The Phantom Gets Out of Bed the Wrong Side

I know, I know, I’ve been dreadful about updating the Parish News. I have no idea how the amazing IanVisits does it, but my news always looks a mess and is almost never up to date. It’s like being the scruffy kid at school that no matter what they do their shirt’s always untucked, a button’s missing off the blazer, their hair looks like a pile of old hay and their tie’s on the squonk.

One of these days I’ll create some kind of calendar or algorhythm to make it all easy but for now, the best I can do is aim to update it once a month and since tomorrow is the 1st Feb, I’m just squeaking in here updating it today.

There are many reasons why I hate updating Parish News. Of course part of it is that no one likes inputting data, even for hard cash, and believe me, there’s no bloomin’ cash involved in Parish News.

But the main reason I hate it is the many and varied formats I get listings in. If only people could be clear and concise, like the good burghers or St Alfege and the National Maritime Museum, who send stuff in clear format:

  • What’s on
  • A TINY bit about the event
  • When it’s on
  • How much
  • How to book
  • A website for more info

That’s all you need. Ideally Third Person and without jolly ‘call to action’ bits that I’m only going to cut out anyway.  If it was all like that it would be a dream. Instead I get all manner of ‘press releases’, perky emails and chancers. I know that the real culprits – the professional ‘PR agencies’ who spam every blog on the planet with the same old junk – won’t read this but even the locals – please look and see if you are guilty of any of the following:

1) long, waffly emails with press releases at least three pages long

2) ‘Chummy’ emails that I have to sift through for the information and reformat – however much I like you I just don’t have the hours in the day

3)’Art-Speak’ where even after the long waffle and the three-page press release I still  have absolutely no idea what the event actually is.

4) Stuff with no relevance at all to Greenwich. I regularly get emails about events in Wales, Australia and Brimingham. To be honest anything that’s not within a 5-mile radious of Greenwich is probably not relevant enough for this blog, sorry. Some things that REALLY captivate me might sneak in. I usually discover these for myself though

5) Non-cut-and-pasteable PDFs. These usually contain minute detail that I’m going to have to painstakingly copy out longhand. Not only will it put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day, but I am bound to make mistakes.

6) Chunks of important information in the title of the email. Again this means I have to manually type out all the details and I’ll probably get it wrong in the transfer

7) Emails with nothing but the instruction to go to some stranger’s website. I’m not going to do it. Full stop.

8 ) Out and out adverts. It doesn’t help when PRs try to sweeten the pill by being all faux-coy – ‘I’m being cheeky here but I know you won’t mind me telling you all about this amazing new headlice cream.’ I will.

9) Press releases where winkling out what is actually going from all the superlatives, namechecks and quotes takes all day. Knowing that Gordon Prong has done the lighting and Joe Blogs is responsible for the choreography should go in the ‘any other business’, not the nuts and bolts.

10) Too many bells, whistles, funky scripts, images, ‘cool’ styling and other gizmos that a) it takes ages to upload  and b) I can’t work out what the hell is the most important stuff.

There are two establishments which shall remain anonymous who send me stuff on a very regular basis that I have NEVER put into Parish News because their newsletters are so complicated I lose the will to live before I can find the actual information. I am convinced  these places are so busy making their newsletters into works of art they have forgotten the bottom line – they are letters of NEWS. I will come and see the art if I can work out when and where it’s on. If you’re worried that that I might be describing you, I probably am.

11) Listings in video format. No really, I get them. I’m expected to sit and watch a promo video and then write some scintillating copy from that, sifting out the details and writing it all down. It isn’t going to happen. I might, if I am very ‘kind’ upload the video, but the chances of anyone else watching it without knowing what it is are slim.

12) Listings where the only info is to be found on Facebook. I don’t do FB and I am not going to sign up just so I can find your event.

If I just got one or two of these a day, it wouldn’t be a problem, but I get dozens of the bloomin’ things and just sifting through them takes time, and means that the good guys (GDA is another ‘good’ listings supplier…) have to wait in line with the annoying people. In the end I just get frustrated, everything gets a ‘star’ for me to deal with later, things happen in the day and they  end up languishing in my inbox for months.

So please – I know your event is the best thing ever, but even for something incredible there is such a thing as too much information. Keep it brief. If I get so excited about it I want to actually add it to the main blog, believe me I’ll be all over you like a particularly nasty rash.

This might sound conceited, and I really don’t mean it to be. But it’s just taken me an entire morning when I should actually have been doing proper work just to sift through my starred items and you don’t know the guilt when I haven’t replied to things or dealt with them in time so that the event’s already been and gone by the time I get round to it. If only I could get the basic listings more uniform, I’d have more time to deal with the really curious one-off questions, which can get lost among the listings.

Don’t get me wrong – I DO want to hear about things. It’s just much more helpful if it’s in a form I can easily deal with.

Several people today have had red-faced emails from me apologising for not replying to their ‘any other business’ emails as they’d got lost among the listings. There are more to come. Soz.

Grouch over. I won’t come back to this subject for at least a week, I promise.

3 Comments to “The Phantom Gets Out of Bed the Wrong Side”

  1. Chris says:

    re you glad you got that off your chest??!!

    A splendid rant if I may say so!

  2. Alan Burkitt-Gray says:

    Absolutely spot on, Phantom. As a journalist, I wonder why so many PRs and publicists get it so wrong.
    My two biggest dislikes are:
    1 – emails that say absolutely nothing (not even a name or phone number) except: ‘Please open attachment’. The answer to that is always: ‘No’.
    2 – emails (usually invitations) that have all the information as a gif or jpg so that it’s totally impossible to copy and paste. I’ve even known professional PRs – MDs of PR companies, even – who put all their contact info in this format, so I can’t put it into my address book.

  3. Capability Bowes says:

    Perhaps you should put together a pro-forma and have a link to it prominently on the site with the disclaimer: USE THIS FORM OR I WON’T LIST YOUR EVENT.