Monday, June 29, 2009

You Can Take the Publicist on Vacation, But You Can't Take the Publicist Out of the Girl

So, I've been attempting to take a bit of a vacation this week. So far, it's not going well. And hey, as long as people are willing to pay me, I'll happily keep on working--just don't be surprised if you catch me by the pool with a fruity drink in hand! ;)

One thing I have been able to do this week is watch some of my favorite sporting events. I'm a huge track geek (seriously--I haven't been star struck by the likes of B.B. King and Norah Jones, but I don't know if I could string together a coherent sentence if I met Kara Goucher!), so I was thrilled that the 2009 U.S. Track & Field Championships were on television yesterday. The running was super impressive (how is it humanly possible to run 100 meters in less than ten seconds?), but the interviews were even more so. I don't know if the USATF has hired an image consultant or media coach or what, but every interview I saw was superb. The athletes stuck diligently to their talking points, smiled openly and were humble and even downright charming. A complete 180 from the 2008 Olympics, when many of these same interviewees mumbled, eye-rolled and hissy fitted their way through the games.

So today, I tuned in to Wimbledon, hoping the interviews would live up to the poise and ease of Roger Federer following his French Open win and the graciousness (and wit) of his opponent, Robin Soderling. Not so much.

I know he was exhausted from a grueling five setter, but Andy Murray, did you really have to chew gum on camera? And what's with the mumbling, sullenness and general avoidance of the camera (hint: it's that big metallic thing with the blinking light pointed straight at your face)?

These days, success in any industry requires some media savvy. Murray, spit out the gum and give me a ring--I'd gladly trade media tips for courtside seats at Wimbledon--and don't forget the fruity drinks! ;)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weary Wednesdays: And Another One Bites the Dust

South Carolina. Home of smiling faces, beautiful places and countless scandals. From the first shots fired on Ft. Sumter, my home state has been a hotbed for notoriety (do the names Shannon Faulkner and Susan Smith ring a bell?), most recently with Governor Mark Sanford's mysterious disappearance and hike on the Appalachian Trail, which apparently now extends all the way to Argentina.

While his year-long affair with an Argentinian woman seems to be the big story, the more fascinating part of this tale for me is his week-long disappearance. Politicians have been having affairs since the beginning of time, but I can't remember the last time one went completely AWOL. Can you imagine Jed Bartlett taking off without Leo McGarry knowing his whereabouts?

What a failure in crisis communications. And if his staff did have a crisis plan, they certainly didn't use it. While the average Jane might be able to take a week's vacation for a secret international tryst disguised as a solo hike in the wilderness, you just can't get away with that when you're an elected official. And the cover story they concocted was simply ludicrous, especially considering that it was Father's Day weekend, his wife pretty much said she didn't know or care about his whereabouts AND Sanford's car was found parked at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

I've dealt with my share of communications crises, and I'm grateful that none of them were this newsworthy (though we were still getting angry emails about ASO Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles several months after he mouthed off about moving to Canada!). I do feel bad for his staff, because tactically, it's kind of impossible to manage media relations if your client keeps you in the dark. But if your own wife tells the press she has no clue where you are, you know the jig is going to be up--and soon. While his affair may have caught up with him eventually, Sanford could have dealt with it on his own terms if he'd had the common sense to 1. concoct a decent cover story and 2. keep his communications staff in the loop.

And this is exactly why--in spite of my daydreams about becoming the next C. J. Cregg'--I will happily stick to lifestyle and arts/entertainment PR. And pray that my clients don't suddenly develop a penchant for trashing hotels, and if they do, that they're not quite famous enough for Perez Hilton to care!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Swatting Flies

I'm a big believer in the old adage that you can "catch more flies with honey. " I'm a Southern girl. I have several well-worn editions of Emily Post's Etiquette. I still say "yes ma'am" and "no ma'am." I like to believe that people are honest and kind and good. And I've handled many a sticky work situation--including The Devil Wears Prada-type bosses, sneaky photographers, drunk concert patrons, nosy journalists and loud-mouthed clients--with grace and ease.

But if the honey isn't working, don't be afraid to get out the fly swatter. Stand up for yourself, for your business and for your ideals, and people will listen! And respect you all the more for it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Weary Wednesdays: Sales Fail

So, the last place you want to get hit on by a not-so-savvy salesman is at your daughter's wedding. But that's exactly what happened to my parents last month.

The boyfriend of one the guests--I'll call him Jim Doe--is in real estate, and apparently, found out that my parents are in the market for a retirement home south of the city. Which he and his girlfriend, A, managed to point out repeatedly throughout the night--and the more beers they consumed, the more persistent their ill-timed sales pitch became. I know times are tough, but dude--the parents of the bride at a wedding? Just shake somehands, give your well wishes and enjoy the free booze.

