Diary of a PR Amateur

Not Surprised … But Shocked!

June 30, 2010
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I always knew it would happen, and I suppose the timing is acceptable, although I would have expected these kinds of accolades a bit earlier, considering the service I’m providing the PR industry. I mean, where else will PR professionals be able to learn – from the inside – how to go about their craft?

Anyway, all this is just an introduction to the following link, which proves that this blog/service I am providing is as useful as I expected it to be: http://bit.ly/8YWyr4

Do I think that this content is worthy of a book? Of course.

I could see my book becoming quite popular.

But it bothers me to no end that this particular blogger considers my professional life to be a satire. What exactly is this supposed to mean:

“This man called Joe (I’m really not sure if he’s a real person or just doing a satire)…”

Excuse me!?

Perhaps when s/he reads this post, s/he will fix his/her own blog post and apologize to me for thinking my life is a joke.

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Think You’re Up To It?

June 29, 2010
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Sometimes, when running a campaign and an agency relationship, you have to get tough.

Yesterday was a perfect example.

As you know, we have a major media tour coming up next month. And I will not allow this agency to ruin my potential trip to San Francisco, so I have been, uh, prodding them along a bit. And the way I see it, they and I – as well as my company – stand to benefit from this initiative.

And that is why I thought it would be a good idea to check in with John first-thing yesterday morning, even though I had already sent him that email over the weekend.

But his assistant answered the phone.

Assistant-to-John: “Hi, Joe. John isn’t available to speak with you right now. Can I give you another member of the team?”

Me: “Well, it’s very, very important that I speak with John right away.”

Assistant-to-John: “I know, but he can’t speak with you now. Can I connect you with someone else?”

Me: “Oh, alright. Give me ear-boy, uh, I mean, give me Dan, please.”

Assistant-to-John: “Right. Very well. Here he is.”

(phone ringing)

Dan: “This is Dan.”

Me: “Dan? It’s Joe. How are you doing?”

Dan: “Hi, Joe. I’m doing fine. How can I help you?”

Me: “I just want to know how many interviews and briefings you have booked so far for the media tour.”

Dan: “Joe, we just started working on this on Thursday, and it’s now first-thing Monday morning.”

Me: “Dan, are you listening to me? I asked you a question. I don’t need a history lesson. How many things have you booked for San Francisco so far?”

Dan: “One, but we have …”

Me: “Thanks, Dan. Now listen. Are you listening?”

Dan: “Yes.”

Me: “(My company’s CEO’s name) is expecting a full schedule, and I’d hate to be you – or John – if we get to the media tour date and the schedule is not full. And we need top-tier. None of this www.crappytechblog.com garbage. Do you think you’re up to it?”

Dan: “Of course, Joe. We wouldn’t have recommended it to you if we didn’t think we could get the job done.”

Me: “That’s what I want to hear. By the way, have you been following the World Cup?”

Dan: “Sure have. My father’s Brazilian, so I’m feeling pretty good these days. Hoping they win today against …”

Me: “Dan, I couldn’t care less about the World Cup. I just want a full schedule for my CEO. Claro?”

Dan: “Yes. It’s clear.”

Me: “Actually, I don’t even know Portuguese, but I did know that one phrase from a movie. I guess, since your father is from Brazil, you know Portuguese, huh?”

Dan: “Yeah. Um, anyway, Joe, have a good day, and we’ll be sure to get those interviews booked. Do you want John to call you back?”

Me: “Nah, that’s okay. It seems like you and I are in synch, Dan, so no need to John to call. Talk with you soon.”

Dan: “Bye.”

So, you see, This proves that if you rule your agency with an iron fist, not only do they fall in line, but they give you genuine respect.


An Important Week

June 27, 2010
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Here we are, with just one week standing between me and a three-day weekend, thanks to the curious law that a holiday taking place on a weekend gets an extra day following the weekend as the official national holiday. Not that I’m complaining.

Anyway, what this means is that I will need to see serious progress on the media tour front, so that I can begin to plan my trip to the West Coast.

