Diary of a PR Amateur

Well, Whadya Know?

July 26, 2010
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I walked in the office this morning (about a half-hour ago) and found a cannister of popcorn on my chair. It was wrapped with a big red bow and had a card attached to it. Here’s what the card said:

Joe –

Sorry to disappoint about SF.
We value you here at (my company).
We want to reward you, and there’s
much more where this popcorn came from.

Sincerely,

(my boss)

Well, some of you may already know that I’m a big fan of the cannister of popcorn, so I guess my boss thinks that will make everything better as well. But it won’t. Oh, I’m going to give them another chance, but I think they’ve made clear that they have to keep Big Joe happy or they will regret it. So they saved themselves this time, but a cannister of popcorn isn’t going to get the job done next time.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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