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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Media Schmedia

Years ago and once upon a time, I was actually a highly paid public relations consultant, working for large organisations and confidently generating and handling media inquiries.

I would confidently pick up the phone, pitch my story and often cadge a Page 3 or, the Holy Grail, the front page.  

In fact, sometimes I'd go one better - I would actually BE the story.  Well, that happened once.  It was my very first 'real' job - you know, where you are paid a reasonable salary?  I moved up to Rockhampton to work for Senator Stanley Collard, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs.  I moved into a flat with a girl called Anne Marie who was a teacher.

And then one dark and dingy night, Anne Marie awoke to find a burglar leaning over her bed.  We promptly ran out onto the balcony and proceeded to scream like the useless girls we were.  We screamed for Alistair, a journalist at the ABC who lived right next door, and he came outside in his sexy striped pyjamas to soothe us.  I think we screamed for about 10 minutes.  It just seemed appropriate at the time.

The next day, there we were on Page 3 of the local 'Morning Bulletin' - a highly inaccurate story that had Anne Marie and I getting home from a drunken night on the town, disturbing the burglar and then actually giving chase down the street.  (That version sounded so much more exciting!).

That week, I received a letter from my friend, Louise,  also in PR, who had proudly included a cutting from the newspaper - her first successful story placement.

I have to admit I enjoyed the one-upmanship as I returned with the article about the burglary.  "You may be placing the news down there, Louise," I boasted.  "But up here I AM the news". Hahaha.

Since those halcyon days, however, life, in its usual way has altered what one would call one's 'media savvy'.

Media relations is a field that requires huge self esteem, salesmanship, and confidence.  You must be good on the telephone.  Once upon a time you also needed to be able to drink … copiously… as what 'media relations' actually meant was that you could skull a bottle of rum with the boys and remain standing.

Those days, for me have gone - and not just because I lack the necessary skills.

To be honest, it's because I find modern journalists inaccessible.  Many are young and often rude.  They don't return phone calls.  Emails are not responded to.  Messages are lost in the ether.

Really, who can be bothered?

But the publication of my new memoir is now demanding that I revisit this realm.  I need to 'get in the zone', get 'zen', pick up the phone and start hassling.

I am sure it is going to be a hideous experience, but really, after being through chemotherapy, surely it's not going to be that hard for me.  Or is it?

Yesterday I took the first baby steps.  I sent off some books to Lisa Wilkinson, Sonya Kruger and Samantha Armytage, all 'celebrities' of a kind I suppose.

The hopeful me imagines them leaping onto the packages I sent, excitedly uncovering my tome and then screaming with excitement - like useless girls even - maybe mouthing words to the effect of 'Oh My God, Oh My God, Oh My God'.   I see them rushing home to read my book, returning to work the next day, bleary eyed as they spent half the night reading it from cover to cover.  They lavish praise in excited tones to anyone who will listen, and adjectives such as "fabulous" and "amazing" and "brilliant".  In fact, they get down on their knees and grab the producer's hairy ankles to beg him to include a story about my book, promising huge spikes in ratings and offering to sell their bodies for sex in return.

However, the practical (and more cynical me) anticipates the opposite.  No doubt this package will be shoved into a tower of mail where it may sit forgotten, possibly for days or weeks until one evening, the cleaning lady is passing and thinks no one will miss it.  She takes it home to read but forgets about it until in circa 2019, she is decluttering and my book, in mint condition, ends up on a shelf at St Vinnies with a sticker saying 0.50 cents.  Lisa Wilkinson, Sonya Kruger and Samantha Armytage will return to earth shatteringly important discussions such as:

A French restaurant has banned cameras after the head cook complained about diners taking snaps, claiming it ruins the atmosphere and could give away their secrets.   Does he make a good point? 

or

AWKWARD INTERVIEW: Los Angeles entertainment anchor, Sam Rubin, recently confused Samuel L. Jackson with Laurence Fishburne on live TV.   Have you ever had any embarrassing cases of mistaken identity?

Aah well.  It's true that it is not always the worthy stories that make it to air.  Whatever the outcome at least I can say I tried (if only the bastards would answer their phones!).

As I write, my well-crafted media releases and books are probably being slung into the back of a waiting Australia Post van.

At the very least, I hope my packages aren't lost in transit.

At the very least, I hope they actually land on the right desk.

At the very least.  I hope.

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