Diary of a PR Amateur

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.

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My Grandma Made A Fool of Me Once … Once.

August 9, 2010
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It’s so funny when you run into someone who thinks s/he is smarter than you. Perhaps that doesn’t happen to you very often. But to me, it seems to happen all the time. I imagine it comes from the other person’s general insecurity.

Anyway, in response to my simple inquiry regarding the results of the media tour, I received this from John at the agency:

“Joe –

Thanks for the email, and for including (my company’s CEO) in the cc line. I am surprised that you needed to ask about it, given that we sent you a full report on the tour the day we returned from San Francisco. (By the way, I hope you can go next time. SF is a great town.)

Anyway, I’ve attached my original email summary to this email so you and (my company’s CEO’s first name) can both review it. In short, it was a major success, and I hope we can do this every 3-4 months.

Please call me with any questions and/or concerns.

John”

What a jerk. What kind of an agency guy cc’s the CEO on an email designed to make me look bad? Well, I decided to put him in his place, so I responded with this – without cc’ing my company’s CEO:

“John –

Thanks for the re-send. I don’t think it makes sense in the future to waste (my company’s CEO)’s time with these kinds of emails. Perhaps you should just send these kinds of things to me in the future.

Thanks, and by the way, I found the formatting in the summary to be confusing. Please make sure it is done properly next time.

Joe”

Danny Vermin's got nothing on me.

So that’s the end of that, and I think I’ve made clear who’s running the show at this point.

By the way, there are big things on the horizon here for me. I just found out about a potential salary increase for myself. And I plan on bringing it to the attention of my boss tomorrow.


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.


What The …

July 8, 2010
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To say that yesterday did not turn out the way I expected is an understatement. As you may remember, my plan was to surprise my agency by showing up, unannounced, and giving them a major motivational speech that would give them the fire in their collective belly necessary to get the media/analyst tour scheduled so that I would be able to accompany our CEO to San Francisco.

So I drove out to their offices and parked my car in the visitors’ lot. I walked in and was asked who I was there to visit.

I told them to let John know I was there to see him.

“One moment,” answered the receptionist.

She picked up the phone and began whispering something into the mouthpiece, periodically looking at me while she whispered.

“John is on the West Coast today,” the receptionist informed me. “Is there anyone else I can call for you?”

“On the West Coast?! What the heck is he doing on the West Coast?!” I shouted. “Get me Dan … you know, the guy with the big ears.”

“You mean Dan (last name), I believe.”

A minute later, Dan was standing in front of me.

“Dan, what is this I hear about John being on the West Coast? He should be here managing the booking of our media/analyst tour. Give me one reason why I shouldn’t fire you guys.”

“Joe, why don’t you come to the conference room and we’ll talk it through,” said Dan, way-too-calmly.

“I don’t want to go to the conference room! I want answers now! Why is John on the West Coast!?” I yelled.

“Fine, Joe,” said Dan. “If you must know, he thought it would be a good idea to fly out to San Francisco to reconnect with some of his top-tier media friends, in the hopes of setting up interviews for (our CEO). Anyway, what are you doing here today? Did we have a meeting scheduled?”

“Dan, can you get the team together?” I asked.

So the John-less team gathered in the conference room and I did the only thing that seemed sensible, given that John had demonstrated clearly that he was, indeed, committed to getting results on this effort.

“What do you think you guys are doing!? Why is it that John’s the only one putting any effort into this? I thought I was paying for an agency, not a one-man team! Listen, I demand excellence, and you should be demanding it of yourselves! How can you look into the mirror at the end of each day, knowing that you are not giving everything you’ve got for your most important client?”

Dan put up his hand.

“Yeah, Dan, what do you want?” I barked.

“We have 11 interviews booked already, Joe. I think we’re in good shape.”

And suddenly, in my mind, it became clear that I will be headed to San Fran at the end of this month after all.

The Likelihood of My Trip to SF Is Less Foggy Now


“Thanks, Dan. Just be sure to confirm and reconfirm the meeting times.”

And I walked out of the room. So maybe I didn’t have the opportunity to give the motivational speech I know I am capable of giving. But I did get to accomplish something …

I did stop at that Mexican place. And I did get those nachos. And boy, were they good.


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?


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.


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.


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