Diary of a PR Amateur

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.

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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.


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.


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.


Lunch

June 16, 2010
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How another preposterous PR yahoo became involved regarding the highly demanding area you marketing (or media relations) people and I have been reading and writing about is beyond me. But nonetheless, here I was on Monday, face-to-face with John, our snazzily-dressed agency guy, at one of the area’s finest restaurants.

But I’m no fool. I knew he was going to leave my company with the bill at the end of this in any case, so I purposely ordered light … just a bowl of soup and a roll.

He, of course, ordered a steak, the jerk.

Anyway, the conversation was pleasant enough. Here’s a snippet:

John: I just thought it would make sense, given your disappointment – and the fact that it seems there is a disconnect regarding media targets – that maybe we should get together, away from the office, and talk through some things.

Me: Okay. What’s on your mind?

John: Well, for starters, I have a feeling that you aren’t pleased about the details surrounding my firm being hired by your company. And even though that decision must be frustrating for you, given that you had already issued an RFP, I just want you to know that we see you as our client. You are the day-to-day decision-maker, and we realize that it is you we have to impress.

Me: Well, you’re not doing such a good job of that so far, John.

John: I understand that, and that’s why I thought we should get together. So let’s start with the media targets. Which outlets are most important for you?

Me: Well, as I said the other day (It’s always good to start comments that way, because it makes the other party feel like an idiot for having forgotten what you’ve told him/her.), BusinessWeek, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are the top. That’s why I am paying you. But we also care about the tech trades …

John: Like c|Net, ZDNet and TechCrunch?

Me: Ha! I know what you are doing, Mr. Cuff-links! What? You think I’m going to say that you guys are doing a good job just because you got those three? Not a chance.

John: Now, Joe, take it easy. Remember, I’m just trying to get us calibrated here. I’m not here today to convince you we are doing a better job than we are doing. I just want us to leave here on the same page.

Me: Fine. So yes, those three are important … but there are others as well, and I want to make sure we are in them.

John: Agreed. Can you please send me your “wish list?” We will then be quite clear on what our targets really are.

Me: Sure, but why don’t you send me what you think it should be and I’ll approve or edit it.

John: Fine.

That’s generally how the conversation went. John spending time trying to show me how great he and his team are and me not taking the bait.

I swear, when is he going to realize that we are not on the same team here?

Oh, by the way, just to rub in how much of a jerk he is, John paid. I think he did that just to make me feel like an idiot for only ordering a bowl of soup.


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.


Sick-Day Reflections

June 8, 2010
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I realize I haven’t posted for a while. I have been out sick and just today began on the road back from what was a horrible debilitating virus, even for someone as tough as I am.

But you can learn a lot about your position in a company and your relationship with your agency when you are out sick.

For example, I haven’t received a single email from management since I let them know a few days ago that I was sick. That can only mean one thing: that they have total confidence in my abilities, even when I am laid up in bed.

On the other hand, I have my agency, which, as you know, I work with reluctantly given how they were selected. You would think that they would send me something, maybe some flowers or one of those awesome trash cans divided into three sections and filled with regular, cheese and caramel flavored popcorn, just to let me know they care.

But no, they sent nothing.

And when I get back in, which could be as soon as tomorrow, they will pay dearly.


I Knew John Hill … You’re No John Hill

May 25, 2010
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Well, as expected, I met yesterday with the new agency that management thought would be the right agency for us and boy, was I right about not wanting to work with them.

Luckily, I’m good enough that I will make them look so much better than they really are, which, in turn, will make me look even better to my bosses.

Anyway, here’s what happened, which I will run through in time-line format:

9:58 – The agency team shows up, obviously arriving two minutes early to impress us. They are shown into the conference room and asked if they’d like something to drink.

10:04 – I show up to the meeting, four minutes late, to demonstrate that I call the shots here and that they wait for me, not the other way around.

10:06 – My boss shows up.

10:07 – The top guy in the agency introduces his team of four people. One of them has ears that should have been pinned back when he was a child. One of them is wearing a shirt with a button-down collar. However, it is not buttoned-down, and it’s driving me crazy. One, the top guy, is dressed so perfectly that he’s immediately lost my respect. After all, if he’s dressing that well, he must be charging clients too much money. The fourth one, a woman, is a typical marcom chick-type. She’s paid more attention to her hair and nail-polish than her understanding of our business, I’m sure.

10:10 – My boss asks me my impressions of the introductions, and where we should go from here. I stand up.

10:11 – I begin … “Well, those certainly were interesting introductions, John, but I want you to know that as far as I’m concerned you can throw all that experience, all those awards, and even your first name out the window. You know, there was another John in this industry way back when. And he ultimately proved himself. He opened up his own firm. It’s called Hill and Knowlton. You, over there with the ears, your name is Dan, huh? Well, there’s another Dan in this industry, Dan Edelman. Built his own firm, too. It’s called Edelman.

“What have you built? Guess what? It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters … except for what you can do for (my company).

“I’m going to be your best friend and your worst enemy. I’m going to be in your face and continually pushing you to achieve. And you’re going to thank me later because I’m going to enable you to do things you didn’t even think you were capable of doing.

“Next steps? Ha! I’m not sure I understand the question. We hired these guys to give us their advice, and I’m expected to provide next steps? I don’t think so. So, John, what are our next steps?”

10:16 – John, the top guy, explains that he received from my boss the plan of action I wrote and took the liberty of editing it a bit. He then presents it to the group, giving me full credit for, as he called it, “facing the blank page,” which is a euphemism for “boy did it stink, but it was better than nothing.”

10:18 – I decide that I can’t stand John and his fancy clothes.

10:20 – I’m now spending all my energy calculating how much money John makes by running his agency. Must be at least $500,000 a year after taxes.

10:25 – John finishes presenting MY plan of action and my boss is nodding his head like a bobble-head doll. I’m embarrassed to be associated with him.

10:26 – I explain that plans are one thing, but actual results are how the agency will be measured.

10:27 – Mr. Fancy-pants agrees with me. He’s obviously doing this because he knows I am smarter than he is.

10:30 – 10:45 – We outline team responsibilities. I explain that, with all my responsibilities, they will have to spend a lot of time chasing me for answers and approvals. Dan reminds me that I earlier said that I would be in their face, but it’s fine with them either way, and they look forward to working with me and proving to me that they are up to the challenge.

10:46 – Meeting adjourns. I offer to walk them out, but my boss says that it’s probably better if I get back to my responsibilities, so he will walk them out.

10:48 – I write my first email to our agency. After all, when you are trying to move the PR needle, there is no time to waste.

Are they the agency I would have chosen? No. Does John wear nice clothes? Yes. Are Dan’s ears too big? You have no idea.

But the fact remains that these guys are the cards I’ve been dealt, so I have to make the best of it.

And you know as well as I do that I will …


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.


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