Smoke & Mirrors: You can't plan PR

Trapped in a deathly two-day budget meeting, our spin master gets an unexpected chance to shine in front of the ravishing head of diversity.

by Guy Browning
Last Updated: 27 Feb 2014


This week, we get locked in the boardroom for the annual two-day budgeting death match. If Dignitas had a one-click depart-this-world option, I wouldn't make it past the first morning. Listening to our FD, Peter Barnsworth, present is like having dental work done by way of your back passage.

For a start, the man is fat, and no financial director with a modicum of professional self-respect is obese - it's a walking advertisement for inflationary overindulgence. His face is like a grossly underprovided pizza, with tiny facial features dotted around in a great round doughy mass. And for some reason he doesn't like me.


Linton Spivey, our bewigged CEO, took me aside. For the budgeting meeting, he said he wants a comms plan from me, with measurable, credible activity in PR. Obviously, pepperoni Barnsworth has been bending his ear. He's a robot, that man, and probably puts his socks on in a measurable, credible way.

You can't plan PR. You have an arse, and if it's hanging out, you cover it up. Fortunately, we have a token man in our comms team called Harold. He doesn't like being called Harry, which tells you all you need to know about him.

I don't know how I acquired him, as he looks like a refugee from the IT department. However, he's very useful with budgeting and work flows and things that PR is a stranger to. I got him to look back at what we did last year, attach some random figures and complex charts, and then change the date to next year. And that, friends, is how you do planning.


Day off today! Or diversity training, as human remains likes to call it. It's exactly the same every year, which isn't terribly diverse, is it?

On the bright side, they do give you a copy of the Smokehouse Book, which has lovely little photos of everyone in every department, with quirky little facts, like what they're most likely to find inside their navels.

I spent the day carefully going through the Book and rating everyone on whether I would sleep with them or not (women only, obviously!). It's quite a long and complex business, but somebody has to do it.

During the hour-long open forum about the politically correct way to have 'face-time' with someone wearing a niqab, I put together a rather whizzy tottometer spreadsheet of all the women in Smokehouse, ranked on likelihood of being 'horizontally integrated' by yours truly. Very useful day.


I woke up with a headache and then realised I was in the office and only an hour into the two-day budget nightmare. The only thing that keeps me alive through Barnsworth's spreadsheet recitations is the thought of Celeste Nibelle presenting.

She is our gorgeous head of diversity and is responsible for making sure Smokehouse is an oasis of supportive, nurturing behaviours, especially for women, and I fancy her something rotten. At the moment, she's obsessed with getting women to 'lean in'.

When she does, it means silent joy for the entire male workforce. Naturally, I am entirely in favour of more women in PR, and my team is made up almost entirely of young and, quite coincidentally, rather tasty women. We do a lot of synchronised leaning-in in my department.


Celeste Nibelle did a beautiful presentation, or rather she looked beautiful doing the presentation, which is equally good in my book. She then woke us up by asking for questions.

Our pizza-headed FD asked her what percentage of women Smokehouse had, broken down by department. If he meant women currently having a breakdown, then marketing would be absolutely top of the tree. Barnsworth thought he was earning brownie points but, embarrassingly, Celeste didn't have these figures to hand, and I think she blushed.

As luck would have it, I had my detailed tottometer spreadsheet with me and I could read out the exact percentage of women in each department. There was a stunned silence. I said it was just a small part of the measurable, credible activity comms does every day of the week.

You should have seen Barnsworth's face. Meat Feast.

Guy Browning can be contacted at

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