The Mormon Backstabber

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I have to admit Liam Call was one of the most talented interns to work for me during my career.

As I had mentioned previously, Liam was a strong writer and showed a great deal of promise in media relations. In fact, he was a better writer than most of the more experienced executives at our agency. I appreciated his help a great deal at our agency’s L.A. office.

Liam also showed enthusiasm to learn more about PR. Yet, as with all of our interns, his enthusiasm eventually waned, as he discovered the full nightmarish nature of Lulu and her pathetic agency.

On the surface, Liam seemed the perfect intern, as he never complained and even worked late. I had no qualms about going to bat for Liam to urge Lulu and Miriam to hire him as I detailed in the previous chapter.

Sadly, even Liam proved ultimately a disappointment, and my private nickname for him was the Mormon Backstabber.

Liam’s clean-cut appearance belied a darker, disloyal side.

He was a tall, a little over six foot, skinny and gawky 24-year-old from Salt Lake City.

Liam actually reminded me of a skinnier version of the TV character of Kenneth, the NBC page, on the sitcom, 30 Rock.

Liam really laid on his sincere Mormon bullshit thick with a fake smile and sincerity.

Let me get this straight — I had nothing against his religious beliefs. I just feel that like politics, there is no place for religion in the workplace. It is potentially divisive.

A couple of times, Liam tried to push some Mormon propaganda films on me and even suggested a historical book about the Mormon Church, but after I told him I wasn’t interested, Liam kept his religious beliefs to himself.

Liam seemed to have a good sense of humor and was smart, but honestly, we had little or nothing in common. I also knew when I occasionally used profanity in response to Lulu’s craziness, it bothered him and he secretly hated it.

My main criticism of Liam’s work was that sometimes he would not listen to my instructions on an assignment and do his own thing, pissing off Lulu or our client. I yelled at him a couple of times as a result and later regretted it. I always hated it when my bosses yelled at me, and now, I did the same to Liam.

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Liam admitted to me late in his time at our agency that he had panic attacks. One morning he came in late and revealed to me that he had a panic attack and couldn’t get out of bed.

I told him that all the stress and responsibility was on me at the L.A. office and that he had nothing to worry about. I now realize that was the wrong approach as panic attacks go way beyond work stress. It could be a deeper psychological condition stemming from his family situation or home life.

I believe now that Liam resented the stress he was under at work and felt I was abusing him because of my profanity and occasional outbursts. Liam mentioned several times that I reminded him of a boss he had when he worked on a presidential campaign that used to curse him out and then I felt even worse.

Still, I never suspected for a long time that Liam was bad mouthing me behind my back, but I eventually realized, there was no denying it.

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My first sign that something was up involved a young blonde woman in her mid-twenties, who worked at a law firm that we shared our offices with. She was friendly initially toward me, but after I saw Liam speaking with her a couple of times, her attitude completely changed. She used to greet me with a hello and smile, and now she ignored me and even gave me a dirty look.

I got the same reaction from an African woman, who worked a couple of offices down from ours. She was also friendly toward me until I saw her speaking with Liam.

Soon after, the African woman started giving me hostile looks and would avoid me like I had the plague when she walked past me in the hall. One time, I held the elevator door open for her, and she walked past without even acknowledging me.

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I have to also mention that Liam was in the middle of a divorce, and must have imagined himself as a ladies’ man as he was talking to most of the women in our office. So, you can imagine how I was hated by almost every woman on our office floor because of Liam’s backstabbing and they didn’t even know me.

Liam’s garrulous nature truly hid an ugly, backstabbing soul.

I am not sure if Liam tried his backstabbing bullshit with my co-workers at our agency, as he knew they already hated him from his review. I initially thought my colleagues despised him to get back at me, but I think it went further than that.

Liam’s backstabbing ways showed up again during one of the final work events he helped me with. As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, Liam and I had to support an early morning satellite TV tour for our housewares client. Everything went well initially until I noticed Liam speaking privately to several of the support staff at the satellite studio. As the tour went on, these employees became standoffish and unfriendly toward me. It started to impact my ability to do my job. They had suddenly lost respect for me, which made the event more difficult to manage.

Then near the end of the satellite tour, Liam tried to take over managerial aspects of the shoot and began advising our client’s spokesperson on how to talk about our client’s products. Lulu and Agnes had stressed that they only wanted me to work with our client’s spokesperson and managing the event. I finally had to pull Liam aside during a break in the tour, and tell him to back off and let me handle any consultation with our client’s spokesperson as that is how Agnes and Lulu wanted it and he wasn’t qualified to do so.

Liam was apologetic, but for the first time, I didn’t think he sounded sincere. I knew I couldn’t trust him anymore.

Also, when we left, the studio employees were friendly toward Liam and cold toward me. I had only just met them and gave them no reason to despise me. It was crazy. The backstabber had struck again.

