Our Unlucky Publicist Horror Stories

Compiled By Megan Gasper, Senior Publicist

Publicists will be the first to tell you that the job is not always glamorous. Surprised? Despite representing the coolest clients, hosting parties and attending TV segments and on-location photoshoots, the life of a publicist is also full of crazy situations unlike any most people will experience in their lifetime. Heron Agency President Noreen Heron constantly jokes about how she could write a book with all the stories from her career and the 19-year tenure of the agency… and honestly, we probably should! The best part about the ups and downs of PR is having a strong team who is always there to commiserate and help you… and in the end, each experience makes for a good story. We wanted to share some of our team’s bloopers, not-so-highlights and failures to give everyone an idea of what a publicist’s job is sometimes like. Happy Reading!

Soggy Grand Opening Downtown

“We handled the Public Relations for the first large scale concert to take in the newly constructed Millennium Park in 2004. Working in PR, you know when you will have to do heavy lifting to get the press to cover and when it will be easy, although there are always surprises. So, the first major cultural event in our newly minted vast green space, a project whose construction had been reported on for years in our city seemed to be a cakewalk. Here is what Wikipedia says about that night: Planning of the park began in October 1997. Construction began in October 1998, and Millennium Park was opened in a ceremony on July 16, 2004, four years behind schedule. The three-day opening celebrations were attended by some 300,000 people and included an inaugural concert by the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus. What it leaves out: We had secured a massive amount of press to attend this event onsite. Camera crews from every station were there as well as national and international crews. Attendees brought blankets and candelabras and wonderful picnic dinners with wine. Kids were happily running around playing. The weather was perfect. I looked around and thought this would be one of the highlights of my career. No sooner had I thought that when I saw people popping up and grabbing their things as if there was a fire. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the commercial grade sprinklers going off around the park. Someone had forgotten to turn them off in the evening. I begged the camera crews not to run that footage but rather the footage of the park and the subsequent concert. Shockingly, that footage did not run and instead featured happy concert goers who were very damp, to no one’s knowledge.” – Noreen Heron, President

Not-So Planned Cameo

“While publicizing the Chicago Scots’ 33rd Annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games, we secured a great opportunity for the Scots’ president to be interviewed on a segment for CLTV. It would have been the perfect opportunity except I didn’t realize which direction the camera was filming and before I realized, it was too late, and the host was live. The segment lives online here and if you look closely enough you can see me mouth ‘Oh, my god!” as I walk out of sight.” – Derek Baker, Publicist

Chicago’s Very Own Segment Scare

“One of our ongoing clients is a well-known bar in Chicago with a reputation for hosting over-the-top, pop culture activations. I had secured the largest weekday morning television show in Chicago and was so thrilled that my client was selected to be featured for the segment! The bar was completely transformed to look like a popular NBC documentary-style sitcom, and it was going to be the perfect visual for the show’s viewers and hilarious host. I coordinated everything with the producer from visuals, to a pop quiz about the show and more. Due to other conflicts and segments going on with my clients, my amazing teammate, Sarah, stepped in to go on-site that morning to manage the segment for me. Despite planning everything out to the best of my ability, I woke up the morning of the segment to several missed calls from Sarah. Our client wasn’t on-site, the bar wasn’t open, and the camera crew, host and producer were already on-site! I was mortified! To do everything we could to ensure we didn’t lose the segment, we texted everyone on Team Heron to get to the bar stat. The whole office showed up, me included, and rushed to get the bar ready for the segment, because it was still a disaster and completely uncleaned from the night before. We picked up garbage from the floor, cleaned up spills from the bar, scrubbed tables down, gathered important iconic prop replicas and wiped them off… there was even remnants of a gelatin creation that was stuck to everything. Thankfully, we were able to get the client on-site and the bar in order in time for the segment to go on and to my extreme relief, the producer, host and cameraperson weren’t upset with us, because they saw the efforts we made to ensure they had a segment for the morning. Thank goodness for my team!” – Megan Gasper, Senior Publicist

A Theatre Stage… with No Lights

“Imagine: it’s the press opening you have been planning for weeks is finally here. Forty critics are checked in and seated in their places. The curtain rises and all of a sudden, the power goes out in the theatre. After a loooong fifteen-minute delay as the team rushed around to get the power restored, the performance thankfully resumed. It’s a night I will never forget!” Ellen Molina, Writer

City Permits Snafu

“Our agency was selected as the agency of record to open one of the hottest hotel renovations in Chicago. As a flagship property for this particular brand, the budget was high, and the Grand Opening event was massive! There were permits secured to shut down two of Chicago’s major intersections where an A-list pop star would perform. Thousands of tickets were given out online and we were set for the bash of the decade! Unfortunately, a day prior to the event, the city rescinded the permits and our team was left scrambling to completely revamp the event and figure out how to handle an onslaught of thousands of angry concertgoers. Needless to say, our cheers at the end of the night was well deserved.” – Lianne Hedditch, Executive Vice President

