Monday, December 20, 2010

Deliverables: The Main Thing?

"If you're so obsessed with deliverables, hire Santa!"

That's what I felt like shouting to a recent new client prospect (no. not the woman in the video above!) who could have cared less about my PR abilities, knowledge or experience. All this self-professed "geek" could focus on were "deliverables."

That should have been my clue for  to bail out. After all, I pride myself on avoiding corporate jargon in all communications. But the first paragraph of Wikipedia's entry on "deliverables" states definitively that "the word is considered corporate jargon." The Wikipedia writer knows the latter area well, having started the entry with this: "Deliverable is a term used in project management to describe a tangible or intangible object produced as a result of the project that is intended to be delivered to a customer (either internal or external)."

I felt better, though, when I read next: "A deliverable could be a report, a document, a server upgrade or any other building block of an overall project."

Ok, that was tangible enough for me. I proceeded to offer the prospective client a full list of PR deliverables, bullet point by bullet point:
  • press releases
  • bylined articles
  • pitch letters  
  • status reports
  • clip reports
  • timelines
  • media lists
  • tweets
And so on,. But I wouldn't offer press pickups as a deliverable, Ultimate coverage by journalists is simply out of my control, I explained.  "PR is an art, not a science."

In essence, I was asking him to trust me. "I'll provide the maximum effort and you'll get results," I promised, "but I can't guarantee those results in advance."

But the prospective client didn't believe in me that much.  He went elsewhere, probably to someone who promised him Oprah ("she must be planning a panel on Internet advertising for her farewell season!") and pickups in Google News and Yahoo (now there's an achievement!).

Perhaps he did hire Santa, a proven deliverer of deliverables. 'Tis the season, after all. But, truth be told, I don't really believe in Santa that much. What I continue to believe in are the intangibles of public relations. Work your media contacts to the max and you'll get results -- your story might not be great enough for The New York Times but you may have enough to deliver some key industry bloggers.

Well, gotta go now. I'm waiting for a deliverable from UPS, and the doorbell is ringing. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

One Year Anniversary

Today marks exactly one year since my first posting of "More of Les"!

Anniversaries have long been great excuses for putting out press releases. Clients come to their PR people declaring, "We're celebrating our first anniversary. That's big news in the start-up field!"

"But nobody cares about that," retorts the despondent publicist (me). "Please come back when you have real news. Like new partners, new clients, new products...or at least a fifth anniversary!"

So I won't use the anniversary of this blog as an excuse for a press release. Instead, I'll use it as an excuse for another blog posting.

First, let's see who else is publicizing an anniversary today.
  • CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE–Atlantic Cape Community College invites local residents to Community Day, a celebration of the five-year anniversary of the opening of the Cape May County Campus, 2 to 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 13, at CMCC, 341 Court House-South Dennis Road.
Not earth-shattering, but in addition to keeping with the five-year rule, it actually becomes news by creating a tie-in with a real event -- like the time my then-client CABLEready celebrated a key anniversary by launching a major scholarship program.

Then, there's this:
  • Integrated Marketing Summit Celebrates First Anniversary  
    30 Marketing Experts Coming to Kansas City October 12 + 13

    KANSAS CITY, Mo., Sept. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Top thought leaders behind some of America's most celebrated brands will gather for an exceptional two-day event as Kansas City hosts the Integrated Marketing Summit (IMS) on Tuesday, October 12th and Wednesday, October 13th at the Hyatt Regency Crown Center.
Stop the presses! The Marketing Summit is celebrating the anniversary of its first event! Oh, btw, they're running another one too. And it's exceptional! 

Actually, the agenda doesn't look too bad. Indeed, despite the Summit's own press release, PR Newswire's Director of Emerging Media Michael Pranikoff spoke yesterday on the topic, "Forget what you THINK you know about's a Whole New World." 

Sure is. In sports too. Right there in Kansas City, in fact, the Chiefs -- despite losing Sunday -- stand atop football's AFC West. In baseball, the Texas Rangers last night advanced in the playoffs for the first time ever.

But some sports certainties remain. The Yankees win, for instance, and the Pittsburgh Pirates lose (18 straight losing seasons).

So no wonder the only real significant anniversary being celebrated today is in Pittsburgh:  
  • 1960 World Series Celebration and Mazeroski Plaque Dedication
PITTSBURGH, Oct. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --  The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is partnering with Pirates Charities on Wednesday, October 13 to mark the 50th anniversary of Bill Mazeroski's home run that made the Pittsburgh Pirates the 1960 World Series Champions.  The day will begin at 11:45 a.m. with a public unveiling of a sidewalk plaque honoring Mazeroski for his walk-off home run.  The ceremony will take place near the old Forbes Field wall at the intersection of Schenley and Roberto Clemente Drives in Oakland.