So I’m going to be putting significant pressure on John and his team leading up to this holiday weekend. In fact, I already started pushing by sending the following email to John, cc’ing not only our CEO and my boss (the VP of marketing), but also the board member who had recommended John’s firm as the PR agency we should hire:

John –

I’m glad you are comfortable implementing my idea of a media tour to San Francisco. Given that (my company) is a hi-tech company, that is an important market with many top trade publications. As we discussed, your goal will be to secure 11 meetings over the three days, with five of them having to be from the top-tier.

I know it’s a challenge, but as you have assured me time and time again, you and your team are up to it.

Please let me know if I can be of any help.

Regards,

Joe

Will John Check His Blackberry Today (Sunday)?


What’s best about this is that I am sending it to him on a Sunday. So either he’s checking emails with his Blackberry, in which case he is already going to be thinking about the tour 24 hours before starting work tomorrow, or he’s not checking emails, in which case he’s going to be majorly bummed out come Monday morning when he reads it.

But hey, he’s the one who decided to work for an agency, rather than working in-house … like me.


A Media Tour

June 24, 2010
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I got a call from John today, asking me if our CEO would be open to a media/analyst tour in the next month or so.

But I’m no dummy. I know the reason he asked about that. He just wants to have a nice few days in San Francisco. So I told him that it sounded like a great idea, and that he should get moving on booking it ASAP.

Meanwhile, I’m going to find out when our CEO is free to travel to the West Coast, and I’m going to make it clear that it is I, and not John, who will be heading out there for the tour.

But I’m not going to tell this to John yet. What I told him on the call was that we’d do the media/analyst tour, but only if he booked at least seven meetings/interviews. And I told him that at least three of them have to be top-tier, with outlets like Red Herring, wire services and the Wall Street Journal.

I want him working really hard to earn “his trip” to San Francisco…


Cruise Control

June 21, 2010
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One of the things I love about being the client – remember, I worked for an agency for a bit as well, so I know both sides – is that there are times when you can shift into cruise control and let your agency do the heavy lifting for you.

After the lunch meeting John and I had, I believe we came to a nice understanding, and he and his team – I must admit – have produced some nice results in the last week, including an interview with BusinessWeek and a nice piece about our technology on one of the New York Times blogs.

And it’s exactly during times like this that I love my job, because I’m able to just sit back, play some Bloons, and let the agency make me look good.

As it happens, I received an email this morning from John. It read as follows:

Joe –

We are achieving nice traction in the market, especially given the nice recent NYT blog coverage. But we need to put out some announcements to keep the momentum going.

Is there anyone at (my company) who we can speak with to mine a bit for potential announcements? We’d like to get a nice bank of press releases going so we can send one out every so often.

Please advise.

John

I don’t understand what he’s stressing out about. I mean, we’re getting things done these days. Why do we need to distract ourselves by focusing on writing and approving announcements?

I think I’ll let this one ride. On the one hand, if I respond to him that his request isn’t necessary, he’s going to probably push me to speak with some guys here. On the other hand, if I respond that his request makes sense, I’m going to have to be the one to do the legwork to connect his team with the subject-matter experts here.

But if I ignore it for now, I get to keep on chilling out for a while.

I know, it’s a no-brainer. I love cruise control.


Lunch

June 16, 2010
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How another preposterous PR yahoo became involved regarding the highly demanding area you marketing (or media relations) people and I have been reading and writing about is beyond me. But nonetheless, here I was on Monday, face-to-face with John, our snazzily-dressed agency guy, at one of the area’s finest restaurants.

But I’m no fool. I knew he was going to leave my company with the bill at the end of this in any case, so I purposely ordered light … just a bowl of soup and a roll.

He, of course, ordered a steak, the jerk.

Anyway, the conversation was pleasant enough. Here’s a snippet:

John: I just thought it would make sense, given your disappointment – and the fact that it seems there is a disconnect regarding media targets – that maybe we should get together, away from the office, and talk through some things.

