Richard - he’s wonderful - even when he gets it wrong, he gets it
A massive build-up with pre-publicity and excitement charting every
fraction of the way, stunning lift-off pictures on the national front
pages and television, problems emerging in time for breakfast broadcast,
huge relief in time for lunch and a perfect apology for disappointment
And more - a last minute hero, who saved the day and forgot to
photograph the can that plummeted to the ground so that the balloon and
its crew could survive.
I can’t knock it and what’s more, I don’t want to. All of us earthbound
PR people should throw our hats in the air at the guts, grit and the
marvellous luck of the man. He has managed to encapsulate, in less than
24 hours, everything that makes a great story and keeps the media in
An eccentric British adventurer doing something that hadn’t ever been
done (churlishly, we could pause there, I suppose); doing it under his
own steam through his own well-earned means; being consistent about
wanting to do it (no mere stunt, this); never being arrogant; giving us
emotion (farewell to wife and son); giving us great beauty and drama
(but keeping the scary bits to himself until everyone was safe); and
then having that overwhelmingly appealing national characteristic of
being able to say ’sorry - it didn’t work out’.
But nobody got hurt, no vital emergency services appear to have been
called away from other more pressing cases - if his pride was hurt, he
was prepared to let us see it - and as a result we loved it. And filmed
it, and photographed it and talked about it - mainly with great
admiration and affection.
Having met Will Whitehorn, I’m prepared to believe that the whole thing
was minutely planned - down to the last grainy shot of Richard in the
basket - even so, I don’t mind. What a testimonial to the value of
creative public relations and the impact of media coverage on an event
with so many brand benefits. And as Richard has now proved - how to take
risk by the scruff of the neck and make it your friend.