Yes, 50 years ago today, Bill Mazeroski's epic home run propelled the upstart Pirates to World Series victory over the Yankees.

While there's long been newsreel footage of this classic moment, the complete NBC telecast of what has been dubbed "the best game ever" was thought lost forever -- until film of it was recently discovered in Bing Crosby's wine cellar. The late great crooner, you see, was not only a pioneer in the recording of radio and TV shows (before him, everything was done live) but also part-owner of the Pirates.

That's why Crosby has a cameo in the original 1951 Angels in the Outfield, which I recently viewed on Turner Classic Movies. It's a fantasy film where the Pirates miraculously win the pennant during another multi-year period when the real-life team was just plain awful.

At this point, I planned to conclude this celebration of "More of Les"' first anniversary with a video or audio of Crosby singing "It Was a Very Good Year," but apparently Bing never sang that Sinatra standard.

So instead, I'll turn to the co-star of Angels in the Outfield, Janet Leigh. At the time of the movie's release, she had just married Tony Curtis, who passed away two weeks ago today. Curtis is renowned in PR circles because six years later, he would star as sleazy "press agent" Sidney Falco in undoubtedly the greatest movie ever made about PR, The Sweet Smell of Success. Like me, Falco ran a small independent shop, but he definitely had a different approach to landing clients -- pushing his way in and then guaranteeing placements in is his equally sleazy abettor JJ Hunsecker's hugely influential newspaper column, as shown here:

Wow, I bet Falco never needed to hang a press release on an anniversary hook. Maybe I should have used his new business approach to land a client or two at ShowBiz Expo this past weekend?

No, wouldn't have worked. I don't know any JJ Hunseckers, thank god.

But I've got my own "column" to fill, and to end. Thanks for reading. It's been a very good year.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Radio, Newspapers: Back to the Agency Silos?

 via Tales of Future Past -

At the OMMA (Online Media, Marketing & Advertising) conference, keynote speaker Arianna Huffington takes pains to note the continued viability of newspapers. She gets seven papers delivered daily and reads them all, she declares.

I glance about. It's around 9:30 am. For the first time in a long history of attending morning business meetings, no newspaper is in sight. And most of the attendees are not teens or millenials. But all are in the ad industry.

Huffington is so old-fashioned that's she's also made a commitment to sleep eight hours nightly -- and she  wants to find common cause between right and left political partisans. Not only does she read newspapers, she probably even listens to the radio.

My mind is on that ancient audio medium, because I'm heading next to a big Advertising Week event -- more a rally in fact -- thrown by NYMRAD (New York Market Radio). Radio execs, of course, have little interest in taming rabid partisans (almost entirely right-wing) because that's where the listeners and revenues lie. 

The first speaker is former TV star/liberal turned radio talk show host/conservative Dennis Miller who, unlike Huffington, can't separate his politics from the business pitch. Miller''s there to sell radio as an ad medium, but he can hardly utter a sentence without bashing President Obama, Speaker Pelosi or Secretary Clinton. Yet he insists that he's holding back his worst vitriol in deference to what he terms a Democratic audience.

But if Democrats don't listen to talk radio, and media buyers are Democrats, where does that leave the radio industry? During the event's cocktail party, I strike up a conversation with a typical media buyer.

"Radio's not something we ordinarily think about," she admits. "Who listens to radio in New York?"
So I start thinking. Ad folks obviously watch TV.  Even OMMA has a Time Warner cable exec on one of its panels. Of course, that's because cable has begun including the Internet in its ad sales mix. But so have newspapers and radio.

Weren't "silos" supposed to be a thing of the past at media agencies, and integrated media now all the rage? Yet if buyers are so obsessed with checking out sponsored tweets and testing the latest mobile apps that they can't bother to pick up a Sunday newspaper circular to see how Target garners store traffic, or turn on the radio to hear how Dennis Miller sells sump pumps (the things you learn at industry events!), perhaps online has become the new TV -- the only thing that really matters now in the ad world.

So while Huffington hypes newspapers and Miller talks radio, I...well, I admit it,  I too don't have a newspaper with me during Advertising Week -- I'm getting the news I want via my Blackberry. And I'm not listening to drive-time radio on the way to the conference either -- that's impossible on the subway, for one thing, but I can hear all the tunes I want on my iPad anyway. Who needs radio these days after all? Who needs newspapers?

