Someone from a media agency has been phoning me repeatedly over the past few weeks. I have avoided his calls as I was pretty sure that it is about an ad that we messed up about a month ago. I thought by not answering or returning the calls, the problem would go away. However, having spoken to colleagues at other media owners, it appears this agency is organising a fantastic jolly just before Christmas and is inviting a few select media owners. Have I potentially blown a great invitation or should I phone, eat humble pie for the mistake we made and hope that I get an invite?
Regardless of how painful it might be, you should always return calls. A few years ago, Britain dispatched a new ambassador to Washington. Soon after he arrived, his secretary received a call from The Washington Post, asking to speak to the new ambassador.
The ambassador told his secretary that he was far too busy to speak to a newspaper reporter. However, the reporter continued calling, only to be fobbed off by the ambassador, who by now was becoming very irritated by the daily calls.
Finally, he asked his secretary to find out what it was the reporter actually wanted to speak to him about. It appeared that the Post wanted to know what the ambassador wanted for Christmas. Without giving it much thought, he told his secretary to tell them he just wanted a box of sugar-coated bonbons.
The next day The Washington Post ran the following story. It had asked every ambassador based in Washington, if they could have anything for Christmas, what would they want?
The French ambassador had said he would like peace in the Middle East. The German ambassador had said he would like an end to world famine - and the British ambassador had said he would like a box of sugar-coated bonbons.
If your agency contact is phoning to complain, then the longer you leave it the worse the situation will become, so phone immediately and face the music. When you do call, it's best to do so towards the end of the afternoon - people hate complaining late in the day and are less likely to want to spend a long time on the call.
On the other hand, it may be that you are about to receive a major jolly and not a major bollocking, so either way you should return the call. Mind you, if this is the case it's outrageous, as a box of sugar-coated bonbons is about all you deserve.
- David Emin is director of advertising at Mirror Group Newspapers and has 20 years' experience in national press. If you have a career dilemma you would like David to address, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. We will keep your name confidential.