Well, that four or five-week stint in a national press office in London turned into.... 22 months!
Not that I'm complaining of course. The work was fabulous, the people even better. And I got to give away all my spare vegetable seedlings to people who appreciated them. But maybe that's another story for later.
So I've missed having regular work - but I've not missed the 13 and a half hour days including the commute to London. But given I slept through much of that journey it seems churlish to complain. Though the journey home in sub-zero temperature with no heating in the carriage in February made me go on Twitter to say it was the only train journey I'd been on where it was warmer with the doors open than closed. Made me wish I was on a train that stopped at every station so I could stand by the door and feel less than frozen. At least I had a seat.
So, anecdotes about the journey aside, what did I learn in those 22 months?
Well, I learnt that people who are good at policy and negotiations can't generally be expected to understand the needs of the press. A report for an internal audience tends to be written for that audience. It doesn't mean it will be of any interest to The Guardian or Times. Or even the trade press, come to that.
And those same great policy officers don't write great press releases. Or titles. Or lead sentences. Or blogs. So what I learnt was that not everyone could be good at everything. And why should we expect them to be good at everything? They can't be. And we shouldn't expect them to be. We have to give them a break.
It's why we have specialists who concentrate on writing for the press.
At the end of the day, it's about how you deliver your message effectively and efficiently. Oh, and there has to be a message. Good press releases are rarely constructed from random thoughts that someone thinks will be a good idea to share with the media.
It has to be news.
I'll say it again.
It has to be news.
Because if it's not, no journalist will pick it up and print it. And all that effort to pluck a silk purse from a sow’s ear will be wasted.
And that can be hard to tell a client for several reasons. They want to tell people about their company - but there is nothing new of interest. So the client thinks you're giving bum advice. (You're not).
You stand to lose the fee for writing the release. You don't want to turn down the money, but you know - you just know – there’s no value for the client.
Your reputation for giving good advice is at stake, you could write the press release and send it, but you know the journalists receiving it will wonder why on earth you are bothering them.
And there will be no pick-up and the client thinks you've done a poor job.
Yet it's not your fault that the release didn't work. It's not news. It won't run.
So the hard message of "It's not news" can be instantly turned into a conversation about what is news, what the client has coming up. A new product, a new member of staff, a new building.
And people. People are interesting, they have a back story, aspirations, and achievements. They are the best showcase for a company, and they can be very newsworthy.