Oh well, time to stop pontificating and get back to the real world,  I've got online advertising companies to promote. Hmm, let's see. That client's story should be just perfect for Stuart Elliott in the Times. That other client keeps pestering me to get mentioned by Mossberg in the Journal.  And that book about politics and technology?  Well, a radio tour is the only way to go.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Skidoo, Credits? Not So Fast!

Peggy Olson on Mad Men has been pissed because she didn't receive credit for her work on an award-winning Glo-Coat commercial. 

Who can blame her?  Commercials have never included on-air credits for the myriad folks involved in their creation, so awards are really the only way for anyone to receive recognition. Compare commercials to their long-form cousins in moving images -- TV and movies --  whose end credits have always allowed interested viewers to know every single person involved in their production, from the actors and directors down to the lowly gofers and shoe-shiners.

Well in Peggy's time, at least. Nowadays, while a few folks still stay to the bitter end in movie theaters, try viewing the end credits to any movie or show episode on broadcast TV or basic cable (except thankfully on Turner Movie Classics). They're squeezed onto the left side of the screen, squished onto the bottom, and/or fly by so fast that even Howard Stephen Berg probably can't capture more than a word or two.

Of course, networks do this so that viewers have less time to change the channel, keeping them engaged in the current parlance. End credits, it seems, can bore viewers even more than the similarly attention-afflicted commercials -- whose agencies have spent the last few years teaming up with broadcasters on all sorts of creative approaches to keep folks tuned in, such as shorter pods, in-show tie-ins and the like,.

Mad Men is a virtual creative lab in this area. AMC, for instance, runs historical factoids about the show's sponsors before and after their spots. And some Mad Men advertisers have now begun naval-gazing. They've become ad-industry obsessed, incorporating the process (albeit fictional) of creating ad campaigns into the commercials themselves.  

The creative agencies obviously relish the spotlight Mad Men has thrown onto their profession (although they seem reluctant to move the depiction of the ad creation process into the 21st Century). So here's a modest proposal: toot your own horn with credits! 

No, not end credits on the end of a 15-second spot (imagine how fast they'd need to fly by!). Rather, an idea borrowed from MTV, which some 20 years ago took another short-form TV medium, the music video, and slapped director credits onto them.

Wouldn't it be cool to see who directed the current Claymation commercial while it airs instead of via YouTube, where you'll find out it's Rich Webber.  Perhaps he and others could become  ad industry equivalents of Spike Jonze and other music video directors, who by the time they directed their first features were already familiar names to MTV watchers.

And while we're at it, let's give some on-air recognition to Y&R Chicago!  Yes, Don Draper was jealous of Y&R's spacious New York offices earlier this season, but, really (fictionally?), that was 45 years ago. Maybe viewers would get a kick out of seeing that while Sterling Cooper has vanished from the ad game, several of its rivals that Mad Men sometimes mentions are still alive and breathing...and dressed in modern clothes, not as if they're about to attend a John Lindsay fund-raiser.

Unfortunately, for someone in Peggy's position, recognition and credit will always be dependent on the awards process -- and thus with whomever at the agency handles the nomination process. I'd suggest bonding with that person over coffee and a sandwich at Chock Full o' Nuts or the Automat. Or, if credit is so important, moving over to the TV business. In fact, thanks to my presence in 2010, I have evidence that Peggy will soon do exactly that. Her IMDB credits prove it!

Skidoo, Credits? Not So Fast!
Written, produced and directed by Les Luchter

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Finding a Needle in a Haystack

Movies in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Concerts in Prospect Park and Coney Island. Yes, summer in Brooklyn means lots of free entertainment. In 2010, it also means crowds. Very large crowds.

It's bad enough that you can now arrive ahead of time and end up wishing you had brought binoculars to better see The Big Lebowski. Or honed up on your tree-climbing skills for an unobstructed view of The Swell Season.

Turns out that one of the worst parts of being way back in the crowd is being forced to listen to folks around you providing rendezvous directions to wayward friends.

You'd think that mobile capabilities would have made this whole process easier. Maybe people are finding each other easily via texting or social networks. Perhaps there's an app that brings two people  together via incredibly accurate GPS. But, scrunched on our blanket in Brooklyn Bridge Park, hemmed in by sweaty bodies, enduring the wafting smell of cheese and bug repellent, my wife and I are oblivious to any of that.

Instead, we hear a French-accented twenty-something guy, who's already appropriated the upper back quadrant of our blanket, shouting in our ear. No, he's talking very loudly into his cell phone: "Walk to zee bock, you'll see a bleu awning on zee right. I'm on zee left een front of zee tall light tower."

