Monday, 23 February 2009

Search your heart, you know it to be true

Apologies for not posting in... oooh ages. I thought it prudent under recent circumstances. I'm almost certainly setting myself up for a fall.... I've been banging on about Bad PR all this time and now I'm moving over to the dark side....a traitor to the noble call of hackery? I hope not, more a friend on the other side of the fence. That rare breed, the tame PR.

However, I think I should resign from all Bad PR duties and leave posting to the Escapist, Necromancer, Bull and Depress Release.

Many have made the switch from hack to flack and back. I sincerely hope to not be among that number.

I will scan this blog from time to time. Particularly during the hour immediately after I've pitched my former colleagues the latest paradign shifting Widget solution from Bore Inc.

It's been emotional....

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Up against deadline

One of the things that senior account executives do at Bad PR companies is to tell their junior charges to ring up journalists and ask what the deadlines are for upcoming features. I assume this is the case because I’ve been on the receiving end of this pointless and irritating question ever since I started working on trade magazines.

True, the question is sometimes embellished as: “What are the deadlines for submissions for your upcoming features?” It’s still a pointless thing to ask. How will knowing the deadline date for features, or submissions, help you or your client I wonder? And what are these ‘submissions’ that you speak of?

To be fair, some of the junior PR execs specifically state the feature that has caught their eye. Unfortunately, this does not alleviate the overwhelming feeling of ennui that the dreaded deadline question brings. I invariably make up a date, put the phone down, and know that none of us is any the wiser for having this ‘conversation’.

But sometimes I don’t put the phone down. Sometimes I ask follow-up questions to try and elicit some meaning, some purpose. You know, things like, What do you have in mind? Who is your client? In short, do the job of the Bad PR exec.

I then courteously point out that you have got next to no f**king chance of getting anything in the feature by simply e-mailing some stuff that might be loosely connected with what I’m writing about, especially when no plan of action has been agreed beforehand.

Sending the stuff before ‘deadline’ does not make a blind bit of difference.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Communication breakdown

I got a letter today. It's always nice to get letters. They seem so much more personal than nasty old emails. Not only that, it came all the way from Germany!

Cool, I love German stuff. Well, I love fancy German cars and lovely German beers. And almost every single German I've ever met has been really nice.

Then, moments later while basking in the warm glow of all things tasteful and Teutonic, I noticed that I had another letter.

WOW! Two letters in one day. And neither of them a bill!

And, coincidentally, it came all the way from Germany too judging by the post mark.

Hang on....they're clearly both from the same source...and, what's this? Yes, it's yet another letter, it's also clearly from the same German tech firm...

Blimey, they must really want to get in touch with me.

It came as no surprise to find that the contents of each envelope were identical. They were invitations to a party.

OK, not so bad, I shouldn't really grumble about being invited to a party. Especially a party at which there was a good chance I'd get to meet even more nice Germans.

Now then, where's the email address for me to reply?

....oh, there isn't one, there's a slip of paper that I need to fill out and fax back.

Fax back!

This, from a firm that professes to be in the communications business, presumably sent by someone who works in a communications profession.

I thought Germans were supposed to be efficient.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Flattering to deceive

We all love a bit of flattery. But journalists, whose fragile ego should be massaged more lovingly than a wagyu cow, love flattery more than anyone else.

Journalism is a selfish profession. Whether it attracts selfish people or turns people selfish is up for debate. Although, frankly, it's a bit of pointless debate since the end result is the same.

PRs will tailor their communications to pander to the fragile egos of their grumpy target audience. It's all part of the media relations game. And long may it continue.

So imagine how impressed I was when I received this message:

Dear Finisher

We've been following your impressive coverage of the emerging communications, wireless and telecom markets for awhile. Can we have five minutes of your time? We're conducting a survey of the most prominent journalists and bloggers who cover the VoIP market and we'd love your input.

It's really brief. And, in return for your trouble, we'll give you an advance look at the survey results, which will almost certainly make for an interesting jumping-off point for an article or blog.

Cool. Looks like Good PR to me. I know it's probably lies, but hey, I'm a sucker for a bit of flattery, also they're offering up an instant easy News. A cunning media audit, if ever I did see one.

Now imagine how impressed I was when the Escapist said he'd just received this email:

Dear Escapist

We've been following your impressive coverage of the emerging communications, wireless and telecom markets for awhile. Can we have five minutes of your time? We're conducting a survey of the most prominent journalists and bloggers who cover the VoIP market and we'd love your input.

It's really brief. And, in return for your trouble, we'll give you an advance look at the survey results, which will almost certainly make for an interesting jumping-off point for an article or blog.

Hmmm, less impressed....

