A regular contact, who has been in the PR business for ages, rings me with something she says she is “super excited about”.
It’s a gorgeous, exclusive-use house, she says (right up my street) about which the owner is happy to be interviewed (even better) and they’re offering it to me first (there’s nothing we hacks like more than an exclusive, however trivial the topic).
They haven’t got photographs yet, she says, but she knows what I like, and this project is perfect.
I have a gap in an issue I am planning into which a beautiful house would fit. So I agree not to commission anything else and to wait a month for professional photographs to be taken.
The magazine I am editing at has such a specific aesthetic that you’d have to be style-blind not to know what would work in it and what would not.
Which she clearly is.
When the Dropbox link is sent to me, the house is clearly nothing like she’d described. In fact, if it’s had an interior designer anywhere near it, I’d be very surprised. I call the photography editor over, to confirm I haven’t gone mad, and then the design editor wanders over – and starts to whoop and wail very publicly at the 1970s styling. Pretty soon there’s a little crowd (it’s tea-time in the office, so everyone’s up for a five-minute diversion), and gasping at how horribly wrong it all is.
If the client had known, they would have been heartbroken: no one likes their much-loved new home being heckled by hacks. And if the PR had been doing her job, the name of their house would not have become an office byword for bad taste.
When I rang her up – slightly distressed, as I now had a gaping hole in my issue – she admitted that “she had a feeling I might not like it”.
Not surprisingly, I have a feeling she might not be my favourite PR right now.
We know they’re paid to sell their clients’ products. But overselling it – knowing it wouldn’t work? Not a smart move.