I look around. About 2,000 people are in this section of the park, surrounded by five tall light towers, with some 100 people directly in front of each. But, depending on what angle Pierre's friend is looking from, in "front" of the light pole can mean just about anywhere. Like finding a needle in a haystack!

I suppress a giggle and try to lose myself in a book. (By coincidence, I'm reading "Thomas Wolfe's "Only the Dead Know Brooklyn" in the anthology Brooklyn Noir 2. It's 1935, and the locals know how to give directions, with the proper accent: "Yuh take duh Fourt' Avenoo express, get off at Fifty-nint' Street, change to a Sea Beach local deh, get off at Eighteent" Avenoo an' Sixty-toid, an' den walk down foeh blocks.")

But back to the present. The minutes roll by and so do more silly directions in the background. Finally, somehow, Pierre's friend shows up. The brie spreads. Our blanket gets more crowded. The movie starts and I get up on my knees to see over the basketball player in front of me.

In Prospect Park, the crowd is twice as large. We're ensconced beyond the fences of the main concert area. Stage way right, but we would actually see it if not for the portable toilets lined up and taunting us from inside the parameters. Expecting to get real seats, we brought no blanket. But we have room to stretch on the grass. And to enjoy the distant music amidst running kids and scampering dogs,

Then, from behind, we hear the booming voice of a Park Slope dad: "We're in the back, on the left side of the stage, near some bicycles, in front of a tree." I won't tell you how many bicycles are around or how many trees. Or how large an area he's talking about. My wife and I look at each other, and this time we burst out laughing. Rather than wait for the continuing directions, we pick ourselves up, scramble through the strollers, and move to a better vantage point.

A decade or so ago, when cell phones were not yet ubiquitous, we would frequently go to the even more crowded Bryant Park movies in Manhattan. And guess what? Latecomers found their friends. People would agree on pre-established locations, or folks would hold up distinct umbrellas with floppy bunny ears, or pitch posts adorned with colorful pennants.

In today's world of Facebook, Foursquare and Flashmob, gathering people together is the easy part. But Google the terms "finding people in a crowd" or "finding someone in a crowd" and you'll receive a mere handful of results. Pretty strange for a generation raised on "Where's Waldo!"

Anyone with any solutions to this problem, please chime in.  Because providing your location via voice over a cell phone just doesn't seem to be the answer.

It's an old joke that men never ask for directions; they'd rather get lost seeking their way. I would venture that they shouldn't give directions and get others lost too, except that giving bad instructions in crowds cuts across gender lines.

In the midst of a throng of people exiting Prospect Park, a sweet feminine voice behind us cut through the chatter: "As you come into the park, you'll see a whole bunch of people leaving.  Look for me."

Ok! And look for me when the Aretha Franklin concert gets rescheduled. I'll be in the back surrounded by a bunch of people, a lot of whom have lawn chairs.  In front of some trees....


Friday, June 11, 2010

More of Les: The Album

Turns out if you're looking for this blog and Google the terms "More of Les" and "blogspot," your top result will transport you to a rare record album of that name by Les Elgart and his Orchestra on the out-of-print music blog "Hooked on Stereophonic."

Before this discovery, I knew of neither Les Elgart nor his music. Of course, I immediately downloaded the album, hoping to add an overlooked masterpiece - with a great title - to my music collection. Alas, I was greatly disappointed. "More of Les," the LP version, proved to be passable swing music, but nothing that would have set the world afire upon its release in 1956.  

Yes, just as rock 'n roll was catching fire, Les Elgart started one of the last Big Bands! 

A sure recipe for failure, you say? Maybe not. For starters, in an ironic twist, one of Elgart's compositions would become a rock institution - he wrote the theme for Dick Clark's long-running American Bandstand (with lyrics later added by Barry Manilow!) And 50-odd years later, the Les Elgart Orchestra is still around - 15 years after the bandleader's death in 1995 just shy of his 78th birthday. I'd love to steer you to a Les Elgart Orchestra show near you, but the last gig listed on the band's website was this past Sunday afternoon at a Vietnamese restaurant in Plano, Texas.

So, as Gary Vaynerchuk might say, follow your passions! There's an audience for what you love, and you'll be able to cash in on it. Even if it means decades of playing weddings and cruise ships.

But I haven't actually come to blogland today to talk about Les Elgart's music. Les Elgart might as well be Les Brown, for all my knowledge of big bands. I'm really writing because "Hooked on Stereophonic" has got me hooked on the "More of Les" album cover pictured above.

The art is a great example of what so many have missed since music distribution switched first to cassettes, then to CDs, and now to online. As the "Hooked on Stereophonic" blogger wrote, the "More of Les" art is both "amazing and obscure." And, I'd add, a good example of a collage cover a decade before Sgt. Pepper.