Text Message Decoding

“As publicists, we like to be on top of our game and always try to be as helpful as possible. When hoping to confirm a radio segment opportunity to publicize a new musical coming to town, I sent a rundown and reminder email to ensure the client was prepared with prep questions, date/location and more. While I thought I was being helpful, apparently, I wasn’t as helpful as I thought… The client replied to my email in all caps, ‘I ALREADY TOLD THEM (the other producers) I WAS IN CUBA. GTH,’ which when I Googled the abbreviation found means ‘Go To Hell.’ – Annie Gustafson, Publicist

Accidental New Instagram Aesthetic

“Sometimes, I accidentally post client photos on my personal Instagram account. I always notice right away and take it down. However, this one time I accidentally posted a beautiful drone video of the Chicago skyline that was supposed to be for a client. I received a ton of likes and everyone loved it! Little did they know it was supposed to be on a client account. I ended up deleting it.” – Anneliese Peper, Director of Social Media

Celebrity Sing-along Fail

“As one of my very first campaigns as a publicist, we represented a ‘girls night out’ musical that featured the talent of a big-name celebrity with an iconic hit song – and secured interviews and performances with every single broadcast station – ultimately to my dismay because at every turn, catastrophe struck! At one of the very first segments I attended – and the first I ever attended alone with a client – the studio had an audio mishap in the middle of the song – none of the cast could hear the track and were left scrambling trying to sing off-key on live television! I was in shock! After this disaster, I wanted to make things right for the next opportunity. I took down the performer’s coffee order and made plans to surprise her with a nice warm beverage before the next segment. The problems continued as I arrived at her apartment early in the morning to come to find out she was nowhere to be found and her cell phone was shut off! In a panic, I rehearsed her song with one of the other singers who had never performed it before, and in a matter of minutes the cast was on live without her. Turns out she overslept and slept with her phone off to make matters even worse! I grew very close with that cast after many ‘interesting’ experiences and what was extremely stressful in the moment has brought me smiles long after the run ended.”Gianna Fontana, Senior Publicist

Splashy Live-Shot

“During our second year repping the Chicago Boat, RV & Sail Show at McCormick Place, we set up a last-minute package with a local TV news station to cover the show experience, from boarding $1,000,000 boats, to taking a spin on a sail simulator. It is always a treat for us when the reporter onsite is up for anything, so we took this adventurous reporter to the indoor pool to try (and film part of his TV segment) standup paddle boarding, in the middle of a freezing Chicago winter. If you haven’t already guessed it, the reporter fell into the pool, mid shot, and was completely drenched. Luckily for us, he continued with the segment like a champ, had a good laugh, and we eventually found him a change of clothes to wear to finish the shoot. This was the first, and hopefully the last time, anyone has ever fallen into the pool!”Sarah Ficek, Senior Account Director

24 Hours with a Scottish Delicacy

“This year, I was tasked with purchasing and bringing a frozen haggis to a client segment for a popular annual festival held in Itasca each spring. The purchasing of the haggis was the easy part – it was keeping it frozen that posed a difficult task. I was spending the night at a hotel for another segment, so keeping a haggis frozen with no freezer was quite fun. I ended having to purchase a cooler bag, loads of ice that I rotated every couple hours, and even had it in the passenger seat of my car with the seat belt on to make sure the ice (or the haggis) didn’t fall out of the seat. I had to take this haggis to another client segment with multiple people asking me what I had in the bag and me slyly trying to avoid the question. The best part of all of this? The segment was to fling the haggis in the air as part of their annual Haggis Hurling contest! Talk about special treatment for some Scottish food!” Kathy Bryja, Senior Publicist

Chef Segment, Without A Chef

“After setting up a live, in-studio radio segment at WGN-AM for two spokespeople from a new, popular Chicago restaurant, I was surprised bright and early that (despite confirming several times!) the client thought it would be okay for one of the interviewees to show up halfway through the segment, rather than the required arrival time. I was relieved that at least one of the spokespeople had arrived on time and the segment could go on, until he said, ‘I hope Chef shows up, because I don’t know the menu!’ With those ‘reassuring’ words, I felt sick to my stomach and ran around every corner of the building, trying to contact Chef to see what he could do to make it on time (with horrible service). Thankfully, he did show up, but late of course!” Marissa Peters, Publicist

A publicist’s life is never boring! Interested in learning more about Heron Agency and our team of easy-going, resilient and creative thinkers? Please contact us at info@heronagency.com.