During a phone call earlier this week I had to adminster many a soothing noise (you know, supportive oohs, aahs and much tongue clicking) to a fellow hack who has turned to the dark side.
The individual in question shall remain nameless. Suffice to see the person is a reporter of high repute; a seasoned campaigner and respected writer; experienced on the road, with sharp elbows and good door-knocking skills; but just as comfortable writing features and consumer/celeby type stuff; they’ve also served time as a sub and worked on newsdesks; and they are easily capable of turning their hands to traditional media or in the newer, digital platforms.
What’s more the person in question also has a decent stint as a PR person on their CV. You get the picture. This is a capabable, proven and popular media all rounder. Someone who is not often put out, caught by surprise or left stuck for words.
However, recently the person in question was thrust into the company of a small band of “marketing” types. Not in itself a problem, as our trooper ploughed on through the tasks assigned their way. As our nameless chum started to get a picture of the murky goings-on in marketing land, their eyebrows slowly began to rise.
First of all, they were handed the file on a major blue chip client and told: “You’d better get out to this event this morning – we need 10,000 hits for this client! Oh – by the way – the major national newspaper originally signed up as media partner has pulled out at the last minute. So you won’t be able to get any coverage there.”
“Er, right. So what do you mean by ‘10,000 hits’ exactly? What are the messages? What are the target audiences? Which media should we be aiming for? What actually counts as a hit? Are we talking about audience reached or the value of coverage generated?”
In other words, our contact asked all the reasonable (indeed basic) questions for any media pro being suddenly dropped into a situation which had all the makings of a marketing goat-f*ck.
But worse was to come: “Just hits,” was the less-than-helpful reply. “We don’t care how you justify them. The client give us a a number and we have to hit it somehow. That’s all.”
Ahhhh! So that’s how marketing works! A precise and respectable discipline with near scientific means of measuring the success of clearly defined targets. Or not, as the case may be.
But while our chum was quickly seeing the shine come off the marketing world, worse was to follow. For 30 minuters our contact had to bite their tongue while two rather vacuous colleagues discussed the spelling of “flavour” and debated – in some depth – whether it has a ‘U’ in it or not.
Near their wits’ end, our source was wondering what they’d let themselves in for: “Thirty effing minutes. Couldn’t they just have done what any self-respecting hack would have done after 30 seconds and run it through Google?”
My own preference is for the well-thumbed copy of the Oxford English Dictionary. Where I quickly and easily found the defintions for “tolerance”, “fortitude” and “serenity”.
All qualities our friend is going to need in spades to survive any lenght of time with the marketing muppets (definitiely with a “u”) without the aid of a rifle.