My favourite moment in "Money For Nothing", last night's BBC Three programme about the iniquitous growth of store cards, came when presenter Rebecca Wilcox was being filmed on Oxford Street trying to explain to shoppers why they shouldn't use them. Top Shop's PR, obviously having been called in by the store's manager, was filmed bearing down on the crew and telling them they couldn't film the exterior of the shop because they didn't have permission. Like Chinese policemen, PR people often do this. It's the single dumbest thing a communications professional can ever say.
When the traditional wheedling, arm twisting and corruption don't work, PRs are very quick to pretend that they have some sort of Law, moral or actual, on their side. They compose their features into that "you've gone too far this time" mask and act like the parent whose about to use a sanction so dreadful that it's going to hurt them more than it hurts you. In truth they're doing this because, if they thought about it for a moment, they must realise that they don't have a leg to stand on. Whenever PRs are wielding embargos or those exclusivity agreements they are always trying to get inexperienced hacks to sign, I energetically encourage them to seek redress through the law. I would love to see them explain to a judge why employees charged with getting as much publicity as possible for their paymasters suddenly decide they don't want anyone to photograph their building.
This sort of idiotic behaviour is always counter-productive, as I'm sure the police chief in Denver must have realised when he saw this clip of his men moving on an ABC reporter trying to film people arriving for a Democratic party fundraiser at the recent convention.