Three short missed calls from a landline number on my mobile phone.
Usually it is the delivery men ( ALWAYS men ) who give missed calls from their mobile phones, expecting the customer to call them back. So three missed calls from a landline is unusual. It could have been a bad mobile network at my end ( Airtel’s coverage has been quite embarrassing at my residence all through 2014 ).
I called back on the landline number thinking I would at least find out what organization this person is calling from and then co-relate with any of the expected product deliveries.
A male voice answered and when I asked him in Hindi that I had received three missed calls, he promptly disappeared from the other end and was replaced by a female voice. I explained to her that I had received three missed calls from this number and wanted to know what company this was. She gave me her name ( which I was unable to understand probably because of the fake English accent ) and then she told me the name of the PR Agency where she works and I had a #HeadDesk moment. I couldn’t believe I had called a PR Agency BACK.
It is what it is though.
The lady asked me who I was and I gave her my first name, at which she aha-d & asked me if I would be attending the X BRAND event.
Now I do not know this lady, I have not worked with this agency previously, and while I know about the X BRAND, I had no clue about any upcoming event. I appreciate people who can quickly get to the point when it comes to work-related queries but it is generally based on some fundamental context.
Since her question had stunned me into silent stupor, in a questioning tone she told me she had sent me an email.
About a month prior, my ever efficient, vigilant and brilliant business manager, Matt, had helped me create certain filters to better manage my email. Any email that is a BCC to my business email is Marked As Read, it then does a Skip Inbox, it is Archived and labelled as “PR”. If you are someone plagued by irrelevant emails from time-pressed, fraught & tense PR Agency employees, try a similar filter sometime and be rid of the trash forever.
Of course, once in about ten days, Matt scans the folder to check if we might have missed any important emails by mistake. You will be pleased to know that this has not happened so far. These emails are mass-blasts to whichever poor soul’s email address some diligent list-maker and excel-sheet filler added to a “media” list. Indiscriminate press releases about subjects that my blog has never touched. No personalization and in most cases they’ve never even seen my blog. I understand the scarcity mindset all too well. I understand it enough to create my internal safeguards against these excel-sheet fillers passing on their bandwidth scarcity onto me. My time and mental space are sacred and I will do whatever it takes to protect them. So, if you have sent me an email saying, “Hello there!” and that email was also BCCd or in some cases CCd to hundreds of others, I guarantee that I have not seen it.
When the lady suggested the email had been sent to “me”. I assured her I had not received any such email. ( Matt later checked & confirmed that no such email had been received even in my Mark As Read “PR” folder. )
To this, her response was, “Oh. I did send the email. But never mind, now that you are on the phone, you can tell me. So will you be attending the event?”
I swear I could not control it. I laughed into my phone and said, “No.” And waited for her to say something. She said, “Oh. Ok. Thanks.” and hung up.
Unsolicited phone call. No prior communication or contact. No introduction. No details about the event – date / venue etc. Nothing about why I was being invited.
X BRAND was working with a different PR Agency six months prior. If they are interested I can tell them they have not made a better choice. So much for international luxury brands outsourcing their PR to Indian PR agencies. I want to say it is arrogance that no matter what they throw at the Indian market, consumers will buy. But it is not arrogance. It is banal stupidity.
Going forward, I am keen to name client brands and agencies that are complicit in this harassment. I know many of you who read this blog work at PR agencies or work with brands that hire such agencies and many of you are professional bloggers. What do you think? Do you think naming the client brand and the agency they have hired will encourage broader discussions about how to find a solution for this harassment or do you think it will stop this harassment altogether or do you think nothing will change? ( I didn’t ask “Do you think either party will never work with me ever again because that is not a threatening situation, it is an awaited, welcomed, peace-inducing situation. )