A fledgling account executive’s guide to booze

Remember the first time in your PR career that you embarrassed yourself by drinking just a little too much?

I recall a college lecturer in the mists of time who, told I wanted to forge a career as a journalist, said: “He may have the talent, but can he take the drink?”

Well little did he know that if journalists were partial to the odd tipple once deadline had passed, PR events – particularly in the UK – were in a whole different league. Free booze all night at many events tends to be the exception rather than the rule. In fact, coming into PR from the media I was at something of an advantage, whereas I’ve since seen legions of  people come into the PR world from university or other studies and come a little unstuck reputationally when plied with complimentary booze at events and on company nights out.

I am not in any way advocating the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages here. And these days,  quality rather than quantity is definitely the way forward for me. But why is it we still allow new recruits to learn by their mistakes, only to then tell them “don’t worry, I made a complete t*t of myself too when I first started in the job”?

So this post is long overdue. Here is the account executive’s guide to booze-handling in the world of public relations (at least in the UK):

  1. Always stay one drink behind your client (if you possibly can)
  2. Always stay two drinks behind the journalists (sounds tough, not necessarily so, most can put it away handsomely)
  3. In order to achieve the above, go really slowly with your first two drinks
  4. Sip champagne so you can savour it. Free champers may seem like a dream at first but don’t chuck it down your neck as if it’s water as you’ll get tipsy quickly and ruin a good drink too
  5. If you don’t actually want to drink, then don’t. Clients and journalists are more likely to appreciate someone strong-willed and assertive than a dribbling, slurring fool (just a hunch)
  6. If you come into work the next day with a stinking hangover, it’s completely your fault and you’re just going to have to man up and deal with it. Do it a few times and you’ll soon get the picture
  7. Do. Not. Do. Jagerbombs.
  8. You’re the newbie. The account managers and account directors may be expecting you to humiliate yourself. Go easy and you’ll both gain the moral high-ground and stand a chance of them looking silly rather than you
  9. If you’re not capable of making statements coherently on a client’s behalf in the event that an utter disaster should strike right there and then, you should shut up, make an excuse and leave
  10. If you’re ever challenged to a tequila-drinking competition in front of your whole company after an off-site dinner near Windsor Great Park in a conservatory separated from the main building by pristine glass doors, think twice
  • John Brown

    Great post Steve. When I started as a grad at my first PR agency I was not the refined, intelligent handsome man that I am today. To me a ‘fine wine’ meant having a good old moan to my student pals. Drinking for me was more about theatre and bravado than savouring delicate flavours. However, I found this ignorance and naivety a fantastically disarming characteristic. 

    Having just started working on a high profile account, I was very proud to be invited out by my AD at the time to meet and greet these great masters of business at a swanky bar. Out came the champagne and fine wine but I could tell my clients had a glint in their eye and were up for something more interesting. After ordering my first tequila shot I was given a glare by my AD, who was keeping up appearances. However something magical happened. The head of the contingent, the chief, the master reached into his pocket, produced his Amex platinum card and ordered a bottle of Jose Cuervo’s finest. 3hrs later we were in a grotty club in Soho dancing to ‘Who Let The Dogs Out’. Our PR review the next day was the easiest meeting I ever had. 

  • Sharon

    Great points – ones I’ve been advocating for years and so well presented here. Interestingly, I discovered this article from a friends FB posting. Should be integrated into orgs comms strategies at the earliest opportunity.

  • Louisekitley

    Down to earth sensible advice. Like the business case for telephones analogy

  • Jacque Gerrard

    Great blog articulating a sensible and balanced view around the advantages of social media for professionals in healthcare.I work for a fab CEO who engages positively but runs herself ragged across four UK countries. I will point this blog in her direction and she may just “dip” her very small but effective toe in…..

    Jacque

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