Tuesday is a red-letter day for me. After many months of planning, we deliver the “Monsters of Rock’n’Roll Business” event featuring Bernie Tormé, for a large group of business managers at the Dartford Hilton Hotel. The event is being recorded for broadcast by BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme, Bloomberg TV, The Independent, BBC TV, The Brazillian Financial Times and many more. People keep asking me how I managed to achieve such levels of publicity. Others seem to think I have a major PR agency working for me. This is not true, and the back story of this may be summarised as a lot of hard work … and a little bit of luck. It all comes down to ‘the small things’. Let’s hear Blink 182’s take on all the small things:
Our story has important lessons for all those who have to deal with the media as part of their business.
I had sent a press release out to various places for the event. The story got picked up by The Independent newspaper last Thursday. The journalist rewrote the press release to read as follows:
Cook will be joined by Bernie Tormé, former lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, and Ian Gillan, the Deep Purple singer.
It’s perfectly accurate, but do you see what has happened here?
- I will indeed be joined by Bernie Tormé. Fact.
- Tormé was indeed guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne. Fact.
- Tormé was also guitarist for Ian Gillan. Fact.
- Ian Gillan was the singer of the legendary hard rock group Deep Purple. Fact.
- Ian Gillan will not be, and was never due to be, at the event.
The BBC’s editorial team picked up on the story but missed the all-important comma. By Friday morning, BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme ran a story that more or less suggested I was responsible for reforming Black Sabbath and Deep Purple – An awe inspiring thought but sadly untrue! By Saturday evening, The Sunday Express and New Musical Express had copied the mistake and amplified our event into a ‘tour’ through the strategic addition of the letter ‘s’ to the word seminar ! :-( Despite copious efforts to correct the story online, the mistake was repeated on BBC 6 Music’s Radcliffe and Maconie show on Monday. At the time of writing, the story has reached USA Today, The Times of India, Planet Rock Radio and Gibson Guitars.
This is graphic evidence of what has been said recently in the Leveson Enquiry that:
“Checking your facts = I read it in another paper”
You might say that all publicity is good publicity? In this case, I had to spend considerable time and energy correcting online media and apologising to Ian Gillan’s management. Rock’n’Roll HR can be cruel and I’m pleased to say that I still have all my body parts after this process! I also had to spend quite a bit of time dealing with old rockers and rock chicks, who wrote e-mails to confer God-like status on me, for forging a reunion between Ian Gillan and Bernie Tormé. Having pulled this trick off, some of them even expect me to resurrect Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse!
The Belfast Telegraph picked up the story and decided to replace Bernie’s picture with Elton John ! I have not yet decided to get a piano in for the event …
What then are the lessons for people who deal with PR and external affairs?
- If possible, get national media journalists to send a proof of anything they release. Of course they don’t like doing this, but it helps to avoid this kind of PR disaster.
- Act fast to correct errors. I stopped the Sunday Express print run by contacting the paper at midnight on Saturday, but the ‘runaway online media train’ had already ‘left the station’ re online copies of the article.
- Commas cost me a few apologies to some class A rock stars, but the consequences could be more serious for your business. In the warped words of Blink 182, All the small things count.