By: Carole Graham
People tend to think if you’re a PR or someone’s press officer, you’ll do or say anything to get the right coverage for your client, and more often or not your message is either too good to be true or exaggerated. As if! Of course PR people would say in return that clients can have unrealistic expectations of the public or their customers’ interest in what they have to say. Finally PR people and journalists have a love/ hate relationship – they often dislike but really need each other.
Truly, working in PR is more than a stressful existence and one needs to be a diplomat and salesperson par excellence to keep everyone happy. Unless you’re in the business, people seriously have no idea of the reality.
However, every so often, PR people get lucky and have the opportunity to tell a really worthwhile story that interests journalists and their audiences and keeps the clients happy as well.
One of Magenta’s clients supports SportsAid, the charity which helps young British sportsmen and women who aspire to be the nation’s future champions. SportsAid provides these athletes with financial support as they’re starting out in their sporting careers, long before anyone would even know about or want to sponsor them. It’s down to the bank of mum and dad and part time jobs, not easy when you’re still at school and training in whatever spare time you have. The charity supported some 1,200 athletes in 2016, the vast majority aged 12 to 18, but some are even younger than that.
Once a year, the best of these aspiring young athletes are nominated for a Regional Award and then get shortlisted to become the overall Young Sportsperson of the Year, the Awards sponsored by our client. Last summer in Rio, 13 former Young Sportsperson Award finalists took part in the Olympics and Paralympics and brought home 4 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze medal. Not bad!
I unexpectedly got delegated to attend the Awards ceremony at the prestigious City Hall in London, just before Christmas and at a Reception milling with the great and the good from the world of sport and business, I sipped my champagne and spent five minutes celeb spotting. It wasn’t difficult…. Gabby Logan was presenting the event; Mark Foster, the very tall Olympic swimmer was easy to pick out; Christine Ohuruogu, the Olympic, World and Commonwealth champion was sporting a very glam gold skirt; there were England rugby players, triathletes and gymnasts. I was impressed. But what impressed me more than anything was how they were all talking, laughing and encouraging the young Award winners and their families. No overpaid and spoiled footballers here!
The 6’ 6” (1.98m) Mark was engaged with a 12 year old young para-swimmer, determined to emulate the success of Ellie Simmonds, his heroine. Gold medal winning Ellie has the same disability and has been his inspiration. Unbelievably, Leo has been part of the Dwarf Sport Association (DSA) since he was 6 years old and at the DSA National Games in Birmingham he was advised to pursue the sport of swimming and join a club as he was exceptionally fast for his age. Since then Leo has gone from strength to strength and won many competitions. He swims most days both before and after school as well as weekends and is totally committed to his sport. I found his dedication humbling as I stood and quietly eavesdropped while Mark encouraged him to pursue his dream of success and chatted to his family. Leo’s story of perseverance was repeated over and over in all the other winners I spoke to and it really brought home the huge personal sacrifice needed to make it to the top in sport and how important it is to have funding and proper training facilities and coaches to maximise someone’s existing talent.
Returning to the office the following day and haranguing the media to write about these dedicated kids was a pleasure. These were inspirational stories. The overall winner, a 17 year old Junior and Senior Taekwondo Champion and definitely a medallist of tomorrow as she was already a World Junior Bronze medallist, not only had her GCSEs to grapple with last summer. On top of her regular schooling and constant training for the forthcoming World Championships in Vancouver, her mother had been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy… not a lot of distraction then. But, unbelievably, that wasn’t going to stop her parents from travelling to Canada to watch her.
Great and inspiring stories to tell. Sometimes PR really is worthwhile!