You can probably imagine how impressed I was when the Necromancer said he'd just received exactly the same flannel about his "impressive coverage".

If you're going to engage your flattery guns, you should take careful aim. This Bad PR is more blunderbuss than sniper rifle.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Anyone for coffee?

Anyone who works in telco, more specifically mobile comms, will refer to this time of year as "that time of year again". It's code among the cellco brethren, nothing more needs to be said. Sometimes the phrase is accompanied by a slight sigh of resignation.

The industry's biggest trade show happens annually in February, most (honest) people approach the show with a mixture of fear and trepidation. You have to be there, but you don't want to. Like root canal surgery without the benefits.

There is one upside to the Mobile World Congress, it usually overlaps Valentine's Day, thus giving all who attend an instant get of jail free card with the missus. Sadly, this year, not even that silver lining exists.

Like counting the rings of a fallen tree to assess its age, you can tell how many shows someone has been to by the number of deep lines furrowed across his brow. The show is the biggest of its kind for the cellular industry. Effectively, a small town consisting of tech vendors will camp in Barcelona for a week. It's like Glastonbury, only the toilets are worse.

The show, like all trade shows, is billed as a fantastic networking opportunity. Everyone will be there. It's for precisely this reason that the show is an absolute nightmare for networking. Everyone runs around from meeting to meeting, usually hungover and desperately wanting not to be there. Hands are shook, faces clocked, and names forgotten almost as soon as they're given, business cards are stuffed into bags to be left in your hotel room when you check out vowing to never come again.

Getting PR right at the show is a challenge, getting it wrong is all too common. All good fodder for Bad PR.

One simple thing you can do to improve your chances of getting journos in front of your client is host your meeting at a sensible time. The trouble is, time is a precious commodity at the show...which could be the reason that one American tech giant has decided to hold its press briefing at 7am.

Seven. A. M.

Not only that, it's the day after the Nokia party.

Maybe they're hoping to catch people on their way home. The post-club Nokia crowd, all glow sticks and whistles. I doubt it though, it's more likely that this has been a From High command delivered by a Chino slacked, Blackberry holstered, guy called Chuck, who knows nothing about how European journalists operate.

When in Barcelona do as the Catalans do Chuck, get up at a normal time, have a productive morning by all means, but the only thing happening at 7am should be your arm reaching over to press snooze button on your alarm. Get yourself a nice long lunch booked, have a nap in the afternoon, then pootle about for a bit pretending to work before decamping to the bar for a few beers. Have a nice dinner to make up for all the ham and cheese sandwiches you've eaten during the day, then spend the rest of the night drinking Coke mixed with red wine. Be careful on your way home walking up La Rambla, that girl approaching you is more interested in the contents of your wallet than the contents of your pants.

Do not, under any circumstances, organize a dull sounding meeting at 7am the day after a big party (or any other day, if we're being honest) no one will come.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Is it just me....

Or is all the Bad PR drying up?

When this blog started I was getting at least one Bad PR experience per day and at least one per week that was worth writing about. I used to just forget about the mediocre Bad PR stories, safe in the knowledge that a real corker would come along soon enough and I'd be able to rant for a bit. Bad PR It was like the never ending bottle of crap booze.

But over the past few weeks things seemed to have dried up....

Maybe Bad PR has won the war....Maybe it's the credit crunch...??

I'm off out of the country later today, and won't return until January.

There's a part of me that hopes the Bad PR returns in 2009.

So, er, Merry Christmas I suppose.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Why have a dog and bark yourself?

It might come as a surprise to readers of this blog, but I have a lot of sympathy for PRs. It's a tough job, pleasing your clients while pleasing journalists is an unenviable task. An impossible mission at times. Though, at other times it's very f*cking easy, which is why I rant here....

Like most magazines, we're not news led, by the time we've been printed and distributed the multitude of daily web news services will have covered the news and consigned it to the waste bin of their archives.

We do, however, re-produce some of the previous month's bigger stories as briefs, adding a bit of value where possible. The briefs pages by their nature include quite a few different stories, often accompanied by the odd photo.

We always do the briefs pages last, so the news is as up to date as possible, which means we need a quick turnaround. So when I send a message off to a media relations contact, requesting a photo, there's a much better chance that a photo will get published if I get sent one back. If, on the other hand, I get sent a link to an online repository, where I need to register - except I can't because the site is always down - there is a much greater chance that I'll write it off and get on with something else.

The thing is, if I ask a PR for a photo, they shouldn't really tell me to go and get it myself. I know it sounds lazy, but hey, I'm busy and part of the PRs role is serving the journo while serving the client. If I get asked to get something myself, I won't. And then nobody wins. It's not like I'm biting my nose off to spite my face, I'll just print the photo that the PR who could be arsed has sent in.