Me: Okay. What’s on your mind?

John: Well, for starters, I have a feeling that you aren’t pleased about the details surrounding my firm being hired by your company. And even though that decision must be frustrating for you, given that you had already issued an RFP, I just want you to know that we see you as our client. You are the day-to-day decision-maker, and we realize that it is you we have to impress.

Me: Well, you’re not doing such a good job of that so far, John.

John: I understand that, and that’s why I thought we should get together. So let’s start with the media targets. Which outlets are most important for you?

Me: Well, as I said the other day (It’s always good to start comments that way, because it makes the other party feel like an idiot for having forgotten what you’ve told him/her.), BusinessWeek, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are the top. That’s why I am paying you. But we also care about the tech trades …

John: Like c|Net, ZDNet and TechCrunch?

Me: Ha! I know what you are doing, Mr. Cuff-links! What? You think I’m going to say that you guys are doing a good job just because you got those three? Not a chance.

John: Now, Joe, take it easy. Remember, I’m just trying to get us calibrated here. I’m not here today to convince you we are doing a better job than we are doing. I just want us to leave here on the same page.

Me: Fine. So yes, those three are important … but there are others as well, and I want to make sure we are in them.

John: Agreed. Can you please send me your “wish list?” We will then be quite clear on what our targets really are.

Me: Sure, but why don’t you send me what you think it should be and I’ll approve or edit it.

John: Fine.

That’s generally how the conversation went. John spending time trying to show me how great he and his team are and me not taking the bait.

I swear, when is he going to realize that we are not on the same team here?

Oh, by the way, just to rub in how much of a jerk he is, John paid. I think he did that just to make me feel like an idiot for only ordering a bowl of soup.


Back … With a Vengeance

June 13, 2010
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Well, I returned to the office on Friday (You always want to return to the office on a Friday. It’s a nice way to demonstrate to your bosses that you are not just packing it in for the weekend …), and called my agency to find out the latest.

John: John (last name).

Me: Hey, John. It’s Joe, from (my company).

John: Joe … how are you feeling? I hope you appreciated that we left you alone so you could get better.

Me: Really, John? You’re going to pull that with me? I know the facts. I’ve been in your shoes. You’ve not been leaving me alone. You’ve been slacking off. I’m trying to figure out whether you guys are actually going to get anything done for us.

(Now, you must understand that I didn’t actually think that about John and his team. But I’ve learned that if I wildly exaggerate my disappointment in my agency, it makes them work all that much harder for me.)

John: Well, we are trying to get results. Did you see the pieces we secured for you with c|Net, ZDNet and TechCrunch? If not, I can re-send the emails.

Me: Listen, John. We can all get stuff in lame on-line magazines. But I want the big stuff. I want BusinessWeek. I want the Wall Street Journal. The New York Times. That’s what I’m paying you for.

John: Actually, in our initial brief, you talked about how the world is changing, and that you expect us to demonstrate that we’ve changed with it. I distinctly remember you mentioning TechCrunch as a key for us. Well, we got it for you. If you want us to shift our focus to business media, we’ll do it, but …

Me: I think you know what I want from you. Listen, I have to go to a meeting, but we’re going to talk more about this. Talk to you then.

John: Uh, okay, bye.

You see, the key is to always keep them off-balance. That’s the only way to be sure that you keep the upper-hand in the client-agency relationship.

Five minutes later, John called me back on my cell phone.

Me: John, I’m in the middle of a meeting right now. Can we talk later?

John: Joe, no problem, but I think it might make sense for you and me to get together one-on-one and figure out where things are and where they should be going.

Me: You sure you want to do that, John? Maybe we ought to get the whole team together.

John: Yes, I’m sure. Why don’t you come to our office Monday and I’ll take you out to lunch. Then, we can talk.

Me: Oh! Is this because of the popcorn tin?

John: What? What’s a popcorn tin?

Me: Never mind. Sure, I’ll see you Monday at noon.


