Diary of a PR Amateur

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.


Travelling In Style

July 21, 2010
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As you know, I’ve been particularly excited about my upcoming trip to San Francisco. The PR agency did a terrific job of setting up interviews for our CEO. They set up 18 interviews over four days, so he’s going to be pretty busy, but it’s all good for me because I get a nice, free trip to SF and get to eat at nice restaurants in the evenings. I may even be able to catch a SF Giants game while I’m out there.

So I decided to check in with our travel agent about flights because I want to make sure I am well-taken care of. I gave her a call this morning and let her know my preferences (window, kid’s meal – I love hamburgers, all the way in the back of the plane because the back gets the meals first), and that the CEO and I will have to be there next week, arriving Sunday and departing Thursday night.

She told me I needed the approval of my manager. So I sent an email to our VP of marketing, to get his approval.

I then called the agency to let John know that I would be making the trip, rather than he, and he was a little upset because he had already booked his flight, but that doesn’t bother me. After all, I am the client. And he better not try to make us pay for his useless ticket.

After I had received approval from my boss (“I guess it makes sense for you to go, rather than me, because you add more value,” he wrote in the email.), I forwarded the email to the travel agent to demonstrate that I wasn’t full of baloney in saying I’d need a flight.

So everything seems to be lined up for a heck of a vacation, I mean business trip.

Stay tuned …


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.


So Now What?

January 24, 2010
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Well, my agency provided me with the document of “how we should be working together,” but between you and me, I don’t really understand it.  In fact, I was so sure they weren’t going to be able to put it together that I had forgotten about the whole thing.

But sure enough, they crafted something and want to move ahead.  But my management team already told me that they have accepted the existing plan for 2010, so I’m a little stuck.

Luckily, I know just what to do in this instance.  I’m going to call for a meeting with my agency.  Then, I’ll get them so involved in the minutia of our work that they won’t even be able to introduce the topic of the “how we should be working together” plan.

Man, it’s so nice to be as smart as I am.


Ambiguous, and Proud of It!

January 21, 2010
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My agency really does try hard (as well they should!), and I believe they want to succeed.  And sometimes, I like to challenge them to see how creatively they are able to think.

So today, I asked them to provide me with a document outlining “how we should be working together.” Here’s the email I sent them:

Hey, guys –

You know how highly I think of you, but I want to make sure I am getting value out of this relationship on an ongoing basis.  Therefore, I’d like from you – by next Wednesday – a report on how we should be working together.

Thanks immensely,

Joe

And to be honest, I have no idea what the whole thing means, but it’s so exciting to me to see what they will come up with.  Maybe it will be useless, but maybe, just maybe, they will come back to me with something that includes some ideas we haven’t thought of already.

I’ve learned that sometimes, if you ask for something really specific from your agency, you wind up getting exactly what you asked for.   I want my agency to aim higher, so I sometimes purposely ask for things in an ambiguous way.  It must drive them crazy, but there’s a method to my madness!


Money Well-spent

January 20, 2010
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So at the end of the day, the PR firm did decide to agree to the $6,000, and that’s fine with me, because management told me that the $6,000 I saved them was going to kill us if I wasn’t able to get the PR results myself.  Now, like I said yesterday, I specialize in “looking” busy, but I’m not so strong in the getting results department.  I don’t particularly care about results, since all they do is raise the bar for next time.  And that, my loyal readers, is not what any of us want.

We’ll see how it goes with them.  I’ve already written my first email of disappointment, which I plan to send out after about a week and a half.  It reads as follows: “When I decided to hire you, I was sure I was going to be working with the best.  At this point, that is clearly not the case.  In fact, I don’t see any value at all from you.  If things don’t improve over the next week, I don’t see how I can pay you for your time.  Please call me to discuss this urgent issue.  Thanks, and have a nice day.”

Notice how I ended in a positive way.  That way, they’ll still want to work hard for me.  The beauty of this idea is that it works, no matter what kind of results they will have achieved.


Saving Six Thousand Bucks

January 19, 2010
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I was in talks with my PR firm about a specific project.  We wanted interviews set up for our CEO at a trade show taking place next month.  (As an aside, I love trade shows, because I’m really at my best in that element.  You see, I’ve become an expert at looking busy, so I do terrifically well at trade shows.  My managers always see me running from here to there with an urgent look on my face.  They don’t realize that I’ll run that way to the snack bar, or that I’ll run that way to the bathroom.  To them, as long as I look busy, I’m doing a whale of a job.  I’d even go so far as to say I’ve perfected this.  It’s all about finding the proper balance of furrowed brow, sweat, unkempt clothes and a handful of papers.)

Seven weeks in advance of the show, they proposed that they could do the job for $10,000.  So I figured I would make them wait a few weeks – so they were more desperate for the money – and then tell them they could move ahead for $6,000.

Well, this morning – less than a month before the show – I told them that we’re ready to move ahead if they can deal with a $6,000 budget.  They said no.  But that’s okay, because we’re no worse off  than we were beforehand, and I look at it like I just saved my company six thousand bucks.

Not bad, huh?


Let ’em Wait

January 18, 2010
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I love my job, but one thing that bothers me is how little respect I get from the management team here at my company.  They (including my boss) don’t understand what I do and they just think I’m the guy who gets them free publicity.  Sometimes they have meetings and I only find out about them after the fact.  And just yesterday, my boss made me wait an hour before meeting with me.

To counteract how my bosses make me feel, I tend to treat my agency guys poorly.  Like today, we had a meeting scheduled for 11:30 a.m.  I decided to play Bloons for an hour and make the guys wait until 12:15 p.m.  Then, I didn’t even apologize when I walked into the conference room 45 minutes late.  and the cool thing was that since we’re paying them, they couldn’t say a word about it.


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