Saturday, October 16, 2010

Marianna Palka points the way to a post-PR world

This morning I got an email from Marianna Palka. To my shame I'd never heard of her. In 2008 The Guardian called her "the young British director who's taking the world by storm". She made and starred in a film called "Good Dick". Anyway, she's on her way to the UK from Los Angeles to do some press and she says she's an admirer of my work and wonders if I could advise her who might be interested in interviewing her. It's not unknown for the admiration to be flannel and her PR will know better than me who's interested in interviewing her.

What interests me is the direct, specific approach. Every day I go through my inbox and delete about a hundred PR emails unread. The PRs who send them probably don't care because what they're really bothered about is being able to tell the client that they've informed me and a few thousand others. Job done. Invoice in post. The only ones I read are those that have subject lines of particular interest to me or appear to be clearly aimed at me alone. By sending this kind of email Marianna Palka has acquired the most valuable currency in The Attention Economy. She's got someone to stop and think about her for half an hour. Shame (for her) it has to be me.

This is not unprecedented. I've had a few approaches recently from PRs saying that this or that artist is a big fan of the Word Podcast and would love to be on it. Frankly, I don't believe them because if the artists were that bothered they would get in touch themselves. That way we might believe them. Why, in this day and age, would you send any kind of message through an intermediary?

Anyway, if you are a hack and she sounds like your kind of story, Marianna's clearly an exceptional cove. She was born in Scotland, moved to New York to act at the age of 17, she's already written, directed and starred in her first feature film and she's not yet 30. Best of luck to her.


  1. You could at least divulge the nature of the subject line that achieved the near impossible! Not that I'm thinking of sending you a personal email or anything.

  2. I think we can all tell the difference between an email that's being sent to us and one that's being sent to a load of people, can't we?

  3. "Why, in this day and age, would you send any kind of message through an intermediary?"

    Well, perhaps, given the antics of the red-tops, people are increasingly wary of providing direct contact points like e-mail addresses and mobile phone numbers, to anybody within the broad church of the media?

    I do agree that one would be immediately alert and convinced if one got a direct e-mail from, say, Chris Martin, saying that he wanted to participate in something. But surely, if one intends to become Chris Martin, one therefore wants to protect that direct route from the outset?

    Internediaries are a difficult thing. I remember David Puttnam falling foul of the elaborate telephone etiquette which existed in Hollywood in the '80s, by which people placed calls for people, whose own people picked up, in an elaborate status game before caller and called eventually came on line. Perhaps we need new rules as to whether a person e-mails for themselves, or their assistant, record company or PR does so, etc?

  4. Another great intermediary story concerns some opera diva named Kathleen Battle.
    Riding in her chauffeured limousine in Los Angeles, she purportedly rang up her New York management via her mobile and demanded that someone from the NY office call the chauffeur on his mobile and tell him to slow down, turn down the aircon, or something like that.