My biggest gaffe: addressing the wrong people

Pietro Ranieri recalls an early lesson in the importance of getting the right message to the right person

Return to sender? Pietro learned the hard way to check his work
Return to sender? Pietro learned the hard way to check his work

About 20 years ago (I still can’t believe that it has been that long) I was a junior account executive in my first job out of university, in a tech PR agency.

It was pretty much pre-internet, email and everything we take for granted now. So when we sent out a press release, we spent all day printing a document we had to staple together, stick a 35mm slide to and stuff into envelopes.

If you were lucky, you had a franking machine to do postage. Not me – as a junior I was left to lick stamps. Promotion in the distant future could mean a wet sponge: progress.

Some releases or trip invitations would be personalised; others were generic. If they were personalised, we would use windowed envelopes – generic ones got a regular envelope with a stick-on address.

One week we started to get phone calls from rather disgruntled journalists who had been receiving each other’s press-trip invitations. More embarrassingly, journalists who were not invited on that press trip were getting ones that were intended for their competitors. As things moved slower back then, these calls kept coming for days as the journalists opened their post.

I got a written warning for sending out all the personalised press invitations using regular envelopes with sticky labels with all the wrong addresses on. It was embarrassing for me, but thankfully my bosses at the time saw the funny side – eventually.

I learned a valuable lesson in double-checking my work.

Pietro Ranieri is group MD and founder of Ranieri

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