My Second Craziest PR story

Actually, this one is just tied for second place.  I still can’t tell the story it is tied with — maybe someday.

In 1969, the Queen came to Canada and to celebrate her trip, she gifted the city of Ottawa with a pair of swans from the Royal flock.  Now, being a pair of swans, they do what swans do and soon there was a whole flock of Royal swans living it up in the canals of Ottawa during the summer.

Of course, this being Ottawa, it gets cold in the winter and the canals freeze over (and are turned into the world’s longest ice skating rink but that’s another story.)  So, in the fall, the swans are rounded up and tucked away in their little swan house, fed and kept cozy ’till spring.

During my tenure at Cognos, city budget cuts threatened the beloved swans.  Huge national outcry and Cognos (the software firm I worked for at the time) stepped in to save them — we’ll sponsor them, we said.  Immediately, every newspaper, radio station and TV station in Canada picks up the story.  (Thanks heaps, Rob, for this whole story, BTW, totally your “fault”.)

Well, to make a really long story short, we saved the swans and as the PR person, I was suddenly in the position of being the Royal swan spokesperson too.  I got to visit the swans.  I got to meet the swan keeper.  I got to visit the swans themselves. Um, not my idea of a good time but OK, I’m game for just about anything.  I even got to do interviews on what to feed swans when you visit them (to minimize vet bills.)  Please, no bread, just greens.  I got to go on the Royal Swan round up in the Fall — pregnant.  (Yes, that was a busy year for me.)  Um, swans are freakin’ huge and mean, just in case you ever get invited on a swan round up.  Just back away and you’ll be fine.   Nice, pretty bird.

But the best part was dealing with all the groups that wanted us to save “their” birds or animals too, dozens of them.  I got a call from a Save the Turtles organization.  The Greyhound League.  I got calls from people protesting the use of border collies to keep golf courses clean of geese — Canadian geese.  (Lady, do you know how much goose “stuff” a goose produces every day? I don’t want them on my lawn either.)  We even got a call from an organization that wanted us to send our employees in to help free the lab rats, from a real live lab.  Yeah, break in and free the lab rats.  I had to gently explain that I really couldn’t send employees from my company to commit an illegal act.  It was definitely a case of no good deed goes unpunished.

So, let the jokes commence — I think I’ve heard them all but you never know.

3 thoughts on “My Second Craziest PR story

  1. In my next life, can I come back as a Royal Swan, instead of ya’ know, the opposite? Thanks for sharing. I just love it when working in PR goes from dealing with reporters to handling the quirky calls no one else wants.

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