Diary of a PR Amateur

My Grandma Made A Fool of Me Once … Once.

August 9, 2010
Leave a Comment

It’s so funny when you run into someone who thinks s/he is smarter than you. Perhaps that doesn’t happen to you very often. But to me, it seems to happen all the time. I imagine it comes from the other person’s general insecurity.

Anyway, in response to my simple inquiry regarding the results of the media tour, I received this from John at the agency:

“Joe –

Thanks for the email, and for including (my company’s CEO) in the cc line. I am surprised that you needed to ask about it, given that we sent you a full report on the tour the day we returned from San Francisco. (By the way, I hope you can go next time. SF is a great town.)

Anyway, I’ve attached my original email summary to this email so you and (my company’s CEO’s first name) can both review it. In short, it was a major success, and I hope we can do this every 3-4 months.

Please call me with any questions and/or concerns.

John”

What a jerk. What kind of an agency guy cc’s the CEO on an email designed to make me look bad? Well, I decided to put him in his place, so I responded with this – without cc’ing my company’s CEO:

“John –

Thanks for the re-send. I don’t think it makes sense in the future to waste (my company’s CEO)’s time with these kinds of emails. Perhaps you should just send these kinds of things to me in the future.

Thanks, and by the way, I found the formatting in the summary to be confusing. Please make sure it is done properly next time.

Joe”

Danny Vermin's got nothing on me.

So that’s the end of that, and I think I’ve made clear who’s running the show at this point.

By the way, there are big things on the horizon here for me. I just found out about a potential salary increase for myself. And I plan on bringing it to the attention of my boss tomorrow.

Advertisements

The Big Day

July 29, 2010
Leave a Comment

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
1 Comment

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.


Dog Days of Summer

July 12, 2010
Leave a Comment

Every once in a while, it behooves me to pull something out of my bag of tricks. Today and tomorrow will be one of those times.

You see, summertime is a little rough in the PR business. Since there are so many vacations, I just can’t seem to get myself motivated to do the research necessary to get press releases out there.

Of course, my agency (which has improved dramatically recently) is doing what it can, but we still are basically in maintenance mode these days.

So I went rummaging through the recesses of my brain and found a gem: We’re going to hold a brainstorming session.

Why? Well, back in my agency days (months, really), the account team would put together a brainstorming session to get the creative juices flowing. But more importantly, they would arrange for good snacks.

So that’s what I’m going to do. We’re talking Ben & Jerry’s and Pringles, two of my favorite all-time treats.

I guess I have to invite colleagues as well.

The topic will be “Headlines We Want For (My Company).” The idea is that if we can conceptualize some headlines, that will make it easier for me to get my agency to pitch those ideas. Because again, I can’t really get myself motivated to find out what news items my company has for my agency to work with these days.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a report on how it went. Until then, I have serious planning to do … Cookie Dough or Chunky Monkey?

Ah, what the heck. It’s not my money anyway (I’ll expense it.). I’ll buy both. And three different flavors of Pringles also.

And Coke. Definitely.


Not Surprised … But Shocked!

June 30, 2010
1 Comment

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.


Back … With a Vengeance

June 13, 2010
Leave a Comment

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.


Why I Loathe Most Agency People

June 9, 2010
Leave a Comment

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.


I Knew John Hill … You’re No John Hill

May 25, 2010
Leave a Comment

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 …


Early Returns

May 21, 2010
Leave a Comment

Well, just as I expected, all those strange-named agencies responded to the RFP. But shockingly, all the big-name firms did not respond.

But the important thing is that each of the strange-namers gave us some terrific ideas, and we plan to use all of them.

“All of them?” you ask.

Yes, all of them. As time has gone by, my strategic philosophy has continually evolved, and so even though a couple of months ago my philosophy focused on major blitzes, followed by unusually long periods of quiet, my view has changed.

I now believe in the throw-as-much-garbage-as-possible-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach.

For that reason alone, these creative ideas from the strange-namers will come in handy.

Meanwhile, I’m scheduled to meet with the new agency on Monday. I hope they’re ready for me …


The Sound of Agency Wheels Spinning

May 17, 2010
1 Comment

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.


Next Page »

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and become MUCH smarter about PR.

    Join 26 other followers