Diary of a PR Amateur

A Hot Commodity

August 24, 2010
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I know I haven’t updated you in a little while, but when you are on the market (as I am), certain things tend to take priority.

So here’s the latest …

FACT: I am much more marketable than even I ever could have imagined.

FACT: There is no question that I’ve made the right decision by looking around for a better position.

FACT: I can list facts just as well as Dwight Schrute.

FACT: My current boss and the CEO are both jerks, who have effectively “kept me down,” limiting my opportunity for growth.

FACT: I have a great smile that seems to be winning over all those with whom I am meeting about new jobs.

FACT: I have not yet received any offer, but I am hopeful.

All the interviews have gone basically the same. I wow the HR (that’s human resources) person, since they generally have no clue about PR itself. I could read a baking recipe to them and they wouldn’t know the difference. Then, I meet with the VP of marketing, who generally has ascended to his (I have not yet met any female VPs of marketing) position by wearing nice clothes, having an interesting hairstyle, and some type of facial hair. But I am not impressed with their content when I meet them, and I make a point to make it clear in every interview that I don’t just want the PR job that is available; I’m gunning for their jobs. I think that makes a good impression, because it shows I’m a real go-getter who isn’t ever going to be satisfied.

Once I wow the VP of marketing, he outlines the specifics of the role and then asks me if I have any questions. Of course, I did my research and know exactly what to ask, in an attempt to make myself memorable. (After all, these guys are meeting with a bunch of candidates, not just me.) I ask:

“Do you allow people to put their feet up on their desks here?” and then I proceed to put my own feet on their desks.

Barack Obama's got nothing on me.

Maybe it’s a little nervy, but it’s memorable, and that’s what I’m shooting for. We each have our own brand, and I’m promoting mine.

So no offers yet, but I expect something to come through soon. Then, I can get out of this rotten company I’m working for now and actually make some things happen!

Until then, I have to pretend I’m still interested. So I tried to get another brainstorming session together for tomorrow, but when my boss saw the email, he shot it down. Said something about it being a waste of time. Considering how it went last time, I have no idea what he’s talking about, but he’s the boss, so I have to listen.

Okay, back to the job search …

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I Hate Delays

August 2, 2010
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I’m a little embarrassed to let you know, because I really built it up and I’m sure you have all been checking this blog on a daily basis, but the big announcement – on which my raise and promotion were riding – has been postponed indefinitely.

Apparently, (my company) has not exactly done what is necessary to make this particular customer feel loved. You know, sometimes I think that I’m the only person in this company who knows how to do his job.

I wonder how (my company) would do if we sent out a satisfaction survey to our customers.

In any case, we are officially delayed, which means I have to figure out a different way to prove that I am promote-able.

I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve, and I think it all starts with taking some of the pressure off my boss. Of course, this will involve having to work a little harder than usual, but I think it’s worth the short-term effort for the sake of the long-term.

By the way, it has come to my attention that there is a Facebook Fan Page devoted to me, which is not entirely surprising, given the quality of the information I generally provide here. You should check it out.


Oh, The Humanity!

July 23, 2010
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I wanted to update all of you yesterday, but I was too distraught.

It turns out that my boss had gotten in touch with the travel agent and substituted his own name for mine. He, rather than I, will be going to San Francisco with our CEO. I’m devastated.

He said that it just made more sense since, as the VP of marketing, he can also add to the conversations that will be had with the journalists.

“But who will handle all the logistics of the trip?” I asked.
“John,” he responded.
“John?!”
“Yes, he called me and explained that we’d have to pay the cost of his ticket, since it was non-refundable, so I told him to keep the ticket and the trip and he and I could get some good strategy work done on the trip,” said my boss.

I slowly walked out of his office, still trying to figure out how my fool-proof plan had been destroyed – yes, destroyed – by these men. And I realized what I probably should have realized long ago … I have no future at this company … this second-rate, small-time start-up. They had never given me the respect I deserve.

That’s right. It’s time to move on. I am officially on the market.

