Memoirs from PR trenches: Humorous in hindsight - by Stanley Hurwitz

January 25, 2019 - Front Section
Stanley Hurwitz

You’ve seen the Farmers Insurance commercials with tours of a make-believe museum displaying unusual real client claims the company paid. The ‘guide’ boasts: “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” Similarly, when it comes to your PR/marketing, it’s best to go with experience – a pro who’s “seen a thing or two.” Here are a few true-life anecdotes from my client files. 

Bet you were never threatened by a Nobel Peace Prize winner! At a big fundraising event, one role of the PR consultant (me) was to make sure every couple who donated $5,000+ had their photo taken during a private reception with guest speaker Dr. Henry Kissinger, former U. S. Secretary of State. Corralling couples at the pre-event reception was like nailing jello to the wall. 

As I introduced each couple to Dr. Kissinger, I directed each pose and signaled the photographer to shoot. The room was dimly lit for ambiance, forcing the photographer to use a flash. After the 10th photo, Dr. Kissinger–his 1973 Nobel Peace Prize was for negotiating an end to the Vietnam War–violently shook his fist at me and the photographer, shouting in his thick German accent, “Tell him to stop flashing in my face!” Now what? Getting donor memento picture was key. Failure could doom my client relationship. The photographer threatened to leave. I urged him to make adjustments and we got high-quality photos despite low-light.

A medical equipment supplier client decided to offer a novel service: A specially outfitted box truck staffed by a technician to make on-site equipment repairs of wheelchairs, breathing equipment, etc., I suggested we could build PR buzz if we made the truck stand out. We commissioned design of a colorful cartoon “doctor” holding a stethoscope examining smiling, broken wheelchair. The truck needed a memorable name. Yours truly conceived “Medical Equipment Repair Vehicle,” with the acronym nickname M.E.R.V. We sent out our story about the unique vehicle accompanied by a photo of company owners. M.E.R.V. made its way into local, regional and national media.

It was the early 1990s and my dental client was the first in the area to offer laser tooth whitening. My multi-tiered marketing campaign included news stories, print ads, TV spots, mailers, and a reception at the office introducing the procedure, equipment and staff. At the reception, I was interviewing patients for a story and directing the photographer. A distinguished man introduced himself as an agent of the Food and Drug Administration. I introduced him to the dentists, at which time he informed them (and me) that the procedure was FDA “cleared” but not yet “approved” as we stated in marketing materials. We changed that message everywhere. Lesson learned.

One of my favorite sayings: “A good idea can be worth a million dollars.” It’s also true that a creative PR pro can bring you a million good ideas. In 30 years, I’ve seen a thing or two – so I’ve learned a thing or two that I can share with you during a complimentary consultation.

Stanley Hurwitz is principal/creative director of Creative Communications, Stoughton, Mass.

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Steve Dubin 1/26/19 7:18 AM

I can never hear enough war stories from Stan. Keep 'em coming.

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