boone2Imagine you’re the top kick at a global PR firm’s crackerjack travel & tourism division. You’re the envy of peers and competitors alike.

You’ve won every conceivable award handed out by our industry’s trade press including the one for the highly-coveted ‘Special Event: Seven Days or Less.’ (Note: The latter always sounded Biblical to me, and led me to wonder how Noah’s brief, but brutal, battle with the flood, might have fared (“We admired Noah’s ingenuity and creativity, but let’s face it, God had to give him the heads-up, so where was the research and strategy? As for results, the judges believe Noah could have squeezed more animals into the ark. We’re awarding an honorable mention.”).

Anyway, your phone rings. It’s a brand new client who wants you to begin work yesterday (then why did she call today?). You put the client on hold, wave in the minions who will actually do the work, ease back in your overstuffed chair and hit the speaker button:

“Go ahead, ma’am. You’re speaking to the best travel & tourism publicist since Columbus convinced Ferdinand and Isabella he’d found a new route to India,” you say, with a wide grin.

The client tells you her state has just been named America’s most dangerous and, without immediate positive image and reputation repair, her office is looking at a multi-million loss in tourism AND she’ll be forced to reinvent herself as a travel industry consultant-at-large.

You adopt your best bedside manner to calm the patient. “Ma’am, I’ve seen it all and done it all. And, that phrase, turning lemons into lemonade? It was dedicated to me,” you declare, winking to your seated, smiling subordinates.

“Besides,” you continue, “Whether it’s Florida or Texas or New York or California, we have so many other, positive attributes and attractions to hype that we’ll positively bury that number one ranking in any Google search.”

And, then she lowers the boom. “I’m calling from Tennessee.  Some scandal sheet called 24/7 Wall Street says Tennessee leads the nation with the worst violent crime rate. We’re in the top 10 for murders and robberies AND, get this, they say we’re holding down the top spot for aggravated assaults. Toss in the fact that we don’t have the Grand Canyon, DisneyWorld, the Empire State Building, or even a damn beach, and you’re looking at a world of hurt. What do we do?! And, whatever it is, we need to do it now!!!”

You’ve suddenly lost your swagger. You sit up straight, and stare at your colleagues, hoping one of them has some semblance of an idea. The silence is deafening.

So, you go into survival mode. You draw upon the vast reservoir of past Saber, PR Week and Silver Anvil Award-winning campaigns, and, voila, concoct a strategy and program themes on the fly:

“First, relax, ma’am. We’ll have Tennessee off that inconsequential list faster than you can whistle Dixie,” you say. “Our strategy will be to admit the truth. Hell, we’ll embrace the truth. After all, authenticity is the currency of the realm. Or at least that’s what my CEO always says. So, we’ll turn a negative into a positive. We produce research proving most Americans are bored, find the average travel destination bland and want to experience something new. Bingo. We’ve identified, and now OWN the consumer challenge.”

“Now, and this is the tactic that will result in the two of us hoisting a PR Week Award over our heads one year from today (or yesterday, if you prefer). We create memorable slogans that the blogosphere will spread faster than you can drop an opossum from a tree at 1,000 yards. How do these grab you:

– ‘Want a bigger bang for your buck? Try Tennessee.’
– Tennessee: ‘High anxiety. Low costs.’
– ‘Where do you think Anthony Weiner found his Twitter handle? Tennessee: the Carlos Danger of states.’
– ‘Want to tell the grandkids a truly riveting story? Try one of our aggravated assaults in Knoxville. Hey, we’ll even provide the surveillance video so you’ll have years of viewing pleasure for the whole family. Tennessee: ‘We’ll capture your excitement at the same time we capture the crooks.’”

Your ideas are greeted by silence. Then, the client responds. “This is brilliant! My boss will love it. He wanted something edgy that will break through. How soon can we see creative?” She asks.

You allow the silence to linger a bit longer than necessary in order to maximize the gravitas of what you’re about to say: “How’s yesterday sound?”

You hear delighted shrieking on the other line. You hang up the phone and issue one quick order to your admin, Inez Inertia: “Tell Accounts Payable to invoice the State of Tennessee $100k up front. They’re lucky. I just gave them a million dollar campaign.”

Now it’s time for a well-earned lunch. And, you deserve it. The most interesting man in PR has solved another problem, and set the stage for yet another industry award… Special event: ‘Seven Days or More’. I wonder how Moses, and the flight of the Israelites from Egypt would have fared, “Super strategy and measurable results. But, the judges would have liked to have seen more publicity around the parting of the Red Sea. Where was CNN?  Honorable mention.”

And a tip o’ Repman’s cap to Greg Schmalz for suggesting this post.

2 thoughts on “CSI:PR

  1. Um…did Accounts Payable transfer you to Accounts Receivable, which actually sends out invoices? (Never let the boss near the books.)