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Choosing your battles

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Choosing your battles

I had a big list article in The Times on Saturday which went live a couple of days beforehand — early enough, fortuitously, that changes could still be made to the print edition if necessary.

Two were, and it got me thinking about choosing your battles. I touched on this in a May column about requesting changes to upper or lower-case letters in clients’ names or brands, and how that really wasn’t worth pursuing. Last week’s instances were, on the other hand, entirely worthwhile.

Never being good at maths, I’d said the ninth baronet was the eight baronet. I’d also described some cabins’ outdoor baths as outdoor hot tubs. Small things, in relative terms, but factual inaccuracies nonetheless — and factual inaccuracies are worthy of a request for alterations.

What helped in this case was the respective PRs’ familiarity with me, and my familiarity with the relevant, lovely Times staff members. Accordingly, there was no risk of anyone carving out a reputation for being irksome.

In less familiar cases, there is that risk. From my side, I don’t want to be subliminally considered as a complainer, a nit-picker, a writer who will just make things that little bit more complicated. Because of this, I will only make alteration requests to unfamiliar editors if there’s a howler. That’s the only battle I choose. Otherwise, I prefer to (hopefully) build the relationship and simply take the grievance of any small error on the chin.

I’d suggest adopting a similar tack. As well as the importance and frustration levels of the client, assess both the relationship you have with the journalist and the gravity of the mistake. Sometimes it’s simply better to live with it, and live with a temporarily peeved client — you might well be rewarded for this down the line.

What Richard Thinks…

“This excellent release from Gina is precisely how I like my news: punchy, clearly-labelled, picture-led, not too much, not too little”

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