Seems that when record buyers got "More of Les," they got all sides of his personality.  He's serious, he's playful, he's menacing, he's got a childish streak... he's even got a feminine side!

But most of all, he's self-denigrating - having fun at the expense of himself.  I like that. 

Besides the art, I also like the album's title, of course. And since Columbia Records (and its current parent Sony) has kept this record out of print, and has objected neither to my use of the title nor "Hooked on Stereophonic's" use of the music, perhaps they also wouldn't care if I borrowed the art permanently?

After all, I've been bombarded recently by blog postings, email newsletters, etc., etc., imploring me to improve my personal branding. And  visual representation is certainly part of any brand's image. Apparently, this blog needs a logo, and some anonymous record album designer from a half-century ago may just have supplied me with one. Today, I'm sure he or she would be a web designer!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Elvis Presents E! Entertainment Television

Too bad nobody won this blog's "guess that group" contest a few posts back.  One item destined for the prize package was a rare "Elvis" audio cassette involved in the launch of E! Entertainment Television 20 years ago come June 1. 

Don't expect the network of Chelsea Handler, celebrity scandals and salaciousness, however, to say anything about the role the King of Rock played in its launch. So I will.

Actually, I said it all two decades ago in a trade magazine called Cable Marketing. The May 1990 issue marked the magazine's relaunch, with a spiffy new design and editorial attitude (we later won an Ozzie Award for best mag relaunch, given by another now-defunct pub called Magazine Design & Production). And, inaugurating a new section reviewing industry marketing campaigns, the spotlight turned to E!
Nobody's put the Cable Marketing archives online yet, so I've typed in the article I penned back then, which follows.  In 1990, we included the text of the Elvis song lyrics alongside the article. In 2010, you don't have to read the lyrics - you can hear them through this link:

Market Review
Why We're All Shook Up About E! Entertainment Television

Elvis teased us, but we loved it.  
A launch announcement that worked.

This was originally going to be a news story about how Movietime announced its upcoming name change via a masterful Elvis Presley tease campaign to the press and major MSOs.  The story was scheduled to go in our "Promotional Showcase" column, but was pulled because we couldn't get details about the campaign from the main source -- Movietime.  So we decided to write this review instead.

Sheri Herman, senior vp of marketing for Movietime, feels a news story about the Elvis campaign would convey the wrong impression about the new E! Entertainment Television.  We disagree.  In the press release delivered to our office by one of E!'s Elvis impersonators, network president and ceo Lee Masters called E!'s attitude "fun, stylish and imaginative."  And that's exactly what the Elvis campaign was all about.

The month-long tease began on Valentine's Day with delivery of red roses and a card with the message, "You're in my thoughts" and signed by Elvis.  A few days later, a mailgram arrived.  It read simply, "Are you ready to get all shook up?" and was again signed by you-know-how.  Future mailgrams read "I hope you're as excited as I am" and "Are you lonesome tonight?  I'll be with you tomorrow."

Sometime during this process, we also received a full-color postcard with Elvis' picture and the message, "And soon I'll be with you in  person."

Finally, there was the phone call: Elvis himself, somehow using his song titles to tell us he'd be seeing us the next day.

And, sure enough, the next morning, we were buzzed by our hysterical receptionist, Bea.  "Someone's here to see you," she managed to get out between laughs.  We knew immediately who had arrived, and we scurried downstairs from our penthouse digs to meet The King.

There was Elvis, in his blue jumpsuit, sequins aglittering -- accompanied by a guy in dark suit and shades who we assumed to be his combination promotion man/bodyguard/...maybe guardian angel?

Anyway, we all went into the publisher's office where, to everyone's delight, Elvis commenced to belt out -- to the tune of Heartbreak Hotel -- the story of Movietime's transition into E!  No, not the Elvis  network, but Entertainment Television.

Well, let me tell you.  Our parent company, Jobson Publishing, puts out magazines on everything from eyeglasses to beverages to pharmaceuticals.  And what do you thing the secretaries and other office help -- yes, even the ad salespeople -- were talking about for the next couple of days?  Certainly not the latest lens design, wine cooler or anti-baldness drug.  No, they were all abuzz about Elvis -- and  full of questions about which cable network was so innovative promotion-wise.

Without Movietime/E's cooperation, we can't tell you how much this all cost, or how many Elvises were sent around, or even who came up with the idea in the first place.  We do know something about effective promotion, however,  And we're willing to bet Movietime/E! got its money's worth with Elvis.  After all, we haven't even the foggiest memory of how HBO first announced The Comedy Channel or how MTV unveiled its plans for HA!

