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Farewell to account director Alison

January, 2020

After many years in PR – the exact number of which we are too gallant to reveal – account director Alison Hardy is finally planning to leave the world of gin and spin and enter the world of genteel retirement. And gin.

Those of you under the age of 25 will hardly countenance it….when I started in PR, Google hadn’t been invented and social media was but a twinkle in an entrepreneur’s eye. In fact, so was Mark Zuckerberg. His parents’ that is.

The changes I have seen in my many years in the business have been huge… so where to start?

Account director Alison Hardy was Maxim's first employee. 

Perhaps the biggest change is in the means in which the modern PR world operates and spreads its influence. And that it down to one thing – the internet and social media.

We now live in a world where information can be shared with a global audience in seconds and that can be jolly frightening to someone who only had to work to journalists’ deadlines when they first started in PR.

But it has also made our work a whole lot easier in the practical sense. Whereas once the average gestation of a press release was at least a week, and often several, it is now so much more speedy …although that doesn’t take into account how long it takes a client to clear the copy first.

In the old days you took the brief from the client (no change there), drafted the copy and faxed it – remember that! – to the client who then scribbled their amends and faxed it back. The resulting copy was a nightmare to read, with faded handwriting which usually became so distorted it would give the average doctor’s scrawl a run for its money.

Press photography has changed

Then came the tricky problem of the photos. Once taken the photographer would post a contact sheet (for the uninitiated this is a sheet of small prints from which to make your choice) and the ensuing dilemma of do you select the best photo or the one in which the client looks the best. Diplomacy usually won because we all want to keep the account.

A contact sheet from 1999 - choosing the best photos was always a challenge.

Once the client had approved the image, the required number of 6inch by 4inch prints had to be ordered from the photographer and labels with the caption stuck on the back. Then each release with its photo had to be stuffed into an envelope, stamped and posted. I remember once having to issue around 200 copies of one release, and that took some time. 

Occasionally the release was faxed (obviously with no image which had to go in the post anyway) but the ensuing paper jams were really not worth the effort.

Now, providing the client approves the copy and image swiftly, all of which will have been emailed, the whole process can be knocked on the head in far less time and issued to any number of recipients. Or shared on social media.

But God help us if any research was involved – don’t forget Google hadn’t been invented then. It was off to the library to lurk in the reference section or spend hours looking at microfiche tape through a dodgy viewer. 

But on a more serious note the speed of communications has made it vital that organisations have a robust crisis communications plan up their sleeves. Whereas in pre social media days you just hoped that not too many people would hear or read about whatever the issue was, now news can reach a worldwide audience in seconds with everyone chipping in with their own opinions. Very difficult to manage and a hugely important thing to get right.

No more long lunches

And another thing that has changed our world – changes in the media. Goodness knows how many titles – both national and local – have closed in the past ten years (Google can’t tell me either) and staff numbers on those that still exist have been cut considerably with much of the copy being submitted by freelancers and agencies. 

This means that it is increasingly hard to lure journalists out of the office to meet your cherished client and view the amazing product you are charged with promoting. And anyway, even if they do come out, they can be contacted at any time by the news editor and recalled. 

In my previous life I was a journalist on a national newspaper and the highlight of any day was an invitation to lunch/supper/drinks from a PR. You knew you were going to be taken somewhere swanky that you couldn’t possibly afford yourself and wined and dined until you had consumed so much you forgot what they were trying to persuade you to write about. And you couldn’t be called back to the office unless the office had the telephone number of where you were going because not many people used, or could afford, mobile phones in those days. Imagine!

Apparently the future of communication is via artificial intelligence (and yes, I did get that from Google.) I have learnt a lot of new tricks in my time in PR but this might be a step too far for me!

So goodbye to the world of PR which I have loved.

Alison raises a glass to a retirement full of dinner parties and gin.


posted in: maxim/client news,

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