Diary of a PR Amateur

I Hate Delays

August 2, 2010
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I’m a little embarrassed to let you know, because I really built it up and I’m sure you have all been checking this blog on a daily basis, but the big announcement – on which my raise and promotion were riding – has been postponed indefinitely.

Apparently, (my company) has not exactly done what is necessary to make this particular customer feel loved. You know, sometimes I think that I’m the only person in this company who knows how to do his job.

I wonder how (my company) would do if we sent out a satisfaction survey to our customers.

In any case, we are officially delayed, which means I have to figure out a different way to prove that I am promote-able.

I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve, and I think it all starts with taking some of the pressure off my boss. Of course, this will involve having to work a little harder than usual, but I think it’s worth the short-term effort for the sake of the long-term.

By the way, it has come to my attention that there is a Facebook Fan Page devoted to me, which is not entirely surprising, given the quality of the information I generally provide here. You should check it out.

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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.


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.


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?


The Consummate PR Pro

April 27, 2010
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Now that the off-site scheduling is behind me – the CEO approved my revised version, of course – I can get back to doing what I like doing so much … PR.

We haven’t put out an announcement in some time, which is just fine with me, given the strategy I’ve developed. But our antsy CEO wants an announcement this week, so he’s – get this – asked a friend, Tim, if he’d like to come aboard as a part-time team member with the title of “Chief Corporate Development Officer.” Of course, his friend said yes, but that’s not surprising, given the friend’s uneven track record in the business world.

I imagine this friend is going to get a ton of stock options and a nice office as well.

And if you can sense that I’m a little cranky about it, you are correct. Wouldn’t you be? I can manage circles around this new guy, Tim, and I’m still here in my cube.

But, as you know, I am the consummate professional, and the media will never know that I think this announcement – and the hire behind it – is dumb and a waste of investor dollars. To the media, everything will be just dandy around here. In fact, here’s the headline (and subhead) I’ve cooked up:

(MY COMPANY) TAKES MAJOR STEP FORWARD WITH NEW CORPORATE DEVELOPMENT HIRE

Tim To Help (My Company) Expand In New Directions

That subhead, mind you, is a little private joke between us girls here. You see, by writing “Expand in New Directions,” it will sound like he’s changing the strategy of the company, and the board will be all over the CEO for that one. Ha! I simply can’t wait for this …
(more…)


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.


Blitz-time

March 21, 2010
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I haven’t been posting as much over the last week, largely because I have been so busy doing the job of three people, which, I assure you, I’m more than capable of doing.

As you know, I got rid of my agency, and management decided we don’t need to hire a new one and that it’s all up to me. Obviously, they made that kind of a decision because they know how good I am at this.

So at the end of last week, I came up with another one of my incredible ideas:

We are going to blitz the market with news releases.

My company has three amazing announcements that we can make. One is about a partnership with one of the world’s biggest tech companies. Another is a new product that is forever going to change our industry. The third is a major new customer.

Now, conventional wisdom in PR is to space out these announcements over several weeks or even a month, but as you know, I like to go against the grain. That’s why I’ve decided to release all three press releases on consecutive days.

The market isn’t going to know what hit it. And in the end, after those three days are over, my company is going to be sitting at the top of the heap in our industry.

Stay tuned …


The Worst They Can Say

March 15, 2010
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We are all brought up with the notion that there is no harm in asking for something because, after all, the worst the other party can say is, “no.”

Well, as you know, one of my goals with this blog is to educate you, the PR world, about how things work. And so, I suggest you take out a pen and paper and jot down today’s lesson.

The worst the other party can say is far worse than “no.” I know this because my former-agency-that-shall-not-be-named responded in such a rotten way when I put forth my request to them.

I don’t really understand why they responded in such a passionate manner, given all I have done for them. After all, forever more they will be able to say that they had me as a client. That will help their business tremendously. They will be able to tell the world that – at one point – I chose them to be my agency.

Well, none of that mattered to them today, even though they could have looked at this as an extra opportunity to get into my good graces. Instead, they responded as follows:

Joe: Hey, (name). How’s it going?

Agency guy: Uh, hi, Joe.

Joe: You know, we still haven’t paid that last invoice, the one from the final month of our relationship.

Agency guy: Yes, my accounting department has been concerned about it. Should they be?

Joe: Well, funny you should ask that, (name). I’ve been thinking, I could easily arrange for that invoice to be paid, but I need you to give me something in return.

Agency guy: Um, Joe, we gave you a month of our hard work in return, so we should be paid.

Joe: Well, anyway, I figure if you could work from today through next month for us, for free, I would be glad to pay that last invoice because, if you think about it, you guys didn’t really get anything done for us during that final month.

Agency guy: We wrote a plan of action for you and set you up with five top journalists. We also sent you a list of press release topics, because you weren’t able to come up with them yourself.

Joe: So this means you will be able to work for us during the next month for free?

Agency guy: Seriously, Joe, not only would we not work for you for free, we wouldn’t even work for you for pay anymore. You are quite possibly the most amateurish PR person we’ve ever come across, and can’t believe someone pays you to do your job. In fact, we actually want you to say bad things about us, because a bad review coming from you would actually make us sound better to potential clients.

Joe: You could have just said “no.”

Agency guy: (click)

Joe: I’ll take that as a “no.”

Anyway, they were way out of line, and I’m pretty sure that (name) wouldn’t like me to tell his CEO that he spoke to me that way.

At the same time, I’ve got work to do. No more of this dilly-dallying around with a second-rate former agency.


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