Unfortunately, as people become more desperate for business and increasingly misguided about the proper use of social media, these types of occurrences are becoming the norm. I can't tell you how many times I've followed someone on Twitter, only to promptly "un" follow him or her after receiving a direct message urging me to buy a book or some amazing product/service/website to improve my business--presumptuous much? Why the overt sales pitch when a simple "thanks for the follow" or "looking forward to reading your tweets" would suffice?

The same principle works for face-to-face conversations. I've met some great people out and about--dinner parties, networking events, the gym--and many of these people have become my clients and vice versa. But our client relationship began with a PERSONAL relationship. Whether the initial connection was made through a shared interest, a mutual friend or a similar profession, our relationships began with a common point of connection and genuine desire to get to know one another--not to make a buck. I love connecting with people and then sharing those connections with others--but you won't even make it into my virtual Roladex if you start with a hard sell.

Don't be a sales fail.

Friday, June 12, 2009

You Give PR a Bad Name

Today, one of my reporter friends posted a horribly bad pitch on her Facebook page, much to the amusement of all of us who work in this crazy industry. I won't reveal the name of said "publicist" or that of the clueless "award-winning actor" who actually pays some sort of money for such shoddy representation, but the gist of the pitch was "I'd like a front page story for no good reason even though I'm incorrectly pitching to the lifestyle reporter and addressing her by an informal version of her name, and oh yes, by the way, I can't string together a complete sentence."

I have just one question: WHY
? Why, oh why must people calling themselves "publicists" behave in such a manner and penalize the rest of us who follow the rules and are actually competent at our jobs? This man and those like him ruin the fun for the rest of us. You, sir, are the reason reporters screen their phone calls, toss my packages in the trash and relegate my carefully crafted pitches to the spam folder.

Please, do us all a favor--get a clue (blogger-in-crime Jennifer A. Jones addresses the dos and don'ts of pitching here) or get a new job! Preferably one that doesn't require common sense or mastery of the English language.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Weary Wednesday: Social Media Burnout

I love social media, I really do. I'm pretty lucky that part of my job is keeping up with all of these great tools and technologies. But some days, it can get downright exhausting (and yes, I realize the irony of venting my social media frustrations via a social media tool).

Between Facebook and Twitter, permission-based emails, blogs, client sites, news stories and message boards, it's not uncommon for me to have 20 windows open on my browser at any given time. And one post leads to another, one link leads to ten more, and before I know it, it's 4pm, and I haven't touched my to-do list.

About two weeks ago, I realized that my haphazard approach to social media was probably not the most effective one. So, here are a few of my secrets for avoiding social media burnout:

  1. Plan. Designate a specific time of day for social media. I usually spend an hour or so catching up in the morning and another at night, and I read blogs while I'm eating my lunch and snacks (I'm a runner--I eat a LOT!). I usually designate smalls chucks of time to ignore social media (start with an hour--an addict can only go so long without a fix!), and then allow myself another 15-20 minutes to scan my favorite sites before diving back into work again. Which brings me to...
  2. Edit. Be selective! Yes, I know, the girl with over 800 Facebook friends is giving advice on editing (do as I say, not as I do!). Don't remember or really like someone? Delete! Annnoyed by too many tweets? Stop following! And while I love my daily SmartBrief on Social Media, there are only so many articles I can read in a day. Sometimes, scanning the headlines is fine. Same rule applies for NPR, the New York Times and yes, even People.
  3. Take advantage of technology. I use Google Reader and Blog Roll to keep track of my favorite blogs; de.lici.ous to bookmark my favorite articles (Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit offer similar services); the "hide" and "block" buttons on Facebook to banish annoying applications and users, and one of these days, I'm going to get around to figuring out TweetDeck. Become a fan of your favorite news outlet or subscribe to a daily email update (two of my favorites are Seth Godin and Mashable), and let them deliver the news to you--no searching necessary! But remember rule #2--be selective.
  4. Take a break. I generally designate my Saturdays "technology-free" days (with the exception of my Garmin Forerunner 305-necessary for my long runs) and try to stay away from my Blackberry and laptop as much as possible. I also try to shut off the laptop by a certain time every night and veg out with something slightly more old-fashioned--like a magazine or book!
While social media is an integral part of my job, I'm trying to keep it from taking over my life. I'd love to hear your tips for avoiding social media burnout!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ladies Who Lunch

Even when I had one of those 9 to 5 jobs, I wasn't a luncher. I found lunches to be a waste of a) time (especially since I didn't perk up until people started going on their lunch breaks) and b) money (seriously--who wants to invest $75 a week on overpriced sandwiches?). I'll stick with my PB&J, thankyouverymuch.

