Don’t mention the flaw – A true story

September 21, 2007


“So you want me to arrange the briefing for two ‘o’clock at the cabinet war rooms… ok good stuff, see you there”.

I put the phone down to my client with a resigned sense of dread. Getting a journalist to anywhere other than a nice restaurant is always a struggle, but getting them to mingle with tourists, in a pre war relic, near damn impossible. The phone rang again.

“Oh I forgot, could you also invite the customer spokesperson, I am sending details now”

The email arrived the second I replaced the receiver. This customer would have to do some travelling by the looks of the German international dialling code.

Customer: Hallo

Me: Oh hi there, I’ve just sent you an email

Customer: Ah yes, dis is no problem. Vhere exactly am I going?

Me: Um the Cabinet (sudden realisation that the customer is German) War rooms…

Customer: Um…ahhhh…….. Do you really think that this is an appropriate place for meeting a journalist?

Me: um…… well…. Um…. I guess I’ll see you next week. Bye.

The day arrived, as did the journalist, the customer, and my client. Gathering at the front desk of the Cabinet War rooms in Westminster, the party of four descended deep into the secretive passages of the war rooms. On we went, through to ‘the bunker’. ‘Why in the name of god did she choose here’ I muttered to myself.

Client: It’s great here, isn’t it. So historic.

I shot a glance at the customer, who looking deeply unnostalgic.

As we entered ‘the bunker’ I got the immediate impression that we were about to be blown to pieces. A virtual simulator in the corner recreated the ‘path of the Luftwaffe’, complete with real bombing sounds and air raid sirens. The realism however was timed, on a 3 minute loop to be precise. Every three minutes, a German bomber (complete with engine roar) would begin its deadly descent to Blighty, the air raid sirens would sound and then the bombs would hit. Every three minutes for an hour.

The journalist quite clearly thought he was being set up and eyed me with a nervous ‘when do you turn into Jeremy Beadle’ stare. I looked helplessly back. The Cabinet War rooms attendant left us to own devices and to the most painful hour of my PR career.

Once the interview was complete, the customer wasted no time in awkwardly shaking our hands, quite clearly already working out how he was going to explain this behaviour to his family.

The journalist also made his way from our military den, whispering that he would write up the interview and find for a space for the article in his magazine (needless to say, 5 months on, no article has ever appeared) and the client continued to congratulate herself for her foresight in holding the briefing in such a ‘cool’ place.

I made my way back to the office and explained what had happened in my account team meeting to roars of laughter and derision.

Another day, another expertly executed briefing.

One Response to “Don’t mention the flaw – A true story”

  1. Pedantic Surfer Says:

    What do you mean when you refer to the Cabinet War Rooms as a “a pre war relic”? Surely you mean “post-war” relic? How could they precede the war itself? The War Rooms were were first constructed/used in 1940…

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