In case you were busy berating your PR firm for lack of coverage or waiting for you to come up with all of the ideas, you might have missed a MailOnline story earlier this week revealing that the head of PR at Activision (publishers of the wildly popular Xbox game Call Of Duty) apparently "siphoned off £18,963 (about $29K) to pay for her engagement party, hen party and designer shopping sprees."
Kathryn Kirton is said to have raided the budget for a major film-premiere-style launch of the game, redirecting the funds toward designer clothes, a luxury hotel break for her then-fiancé, and various parties. While fraud or theft in any business is nothing to smile about, there were some amusing moments in the Blackfriars Crown Court hearing, especially when the judge declared, "In the world of PR you are surrounded by luxury items. That is reality for people working in that industry" -- and further, that the world of public relations is "glamorous and luxurious."
I have been in the PR business for over a third of a century, and I can count on the fingers of a hand with only two fingers the number of times I came near anything that a sane person would call "glamorous and luxurious." On one occasion, I met and had my picture taken with (then) supermodel Christie Brinkley. Another time, I met and had my picture taken with O.J. Simpson (pre-murderous spree). Oh, and I went on a national tour with Cosmopolitan savior Helen Gurley Brown in which we sat in the back of a limo in Detroit and talked about taking acid (said she wanted to but never had the nerve, but that she was "pretty sure Cary Grant did.") All that happened when I was in the magazine PR business, but once I switched over to working with new-media companies, the biggest celebrities I ever met were VCs and relatively anonymous guys who sold their companies for millions -- and remained relatively anonymous.
Perhaps the Blackfriars Crown Court judge thinks there is something glamorous about hanging out with reporters, who by and large dress like refugees from thrift shops and think that lunch anywhere other than Chipotle is a bribe. And if the judge had luxury on his mind, he never went to the fourth-floor walk-up of a tech startup, where folks share a bathroom and/or kitchenette that would cause you to call the Motel 6 manager and ask for another room.
Now I suppose, if you are the staff PR person for, say, Entertainment Weekly or TMZ, you get to text your friends that you just had a drink with Tom Cruise or some rapper who I don't know even if my kids roll their eyes until they fall out of their little heads. But more often, I am sharing a bowl of miniature candy bars with a marketing director struggling to explain how the company interfaces with DSPs and why anyone should care, or with a CEO who fantasizes that the valuation calculated by the last funding round is another sure step on the path to a massive exit via Yahoo or AOL.
The painful fact is, the higher up the food chain you get in PR and the closer you get to "glamorous and luxurious," the more you are regarded as the help charged with making sure the CEO's tux is pressed and the celeb speaker has fresh flowers in her room. I am pretty happy down in the trenches with my tech homies, who never have a budget big enough for me to siphon off $29k.