My biggest gaffe: Making a sickening faux pas with my faxing

Sarah Owen, CEO at Pumpkin, had a sickening moment when she accidentally faxed a confidential document to a ruthless journalist

About 25 years ago I was a junior PR in a large agency network. I had a sizeable list of duties.  As there were only two of us in the press team, I often found myself working way above my pay grade on news, new business releases, selling in to journalists etc.

When I was asked to draft a press strategy on the acquisition of a new company, I was chuffed. To work on a commercially sensitive, important project was a big feather in my cap. Or so I thought. Off I went, gathering information, writing materials and liaising with the big cheeses.

We were some way off announcing the news, but they were pretty pleased.

As usual, I was racing around the place with bundles of paper, for filing and faxing (yes, faxing). Cut to me faxing a separate new business win press release to a journalist on our key title. I was surprised he phoned me back; I was always chasing him to see if he was printing our news. Of course, he wasn’t interested in the new business win, but his curiosity was piqued by the acquisition announcement I had accidently faxed him.

It was a real sick in the mouth moment. I begged him not to use it and explained how I could get the sack. He was hugely sympathetic, but printed it anyway, the swine.

I was lucky to get away with a huge telling off and pity smiles from colleagues, but I was mortified. I do think it made me more careful and resilient to subsequent PR ‘crises’, but it still makes me feel slightly sick every time I think of it.

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