Some years ago – probably turn of the century or just before – two PRs who worked for an upmarket car company were overheard muttering about one of our colleagues: “How many cars has he ever sold for us?” was the thrust.
The colleague was – and still is – a national journalist.
As word of the exchange spread, reaction among fellow journalists ranged from indignation (not our job to sell their cars) to mirth. The feeling was that the two PRs either never really grasped their roles properly or had fallen completely under the spell of their marketing department.
Our job is fairly simple: to inform – perhaps entertain, depending on the audience – as objectively as possible without fear or favour. Anything a press office can do to make that job easier is appreciated but not essential.
Yet we do ‘sell’ cars. The recommendations I have made to family, friends and acquaintances over the last 35 years since I penned my first motoring column will have translated into sales.
In the last year or so my tally is a Peugeot Partner to a neighbour with two boisterous, sporty boys; a Mazda6 to a once-devoted Audi driver and he’s very pleased with it, a Honda Civic and a Peugeot 208.
Currently in the research stage are a SEAT Leon ST: the local dealer is a SEAT franchise and my first recommendation is always to buy locally and a Fiat Panda or SEAT Mii, which might end up being a VW Up!.
As my involvement in village life has spread beyond the cricket club, golf and a noggin on two in the pub on a Friday night (well, not just Fridays and probably more than a couple of noggins) to encompass the bowling club and other organisations, so I get more requests for recommendations.
A couple in their 70s want a car with a high hip point that is easy to get in and out of. I will see them at the weekend and will suggest looking at a Vauxhall Meriva (above). I think it will be perfect for them after reacquainting myself with it during Vauxhall’s current regional tour.
So, yes, we do sell cars by recommendation, which is the best way to do it. But please don’t take it for granted and don’t treat us as an extension to the marketing department.