Diary of a PR Amateur

A New Chapter

August 16, 2010
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Well, folks. I thought I had a fool-proof way of getting a raise, but it turns out it’s not fool-proof because my fool-of-a-boss and the CEO both turned it down.

You see, I had done some research into the average salary for in-house PR people. It was simple, really. I just went to PR Week and O’Dwyer’s, and each of them had a survey of salaries. So I took the average of both averages, and that turned out to be higher than the salary I have been making.

I took the surveys into my boss’s office and said, “If you think I’m lower than average, you can keep my salary as is. If not, I would like an increase.”

He smiled and said, “I’ll have to discuss this with (the CEO’s name), and will get back to you.”

You’re darn right, you should be discussing it. I’m the last guy they want to make unhappy.

Well, it wasn’t even 15 minutes later that he came back to me with their answer.

“We believe that you are currently worth less than the average PR person, but that you do have potential, Joe. Therefore, we are keeping your salary the same.”

I'm not feeling too good right now. But that's about to change.

So I responded, “If you don’t think I’m worth what I think I’m worth, I may have to leave the company.”

“I understand,” he said, and walked out of my cube.

So that’s it. I’m now definitely moving on. In fact, I have my first interview scheduled for tomorrow.

And I’m particularly excited, because it’s with an agency. Imagine how impressed they will be when I outline my client-side experience to them.


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.


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?


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?


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.


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.


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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