Smoke & Mirrors: Hide things, deny things, reposition things. It's a PR's job

It's a torrid week for our spin-meister as he's told he has to reapply for his own job and one of his rivals sets the office on fire.

by Guy Browning
Last Updated: 30 Aug 2013


Not a good start to the week. I've had to reapply for my job. Our new CEO Linton Spivey told me he wants a fancy new holistic communications director instead of a whisky-soaked press dinosaur. Which was a bit too open and honest for my liking.

If you ask me, the last thing you want to do when you're in trouble is communicate. Hide things, deny things, reposition things and, if you have to, shred things: that's what we've always done at Smokehouse. Of course, I should have seen it coming. Having a good shitstorm radar is one of the two core skills of PR. I can't remember the other one but I better remember it before I'm interviewed for my own job.


Got in late and put my interview back. There was a nasty-looking youth outside Spivey's office this morning. I thought Spivey had brought his son to work but it turns out the tablet/geek combo with the geometric glasses is interviewing for the comms director role. Jeepers! Apparently Spivey wants to 'groove down with the social media vibe'. Must make sure I look up what that means and put it on my sparkly new CV.

Probably best to take the semaphore skills section out as well. Don't trust social media. It's one step away from socialism and that doesn't work either. Smokehouse is a PLC, which means the Public has Limited knowledge about the Company. I've met the public. They're not nice. That's why I'm anti-social.


Got in late and put my interview back again. Had a chat with Claudia, Spivey's PA. We go way back. I think I might have slept with her after an office party but I can't remember and she's never confirmed or denied it. But that's PR for you, relationships, relationships, relationships. Today, Spivey's got an American in, some kind of ex-pastor who discovered the redemptive power of share options and has become a bit of a communications guru. He's written a book called Taking The Sin out of Business.

I looked through the window during the interview and he was standing up, engaged in what looked like some kind of exorcism. Spivey didn't look comfortable but it's his own fault, as he said that a comms director should be 'the conscience of the organisation'. Better slap Songs of Praise on my CV.


I mentioned to my ex that I was applying for a communications role and she said: 'Is that the person who removes the ear gunk from your phone?' One of the many reasons I'm glad we're divorced.

Then made the mistake of showing my CV to my son. He said it was an important historical document. One of the many reasons I'm glad he's leaving home.

Got to the office, put interview back and discovered a man sitting in Spivey's office with a gas mask on. Claudia told me he was some sort of crisis management expert. Ex Special Forces, apparently, as everyone who's ever served in the army is. When Claudia brought the coffee in he was talking about total lockdown and rapid response teams.

He also seemed to do some kind of security sweep of the biscuits. Frightening.


Strange smell of burning as I got in. Special Forces guy had started a fire on his way out to test our crisis management. Claudia put it out, probably by giving it her 'no, you can't meet the CEO' look, but not before some junior scrote downstairs tweeted that the building was on fire. This of course was retweeted by Tech Boy before you could say 'injunction' and then the Pastor retweeted to his million followers that the Wrath of the Lord was being visited on the Den of Iniquity.

Spivey was in holistic meltdown. I suggested we tell the media that it was actually a clever brand-building exercise for Smokehouse. He loved this and I got Claudia to put my job interview back indefinitely. Then I remembered the other core PR skill. You've got to know whether to act quickly. Or do nothing and let it all blow over.

And no one does nothing quite as decisively as me.

Guy Browning can be contacted at

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