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One Rotten Flack Spoils the Whole Bunch
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Stereotypes. They are uncivil, loutish, often vulgar, and sometimes exist for a very good reason.

Consider us flacks. "Spin doctors." "Just outside used car salesmen and lawyers." And my favorite slight is from a joke:

A newly established PR pro, wanting to impress the first client coming into his office, picked up the telephone and said, "I'm sorry, but I have a tremendous workload at the moment and I won't be able to look after your campaign for at least a month." He hung up, feeling satisfied and turned to the young lady in his office and asked, "What can I do for you, miss?"
"Nothing," she said. "I'm just here to hook up your phone." [Ba-dum-bum-CHING!]

A recent and riveting editorial in the New York Times from Bruce Buschel, owner of Southfork Kitchen in Bridgehampton, N.Y. brought this joke to mind as he pens his exploits of being torched by not one, but two PR firms. It's really worth the read, but in summary, Buschel has a new sustainable restaurant and an earth-friendly cornucopia of ammo to fire off pitches like crazy. His initial encounter with a PR firm left him eager for results and heavy on expectation. Naturally, he got bupkus.

Deflated and disconcerted, he looked inward, redefined his target audience, and went angling for another big fish in the world. Said chum in the water was written about cryptically to say, "whose principal mover and shaker was a veteran P.R. person, a blogger on The Huffington Post and a judge on Iron Chef." If anyone is a foodie among us (of which I'm a huge one), you know immediately the, uh, "vivacious" one to whom Buschel is referring.

Did he fare any better with her...the new PR person? The right questions were asked and the right ideas were suggested. What happened?

"A week later, we were handed some papers of our own. Our new P.R. person handed us three pages listing what we had done wrong. Let us count the ways: wrong food, wrong presentation, wrong prices, wrong service, wrong approach, wrong recipes, wrong name. Really. Wrong name. Maybe we had chosen the wrong P.R. firm. Again."

And this is our case study of why stereotypes exist in the PR world. For every good client, there is a shady agency with sticky fingers ready to bill, collect, and split the scene from the armed robbery. That's unfortunate. However, there's shards of silver on this looming cloud.

Think about it: Buschel got his plight pressed in the New York Times! And, on a much smaller scale, got me blogging about here. So, let's hold a glass and toast to Bruce Buschel of Southfork Kitchen for making his own PR when apparently a couple of gamy flacks couldn't—or wouldn't—do it for him.


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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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