Many of you know that I work in the field of communications. Some people call it PR – but I try to refrain from that terminology as much as possible as those two letters conjure up images of shallow, mindless work that contributes nothing to society. I may contribute nothing to society, but my work is rarely mindless and shallow. Except sometimes, which brings us to today’s post.
One of the many duties of a PR professional is the job of “handler” which involves taking executives around for press meetings and ensuring that everything goes smoothly from a timing and content standpoint. Often this involves a Masters degree in logistics, cab hailing, and detective work (so you know what the reporter is going to ask before the interview). In my particular job, I don’t do a great deal of handling because 1) my boss doesn’t really need to be handled and 2) I’m not particularly good at it.
But a few times a year, my boss, Mark, and I head to NYC for a full day of press meetings, which grants me the opportunity to play Handler. It usually doesn’t go very well. This time last year, I brilliantly suggested we jump on an earlier train to get home faster only to have the train break down for more than 2 hours somewhere in between Newark and Trenton. Mark constantly occasionally reminds me of that one. So, it would be fair to say that I have been looking for a little redemption – and I found it last week when we returned to the Big Apple for a really busy day of five press meetings – with the last one being a live TV appearance on Fox Business news.
The day flowed amazingly well. We hit every meeting on time and the conversations were very productive. Rain had been in the forecast which could have been a major problem but somehow we managed to thread the weather needle. Every time we needed a cab – it wasn’t raining – and we found one easily. But as we headed into our second to last meeting, the skies looked rather threatening and I began to worry about our ability to catch a cab in the imminent pouring rain and get to our appearance at Fox on time. Luckily, my Handler light bulb went off.
Usually when you appear on a television show, the producer will offer to have a car pick you up. So I contacted the producer to have a car pick us up after our last meeting and to take us to the studio. It turned out to be a brilliant idea because by the time we left our meeting, it was starting to rain rather hard – and finding a cab would have been dicey.
The dispatcher called to tell me that the car was waiting outside but when we exited the building, we didn’t see it immediately. Luckily, after just a minute, the driver came walking briskly towards us with a smile. He said something to me which I didn’t hear and I replied asking “Fox News?” He nodded. We jumped in the car and headed uptown. I turned to Mark and smiled, “This was a good idea.” And he agreed. Handler redeemed.
We spent the ride uptown going over what to expect in the forthcoming live interview. Mark was well prepared. His handler? Not so much. Because we suddenly looked out the window to see our car was heading down the ramp into the Mid-Town tunnel. Had there been a flight recorder in this car, here is what you might have heard:Male Voice (Mark): Where are we going? Female Voice: (Me): I don’t know. This doesn’t look right. WHERE ARE WE GOING?? Male Voice 2 (Driver): JFK Female Voice: JFK!!!! WE’RE NOT GOING TO JFK!!!! WE’RE GOING TO FOX NEWS!!!! AREN’T YOU THE CAR FOR FOX NEWS??????? Male Voice 2: NO!!! I’M NOT FOX NEWS!! AREN’T YOU SARAH???? Female Voice: NO!!!!! I’M NOT SARAH!!!
While the nature of our predicament was probably obvious to you, dear reader, it was just then that I realized we had gotten into the wrong car. I began to panic.Female Voice: YOU HAVE TO TURN AROUND!! YOU HAVE TO TAKE US TO FOX NEWS!!!!!!! Male Voice 2: I CANT TURN AROUND!!! THERE’S NOWHERE TO TURN. AND I CAN’T TAKE YOU TO FOX NEWS!!! I HAVE TO GO BACK AND PICK UP SARAH!! Male Voice 1 (Mark calmly): We need to get out of this car or we are going into the Mid-Town tunnel. Female Voice: STOP THE CAR!!! WE’LL GET OUT!!!
The driver does his best to pull over to the side of a one-way on ramp into the Mid-Town tunnel during rush hour. Mark and I jump out of the car and grab our bags from the trunk, ready to dash a few blocks back to 2nd avenue. It is now raining steadily. I have no idea how we are ever going to find a cab now. But that apparently was the least of my problems.Police Siren and Cop #1: ATTENTION!! PLEASE GET BACK IN THE CAR!
I see two of New York’s finest running towards us. Apparently, two individuals jumping suddenly from a black sedan with suitcases just yards before the Mid Town tunnel is alarming to SOME people. Go figure. At this point, all I can think of is having to get back into the car and head out against our will to Long Island. We were going to miss the Fox interview.
This was not going to happen. I am The Handler! I am now going to HANDLE the situation.
I look around and see that Mark has already gotten back into the car at the first instruction. I sigh, defeated and climb back in the car, ready to head out to JFK where perhaps I can fly someplace where they hire really bad Handlers.
But the cop doesn’t send the car through the tunnel. He helps it turn around and, in just under a minute, we are headed back in the right direction. The driver lets us out on 2nd Avenue and rushes off to find poor Sarah who is hopefully still waiting for him. We manage to flag down a car service to take us to the Fox News Studio, making it with even a few minutes to spare, but not before Mark could agree that this was “a GREAT idea.”
I’d like to think that my willingness to get arrested so that we wouldn’t go into that tunnel counts for something. I’m not sure I know too many Handlers who can say that they have EVER done the same for their boss. Maybe bragging about my obvious commitment to my work is a stretch but if anything, we PR people know how to spin a story.
So that was mine – and I’m sticking with it.