My biggest gaffe: forgetting the people who matter

Martin Loat, CEO of Propeller Group, flew too close to the sun and lost track of what matters to the client.

Martin Loat: CEO of Propeller Group
Martin Loat: CEO of Propeller Group

Many years ago, before I launched Propeller, I was an independent PR consultant. As a media industry specialist I picked up a nice job helping a big TV organisation do b2b media relations. I made myself visible and accessible and started to get calls from national media, which made me feel more self-important than usual.

But, like Icarus, I started to fly too near the sun. The TV group appointed a new CEO with whom I had no dialogue and there followed other senior changes, including a change of head programmer.

This was a high-profile job and several journalists were keen to get a scoop. Surprising as it may seem now, there was no senior in-house press resource to manage the news. I found myself taking calls from The Guardian, The Times and Financial Times asking me what I knew. I even got doorstepped leaving the client building, which is a rarity in b2b.

All I had to go on were unofficial scraps from my day-to-day client who was down the food chain and I ended up misleading a journalist.

Worried, yet headstrong, I left a message with the CEO’s office along the lines of "will you please make a decision so I can update my precious new journalist contacts?"

About ten minutes later, the fax machine (remember them?) stuttered into life with a terse one-line from the CEO effectively giving me the chop.

My day-to-day client, marginalised themselves, couldn’t save me. I had overreached myself, burnt a bridge I hadn’t even thought to build with the top man and, crucially, not yet learned the maxim I now follow religiously: with clients, what matters is what matters to the people who matter.

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