Next week, the bidding starts for the services of me on a full-time basis. And let me make myself clear – the bidding starts at a very high price. I deserve better than what I’ve been given here.


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.


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.


Early Returns

May 21, 2010
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Well, just as I expected, all those strange-named agencies responded to the RFP. But shockingly, all the big-name firms did not respond.

But the important thing is that each of the strange-namers gave us some terrific ideas, and we plan to use all of them.

“All of them?” you ask.

Yes, all of them. As time has gone by, my strategic philosophy has continually evolved, and so even though a couple of months ago my philosophy focused on major blitzes, followed by unusually long periods of quiet, my view has changed.

I now believe in the throw-as-much-garbage-as-possible-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach.

For that reason alone, these creative ideas from the strange-namers will come in handy.

Meanwhile, I’m scheduled to meet with the new agency on Monday. I hope they’re ready for me …


The Sound of Agency Wheels Spinning

May 17, 2010
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Well, I tried to send out the RFP (request for proposal) to my long list, so that I could start weeding through all the responses (I expect all agencies to respond, of course, given how cool (my company) is.), but my bosses said they want to see my plan of action before I send out the RFP.

“How can you create an RFP if you don’t even know what the strategy is?” said our CEO.

“Well, this isn’t really an important part of the process,” I responded. “This is just the first step, to separate the men from the boys. You see, if an agency isn’t interested, it won’t respond. That saves me some work later.”

“But if they aren’t responding anyway, how does that save you work?” asked my boss, our VP of marketing.

“I’m not talking about practical work, I’m talking about brain work,” I explained, trying very hard not to roll my eyes at his ridiculous question.

I began to walk away, quite clear that I had won this battle, when suddenly …

“So just get us the plan, and then you can send out the RFP,” said my boss.

Well, I guess I had no choice, so I did put together the plan, largely based on the one I had created two years ago. It had a healthy dose of marketing lingo, but what makes my plan-writing special is that I know precisely how much lingo to use without sounding like I’m just throwing buzz-words around.

And that’s very important, readers. You always have to know how much lingo to use without using so much that you aren’t believable.

Because remember, we are in the credibility game.

So I typed out the goals, audiences, strategies and tactics, with a nice amount of expectations (without too many, of course – gotta under-promise and over-deliver, right?!) and a sprinkle of measurement mixed in. For me, it wasn’t so special, but I already knew my bosses would be impressed.

They looked it over and gave me the go-ahead to send out the RFP. I’m very excited, particularly about those strange firms I am sending it to just for the sake of seeing their strange responses.

Two hours later, when I was about to click “send” on the email, my boss came into my cube and told me to stop everything I was doing. He sat down on the corner of my desk and explained:

“Joe, our chairman has told us that he’d like to use a particular PR firm, so we’re going to move ahead with his recommendation.”

“But I already sent out the RFP,” I said, subtly clicking my mouse as the cursor rolled over the “send” button in my Outlook.

“Joe, this is coming from on-high. There’s really nothing we can do,” he said.

“Well, what do you suggest?” I asked, putting the pressure on him. After all, why should I always have to be the one to come up with the solution?

“I’ll tell you what, Joe,” he said. “Why don’t you still run through the process. The other agencies might be able to come up with some good ideas that we can use, even if we’re not hiring them. Also, this agency may not want the business, or they may have a conflict. But don’t tell the other agencies that we are 90% sure we have selected another firm. We have to keep them all hungry so they provide us their best thinking, whether or not we have any intention of even selecting one of them.”

“Got it, boss,” I responded.


Let It Ride

May 9, 2010
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Well, the fire blazed pretty seriously there for a couple of days, but given that I am the fireman, it is now out.

Of course, the headlines came fast and furious for a bit first:

– (My company) Looks for Answers from New CCDO

– New Officer May Be Just What (My company)’s Doctor Ordered

– (My company) Spokesperson Denies Rumors of New Corporate Direction

Yes, indeed. It was pretty ugly for a while around the office. And it became particularly interesting when our CEO and our VP of Marketing (my boss) came to my cube to ask what I planned to do to counter the media onslaught.

