NOT that I could easily pass myself off as a sex object, but ever since I became a lifestyle journalist, I’ve had a vague idea how Marilyn Monroe and her ilk must have felt like back in the day.
I’m not referring to Marilyn’s string of high-profile love affairs and her inability to handle fame and its many downsides, which eventually led to her self-destruction and early death. Instead, I could somewhat relate to how the Blonde One must have felt like to be treated by those around her like a mere object instead of a person.
This feeling is far from unique, and is shared by many of my colleagues in the industry. I’m referring to how certain PR practitioners, in their haste to make a pitch, seemed to have forgotten that they’re also dealing with living, breathing people and not inanimate publicity mills for their clients.
Mel’s shout out
Not too long ago, in fact, my friend and colleague Mel Cuevas came up with an interesting shout out on Facebook detailing a number of horror stories people supposedly steeped in the art of PR had subjected her through.
Her status generated a great deal of feedback ranging from funny to serious to downright surreal from journalists and publicists alike. (Mel should write a book about it if only to help both sides avoid and/or deal with such situations.)
Normally, I simply shrug it off and treat such mercenary behavior from certain publicists (PRs, in journalism parlance) as part of the hazards of the journalism profession. But despite my best efforts, there have been times when their mindless actuations bordering on the uncouth still manage to annoy me. And just like death (knock on wood!), they sometimes come in batches of three.
To give you a clearer picture, here are just three recent examples (via SMS) I encountered from three different PRs just the other day, within what broadcast journalists call a 24-hour news cycle. Like I said, normally, I would just ignore such lapses, but in these three instances, I couldn’t resist from firing back (and with good reasons).
You must know them
I won’t identify the culprits anymore because they’ve all apologized and took what I had to say well. The last one, a facilitator of sorts for an art gallery, was totally not at fault, as you will read later on. If you know who their clients are, or if you, like me, received such texts from them, then you would know the people I’m referring to. 😉
PR 1: “Hi Thelma, this is XXXXX XXXXXXXXX, founder of the Philippine SME Business Expo. I cordially invite u to our press conference tomorrow, March 14 at Hotel Celeste at 11:30am, San Lorenzo Drive, Makati City, dedicated to empower SMEs and aspiring entrepreneurs. It will be joined by influential personalities from the business&entertainment industry like social entrepreneur Illac Diaz, Wellness Guru Cory Quirino, motivational speaker Randell Tiongson, TV host Judah Paolo & Esquire Financing CEO Rajan Uttamchandani. Hope u can share the word&help us empower the nations entrepreneurial growth. Thanx! Pls visit our website philippinesmebusinessexpo.com”
What’s wrong with this text invite? Everything! Apart from calling me Thelma (in all likelihood, he also sent the same text to my boss Thelma San Juan, and didn’t bother to replace her name with mine), the fellow texted me beyond office hours (March 13, 10:49 p.m. to be exact!) informing me of an event set the very next day at 11:30 a.m. How convenient! You’d have second thoughts of doing these things even to your closest friends, but not him, and we’re not even remotely close.
My reply an hour or so later (I just couldn’t help it, okay): “This is not Thelma. This is Alex Vergara. I already have appointments tomorrow. Besides, your event is for business. Try inviting the business people. But I doubt it if their scheds are free. Inviting media a day before the event is not usually done.”
The next day, I got another text invite from a woman notorious for firing text blasts like she (or her employers) owns all the telecom providers.
It was a harmless text blast, a “gentle” reminder of their event in the afternoon. Her sin was I already sent my regrets to her through email days earlier. Jeez, how many times do I have to say no?
Worse, this wasn’t the first time she did this to me. Because of her text-happy ways, there have been times when I got unsolicited text messages (inviting me to events I’ve already said no to) from her while I was abroad. Now, that cost a lot of money! And she couldn’t even squeeze in my short, four-letter name in her text.
PR 2: “Hi! SEE you TONIGHT at 6pm at a fun-filled reception to celebrate yet another successful edition of Manila FAME at the 2nd Floor Pre Function Lobby SMX Convention Center. Thank you!”
My reply: “XXXXX, I emailed you my regrets already. Try to be a bit more personal by not sending a text blast to everyone. That’s a basic of good PR. We are people, too, not mere numbers and warm bodies. Thanks!”
Then, finally, after she herself set the date and time (all via text), this gallery hand informs me of a change in venue just mere hours before the interview because the artist is said to be stuck at the ongoing Manila FAME exhibit a few kilometers away.
PR 3: “Good morning mr.alex. mr. XXXXXX is asking if the interview cn be held at fame?in smx mall of asia instead?would this be ok sir?”
My reply: “Where are his artworks? At the gallery, I suppose (not at the FAME exhibit). It would be good if I could see them. Let’s just postpone it when he is ready. There are too many people at FAME. Let me know in a bit. I have another appointment. Thanks!”
A brief backgrounder: I’m doing this story for a glossy magazine. It wasn’t the magazine, but the gallery who requested an interview to promote their featured artist. In short, they need us. We don’t need them.
An hour or so after we agreed on rescheduling the interview, the gallery hand texted me again informing me that the artist is finally on his way to the gallery. If I was anywhere near their gallery, they’d appreciate it if I could come over to do the interview. Really, now?
PR 3: “helo good afternoon mr.alex.may i ask where you are at the moment?its because the photographers are here and mr.XXXXXX is on his wy.cn we stil do the interview?”
Even if that artist were the next Picasso or Van Gogh, I wouldn’t drop everything and brave the traffic just to accommodate him. He was the one who messed up everyone’s schedules. He should learn to wait.
My parting shot: “I’m not anywhere near your gallery. You have to stick with the schedule unless there is a compelling reason not to. In this case, there wasn’t. I’m busy, too, and we have agreed on this days before. You gave me this schedule, and I worked around it. Sorry,
this is beyond my control anymore.”
These are only three examples of how basic courtesy seemed to have eluded certain people, particularly those in PR and/or in need of publicity. If they’re in this thing for the long haul, they should start treating journalists with respect and a renewed sense of professionalism. Otherwise, they won’t get any “repeat business.”
Alexyvergara may be a mere object today, but who can stop him from becoming a sought-after sex object tomorrow? 😉