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Liam left our agency a couple of weeks later and said he wanted to return to school to get his MBA. I couldn’t blame him as working with Lulu could scare off even the most enthusiastic PR executive.

When I look back, I realize I had also engaged in backstabbing my bosses through the years. Now that it had happened to me, it made me realize just how unprofessional, insincere, and counter-productive backstabbing your boss or employer really was.

Backstabbing poisons work environments.

So, even though I admired his talent and work ethic, I was not sorry to see Liam go.

 

 

Lulu’s Public Relations Awards

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During my years at the Yilmaz Agency, Lulu would occasionally — and inexplicably!! — receive praise and recognition from her public relations industry peers for her agency’s work. A couple of times, she was even named public relations professional of the year by a top publication that covers the PR industry.

Lulu’s industry accolades were perpetuating a lie that our agency was a normal, quality PR firm, and not a twisted, ugly, grind shop managed by a megalomaniac with a horrible track record of employee turnaround

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When the awards were announced, Lulu acted modestly about the recognition to her employees and praised “her team” as the reason for the award. Everyone knew at our agency that the award only validated her huge ego, as we would have to write a lengthy release about her awards and pitch it to the media extensively as if we were pitching news of one of our clients. In fitting with her true personality, Lulu wasn’t modest about her expectations that her awards receive a lot of media coverage. Despite our team’s diligence, not many in the media cared, except a few publications that covered public relations agency news.

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And yes, Lulu was right about one thing. She only got the awards and recognition because of the hard work and dedication of her employees. We succeeded despite frustrating, uninspiring, stressful working conditions, unappreciative clients, and Lulu’s ugly and oppressive management style and overall lack of support. Lulu down deep knew this and even admitted it in her rare modest moments, but it never seemed all that sincere to me.

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Lulu’s horrible management behavior only became worse – if that was possible – following her awards. I also can’t remember how many times people at our agency were asked to update her resume and the website with her awards recognition, and we were vilified by her if new awards details were left out of our agency’s new business proposals.

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Honestly, if there was a Razzie Award for the worst small agency in the public relations industry selected anonymously by her PR employees, Lulu would have won it every year. She probably would have won a PR Razzie the same year she was praised by others in the industry. I can imagine some of the PR Razzie awards Lulu would have been awarded would have included: Worst Small Agency Public Relations CEO, Worst Micromanager, and Worst Small Agency Employee Retention.

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One coveted public relations list that Lulu’s agency never made was the “Best Places to Work” list by the Holmes Report, which was compiled from anonymous responses from agency employees. I have no doubt that if the Holmes Report had launched the worst agency to work for list, Lulu’s agency would have topped the list every year. In fact, when Lulu’s agency started receiving numerous anonymous negative reviews from former and current employees on an online job review site, Lulu nearly lost it. It was a real and honest peek into the agency’s dysfunction for the public to see. So, she had some of us write fake glowing reviews of her agency. Only one problem. The positive reviews looked fake when compared to the honest and searing takes detailing Lulu’s and Miriam’s horrible antics.

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Lulu would also have me try to push her entrepreneur story to the media after these bad reviews so that I could try to get her positive press to counter the real details of her pathetic management performance. This only worked for a while until a new fresh set of horrible reviews of Lulu’s agency appeared on the job reviews site, freaking her out all over again.

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Thinking about Lulu’s awards years later, it was her dedicated employees that earned the true accolades and deserved an award for surviving her unrelenting bullshit and stress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lazy Millennial Whiners – “The Team Is Frustrated,” and A Regretful Outburst

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I have sadly worked with my share of lazy, arrogant and whiny millennials in recent years, but the young team at the Yilmaz Agency was truly in a class by themselves. They turned whining into a sad, pathetic sort of art form.

My younger colleagues, who were mostly based in our agency’s Chicago office, complained about the usual things such as working late, and on weekends, but they even bemoaned being tasked and challenged to do their jobs, including writing press releases, pitches, media relations, putting together media lists, competitive analysis, etc.

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Andrew’s constant refrain to me was the “team is frustrated.”

The young team that I managed for our sports app was headed up by Andrew and Agnes, the king and queen of millennial whiners at our agency who poisoned all the other young people on the team, including Marissa Aslan, the young Turkish woman who was Dane’s favorite, which I mentioned in an earlier blog. Marissa quickly became disillusioned as with the rest of the young team, and yet these entitled fools. were only starting their public relations careers. They hadn’t earned their hatred of the PR business as I had through years of disappointment, bad work environments, ugly clients, and terrible colleagues and bosses.

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So, naturally, this young group was difficult to manage and motivate, but Lulu didn’t help things with her scare tactics and heavy-handed management style. Actually, it was tough for us seasoned public relations veterans to take Lulu’s brutal honesty at times, but the young people at our firm freaked out over Lulu’s constant barrage of criticism.