Why I Loathe Most Agency People

June 9, 2010
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I’m still trying to get out from under this evil illness, and I seemed to have turned the corner, which is good news for me – and for my company – and bad news for my agency guys, who have still not sent me any “get-well” cards or gifts.

And that’s just one thing that is bugging me about agency people today. Here’s the other:

http://prbreakfastclub.com/2010/06/08/secret-worries-pr-firm-boss/

Now, I ask you, what kind of moronic agency person would ever post something like that on a blog. Boo-hoo! I have all these challenges! Please understand how tough my life is! I know you are the client, but I’m the one who really matters!

There should only be one worry for any PR firm boss, and that is how am I going to keep my client happy. Period.

I don’t know the broad who posted this drivel, but she didn’t do good things for her firm by posting this, even though she tried really hard to. Check out this excerpt:

We’re very lucky to have low client turn-over. Most of our big clients have been with us for 10+ years.

Yeah, yeah. Blah, blah. And she says this, too:

Mel Brooks once famously observed that “it’s good to be the king.” It’s probably also pleasant to be Bill Gates or Michael Arrington. I’d even guess that some folks think it’s pretty good to be me.

Did she just compare herself to Bill Gates, Michael Arrington (By the way, she’s shameless, kissing up to one of the top online media outlet founders, and putting him next to Bill Gates.) and the great Melvin Kaminsky?!

Seriously, folks, this is a prime example of how NOT to do PR. I hope you’ve learned a valuable lesson.


Sick-Day Reflections

June 8, 2010
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I realize I haven’t posted for a while. I have been out sick and just today began on the road back from what was a horrible debilitating virus, even for someone as tough as I am.

But you can learn a lot about your position in a company and your relationship with your agency when you are out sick.

For example, I haven’t received a single email from management since I let them know a few days ago that I was sick. That can only mean one thing: that they have total confidence in my abilities, even when I am laid up in bed.

On the other hand, I have my agency, which, as you know, I work with reluctantly given how they were selected. You would think that they would send me something, maybe some flowers or one of those awesome trash cans divided into three sections and filled with regular, cheese and caramel flavored popcorn, just to let me know they care.

But no, they sent nothing.

And when I get back in, which could be as soon as tomorrow, they will pay dearly.


How It Is Done

June 1, 2010
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Well, we are about a week into the relationship with the new agency and I’m already getting a little sick of their excuses.

We met today for a status update and I asked them why there hadn’t been any articles about us yet.

Their predictable response was that they had been in discussions with several top reporters and editors, but that it was too soon to expect articles, or even interviews.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “Give me the name of one of the reporters you are targeting.”

“(name), at (magazine),” said John, wearing a fine suit, without a tie.

“Okay, what’s his phone number?” I asked.

“I can get that for you,” said Dan, whose ears were particularly large-looking today.

“If you can’t tell me their phone numbers without even looking at a list, it means you are not calling them often enough,” I suggested.

“His number is (xxx)xxx-oooo,” said Dan, looking it his media list.

So I dialed the number and had a conversation with the reporter, giving him a pitch about my company and suggesting that maybe he should speak with our CEO about the company’s latest developments.

He asked me again for the name of my company, which I told him, and then, of course, he gave me the line I have learned to expect from reporters, based on my almost six years of experience.

“Send me some background on your company and I’ll take a look.”

“Listen (reporter’s name), I know you want to approach every company the same way, but we are different, and trust me when I say that it’s not everyday that you run into a company with unique, revolutionary technology like (my company)’s. So what do you say we skip the formality of sending you info, and we set up a briefing with our CEO for next week?”

I looked at the agency team and winked, feeling like perhaps I just helped not only my company, but also the agency team learn a very important lesson about PR.

“What? Oh, okay. I’ll send something … Yes, I have your email address. Thanks.”

Most of the agency guys were so impressed that they had nice smiles on their faces. I asked Dan to send background information on (my company) to the reporter.

The only one not smiling was John. I wonder why. Perhaps we should have a one-on-one conversation later in the week.


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