I'm in the middle of a series of meetings with PR companies who we may charge with supporting our annual work in this field since OHP the brand gets bigger but the office staff count doesn't.
However, perhaps by way of karmic warning, I had an encounter yesterday that demonstrated unequivocally that no matter how hard you work to foster an image, patrons' personal experience or views can quickly render all that you purport to be - or in reality are - worthless. The patron in question was objecting to our admin fee - a small charge on the entire booking and not per ticket. Anyway, the point is not so much the charge itself but the depth of feeling and expression it evoked. The letter of complaint laid a barrage of caricaturistic (have I made that word up?) accusations at our feet: 'nasty' was the least of them and if I am honest I was quite impressed by the lyricism of his opprobrium. I engaged him and feel I may have re calibrated his view somewhat but the point is that after years of happy, willing patronage, one small charge could have rightly or wrongly poisoned his whole view of us.
I do sometimes feel that the modern patron spends much of their time railing against the PR culture whilst falling hook line and sinker for it at other times. The obvious conclusion is that we buy only the message we are willing to buy. It is also a long held belief of mine that PR often seems to reach over the heads of the product's primary audience - PR for PR's sake as it were. And the unpardonable sin of believing your own PR is one that continues to be committed without end.
We need, of course to tell people what we are doing, hence talking to these companies, but the golden rule that the only kind of business is repeat business still applies. It is not lost on either James or me that no PR in the world will save rubbish work. It is also true that the best PR in the world won't change an unyielding mind even when the work is magnificent. But the devil is often in the detail and (coining, literally, yet another cliché) if you look after the pennies the pounds will look after themselves. My complaining client was not happy, I suspect, to get a reply that disagreed with him but was content to get one at all. PR, like charity, seems to begin at home.