As this month's issue shows, Cable Marketing -- like Movietime/E! -- is  itself involved in a relaunch, with our own new logo, graphics and editorial format.  Part our change is to run reviews such as this, even at the risk of offending industry suppliers.  Masters, in fact, could have been describing the new Cable Marketing when he called E! "vibrant, contemporary and forward-looking."

So, here's to the future, E!  Continue the good work.  Keep to your vision of an entertainment network, and we're sure you'll make strides.  At the same time, we'll keep to our vision of a marketing magazine.  But we promise, we'll try to never mention Elvis and E! in the same sentence again.

Alas, E!'s vision proved far more enduring than Cable Marketing's -- Jobson pulled the plug on us less than six months later. But somehow, that editorial encapsulated my world view on PR, marketing and journalism. Indeed, after I went into PR, I framed the article and  hung it on my office wall -- until the main protagonist Sheri Herman became a client of our agency. By then, she was president of the ambitious and far-too-ahead-of-its-time (1995-97) American Cybercast, whose pioneering online video shows included the soap opera series The Spot, described here in a now-amusing clip from the syndicated series Extra:

I'm sure that E! also covered The Spot, although no clip has yet surfaced on YouTube. Because as irritating as the network may seem to those of us who take our television seriously, there's no denying that E!'s always kept up with the pulse of the public, not to mention the Kardashians.

So happy birthday E!  What were you expecting? Another tongue-lashing?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Heroes and Villains

I spent several hours this past weekend watching writers perform as singers and musicians.

First up:  the Rock Bottom Remainders at the grandiose Nokia Theatre in Times Square, with esteemed authors Mitch Albom, Dave Barry, Amy Tan, Scott Turow and others daring to display classic rock chops on such tunes as Mustang Sally, Gloria and, of course, Paperback Writer.

Then, at the tiny Jalopy Theatre in a remote corner of Brooklyn's Red Hook, pop culture writer David Hajdu promoted his recent book of essays, Heroes and Villains, both by reading an excerpt and playing backup guitar for his wife, singer Karen Oberlin, in a concert of relevant songs. Another musician onstage was critic James Marcus, author of Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Juggernaut.

I ended up at both of these shows as offshoots of my PR work. Looking to see if paidContent had covered news from one of my online advertising clients, I stumbled upon a ticket giveaway for the Rock Bottom show.  I learned about the Jalopy event while pitching an author event to sponsor Freebird Books.

PaidContent didn't cover my news, and Freebird has yet to respond to my author suggestion. But they're hardly villains in my mind. In fact, they're more like heroes for connecting me to two great shows.

And those singing and strumming writers? Well, the Rock Bottom Remainders perform for worthy causes (in New York, World Vision, the 92nd  Street Y, America's Promise Alliance and We Give Books), and that's certainly heroic.  As for Hajdu?  Kudos for coming up with a novel approach to book publicity in an era of fewer bookstores and shrinking publisher support!

Last year, The Book Publicity Blog suggested teaming up authors and musicians to draw better attendance at author events. But how much cooler to make them the same person!

Maybe I can convince my author client to take singing lessons?


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

People Relationships

In my PR guise, I recently pitched some news to the Android PR Gal, who runs the quite informative (well, for Android users at least)  What's Up Android site. I assumed PR Gal was also also a public relations flack..until she informed me that the "PR" in her case stood for "People Relationships."

"I believe there needs to be a new way of doing PR,"  she emailed, "especially within the context and environments of social media platforms. I like to call what I do building 'people relationships,' in order to establish authenticity and connectedness with a brand, service, product, etc."

Well whatever her PR stands for, she's good at it. Because she sure sold me. People Relationships just has a better ring to it than Public Relations.

And Android Gal is sure good at establishing people relationships through all those social media platforms. Besides her site and her blog, she tweets, she's got a YouTube channel, hosts a Facebook fan site and ...well, you name it, she seems to be on it. Just doing a Google search on her is like taking a tour of the expanding social media world.

And it doesn't stop there. While I'm still working on establishing one personal brand, Android PR Gal has at least three of them -- she's also DigitalFemme, not to mention her own real name. Plus, she apparently has a full-time job too!

Of course, Android PR Gal is just an example -- a good one -- of today's new breed of PR practitioner. Because the "public" in PR finally means just that -- thanks to social media, we're increasingly cutting out "media" as the gatekeepers and instead going straight to the "people." And "relationships" is a more precise term than "relations." After, all, PR folk are no longer just trying to relate info that eventually gets to  the public, but to build real links in real time with real people.

