Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An Inconvenient Irony

I've just received a copy of 'Green' through my door. Never heard of it? Tsk, tsk. It's 'The Green energy magazine for you', brought to you by Scottish Power.

Inside, it's packed full of the sort of third-rate, self-congratulatory B.S. which afflicts corporate communications everywhere. And interspersed with the fascinating articles on energy saving lightbulbs and how important it is to switch off appliances, there's a big feature on how the film 'An Inconvenient Truth', made by 'creator of the internet' Al Gore - a man so wooden you'd probably be arrested if you tried to cut him down - is to be shown in our schools. Haud me back, as they say.

My flat is double glazed. My lightbulbs are all energy efficient and never burn unless needed. I never leave anything on standby. My Skoda Asbo does 60mpg if I behave myself. I telecommute two days each week, put on a jumper when it gets cold, and will be replacing my energy inefficient boiler as soon as I have the readies to do so. I wash clothes on the lowest temperature I can get away with, spurn products with excess packaging and am about to get involved in the Edinburgh kerbside recycling scheme. In short, I certainly don't need to be told how to save the planet by Scottish Power's PR agency.

I've blogged before about the cornucopia of keech which arrives in the mail at the Scottish Parliament. That might be fair enough in the context of lobbying an MP or MSP, but being a serial opter-outer of all marketing bumph at both point of sale and through the Mail Preference Service, it really does nark me to get this sort of unsolicited, preachy pap through my door.

Want to help me save the environment, Scottish Power? Then please stop sending me junk like this.


Richard Havers said...

Well said Richard. Unfortunately it's not just stuff through our letterboxes. Our papers have an increasing number of articles that are little more than press releases regurgitated with absolutely no thought or analysis by the journalists writing them. I've had an 'ongoing' with the Scotsman on their coverage of the BAA and the expansion of Edinburgh airport. Where have all the Woodwards and Bernstein’s gone?

Richard Thomson said...

Having has issued the odd press release myself professionally, I blow hot and cold about about the way they are treated by the meeja. On the surface, it's nice if you can get uncritical coverage for your point of view, but since the flip side is that everyone else is probably also going to get uncritical coverage of their releases, you sometimes have to question the value.

If it's interesting and well written and the quotes juicy enough, there's a chance a hard-pressed reporter will just drop it in pretty much verbatim. That said, the best coverage comes when you get to speak to the journalist yourself and give them a chance to grill you about what you've put out. I have to say that in my experience, both the Courier and the P&J - the papers I deal with most often - tend to play these things with a pretty straight bat.

These quick calls aid the journalist's understanding; act as a big disincentive on the part of the press officer to try and spin them a lot of rubbish; and hopefully leads to a better informed piece and therefore better informed readers. In that sort of world, PR would become a respectable profession, and the hucksters of Fillibuster, Gobshite and Waffle Inc. would be having their Gaggia machines reposessed quick smart!

Martin said...

"Where have all the Woodwards and Bernstein’s gone?"

Into lobbying.

Richard Thomson said...

That's part of it, Martin, but I think the problem is that few are now willing to learn the trade from the bottom up. There might be loads of people wanting a career in the meeja, but if they look at journalism at all, they all want to do graduate entry and be presenters or columnists within a matter of months.

At the other end of the spectrum, I met a Tory researcher from Wiltshire down in Westminster just over a year ago. She'd been working on her local rag as a reporter for something like £14K a year. Her main gig was reporting sheep prices, helping cover Monday's court appearances for being d&d, and to try and doorstep bereaved parents before either the police or one of her rivals got there.

She bailed out and I can't say I blame her. You probably don't get the chance to develop the investigative skills and see life in the raw if you're one of the ones on the gilded path. But who the hell wants to spend years wallowing in human misery for less than you could get for working in a call centre?

It's all too easy for some people, who never learn the skills or about life on the way up. And it's far too difficult for most of the rest.