Smoke & Mirrors: The comms chief is tasked with delivering 'emblematic' action

At the Most Admired Companies awards dinner our hero secures a fitting accolade for the CEO.

by Guy Browning
Last Updated: 31 Mar 2015


I'm starting the week in the ideal position for a communications director: head down, nose clean and arse covered. The whole day ticked past and nothing significant happened, which was wonderful. A good day in the travel industry is when you haven't killed anyone, a good day in catering is when you haven't poisoned anyone and a good day in corporate communications is when no one has said anything to anyone about anything. I was just about to go home early when our bewigged CEO, Lynton Spivey, stuck his head round the door and said he wanted me to do something 'emblematic'. Bugger. I don't even know what that means.


On reflection I think what Spivey means by emblematic is that he wants Smokehouse to do some kind of marvellous 'Poppies in the Tower' incredibly popular and moving public happening that creates a wonderful and lasting halo effect for our brand while catapulting sales through the roof and launching our share price into orbit.

Somehow this event needs to be tied into our latest product news, which is a longer-lasting disposable bedpan. I got together my team to do a little creative brainstorm on the bedpan-to-emblematic-event journey and one of them, Emily, decided to use the opportunity to tell me she was leaving the company. She put her resignation on a Post-It note, which was certainly the most emblematic thing to come out of the brainstorm.


This morning I have in my hands one of the reasons why Emily might have decided to leave. A few months ago we entered the Most Admired Companies competition and they've now sent me the results. In the review by our peers, three-quarters had no idea who we were and the rest thought we'd gone out of business years ago. The City analysts consulted all said 'Sell' without even being asked that question. Obviously I can't show these results to Spivey because his wig is already lying rather flat, which is a sure sign of low morale. Plus there's the embarrassing fact that we've booked a table for the awards ceremony on Friday, which will be a long, lonely and completely undisturbed evening. The only reason for us turning up at all is to remind everyone that we haven't gone under (yet). I suppose we could leave a longer-lasting disposable bedpan on each table. Given the nature of these events it would probably go down quite well.


When I have an intractable business problem I immediately adopt a rigid and highly effective protocol. I cancel all my meetings and get the hell out. I then have lunch with a friend in the City and we finish off a couple of bottles of something expensive, red and highly motivational. I then spend the evening with my new squeeze, Eva, a German physiotherapist who likes to bring her work home. If I survive that I generally sleep very soundly and when I get back to the office the problem is still there but I feel much better about it. I did all that yesterday, which is why I got in late today. On the way in, I followed Spivey's new red Maserati into the car park. Marsha on reception, our unpaid corporate psychologist, said: 'It's just a penis really.'

And that, friend, was when I knew what the emblematic solution was.


I reached out to the Most Admired Company event organisers and asked them if they still had any sponsorship requirements. Funnily enough they did. In return for buying the priceless opportunity of sponsoring the inner seat of the portaloos, I asked them for a very minor programme adjustment. That evening, about an hour after the main awards when everyone was face down in their chocolate parfait, a special award was announced for none other than our beloved CEO, Lynton Spivey. His wig was virtually onstage before he was. He came back grinning like a sea bass and clutching his luxury Perspex trophy engraved with 'Smokehouse plc - Emblematic Company 2015'. I won't say what exact shape the trophy was but I'm sure Marsha would have a word for it.

Guy Browning is the author of How to be Normal: A Guide for the Perplexed, published by Atlantic at £12.99. He can be contacted at

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