So, when the next person asks me what I do for a living, I might not yet be able to say, 'I practice people relationships."  But if I say, "I do PR," I'll be ready with a whole new explanation.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Interns

My niece is seeking a summer internship in the communications field, so I've been more attuned than usual to the proliferation of intern openings among the employment ads placed by media and PR companies. Indeed, you'd think that many companies are staffed predominantly by college kids working for school credits, a pittance, or just the sheer experience of it.    

Undoubtedly, the lack of corporate budgets for fully paid positions during a recession is at least partly responsible for this situation. But why quibble? Internships can be great learning tools for students and employers alike. The more the merrier, as far I'm concerned (and as long as my niece is looking!)    

But "Interns Over 40"? Come on now! I'm against age discrimination as much as anyone else who can remember a typewriter, but if I want to do volunteer work, there are opportunities aplenty with non-profits (i.e, Taproot, New York Cares, etc., etc.). I'd have no desire to take work away from skilled workers or internships away from all those college kids who are soon going to find it hard enough to get an entry-level gig.    

With so many internships seemingly available, however, here's some advice for applicants: you may want to think smaller over bigger. Yes, here comes an example from my own youth. As a journalism student at Syracuse University (Go Orange!), I coveted an internship being offered by one of the local dailies (Herald-Journal? Post-Standard? Can't recall). I didn't get the spot. Instead, I ended up at a suburban weekly serving East Syracuse and neighboring communities. 

I was in the dumps until I found out that the person who beat me out for the daily internship had been assigned -- as interns often are -- to a job nobody else wanted. He got the obituary beat! The poor guy had to call or visit people whose loved ones had just died and ask them for pertinent facts about the deceased. Meanwhile, I was assigned to look through his daily obituaries, note which of the deceased lived in our paper's coverage area, and rewrite those obits for our audience. I figured I'd gotten the better deal!    

But I also got my own beat. Oh, did I mention that my paper had hired two interns? The other intern was assigned to cover East Syracuse, and I, once again, brought up the low end of the totem pole. My beat was the village of Minoa. As I remember it, Minoa was about four blocks wide and four blocks long, had a church, a grocery store, a town hall, and a police station. And thanks to Google Maps, I can say my memory hasn't faded. Okay, maybe the town's actually six blocks long.

Speaking of totem poles, the village leaders seemed to spend an awful amount of time at their meetings debating something called "pole barns." Trust me, kids, this is the type of thing that gets ingrained into your subconscious for the rest of your life.    

Yet where else but a place like Minoa would I alone have made up 20% of the assembled multitudes at the town council meetings? Where else would a 20-year-old find himself educating the mayor at one of those meetings, when he noticed me taking notes and thus wanted to kick me out, that this was a public event and there was this little thing called the Freedom of Information Act? (No kidding -- you could look it up. It's in the meeting minutes, which must still be stored somewhere in the village archives.)    

Yes, my Minoa internship prepared me well for my future work at the weekly Long Island Journal (where, at one point, the mayor of Long Beach stood in an elevator, not realizing I was right behind him, and declared to his associates in quite colorful language that he was sick of the city and would be packing up and moving out overnight -- my first big scoop!) and the Brooklyn Daily Bulletin (yes, there was such a paper - you could look that up too!), into my transition to trade journalism, later to public relations, and all the way to this blog. 

I just wish I had an internship to offer someone! 

P.S. - Last week's Shop Around contest is still open. Be the first to identify the group singing the Smokey Robinson classic and you win! Interns welcome!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

You've Got to Shop Around


Regular readers of More of Les (yes, there are a few of you -- thanks!) may have noticed that this blog recently began including links to Amazon products. Rest assured that this wasn't a hostile takeover.

I had  been doing some work related to affiliate marketing, so when the great folks at Google Blogger (this blog's host -- see my full disclosure here) informed me that I could now become an Amazon Associate, I jumped at the opportunity to experience this lucrative world firsthand.

I'd also be providing a service for my readers. After all, each More of Les post is required to include one or more audio or video clips (seriously, it's in my contract!), but the selections often go unidentified (hey, I really have no desire to appear in search results for, let's say, rabid fans of the song featured in my previous posting). So the Amazon links would serve not only to reveal titles and performers, but also allow you, if it's your desire, to purchase and keep your own copies of the featured selection.

So if you buy a particular song for 99 cents from the related Amazon ad, I get a miniscule portion of that hefty price. I've previously elaborated on all the nickels I can earn from Google Adsense, which provides the other ads surrounding this prose, so the extra Amazon income would be like icing on the cake!

Alas, Amazon has noticed that none of you have yet to make any purchases. They've sent me an email, its subject line imploring me to "Start Making Money" with a few suggestions of "quick and easy steps" to improve my sales. 

