Being a PR can be a nightmare. Your job is to deal with people, and a lot of people are dickheads. More specifically, your job is to schmooze people – clients, journalists, anyone else who can contribute to a company making money – and because the schmoozees know they're important in that brief but vital moment, it's easy for them to take the piss.
To find out how far schmoozees can take it, I asked some PRs for stories about the worst people they've ever encountered.
Sex Workers on Account?
I have a friend who did PR for a hi-fi company back in the day, and he took some trade journalists to Berlin – married middle-aged dudes. They demanded that he take them to a brothel, and pay for it, with the threat that they wouldn't write the story otherwise. They said that's what other PRs always did.
The Client's Always Right
I once had to provide creative support for this client, and me and my team were taken to a resort for a team building week. The whole situation became really awkward when we were joined by the big boss – the country head of the company – and his family. The country head's wife berated my boss in front of us. She said things like, "What is it that you are using to blackmail my husband that he gives you whatever you ask for? I know you are helping him with his affairs."
Then the organisers had lined up a few competitions for team building, and sadly I'm too competitive and totally forgot that we had to let the client's team win. First, I won a "caption this picture" contest. Then, last nail in the coffin, I – along with other colleagues – won the quiz on dinner night. The client was super upset and stomped out of the conference room and didn't attend the dinner either. I resigned.
The 27-Year-Old Director
My poor colleague, who was managing this gold account, did everything from collecting laundry from the dry cleaners to taking the Public Affairs Director's mother shopping. This director was only 27 years old: success had gone to his head, and he was notorious for shooting down people and whatnot.
One day my colleague told us that he hadn't got any sleep the night before because this director phoned him at 7PM asking him to bring him a sandwich. When my colleague went to drop off the sandwich the director sat him down and told him his entire sob story of failed relationships, office politics and how he knew everyone hated him. The client wanted sympathy. He asked my colleague several times if he agreed that the failed relationships weren't his fault. My colleague resigned a few days after this incident.
Drugs on Account?
I went on a press trip to Spain where a guy from [publication omitted] demanded that the PR went and bought him a shitload of drugs or he wouldn't cover the story.
The Five Star Treatment
I was on a press trip where a particularly high-profile feature writer, who had already demanded business class seats to the USA, refused to stay in the hotel with the other journalists. She checked herself into some ludicrously expensive five-star place and demanded the PR company pay for it. They obliged. That's how it worked in those days.
I was on one trip and noticed two journos being quite close on the first day. It seemed that one had got the PR to invite the other, despite the other working for a publication no one had heard of. We didn't see much of them after the first day. They were married – but not to each other, of course.
More Drugs and Sex Workers on Account?
Best one I've heard is the chap from a men's mag who'd gone AWOL while the rest of the group were waiting for him in the hotel reception to go back to the airport. He turned up at the 11th hour off his face and accompanied by two ladies of the night. He then tried to charge them - plus the class As he'd been necking – to the PR. He got into a mega strop when she said no.
I've never worked in the media industry, but I did pretend to be a journalist once to get some free tickets to a festival. I found the email for a lady in PR and messaged her claiming to be a freelancer working for Sky TV. The whole process was really simple; she was well up for it.
On the day, me and my two mates drove there and went to the press entrance. One of my friends had an old video camera of his dad's, which didn't work and looked like something from the 80s. We got some really funny looks, but our names were down so we got ushered through. We were just going to sneak off and ditch the fake equipment when another woman came up to me and started questioning us about interviewing artists. We lost our nerve and ran off.