Diary of a PR Amateur

Not So Fast

October 3, 2010
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Well, I wouldn’t have believed it unless I had heard it myself, but it turns out that my current company thinks I am worth something after all. My boss (the VP of Marketing) came into my cube late last week and delivered the good news:

“Joe, we are giving you that raise you were looking for, and I’m happy to let you know that we’re bumping you up 7%. That’s higher than the average increase of 3% that we usually give, so you should feel really good about yourself.”

“Um, (VP of Marketing), I appreciate the gesture, but I thought you knew that I was expecting something more significant,” I said.

“Well, Joe, as I said, 7% is nothing to sneeze at.”

“Listen, (VP of Marketing), you and I would prefer for me to be spending my time developing relationships with the key media and analysts who cover our industry, rather than discussing my salary, so just bump it up 10% and we’ll both get back to work.”

You see, I figured at this point that I had all the leverage, so I decided to be more demanding.

“Sorry, Joe. 7% is all we can do.”

“Well, I’ll have to think it over,” I responded.

“That’s fine, Joe,” he said. “And when you have made your decision, we have more news for you as well, provided your decision is to stay.”

Wow! Maybe they’ll be promoting me, too …


Making An Impression

September 14, 2010
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Well, the interview went as expected. I hit the ball out of the park, and they were, of course, duly impressed.

They asked me what kind of media contacts I had. I successfully answered by talking about how I have a gift for making new contacts all the time because of my electric personality.

They asked me whether I am a strong writer. I responded by referring them to the many press releases I have written during my time as PR manager of (my current company).

I'm the Domino's Pizza of Plan Development - 30 Minutes or Less

They asked me to talk about my abilities, in terms of putting together plans of action. I asked them to give me a scenario and I’d be happy to create a plan in 30 minutes or less.

They asked me my salary requirements. I answered firmly and quickly, without hesitation.

In short, I was on my game, and there was nothing they could do other than being WOWed.

When we finished up, however, they gave me some rotten news. It seems the VP of Marketing is Jewish, so he will be in and out of the office over these few weeks, and they won’t be able to get back to me with any kind of update until the first week of October. How annoying is that?

Anyone Can Say They Are Jewish, Because There is No Specific Jewish Look

But it also gave me an idea. When he told me he was Jewish, I told him I was, too. That way, when I’m hired, and the Jewish holidays come around in the future, I’ll be able to take days off without it counting against my vacation time.

And that, my friends, is what you call quick-thinking.

Meanwhile, my company is bugging me to send out a press release soon. To paraphrase my boss, the market is forgetting about us.

Well, I’d forget about us, too. After all, the slick PR guy is on his way out. Where is the company going to go from here?

I am so out of here, and it looks like this company I interviewed with last week is the ticket I need.


A Bite

September 5, 2010
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Well … well … well.

We all knew it was just a matter of time, didn’t we? I mean, I’m like the George Clooney of the PR world right now. That’s right, we’re talking most eligible PR manager.

So it won’t come as much of a surprise to you that I’ve been asked to come back for a second interview with a major software company. (I can’t give you the name for obvious reasons.)

They want me to come in to speak with the VP of Marketing and the VP of Corporate Communications. This is fine with me, given that I’ve always felt that PR should report into both the CEO’s office and the marketing department (with a dotted-line to the latter, of course).

In any case, the meeting (I don’t call it an interview, since I’m evaluating them as much as they are evaluating me) is scheduled for Tuesday, 9 a.m. sharp.

Now, I wore a suit for the first meeting I had with them, since I always learned (and am now teaching you!) that you want to always wear a suit to a first interview (meeting, for me) so that there is no doubt in the employer’s mind that you are to be taken seriously.

I think that wearing my Superman cufflinks will send the right message.

This time, I’m going to wear something more casual, while still demonstrating that I’m an upper-crust kind of guy. I’m not going to go too crazy, but I need to send a message that I will be establishing the reputation for this company.

I’ve put together a checklist of things to better prepare me for this big day:

1. Do research of the last three months of press releases issued by the company.
2. Shine shoes

Artis Gilmore. Great Facial Hair? Yes. PR guy? No.

3. Determine what kind of facial hair I will have for the interview. Goatee? Little bit of hair under bottom lip? Mustache? Mutton-chops? (kidding about that last one)
4. Do research on background of VP of Marketing and of VP of Corporate Communications.
5. Figure out where I will be eating lunch after the meetings.
6. Come up with “sick-guy voice” for calling in sick at my current job.