Even now, I don't get out much for lunch, simply because it occurs around the same time my brain begins to function properly, and I like to take advantage of any and all times my weary brain functions properly. But today, one of my new favorite people, Kathianne (be sure to check out her fabulous blog), and I decided to get dolled up for lunch and pretend--if just for a day--to be ladies of leisure. An illusion that was quickly shattered once we realized the restaurant we'd plan to patronize didn't actually serve lunch, and we ended up walking several blocks down Peachtree in the 90 degree heat to find a suitable meal.

Which we thoroughly enjoyed--ice water and all (we are, after all, ladies on a budget).

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Day in the Life

So, my routine when I had a "normal" job went something like this:

6:30am- hit snooze
6:45am-hit snooze again
7:00am-and again
7:15am-give in, get out of bed
9:00am-wonder why the hell it took me nearly two hours to get ready
9:30am-arrive at work (which officially commenced at 8:30 or 9:00am); blame traffic for tardy arrival
9:35am-catch up on the latest news, i.e.,, and on occasion,
10:35am-pretend to work; try not to fall asleep at desk
11:00am-get hungry, eat snack
11:15am-finally start working
2:15pm-nearly pass out; grab some lunch; catch up on more "news"
2:45pm-see 10:35am
4:15pm--panic, start working furiously
8:00pm-shut down the office, hope I've gotten eight hours of work in
8:15pm-run or hit the gym for a Pilates class
9:30pm-eat dinner, drink wine, catch up on the DVR
11:30pm-postpone the inevitable by emailing and IMing friends, surfing random websites and trying not to pass out on my laptop
12:30am-acquiesce, go to bed, read
1:00am-turn off the lights
2:00am-sleep (on a good night); rinse and repeat

It's no wonder I was exhausted all the time. I'm just not a morning person, nor do I do well sitting at a desk all day. It is kind of presumptive to assume that everyone works his or her best between the hours of 9am and 5pm (cue Dolly Parton music). Or that we enjoy attending meetings during our free time (i.e. lunch) and taking notes and shaking hands with greasy fingers. Or that two hour conference calls are the most productive use of our time. While some people thrive on rigidness and boundaries, I am not one of them.

These days, I start my days around 10am (on a good day), after a full 8-10 hours of sleep. I get my workout done in the morning, my errands run in early afternoon and settle in for my workday around 3pm. I have plenty of time for scheduling lunches and drinks with friends, for spending time with my husband, for running and most importantly, sleep. In fact, it's amazing what I can accomplish when I set my own agenda. The days are still long and hard, but I choose how I spend them and whom I want to spend them with.

In other words, I have the best boss ever.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Good Eats

When you're self-employed-especially if you're in the business of shamelessly promoting yourself and others--pretty much every social outing can feel like a business function--some more fun than others.

Fun: expensing Cinco de Mayo margaritas.

Not-so-fun: stuffy cocktail parties and anything that happens before noon.

Tonight's outing fell into the "fun" category. Ever since I heard about rougeApron, an independent underground supper club, I've wanted to attend an event. I'm a notoriously picky eater, but my wonderful husband--a passionate advocate for local food--has convinced me to step out of my comfort zone and discover the wonders of grass-fed beef, vegetables fresh from the ground (dirt and all) and berries plucked in their prime.

Given my career and the ease with which I make new friends, you'd never guess that new people and new situations are always a bit stressful for me. Add in some unknown food, and well, I'm lucky I didn't have to pop a few Xanax before heading out to our secret location, which shockingly, did not involve a suspect alley door or secret password.

What it did involve was a beet pasta salad (yes, Mom, I ate something with beets!), the world's most fabulous cupcakes and conversation with some really interesting people, including two runners (hey Kathy and Travis!) and Jen and Ryan, who host another underground supper club, Prelude to the Staple House. Not surprising, as Lady Rogue herself has some really creative, engaging people in her network. It just goes to show that when good food, good causes and good people are involved, you'll always be among kindred spirits.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

We All Need a Little Support

Today, I took the girls on an excursion to Saks. Their current digs were getting a bit cramped, threadbare and downright dumpy.

After living in stained, non-supportive camisoles and too tight quarters for the past 18 months, they were ready for an outing. They were a bit shy at first, but quickly warmed to their new opulent and more spacious digs. We all need a little bit of extra support now and then.


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