’ve done me a significant kindness in the past. If I can, I will.
What might help – with me and others – is to offer incentives, to specify exactly what’s involved (“two questions, I promise”), to ask on a Monday or Friday or, ahem, to ask travel journalists whom you suspect might be, well, a bit less busy. “Freelance B”, as the category was damningly referred to in my PR days. Ouch.
What Richard thinks…
“Byway might be a slow-travel specialist, but its PR, Kate Faulkner, has a knack for breezy press releases — which, as regular readers will probably know by now, I am all for.”