PR peeps need to chill

The author was called out for giving his opinion on an event he attended for a big French champagne brand. PHOTO: iStock
The author was called out for giving his opinion on an event he attended for a big French champagne brand. PHOTO: iStock

Phumlani S Langa is tired of being phoned by irate PR people for not gushing about their event. Journalism isn't advertising, okay?

Journos and influencers can behave quite badly, there’s no denying it, but some of these public relations people are also problematic. The PR firm represents its client’s best interests and so invites media to a launch or event. The firm facilitates or acts as a go-between by ensuring the media have access to an artist or brand representative. It can facilitate interviews, organise imagery for an article and grant accreditation to events. It plays a significant role in the media industry, but these companies are often also full of stunts.

Sometimes these people get the whole thing twisted by trying to control what a journalist might say about the event. For instance, a few weeks ago, a certain French Champagne brand was upset that I felt one of their parties was not as extravagant as I thought it would be.

I stand by my comment and did so even when a PR representative called, sounding all hot and bothered, and perhaps trying to reshape my article. This is a common thing with PR firms, especially those from Cape Town. Ek sê, I’m not from the Mother City, yeah? Firing big words at me like I have a limited vocabulary doesn’t fluster me. I write what I like.

The brand got touched because I mentioned that one of its darling ambassadors was more interested in her phone than the event. Am I supposed to act like I didn’t see her ignore fans? I’ve since been uninvited to their events and that’s cool. I don’t get the big fuss about Champagne anyway. What is that, sour Rosé?

It also doesn’t sit right with me that these huge alcohol companies use a black face as a brand ambassador to what is mostly a white-owned company – all to tap into the “urban” market.

Then we get the misdirection that is cleverly used to pull the media in. A message before an event might say: “Pull through, there is no VIP area as we want everyone to have the same experience.” This is what I was told by a certain creative festival affiliated with a trendy vodka brand. What happened when I got to the party? There were areas that only VIP bands could access.

It also doesn’t go unnoticed when we’re told to expect an international surprise act at an event and then get ASAP Bari, who has been charged with and pleaded guilty to sexual assault.

Then there’s this thing that my bosses say they don’t usually encounter because they are women. The majority of PR agents are women and, as a straight single guy, I sometimes get flirted with in an attempt to get coverage.

I’m not saying I’m the black Brad Pitt or anything, but now you’re speaking to me with this soft voice, talking about how I smell good … what part of the game is this? If your event is wack and doesn’t fit in with the direction of my section or paper, how is low-key trying to flirt going to change that? I smile and go about my life, but I see you.

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