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.


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 …


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.


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.


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…


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.”


It Just Might Work

March 11, 2010
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I don’t exactly know how my company’s management team is expecting me to get everything done. I mean, I just outlined for you all the responsibilities I have, and it seems to me that they ought to cut me some slack. But today, none of that matters, because I came up with a great idea.

I am going to contact my former agency and explain to them that I was so disappointed by the lack of results they secured for me that I am going to insist they do two more months of work for my company for free. That’s right, gratis.

And they will do it because we still have not paid their last invoice, and I will explain to them that I don’t see how I can pay that invoice when they didn’t get me the results I wanted … unless they can do some more work for us for free.

And I’ll even tell them that if they do a good job there’s a possibility we would rehire them for a 12-month contract. That should be enough to get a “yes” out of them. I’ll report back later about what their answer is – but I think we all know that it will be “yes,” don’t we?


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