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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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 …


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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