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From the chair: January 2016

publication date: Jan 18, 2016
author/source: Robin Roberts



As we enter another year, the calendar is already beginning to trickle through dates of events, launches and meetings as I mark them in my diary, on the computer and the printed calendar I was given for Christmas.


You can never have too many dates or places to mark them. Or can you? We all have our own idea of what must be on the calendar, what should be on there and what it would be good to cover if we have the time to do it.

The simple fact is that we will mark down events now and then struggle to make some of them for a variety of reasons. 

Sometimes we know well in advance that a desired event will have to be declined or missed because something has come up and merits importance, but other times there are last minute changes of plan which have to be made, interviews obtained or moved, clashes with launches which suddenly have spare places or were not known about until a short while before.

A colleague and I decided some years ago it was better for both of us and our prospective hosts if we split invitations and individually covered clashing events, meeting up at others or simply realising we would not get all covered and would politely decline.

Sometimes the practical aspects of an event mean it would be unrealistic to attend as a journalist, driving hundreds of miles to an airport for an early morning departure, sometimes returning the same day and driving home afterwards. 

This sort of invitation seems to be increasing among certain manufacturers and it poses an interesting possibility. While the manufacturer is governed by health and safety considerations for their own staff, who either live close to the airport or stay at an hotel the night before, the journalist does not seem to be considered in the same way.   In fact, it could be said they are and I would not be surprised if, and I do not wish it to happen to any colleagues in the writing sphere in today’s litigious times, there was an accident involving a motoring writer on an extended trip of a day, that a solicitor advised the journalist to sue the host on a no-win no-fee basis for their ill-considered event. To me these are circumstances that could unfold at any time.

That would, of course, not be necessary if a host company simply acted sensibly and with the manners to offer an overnight stay before departure to break up the trip and ensure the journalist was refreshed and able to fully focus on the launch itself.  

I know of one brand importer who habitually does not offer overnight accommodation and associated hotel parking, or on-day parking for a flight, but expects the journalist to pay, possibly a few score pounds for the privilege of attending their launch on a particular day.  In the grand scheme of things the launch costs are negligible when you consider the design, engineering and manufacturing costs; the “agencies” fees for advertising and  ‘PR-support’, so this penny-pinching attitude really reflects very badly on the brand concerned. However, they don’t seem to care.

They are also a company which repeatedly rides rough shod over “the SMMT diary”, that often referred to calendar of car and van launches which was conceived to avoid clashes and ensure member companies had good journalist attendances.

Common manners and courtesy among car companies have been red lined by faceless accountants. At one time there were no-shows at events, but increasingly they are becoming no-go events. And it’s the car-makers that ultimately lose out with goodwill and publicity. 

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