Pitches From the Ditches: The Exclusive

By Donal Wayswin on at

Somewhere in the dark there is a horrific high-pitched noise causing disruptive peaks in the baseline stasis. It’s awful. This noise source must be destroyed.

Begin system start-up. Eyes open. Oh dear. The light hurts my soul. Am I a vampire? Further clues saunter forward for inspection: mild psychosis; rabid confusion; a hint of meat, and a tongue like a salted slug. Conclusions desperately swim upstream, struggling coughing onto the shore. The last remaining piece of rational thought crawls up to a massive red button emblazoned with a single word, and hammers it hard.

HANGOVER ALERT!!! HANGOVER ALERT!!! YOU’RE FUCKED. YOU’RE FUCKED. IT’S ONLY A TUESDAY. My drunk and disorderly fingers take three swipes to convince the slippery little grey bar thing across the iPhone's screen, eventually silencing default S. American woodwind. Die iPhone. Why did you do this to me?

I have an hour and 15 minutes to cleanse, begin an intensive stimulant regime, find non Mayonnaise tainted clothing, and negotiate London’s mobile claustrophobia chamber (changing at Stockwell) to the office. I tongue and thumb some ketchup off my foot and begin the day as I mean to go on, necking non-brand pain-killers.

Two hours later, sweaty and with Latte foam smeared directly on my sexual organs, I cross the hallowed agency reception. The pretty receptionist ignores my welcome snort – she's probably just awe-struck. I've managed to rustle up a pretty special outfit today, accidentally pulling on trousers that my gut rendered obsolete when I was eighteen, and a shirt which has 100 years’ worth of melted Sure residue accumulated under the armpits. Slick.

The lift vomits me out onto the third floor and I self-consciously walk to my desk, which, as luck would have it, is right beside where the senior team is exiting a morning account meeting. My tardiness is universally noticed by this be-suited conglomeration of 10000 years’ worth of PR experience. I may as well be wearing a massive Golf Sale sign which says ‘Never Give This Man a Promotion – He’s LATE and he DOESN’T CARE’ and on the back ‘He’s dressed like a sex pest’.

Sinking into my cheap plastic chair I have a brief hobbit-after-three-films feeling, happy to have battled across the plains of South Londor. This is immediately followed by the wrecking realisation that a whole day’s work lies ahead. The reality of this whacks me in the face when my direct manager, who sits across the table from me, sneaks in a very subtle dig:

“You smell of booze. Where are you with that exclusive?”
Work and abuse? Ack Ack.
“I was out with the editor of a trade mag last night and didn’t get in until the wee hours. Sorry for being late,“ I grovel. “I need to follow up with that exclusive today, I will let you know.”

This being the first human contact of the day, my coherence surprises me. I am also bending the truth somewhat, yes I did meet a journalist for a beer after work, but he left at 7:30pm so the impact of those two pints was probably minimal compared to the fact that a man called Dingo was drizzling Sambuca into my mouth until well after the second trip to the ATM. A line has been firmly drawn under all such similar future activities for at least two days.

The exclusive is another matter. I have managed to shove a quarter of a foot in the door with a tech writer on a national for a client, who's been hankering after a piece of national newspaper coverage since before they were born. The story is the result of at least a trillion meetings and brainstorms, and a research budget bigger than CERN. I volunteered to try run it past a journalist who I know (a very loose term in PR circles – I spent a few minutes talking to her at an event once).

The journalist has been sitting on the story for a while now, after showing lukewarm initial interest. The problem is my eager colleagues have taken this luke-warm interest with slightly more gusto than it probably deserves. These not inconsiderable hopes, now all rest on my aching puny shoulders.

I pick up the phone, dial the journalist’s direct number. Amazingly they pick up first time. I don’t think I am that prepared because a mouse-like squeak is the first thing the recipient hears. Calling an important journalist sometimes feels like selling double glazing to an armed skinhead.

“Hi, it’s Donal”
“Who?”
(As far as starts go this is not Usuain Bolt, more CoCo the Clown. She doesn’t even remember me. In the background, someone pulls the plug on the sink of hope.)
I explain my dubious credentials as the guy who dribbled wine on her shoes at an event some time ago, then outline the merits of the story.
“Oh right yeah, no sorry, not one for me. Thanks anyway Dominic.”

And just like that at 10:27 on a Tuesday morning, optimism dies. The sound of the phone being rapidly put down provides an audible full-stop. A stop to my hope, to my colleagues compliments, to pretty much everything. My manager, who had experienced possibly the shortest least impressive journalist call of all time, glares at me from across the desk.

“Can we have a chat in the Creative Room please?”
It’s not even 10:30.

***

Donal Wayswin is a pseudonym for a PR professional working for a tech agency in London, not dissimilar to the dozens of agencies that Giz UK hears from daily. All Pitches From the Ditches are based mostly on true events, with some details changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

Check back every(ish) Monday for his columns, or tune in at 1pm on Wednesday for the rantings of an anonymous IT manager in Emails From the Command-Line, and 1pm Fridays for anonymous copper Matt Delito’s Notes From the Frontline columns.

Image Credit: Businessman from Shutterstock.