A friend and I have always dreamed about opening up a PR firm where we would provide top of the shelf consultancy on rebranding, lifestyle public relations, crisis public relations, running PR campaigns to influence policymaking and creating a personal brand and image makeovers for politicians and celebrities. Our dream clients would have been the cricket board (because no matter who is at the helm of the affairs, they repeatedly manage to shoot themselves in the foot) and Shiekh Rasheed because we thought he would just be super interesting to work with.
My friend is currently pursuing a post grad degree in PR in USC and visits Jimmy Kimmel Show (Or was it Jimmy Fallon) sets to learn the tricks of the trade while I slave my days away dealing with clients who want this and that and the other and writing an occasional piece or two to remind myself of the good days when I used to do it full time. The point of this long winding personal story is that PR is something I hold in high esteem and have utmost respect for the people who do it well without excessive schmoozing.
Recently, a UAE based newspaper approached me to do a profile on a local celebrity to which I readily agreed. The said celebrity is someone who I find rather interesting (just for the contradictions he represents if for nothing else) and thought he would make an excellent subject to write on.
I called a reporter friend and got his number. Called him quite a few times and sent him various text messages but did not get any response. Someone suggested that I should find a common friend who can introduce me to him if I really want him to talk to me. I approached a famous columnist who very kindly introduced me to another journalist who is apparently friends with this superstar celebrity. Both these gentlemen – the columnist and the journalist – went out of their way to help me, a person they have never met. But the celebrity remained elusive.
Then another friend suggested that I should approach his PR representative and maybe he can get me a time slot with this guy. Honestly, I was getting tired but thought there is no harm in approaching this guy, after all it is his job that his client gets the right kind of exposure in worthy publications so I approached him. The PR guy Arsalan Shah claims to represent a few high profile celebrities. In the beginning he was amenable and wanted me to email him the details. I told him the name of publication interested and the kind of piece I wanted to do, he then emailed and said yes, the interview can be arranged. I was happy that my persistence paid off and I finally managed to get a response. I emailed the PR rep asking him about the date/time/venue of the proposed interview.
I then received an email saying that he is willing to arrange for the interview but I need to cough up something to the tune of $1000 to $1500 to get face time with the celebrity is question. the exact words he wrote were:
…. but the entire speculation will be charged to an amount no less than USD 1000 – USD 1500. If geared up from your side, we can talk over further parley on my direct line.
I was stunned! $1000 to $1500! He wanted to be paid to arrange for an interview and he was expecting me to haggle with him over the price!!!! What was he? A PR guy or a pimp who not only wanted to be paid in cold hard cash but also willing to negotiate the price! And he called setting up an interview speculation!!!! Just when I thought I should write to him telling him what I think of his offer and where he can stuff it, I got a text from the reporter friend of the star saying that the celeb in question does not want to do any interviews, period.
I then realized that the PR guy probably have not even spoken to his client and wanted to make some extra cash on the side. I am not really sure if this guy was a PR professional, a glorified pimp or a fraudster out to con gullible journalists. If I were that celebrity I would fire this guy before he can type in the dollar sign.
PS: The celebrity in question is NOT Shahid Afridi. From what I know and have heard, Lala does not ask for money for interviews.