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The most annoying thing in PR? Grumpy receptionists - according to Francis Ingham

19th February 2018

When PRmoment asked me to write a piece on something that really, really annoys me, I answered yes without hesitation. After all, what an opportunity to set my feelings free!

And yet. And yet. No opportunity is downside-free. My problem here is that I find myself like the Cabinet in a cake shop of Brexit choices. Or like the shadow chancellor being asked to pick between different insults to hurl at Tories. The choices are simply too many!

For example:

I could rant about cyclists. Those fine men and women for whom the Highway Code is a mere bagatelle of suggestions rather than rules (in the interests of full disclosure, let me disclose that I have an inbuilt bias here. I am quite simply incapable of riding a bike. Much to my daughter’s amusement).

I could rant about taxi drivers. The people who have powered me to so many meetings with members and soon-to-be members over 10 years at the PRCA. And so many of whom have felt the words “silence is golden” do not apply to members of the LTDA

I could rant about airport rules. Why on earth can’t we just decide if shoes are okay or not at security? Or indeed sort out the arcanity that is the BA boarding process?

But no. Though those are indeed all worthy contenders, they are not my choice of rant. It is instead the office receptionist.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are many office receptionists who are lovely. They are welcoming. They are friendly. They are polite. They appear to (whisper the words) enjoy their job.


There are plenty who hate their job. For whom the sight of a visitor is nothing other than unalloyed annoyance.

Who resent deeply having to break off their conversation with their colleagues to deal with the unpleasantries of dealing with those who have arrived to see some of their other colleagues. Or who resent deeply having to cease vitally important WhatsApp chats with their girlfriends, boyfriends, and drinking buddies.

Who treat their visitor book with the reverence of the Bible.  Where every section must be filled in according to their particular tastes. And where the time of arrival must be *precisely* correct.

Who behave as if they truly and deeply believe that they are doing you an enormous and unparalleled favour by admitting you beyond their hallowed glass gates.

Who take genuine pride in how long they can take to call the person you are visiting to let them know that their guest has arrived.

And who on your departure enjoy nothing more than the unbelieving shake of the head when your insight into how the leaving process ‘does my pass work on this gate, or just on the access gate?’ fails.

Yes my friends. Front of house is the first thing that of our visitors all see. And for too many of those visitors, it is a thoroughly uninspiring experience.

So. As my rant ends. A plea.

In all of our interests, let’s try to employ cheerful people to be our public front. And not just to stop me ranting about it (because like all good ranters, I do deep down taken pleasure in my outrage). But in our own best interests. Because who really needs grumpy visitors?

Article written by PRCA director general Francis Ingham

Global Reputation Forum


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