Diary of a PR Amateur

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.

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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.


Back … With a Vengeance

June 13, 2010
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Well, I returned to the office on Friday (You always want to return to the office on a Friday. It’s a nice way to demonstrate to your bosses that you are not just packing it in for the weekend …), and called my agency to find out the latest.

John: John (last name).

Me: Hey, John. It’s Joe, from (my company).

John: Joe … how are you feeling? I hope you appreciated that we left you alone so you could get better.

Me: Really, John? You’re going to pull that with me? I know the facts. I’ve been in your shoes. You’ve not been leaving me alone. You’ve been slacking off. I’m trying to figure out whether you guys are actually going to get anything done for us.

(Now, you must understand that I didn’t actually think that about John and his team. But I’ve learned that if I wildly exaggerate my disappointment in my agency, it makes them work all that much harder for me.)

John: Well, we are trying to get results. Did you see the pieces we secured for you with c|Net, ZDNet and TechCrunch? If not, I can re-send the emails.

Me: Listen, John. We can all get stuff in lame on-line magazines. But I want the big stuff. I want BusinessWeek. I want the Wall Street Journal. The New York Times. That’s what I’m paying you for.

John: Actually, in our initial brief, you talked about how the world is changing, and that you expect us to demonstrate that we’ve changed with it. I distinctly remember you mentioning TechCrunch as a key for us. Well, we got it for you. If you want us to shift our focus to business media, we’ll do it, but …

Me: I think you know what I want from you. Listen, I have to go to a meeting, but we’re going to talk more about this. Talk to you then.

John: Uh, okay, bye.

You see, the key is to always keep them off-balance. That’s the only way to be sure that you keep the upper-hand in the client-agency relationship.

Five minutes later, John called me back on my cell phone.

Me: John, I’m in the middle of a meeting right now. Can we talk later?

John: Joe, no problem, but I think it might make sense for you and me to get together one-on-one and figure out where things are and where they should be going.

Me: You sure you want to do that, John? Maybe we ought to get the whole team together.

John: Yes, I’m sure. Why don’t you come to our office Monday and I’ll take you out to lunch. Then, we can talk.

Me: Oh! Is this because of the popcorn tin?

John: What? What’s a popcorn tin?

Me: Never mind. Sure, I’ll see you Monday at noon.


A Strategy Must Be Honored … By Everyone

April 7, 2010
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Sometimes it can get frustrating to think so many steps ahead of everyone else. For example, they say that there are sometimes incredible athletes that are so far ahead of their teammates that they wind up looking not as good. They are thinking three steps ahead and their teammates are three steps behind, so they wind up losing the ball … or the puck … or even the frisbee.

That’s the position in which I find myself today, and quite often, frankly.

You see, our CEO came into my cube today and asked me why I’m not calling back reporters. Apparently, he said, they are now calling him hoping he will speak with them, since I won’t.

“Did you speak with them?!” I asked, panicking about my entire strategy being blown up.

“Of course, I did, Joe,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I? We haven’t been covered in a substantial way for months, and we just sent out four releases. They want to talk with us now! Gotta strike while the iron’s hot!”

I just shook my head.

“What?” he said.

I just kept shaking my head … and I kept shaking it until he walked out of my cube, muttering to himself that he’d have to speak with my supervisor about this.

I was feeling particularly bold, given that my strategy was making the media so hungry to speak with our company, so I gave him a piece of my mind:

“Listen, (CEO’s name), I don’t tell you how to do your job,” I said. “So please don’t tell me how to do mine. I know what I’m doing.”

“Joe,” he responded, “I’m not sure you do, and since I’m the CEO, I will tell you how to do your job if I don’t think you’re doing it well.”

You know, that’s the problem with this company. They don’t let me do my job. But the good news is that now that he’s stuck his nose in my business, I can point the finger at him if my strategy doesn’t work.


Sitting Pretty

April 6, 2010
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You have all noticed, no doubt, that I have not posted here for a while. Of course, those of you who pay attention to this blog know that I have established a strategy of sending out a bunch of announcements in rapid-fire succession, and then laying low for up to two months at a time. Well, I’m happy to report that it is working.

The media don’t quite know what to do with themselves, after I sent out four releases in five days. Then, over the last two weeks – silence. In fact, I won’t even return reporters’ phone calls. Absolutely silence.

Then, in a couple more weeks, I anticipate having the ability to announce a few more things, and then, whammo, we’ll blitz the media again!

But for now, I’m just sitting pretty, not contacting the media, not returning their calls and not sending out announcements.

And in a few weeks, when I contact them again – on my terms – they are going to be begging me to write about my company.


Of Blitzes and Misdirection Plays

March 23, 2010
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Well, we sent out a record four releases in less than a week. And I don’t want to pat myself on the back or anything, but the reactions from the media with whom I spoke yesterday were amazing. One example:

Joe: I sent you a release today about (product)

Reporter: Joe, you just called me an hour ago about a different release, and you called me last Friday about another one. And none of them are really that interesting. But yes, I did see the release about (product).

Joe: Great. As you can see, we are a company on the move. Lots going on here.

Reporter: I don’t understand you guys. You go like four months without announcing anything, and then three releases in four days. What’s your deal?

Joe: Just you wait. We’ve got another one going out at 5 p.m.!

Reporter: Uh-huh. Well, Joe, gotta go. Bye.

You see! It’s working! They all know who we are now! Our brand awareness has increased dramatically among the press this week and it’s all because of my strategy.

Now, my follow-up idea is to go another few months before sending out another announcement. It’ll be great. They’re going to wonder, “What happened to (my company)? They were making so much noise back in March.”

And then, just as they think we are out of the game again, I’m going to blitz them again in late June. It’ll be amazing.

I’ll tell you, at first I wasn’t so happy when my company decided not to hire a PR firm. But now, since I’ve gotten more involved … I love it.

By the way, you are welcome to try this strategy, too, and you don’t even have to give me credit.


Now What?

February 25, 2010
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Well, you would think my management team would have thought this through a little better. I mean, why even have me go through the trouble of issuing an RFP if they were just going to cancel the PR agency search so quickly?

So here’s what happened:

My boss came into my office yesterday and told me that the economic climate does not justify hiring an agency to help with PR.

“You have a lot of experience yourself,” he said. “You can pitch the media. It will save us money.”

So here I am now, NOT getting paid to pitch the media, but having to do it anyway. And one thing is certain: I am going to call in sick tomorrow. That will be my small form of protest. I mean, who does something like this? Who asks an internal PR person to actually pitch the media? Had I known I was in for this, I wouldn’t have taken the job.

Of course, the agencies were upset, too.

“Why even send out the RFP?” said one of them.
“By asking that question,” I responded, “you just bought yourself a one-way ticket to blacklist, my friend. When we hire another firm, we will not be contacting you.”
“Your company stinks,” he responded, and then, for some reason, we got disconnected.

Anyway, I guess I start a new job here on Monday (Remember, I’m calling in sick tomorrow.). I just hope the reporters are ready to be spun like never before. They are going to be putty in my hands.


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