Ivory Tower: the UK’s premier Universities Media Relations team launch a new campaign
Somewhere in SW1…
McCall: Janet, where is Alexander this morning?
Janet: He said he would be in a little later with a new client.
McCall: A little later? It’s half past 11 and we’ve got a million things to do. We’re not short on clients, we just need to get some work done.
Janet: Can I help with anything Mr McCall?
McCall: As our in-house youth focus group of one Janet, let me run some ideas past you.
Janet: Go on.
McCall: Department for Education campaign to encourage academics to follow the guidelines on safe working on campuses.
Janet: What have you got?
McCall: Teach Out to Help Out.
Janet: I don’t get it.
McCall: To encourage open-air pedagogy. Take your seminar group for a walk around the duck pond, give your lecture while running around a quadrangle.
Janet: Not going to be much use for practical subjects.
McCall: All the better, get out of your conceptual art studio and paint nature.
Janet: I was thinking more of medical students observing operations.
McCall: OK, let me think about that. Scottish government campaign to encourage social distancing among students off campus.
Janet: Try me.
McCall: Nae bevyin’, Nae winchin’, Nae nuttin’.
Janet: Is that Gaelic?
McCall: OK, try this one. A poster campaign, large billboards near every university in Scotland with a giant Nicola Sturgeon wagging her finger and the caption, “Am no tellin’ ye again!”
Janet: Bit racialist. Maybe we could do what we did for the campaign to encourage international students that the UK is a safe place to be.
McCall: What, pay social media influencer to promote universities they’ve never been to? That is highly unethical, but a great idea. Our list of Scottish influencers is in that file next to the fish tank.
Janet: Let me see…Scottish Funding Council…Scottish Government…ah, here we are, Scottish influencers…Rod Stewart, Jackie Stewart, Alex Ferguson, Lulu…I think this might need updating Mr McCall.
McCall: OK, this one is for several university clients who want to encourage staff back on to campus.
Janet: Hit me.
McCall: Well, it’s more of a design than a slogan. First, you tell academics that they are now key workers.
Janet: All of them?
McCall: Our university staff are essential workers.
Janet: Even the philosophers?
McCall: Especially, the philosophers, “Think for Victory!” But key workers need a uniform, so everyone gets a donkey jacket with hi-vis shoulders and their discipline written on the back: Chemist, Soc Scientist, Engineer, Allied Health, Fine Art, Cult Studs…
Janet: I think you are more likely to persuade them if you tell them they can have a special shopping hour to themselves in Waitrose and 10 per cent off in Café Nero.
McCall: What about a “clap for the academy” at 6pm every Thursday.
Janet: To mark when most of them start the weekend?
[Alexander Juniper enters with new client]
Juniper: Good morning Oliver, good morning Janet, may I introduce our new esteemed client who I am sure you will recognise. Sir Patrick, this is my agency partner Oliver McCall, and our degree apprentice Janet.
Juniper: Blimey indeed Janet. Sir Patrick and I have just had a very fruitful chat about how Juniper-McCall University Media Relations can represent him going forward.
McCall: But we already have an account with the government for science comms.
Juniper: Yes, and your moonshot ideas are very good.
McCall: Shoot for the moon, Wish upon a star, Whistle down the wind.
Janet: Mr Juniper, I really need to tell you something.
Juniper: Not now Janet, it can wait.
Juniper: Later Janet, now good as the government’s moon beam ideas are, I think Sir Patrick had something a bit more bespoke in mind.
Patrick: Call me Paddy. You see, what with senior government officials mysteriously resigning ever five minutes and calls for the inevitable public inquiry gathering pace, I just thought it would be a good idea to have some clear messaging about the role of the chief scientific adviser.
McCall: You mean, you want to put your side of the story out?
Patrick: In a nutshell.
Juniper: Best to strike now, before the Cabinet Office starts briefing against you.
Patrick: Them too, but I was really thinking of something else, someone else actually.
Patrick: Oh dear no, Dom is a lovely love, very much misunderstood, great vision, not in the least bit myopic.
Juniper: Are you sure?
Janet: Mr Juniper I really need to tell you something.
Juniper: Not now Janet, don’t you have an assignment for your course to do or something? Do carry on Sir Patsy, er, Sir Patrick, Paddy, er, Sir Paddy Patrick, Sir Paddy Power…
McCall: Please excuse my colleague Sir Patrick, he gets flustered around great intelligence.
Juniper: Never had that problem in this office.
McCall: You were saying, you were thinking of someone in particular?
Patrick: Oh yes, but I’d rather not name them.
Janet: Mr McCall, can I speak to you outside, please?
McCall: Janet, now is not the time to leave the building. You can go out a lunch time.
Janet: No, I meant…oh, I give up.
Juniper: I see Sir Paddy, you want to make sure you get the credit you deserve.
Patrick: In a sense. That’s why I need to get my story out first. I want you all to know that I was against it all from the start.
Juniper: How about a quick ghost-written autobiography?
McCall: It could be called Work, Life, Vallance
Juniper: Vallance of Power?
Patrick: I just want people to know that it was Chris who…
Janet: Sorry to interrupt, Mr Juniper, Mr McCall, but your 12.00 appointment is here.
McCall: The one who wouldn’t give their name and who said they could only nip round during their lunch hour?
Janet: That’s the one.
Juniper: Ask them to wait a moment, we’ll be through with Sir Patsy soon.
[Enter Chris Whitty]
Chris: I will not wait a moment. I knew he was in here. I could smell his Brut Special Reserve in the corridor.
Patrick: Chris? What are you doing here?
Chris: I’m here to see about the…er…NHS teaching hospitals and whether there were any celebrity endorsements for our online learning programme.
Patrick: Are you now?
McCall: Actually, I’ve got that one here, it’s called Blend it like Beckham,
Chris: And what are you doing here?
Patrick: Well…er…I’ve come to see about the vaccine awareness campaign.
Juniper: Yes, we’ve finished that one, we thought you could be our poster boy, we are calling it: Flu shot Patrick Vallance?
Chris: Look, I’m not happy about this. I just want to say…
Janet: I wonder if I could make a suggestion?
McCall: Please do, Janet.
Janet: Rather than Paddy and Chris crossing messages, maybe they could deliver one together.
Juniper: They did that at their joint press conference on Monday.
Janet: I was thinking they could front a popular campaign aimed at getting the country moving again.
Chris: I’m not sure…
Janet: It’s called Teach Out to Help Out. It will deliver 100,000 donkey jackets with hi-vis disciplinary insignia to our key worker academics returning to the front line of educational settings.
Janet: I can see both our esteemed clients modelling them, CSA on one side, CMO on the other.
Patrick: I’m not sure if a donkey jacket is really my thing.
Janet: You get a special hour to yourself to shop in Waitrose.
Chris: Now, you are talking.
Janet: And 10 per cent off with Uber.
Chris: Think for Victory!
Patrick: We’ve taught them once, let’s teach them again!
McCall: Very good, perhaps we could also have some celebrity supporters to help. Janet, you don’t happen to have any A-Lister’s phone numbers to hand.
Janet: Lulu, anyone?