If Gordon Brown is right – and who dare doubt it? – that Britain’s economic crisis is akin to the dark days of the Blitz, then it’s comforting to know that we have the modern equivalent of the land girls, those doughty lassies who pulled on their wellies and worked down on the farm.
The only difference between now and then is that today’s heroines are digging for victory not on the land but at the wordface. I refer, of course, to that unsung band of troopers, the PR girls. With jaws set, eyes steely and fingernails polished, they are more than a match for all that the recession can throw at them. Their resolve in the teeth of adversity is admirable. They spit – metaphorically, it goes without saying – defiance: “So consumers are tightening their belts, are they? Well, we’ll soon see about that!” That’s their message and it will take a brave foe to withstand their combined assault.
Firmly in their sights is St Valentine’s Day, which, along with Easter, Mother’s Day and Hallowe’en, is one of the grimy milestones on the rocky path of retailing. In the run-up to February 14, no effort is spared to prize the unwilling pound from the pockets of consumers. This is no time for tight wads. Failure to buy a card or flowers or chocolates will be seen not as economic prudence but emotional negligence and the price will be far greater than the money saved.
Even so, money is tight and the competition for those Valentine’s purchases intense. It’s at times like this that the PR girls show their mettle. Long after lesser young professionals have departed their workplaces, the lights still burn in the tastefully minimalist offices of public relations. Beneath their soft glare and long into the night, the PR girls bend to their task, burrowing for adjectives, polishing superlatives and laying waste to grammar and punctuation.
Take this breathless press release from the pen of Twanna Doherty of Ethical Superstore. “Okay, so here’s the score. Valentine’s Day comes but once a year. You journalists have probably been getting tonnes of emailed releases for weeks, nay months, with all kinds of shiny, pink, red and gold gift ideas. Heart-shaped this and chocolate that.
“So because we like to do things a little differently here at Ethical Superstore, we aren’t going to send you ideas for your Valentine’s shopping pages. You see, the thing is, we don’t think Valentine’s Day should be any different from any other day. If you love someone, then tell them now. Right now. Call them (even better turn up unannounced with a big bunch of home-made origami flowers) and tell them just how amazing they are and how much they mean to you.”
See what I mean about the gutsy, never-say-die spirit that animates these fearsome mistresses of spin? Twanna’s message could not be clearer – get off your butt and deliver the home-made origami. Pronto.
Anabelle Randles also takes a direct, no-nonsense approach that grabs the reader from the first sentence: “Surprise your loved one on Valentine’s with some sexy ethical lingerie made from wood.”
Surprise seems hardly the word for it. I don’t know who would be the more surprised – the lady who receives a cross-your-heart bra made from organically farmed teak or the gentleman who gets splinters from trying to undo it.
But fear not, the pants and bras in question are fashioned from “a sustainable textile made from white pine tree clippings processed with enzymes into fibre.” Isn’t science wonderful? You take a tree, stir in some enzymes and presto! you’ve got a pair of sustainable, planet-saving knickers. It will take more than a recession to knock that kind of enterprise on the head.
Talking of enterprise, here comes, a little breathless, Georgina of Connected PR. “Here are some great ideas that’ll get your Valentine in the mood for luurve: Karma Sutra for the Kitchen – get a recipe, get a cookie cutter, get hot in the kitchen! These naughty little cookie cutters will turn your wholesome cookie jar into a seductive and suggestive, dare we say, raunchy eating experience.”
It takes skill to divine the aphrodisiacal properties in a pastry cutter, but Gemma Boyland, of Bray Leino, faces a lesser challenge in promoting her client’s product. Bayonet fixed, she charges straight into the melee. “Forget the clichéd roses, slinky undies and champagne this Valentine’s Day. Instead compliment your partner with the ultimate for the intimate – and invest in a bottle of Yes – the world’s only certified organic intimate lubricant which guarantees its purity.”
A gift-wrapped tube of lube. Who said romance was dead?