If I can do all those things successfully, I’m as good as in.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


Media Tour Revisited

August 5, 2010
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For any good PR person, life is divided in half:

First half: Doing amazing things and achieving great results; and
Second half: Telling the world how great a job you are doing.

Well, you all know that I’ve got the first half covered. But I haven’t been paying as much attention to the second half as perhaps I should.

Well, today that all changes. From now on, I’m cc’ing our CEO on all my emails. And I mean ALL. In fact, I sent an email at the end of yesterday to our agency asking them for an update on the results of the media tour, and I cc’ed him. His reply?

“Joe, please let me know how they respond.”

You see? He now knows I’m on top of things. And here we are, nearly 8 a.m., and I still haven’t heard back from the agency.

So I just sent the following:

“John – I was surprised to check my email first-thing this morning and not see a response from you to my email about the media/analyst tour. Are you ignoring me?

And I cc’ed our CEO again. This is a great tactic, because it makes me look good and the agency look bad at the same time. That way, they will be on their heels and wanting to kiss up to me in the coming days so that I will be nicer to them.

Anyway, I hope they get back to me about the tour today so I can report back to our CEO.

And if you are wondering why I don’t feel the need to cc my boss (the VP of marketing), well, let’s just say I believe in cutting out the middle-man.


A Hero-Making Announcement

July 28, 2010
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Well, it had been a while since we actually had something to announce, but tomorrow, we will finally put out a press release.

And considering the ho-hum nature of the last announcement, tomorrow’s will be much better. Here’s the headline:

(MY COMPANY) SIGNS $10 MILLION DEAL WITH (NAME OF CUSTOMER)

Agreement Puts (MY COMPANY) In Industry Driver’s Seat

Now, you may be thinking, “Wow, this is a great announcement.” But what you don’t know is that I found out what the value of the deal was, and plugged it into the release. The original read as follows:

(MY COMPANY) SIGNS MAJOR DEAL WITH (NAME OF CUSTOMER)

By the end of the day tomorrow, I'm going to be a hero around here.

I did a little snooping around, as any great PR person should, and found out that the deal was worth $10 million. So I threw it in the headline – since we all know that the big media are always looking for numbers to back up the story. And I figure I will be the “fall guy,” whom our CEO and sales director can both blame if the customer is angry that we publicized the numbers. Meanwhile, we’ll still get an avalanche of coverage.

So tomorrow is the big day … the day my company’s name is going to get the big headlines in the world’s major business and technology media. And at the end of the day, even though our customer may be angry, I’m going to be the hero.

In fact, they may even promote me.


Dog Days of Summer

July 12, 2010
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Every once in a while, it behooves me to pull something out of my bag of tricks. Today and tomorrow will be one of those times.

You see, summertime is a little rough in the PR business. Since there are so many vacations, I just can’t seem to get myself motivated to do the research necessary to get press releases out there.

Of course, my agency (which has improved dramatically recently) is doing what it can, but we still are basically in maintenance mode these days.

So I went rummaging through the recesses of my brain and found a gem: We’re going to hold a brainstorming session.

Why? Well, back in my agency days (months, really), the account team would put together a brainstorming session to get the creative juices flowing. But more importantly, they would arrange for good snacks.

So that’s what I’m going to do. We’re talking Ben & Jerry’s and Pringles, two of my favorite all-time treats.

I guess I have to invite colleagues as well.

The topic will be “Headlines We Want For (My Company).” The idea is that if we can conceptualize some headlines, that will make it easier for me to get my agency to pitch those ideas. Because again, I can’t really get myself motivated to find out what news items my company has for my agency to work with these days.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a report on how it went. Until then, I have serious planning to do … Cookie Dough or Chunky Monkey?

Ah, what the heck. It’s not my money anyway (I’ll expense it.). I’ll buy both. And three different flavors of Pringles also.

And Coke. Definitely.


You’re a Free Agent

July 1, 2010
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Just a quick post today, in honor of the opening of the NBA free agency season.

What? You didn’t think I followed sports? Listen, I may work in tech, but I’m no geek. I was athlete of the year in my fraternity back in college.

Anyway, I think it’s important for all PR professionals to think of ourselves as free agents. If we have great media contacts (check!), are strategic thinkers (check!) and are able to talk-the-talk with the best of ’em (check!), we really are able to write our own ticket to success.

So the next time your boss gives you a hard time, remember, you are a just like LeBron James, at the end of the day, as long as you meet the criteria I set above, of course.

That’s the way I’ve run my career so far, and you see where it’s gotten me, right?


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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