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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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.


The Big Day

July 29, 2010
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I couldn’t even sleep last night. I was too excited.

Well, here I am, at 7:30 in the morning, sitting in my office taking one last look at this gem of a press release that I plan to send out in about an hour and a half. If you don’t remember why I’m so excited, you have to read this.

Okay, now that you are up-to-speed, here’s the plan of action for today:

9:15 – Send out the release over PRNewswire, while also distributing it via Pitch Engine.

9:26 – Pay a visit to my boss to let him know that I changed the headline slightly to be more compelling to the media.

9:27 – Listen to him freak out on me about changing the headline. I plan to wait out his tirade and then explain calmly why I did what I did.

9:31 – Explain calmly to my boss why I did what I did. Specifically, I will outline to him that the attention we receive will far outweigh any backlash from the customer. I will also offer to him that I am willing to take the fall, rather than leaving the blame on his and our CEO’s shoulders.

9:36 – Accept the praise he will heap upon me once he realizes the brilliance of my idea.

My mom will be as proud as a mom whose son has joined the Navy.

9:37 – Request a raise and promotion.

9:40 – Return to my cube to call my mother and tell her I’ve been promoted.

As I said above, I’m quite excited. Wouldn’t you be?

If all goes as planned, I will post again after it happens and let you know how well I predicted the scenario.

Then, there certainly wouldn’t be anything wrong with sending me an email congratulating me on the achievement. I can be reached at pr.amateur@gmail.com.


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.


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.


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 …


The Brainstorming Session

July 15, 2010
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Oh, what a session it was yesterday. Ben & Jerry’s. Pringles. Great ideas. But there was a much more important outcome as well.

Here’s a minute-by-minute rundown:

10:00 – I am sitting in the conference room by myself, with all 12 pints of Ben & Jerry’s and all nine tube-cans of Pringles open and ready to be eaten. In addition, I have set up the room by basically wallpapering the room with those oversized post-it poster-pages. We are ready to roll.

We had the Ben & Jerry's, but would we get the ideas?


10:03 – The product marketing guys walk in. As expected, they go straight to the Pringles, each grabbing a tube-can and dumping out a hand-full of crisps. Strangely, neither says hello to me. They just sit down at the table.

10:04 – The VP of Marketing (and my boss) walks in. His jaw immediately drops, and he has a shocked look on his face as he takes his seat.

10:05 – The R&D head walks in and grabs one of the pints of Ben & Jerry’s. Chunky Monkey, I believe.

10:07 – I begin the session: “Thanks for coming, everyone. As you can see, we have a lot of snacks that will hopefully encourage your creativity. And you should feel comfortable helping yourselves … but only after you have said something that I will wrrite down on one of the poster-pages. So, Greg, please put back the Ben & Jerry’s. And Dennis and Chris, hand back the Pringles.

“Okay, the first issue we want to address is our logo. Do we like it? If not, how do you think it needs to be changed?”

10:08 – My boss points out that the company’s logo is not up for discussion, as well as mentioning that it’s not even my responsibility, so I should move on to the next topic. I quickly write this down, unshackling him from not being allowed to eat the snacks. And it pays immediate dividends, as he reaches for a tube-can of Pringles.

10:10 – After a bit of debate about whether we are free to discuss the logo – after all, it is a brainstorming session and anything should be fair game – we move on to the next topic, which is one of my favorites: the website.

10:11 – My boss once again points out that the company’s website is not part of my responsibility. I respond by asking him, “Fine, then what should we discuss?” The room is getting a little warm.

10:11:30 – My boss suggests we discuss press release ideas.

10:12 – The product marketing guys begin to rattle off a bunch of ideas, reaching for the Pringles as they speak. “Not so fast,” I say. “I’m not so impressed with these ideas.”

This is no environment for creativity. You have to spice it up ... and stick poster-paper on the walls!


10:13 – My boss corrects me and says that all four of their ideas would make solid announcements. I grudgingly add the four ideas to the poster-paper behind me.

10:14 – The head of R&D, who minutes earlier picked up a pint of Ben & Jerry’s without my permission, and kept holding it, even when I told him to put it down, adds three ideas of his own, concerning development milestones that are coming up. I add them to the list.

10:15 – My boss asks me why I had to use money from his budget to buy so much junk-food, when I could have just as easily just walked around to the participants’ offices to obtain the same information.

10:16 – “Any other ideas?” I ask around.

10:16:05 – My boss leaves the room, and then everyone else begins to shuffle out as well, grabbing pints and tube-cans on their way out with one hand … and high-fiving me with the other. “Great party,” adds Chris.

10:18 – I remove all the poster-pages from the walls and take stock of how much food is left. We still have 10 pints of Ben & Jerry’s that have not been opened, and six tube-cans of Pringles left over. I smile.

You see, a brainstorm isn’t so much about how many ideas can be generated. It’s about instilling a jolt of energy into the team. And if upper management is not going to do it, I sure as heck will. The guys left that room smiling yesterday.

And I’m smiling, too, because all the extra food came home with me.

I’d say that’s a success. Wouldn’t you?


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.


My Name is Joe, and I AM a Motivational Speaker

July 6, 2010
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One of my favorite skits on Saturday Night Live was the old Chris Farley (may he rest in peace) bit where he plays the role of “Matt Foley,” a supposed motivational speaker who lives “in a van down by the river.”

I expect my agency to be paying attention when I do my motivating.


It’s a classic, and I remember even as a teenager thinking, “Man, that guy isn’t much of a motivator. I think I can do better, if I had the chance.

Well, you all are aware that I have a major upcoming trip to San Francisco in the works, and it can all come crumbling down if my agency doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain.

So I decided to give John at the agency a call yesterday, even though it was a national holiday, to make it clear that this is an initiative to be taken seriously.

I’ll spare you the details of the call, but the bottom line is that it is now clear to him. In fact, his last comment to me was, “It’s amazing that you are calling me on a holiday just to check in about the media tour, Joe. Have a good day.”

That shows me that he is quite impressed with the attention I am giving this effort.

But I know what it’s going to take to ensure this media tour is a big success. I will have to pay my agency a visit to outline to them how to get the job done. But that’s just window-dressing. The real reason I want to visit them is to put into action that amazing motivating talent I have.

I know it will be well-received.

Hopefully, they will all be there tomorrow, when I will pay a surprise visit – further illustrating the urgency of the matter.

Of course, I could do the conversation over the phone, but there is no match for face-to-face, in terms of impact. Also, visiting their office will entitle me to lunch, on (my company), and there is a fantastic Mexican place on the way there that serves the best nachos in the world.

But again, the motivating speech that I will give is the real reason I’m going.


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.


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