For example, I can add one of several Amazon widgets to the blog or even turn the entire thing into an Amazon store!

Frankly, I think the More of Les site is already a mite cluttered, packed with everything from video and audio widgets (with Hulu and Dizzler providing fine services respectively) to my Twitter feed, your comments, and those aforementioned Adsense ads all over the place,

So no, More of Les won't become an Amazon store portal. Plenty of deserving non-profits (i.e., my favorite radio station, WFUV) will happily take a cut of your purchase price on any item if you would just access Amazon through them. That's how I'd suggest you do your shopping, after checking out comparison shopping tools, of course.

Today, when even yours truly is a seller, it's more important than ever for buyers to shop around. Oh yes, for this post, I deliberately selected a version of the Smokey Robinson classic, Shop Around, that's not available from Amazon. So there's no ad down below identifying the artist and asking for your 99 cents.

But, as a lover of promotional marketing, I'm going to use this as an excuse to run my first contest!  The first reader to correctly identify the artist not only proves his or her Internet deduction skills, but wins a specially selected audio or video prize -- and becomes the first More of Les affiliate partner!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Waiting Game

I've been thinking lately about rejection. No, not on the personal level. Rather, the types of rejections received by freelance writers when querying publications, anybody when applying for jobs, and PR pros when pitching journalists. Or maybe I should say the lack of rejection.

Because in today's busy, busy, busy business world, that's what seems to happen most often. You hear nothing back at all.  You wait...and wait...and wait.

And that's a shame, since email should be making the rejection process so easy. After all, nobody anymore needs to type a letter on a sheet of paper, fold it, stick it in an envelope, and mail it. Or even just print a page from the computer and feed it into a fax machine. All anyone has to do is compose an email and hit "Send."

I can hear the snickers now. There's so much email coming in. There's no time to open each one, hit "Reply," type a short message or even just paste a form letter into text, and then hit "Send." It's so much easier and faster to just hit "Delete."

So I've devised a solution -- all that's needed is a techie to develop it. Instead of hitting "Delete" or "Reply," let's add another option to the email toolbar or pull-down menu: a "Reject" button.

When "Reject" is pushed, a pre-written form letter will automatically be sent to the original sender. For journalists rejecting PR folk like me, this could say something like, "Sorry. Can't do your story now. Go pitch it elsewhere." The pitchee is saved from having to endure even more emails and phone calls. The pitcher can move on to the next target.

For editors rejecting freelance writers: "Your idea is excellent but doesn't meet our needs at this time, etc.."

For HR execs rejecting job applicants: "Your qualifications are impeccable, but we have decided to go in another direction."

Sounds crass, but sure beats the waiting game.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Into the Woods...

"J.D.  Salinger worked in PR briefly. Maybe that's what drove him into the woods for 40 years." When I saw that tweet last week from Mark Ragan, I realized that I'd been somewhat in the woods myself. Not 40 years obviously, just a bit over 40 days since my last blog post. 

But as with Salinger (and here my comparisons with the literary great will end, lest I be a classic phony - as far as I'm concerned, when you write a work as great as The Catcher in the Rye, or  Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, you have the perfect right to live the rest of your life as you goddamn well please), just because I've been in public seclusion doesn't mean I haven't been writing. That's often the hidden side of public relations, even if PR might tend to drive you a bit crazy.

So, in addition to the occasional visible tweet, I've been busily penning press releases, bylined articles, speaking proposals, promotional letters, academic action plans, conference agendas, you name it. Just nothing with my name on it.

But a group of my friends were talking the other day about how Jane Austen couldn't publish under her own name during her own time (a personal shout-out here to Ann Henrendeen, whose distinctive take on Austen, Pride/Prejudice, has just been published by HarperCollins) and how Mary Anne Evans was forced to become George Eliot.

Oh, to live in the 21st Century, when you don't even need a HarperCollins to get published (though it certainly helps); at the very least, anyone can write essays and distribute them via blogs.

JD Salinger didn't tweet, blog or Facebook (is that a verb?). I doubt he even emailed. Indeed, in the 2002 flick, The Good Girl (not to be confused with the current TV series The Good Wife), when Justine (perhaps Jennifer Aniston's most ambitious role) tells the Holden Caufield-inspired character (played by Jake Gyllenhall), "you're not very social," he replies, "I'm a writer." (see clip below)

So with Social Media Week (an attempt to get social media fanatics socializing in person rather than virtually) beginning today in six cities worldwide, I'm going to honor the memory of Salinger and his most famous character by hunkering down and writing, writing, writing. You'll hear from me again when I get out of the woods.