This, of course, was the moment I had been waiting for, and I had practiced my reaction for about an hour, until I had it down pat:

(Putting my feet up on my desk) “Let it ride, guys. Let it ride.”

My boss and the CEO looked at each other, just as I had expected.

“Please, have a seat,” I said calmly, offering them two chairs I had placed in my cube for the day, for just this reason.

They hesitated, and then sat down.

“Gentlemen,” I said, “this is PR 101. The best way for bad news to go away is to just let it go. The last thing we want to do here is keep this story going.”

“Yeah, but Joe,” started the CEO, “this wasn’t supposed to be a crisis. This was a positive announcement, and by sticking in that ‘new directions’ phrase, you turned this into a negative story.”

My boss picked up where the CEO left off …

“Joe, we’re going to need a plan of action from you by the end of next week, outlining how you are going to start generating some positive PR for this company. Enough with your ridiculous ideas about how things should be done. We are re-initiating a search for a new PR firm and we want you to run it, but we can’t do that until we get a plan of action from you that they could then implement. Am I clear?”

“No problem, boss,” I said, defiantly leaving my feet up on my desk as they both got up to leave my cube.

“Oh, and Joe,” said the CEO, “Please take your feet off the desk.”


Putting Out Fires

May 3, 2010
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I was put into this role for various reasons, and I’m happy to list them for you:

1. I’m an excellent writer
2. I’m not afraid to say what is on my mind
3. I’m creative
4. I’m a strategic thinker
5. I’m not a “yes-man,” but I can be, if necessary
6. I’m tall and not fat
7. I’m handsome
8. My name is easy to remember, which helps me develop relationships with reporters
9. I know how to take technology and make it understandable for the average person
10. My salary demands were not too high

But there is one reason that trumps them all, and it’s the one I’m most proud to discuss. I put out fires.

That’s right. I’m the fireman. You got a communications crisis? You come to me.

So when that announcement went out about our new head of corporate development, and it was clear that the media were going to attack the company for possibly expanding “in new directions,” I was ready.

Of course, I didn’t write the release the way I did for the purpose of making myself look good. In actuality, I had wanted to make the new guy look bad. But as luck would have it, I was able to put out the fire and make myself look good to management as a result. Not a bad bonus, huh?

So, how did I do it?

Simple. I called each reporter, one-by-one, and told them that the language in the release, written without thinking it through, was misleading, and that the company is not going in new directions. In fact, I told them, “you can even say that this new guy isn’t going to change things at all for us.”

Well, the articles didn’t come out yet, but one things is for sure: This fire has been put out … by the fireman.


The Consummate PR Pro

April 27, 2010
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Now that the off-site scheduling is behind me – the CEO approved my revised version, of course – I can get back to doing what I like doing so much … PR.

We haven’t put out an announcement in some time, which is just fine with me, given the strategy I’ve developed. But our antsy CEO wants an announcement this week, so he’s – get this – asked a friend, Tim, if he’d like to come aboard as a part-time team member with the title of “Chief Corporate Development Officer.” Of course, his friend said yes, but that’s not surprising, given the friend’s uneven track record in the business world.

I imagine this friend is going to get a ton of stock options and a nice office as well.

And if you can sense that I’m a little cranky about it, you are correct. Wouldn’t you be? I can manage circles around this new guy, Tim, and I’m still here in my cube.

But, as you know, I am the consummate professional, and the media will never know that I think this announcement – and the hire behind it – is dumb and a waste of investor dollars. To the media, everything will be just dandy around here. In fact, here’s the headline (and subhead) I’ve cooked up:

(MY COMPANY) TAKES MAJOR STEP FORWARD WITH NEW CORPORATE DEVELOPMENT HIRE

Tim To Help (My Company) Expand In New Directions

That subhead, mind you, is a little private joke between us girls here. You see, by writing “Expand in New Directions,” it will sound like he’s changing the strategy of the company, and the board will be all over the CEO for that one. Ha! I simply can’t wait for this …
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