Diary of a PR Amateur

Now What?

February 25, 2010
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Well, you would think my management team would have thought this through a little better. I mean, why even have me go through the trouble of issuing an RFP if they were just going to cancel the PR agency search so quickly?

So here’s what happened:

My boss came into my office yesterday and told me that the economic climate does not justify hiring an agency to help with PR.

“You have a lot of experience yourself,” he said. “You can pitch the media. It will save us money.”

So here I am now, NOT getting paid to pitch the media, but having to do it anyway. And one thing is certain: I am going to call in sick tomorrow. That will be my small form of protest. I mean, who does something like this? Who asks an internal PR person to actually pitch the media? Had I known I was in for this, I wouldn’t have taken the job.

Of course, the agencies were upset, too.

“Why even send out the RFP?” said one of them.
“By asking that question,” I responded, “you just bought yourself a one-way ticket to blacklist, my friend. When we hire another firm, we will not be contacting you.”
“Your company stinks,” he responded, and then, for some reason, we got disconnected.

Anyway, I guess I start a new job here on Monday (Remember, I’m calling in sick tomorrow.). I just hope the reporters are ready to be spun like never before. They are going to be putty in my hands.


Just As I Expected

February 23, 2010
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The key to any blog is making sure you provide useful content. That is why I felt so confident starting this blog, and that is why a flood of people have begun coming to the site to drink in my wisdom.

If there is one thing I am able to provide, it is useful content. I have so much to share with the industry, and I’m pleased that I finally have the venue for that generosity.

As I said originally, I am not interested in making money from this. I have enough of that from my salary and stock options. I just want to make sure that others in the PR industry are able to learn from me, even if only via this blog.

So continue to enjoy it and tell your friends about it, people. The world will only stand to benefit.

Selection Process

February 22, 2010
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I’ve been in this business long enough to know how to approach an agency selection process. It’s simple. Send out the RFP to as many agencies as possible with an impossibly-short deadline. Then, whichever ones come back, invite the agencies that wrote the three best-looking documents. In the finals, select the agency that seems to have the best chemistry with you.

So that’s what I did. I sent out the RFP with a deadline of the next day for submitting responses. I sent it to 26 agencies and two responded on-time. So I sent them an initial document outlining what I was looking for. Here’s what it said:

Cogratulations! You’ve made it to the finals! Now, we will meet to talk about what specific things you can do to help (my company). Please be ready to present your full plan of action for the next six months to my management team in one week. You should not limit yourself regarding budget. Public Relations is a priority for (my company). You will have one hour to present, plus 15 minutes for questions following your presentation. Your account team is expected to be present for the meeting. (my company) believes in the importance of chemistry, so we want to meet the team that will be working for us, should we select your company.

Please feel free to call me with any questions prior to the presentation.



Now, you may not realize this, but there was only one important sentence in that brief. It is the last one. I’m not interested in working with an agency that isn’t interested in asking questions. I don’t want a know-it-all agency. I want an agency that will serve as my teammate, except for those times when they don’t get the job done. Then, I’ll come down on them like a sledge-hammer.

Hey, that was just a joke. But the work I need the agency to do is not a joke at all.

The Conversation

February 15, 2010
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Here is how the conversation with my agency guys went. I wanted to let them down softly:

Joe (me): So, uh, we’ve decided to take things in a different direction. It’s not that you aren’t a good agency. It’s that I needed you guys to get results and you didn’t.
Agency guy: We’ve only been working for a month. Do you really want to change already? Do you think the next agency will be able to get results faster?
Joe: Yes, yes I do. But again, it’s not you guys. We’ve just decided to go in a different direction. I wish you the best of luck.
Agency guy: Um, well, if that’s what you want to do …
Joe: It is. I think it’s the right decision for everyone.
Agency guy: I don’t. I think it is the wrong decision for everyone.
Joe: Um, I’m sorry. Someone just walked into my office. Best of luck to you guys …

Onward and upward.

Here We Go!

February 15, 2010
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Well, I gave my agency notice yesterday. They were just not getting the job done, and I think I gave them enough time. If you can’t get results within a month, you are NOT the agency for me. So, I’m initiating a search for a new agency.

The way I see it, agencies are going to be begging to work for me. I mean, think about the following factors:

1. My company is public, and agencies love having public companies on their roster.
2. We are in a cool industry, and agencies love to be able to pitch stories related to cool industries. Plus, they like to tell their friends about it. Conversely, can you imagine a person wanting to tell his or her friend that he or she works on something boring? So by being in a cool industry, I am actually going to get my agency people talking about my company at cocktail parties, social events, etc. In fact, it’s not a complete stretch to think that my agency may do the work for free, just to be able to say they work with us.
3. I’m a reasonable client – not too demanding, but demanding enough. Agencies love that kind of balance in their clients.

So I will be sending an RFP (request for proposal) to the top PR firms around. I’m looking forward to seeing their responses. And I think I’m going to give it a really tight deadline, so I can see who’s really hungry.

Moving Ahead

February 10, 2010
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I’m sick and tired of these agency guys giving me all sorts of excuses for not getting results. Today, they told me it’s partially the company’s fault because we haven’t announced anything in four months.

Can you imagine such a thing? Listen, if I had announcements going out on a regular basis, I wouldn’t have to pay the agency! I could just send out releases and watch the hits come rolling in. I’m close to making a change. I need an agency that’s hungry.

Posted in How-to, Marketing, PR

You Can’t Blame Me

February 7, 2010
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Well, my agency got back to me about my press release topic ideas. They said I didn’t give them “anything to work with.” Well, first of all, that’s what you get when you ask me to do your work for you. Second, what do you expect? I would like to see them come up with ideas out o the blue. And that’s just what I told them.

The account executive snapped back at me, “You should be able to get strong ideas by speaking with a few people within the company about what’s coming up.”

I don’t him that i didn’t appreciate his condescending tone, and that I am the client, so I can’t be wrong.

He apologized, which made me feel good … or at least superior for the moment. Then I suggested that he have those conversations with the people in my company, or “subject matter experts,” as he called them.

These agency guys with their fancy PR terms. Drives me crazy.

Posted in How-to, Marketing, PR

Press Release Topics

February 4, 2010
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Here are the topics I sent to my agency. I doubt most of them will happen, but it was a fun exercise.

1. New customers (1 time a month)
2. Product enhancements (1 time a quarter)
3. Personnel changes (2 times a year)
4. Exhibiting at an event (whenever there is an event)
5. Company acquired by another company (if it happens)
6. Company acquires another company (if it happens)
7. CEO indicted, but pleads innocence, for insider trading (if it happens)

Posted in How-to, Marketing, PR

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