My biggest gaffe: a lack of exclusivity

Semaphore London founding partner Liam Fay-Fright managed to annoy all the nationals by not being exclusive... at all.

Back in the black and white days, when Twitter was just a Flickr in my dial-up connection’s eye, Sunday supplements were gold.

If you managed to get your client’s house/product/car in one of these print titans, you were given a pat on the back, a day off and a Gold Amex to bash on Snakebites. The stakes were high.

And the way to acquire one of these trophies? Exclusives.

Now, as a young whippersnapper who’d done nothing but make bad reality TV, my understanding of ‘exclusive’ in the PR world consisted of a vague idea that you weren’t supposed to date two people in the office at the same time. But for media relations? Playing the field seemed legitimate.

I was entrusted with the account of a famous photographer, whose celebrity-filled work was catnip for picture editors. How to launch his next show?  A Sunday supplement exclusive.

So, hungry for early career success, I proceeded to set up my exclusives. With every Sunday supplement. The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Tele… the sodding lot. They all said yes. I sat back, well pleased with my success.

Then, two weeks before my anticipated Sunday coverage napalming, I received an irate phone call from the then picture editor of The Sunday Times Magazine, furious that they’d discovered their competitor was running the same thing… moments after The Times had gone to press with it. She rang round the competition and promptly canned it everywhere else.

Needless to say, I was mortified and she never worked with me again. To this day I still wince at my idiocy. But the piece came out. I got the Gold Amex, and the snapper and I remained friends.

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