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Even though they irritated me with their whining, the young people at my agency did have my sympathy as it related to Lulu. She was crazy and there was no easy way to deal with a boss like her except to eventually leave which many of our young interns and account executives did in droves.

Making the sports app account even worse to manage was an arrogant Indian woman named Payal Shiladitya, who ran the New York office before she quit and was replaced by Molly Paulson.

Payal was a shallow former entertainment publicist but came across as slick and articulate with an attractive British accent to hide her incompetence and how clueless she truly was. She couldn’t write worth a shit and her media pitches and press releases were also lame. It was soon apparent to me that Payal was also lacking in media relations skills. I had also heard from Lulu that Payal loathed working with tech and healthcare clients and it showed after a while in her writing and attitude.

The funny thing was when I first arrived at the agency Miriam thought Payal would eat me alive because she had a much stronger phone presence that I did in conference calls. Not surprising, as Miriam was a former local TV producer who championed slick performance over substance. Lulu and Miriam did praise Payal’s client relations skills in dealing with our crazy Turkish airline client, which was why I think they kept her around even though she came up woefully short in every other area of public relations.

However, it was how Payal tried to challenge my skills and experience and then dump work on me and the younger team with no consideration that began to piss me off.

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Payal also had no concept of teamwork as she was always trying to compete with me. The only problem was that she delivered no media coverage for our sports app client and tried to blame it on her lack of tech and sports experience and her heavy workload with our airline and housewares clients. We were all busting our asses so I told Lulu Payal’s complaints were lame.

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On a Friday, of all days, she dumped another last-minute pitch letter assignment on the team in Chicago. Andrew and several new interns called me to complain.

At the same time, Lulu was putting a lot of pressure on me to produce results for the sports app client and to manage the younger team’s dissension.

The following week during a team meeting on the sports app account I snapped and unfortunately berated Payal in front of everyone.

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“What do you think you are doing dumping last-minute assignments on the team?!” I asked angrily. “I know you’re swamped, but you don’t seem to have any consideration for our team’s workload. You keep passing off your work and saying you’re too busy to help. The team is frustrated with your attitude. Please don’t do it again without checking with me. OK?”

There was dead silence on the conference call line. You could have heard a pin drop.

“OK?” I asked again.

“I heard you,” Payal said coldly.

That was all she said before I quickly ended the meeting.

“OK.  Well, thanks for listening,” I said.

“Jake, Payal already left the call,” Andrew said. “Good job. Thanks for calling her out on her behavior. I hope she’ll change her ways.”

“We’ll see,” I said.

A couple of other team members also praised my outburst, but I was embarrassed by my unprofessional behavior. I should have told Payal privately about my dissatisfaction with her job performance.

When Lulu heard what I had done, she didn’t scold me, but in fact, laughed about it and said, “Jake, I didn’t know you had it in you.”

It was a page out of Lulu’s twisted management style, but my outburst I felt damaged my credibility with our young team, and they didn’t trust me after the call except for Andrew, who actually respected me more.

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I finally met Payal in person during my first visit to the Yilmaz Agency Chicago office about a week or so after the heated phone call. She had long black hair and was in her early thirties. Payal wore casual designer clothes as if she was trying not to overdress and be cool. When I first met her, Payal was talking Daniel Rizzo, a former TV producer and reporter that the agency hired for media relations, about the New York fashion world. I will write more about Daniel’s arrogant flakiness in a later blog.

It was hardly surprising that Payal was standoffish and borderline hostile toward me.

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I began our meeting that Miriam had set up trying to diffuse a potentially hostile and ugly situation by apologizing to speaking to her so bluntly in front of the rest of the team.

“It’s OK,” she said. “But why did you yell at me in front of the whole team? Why didn’t you just call me to talk about it? You made me look bad in front of our colleague…”

“I know and I regret doing that,” I said. “It wasn’t something I planned. My frustration got the best of me. I promise it won’t happen again.”

“Just call me next time,” Payal said.

Then Andrew weighed in.

“Payal, Jake was just expressing the entire team’s frustration. We feel you have checked out on the account and are passing on all your work to the junior people on the team without consideration of their workload.”

“I am surprised you guys feel that way, but I’ll be more careful about that in the future,” she said.

We concluded the meeting agreeing that we would communicate more openly with each other going forward. However, afterward, things only got worse as Payal withdrew even more from working on the account to focus on our larger clients.

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Not long after, Payal left our agency to return to entertainment PR. It was just as well as it was obvious to everyone at our agency that her heart was not into working on tech and consumer clients.

The whole sorry episode also showed me I was turning into the worst version of myself because of management pressure from Lulu.

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After that, I worked harder to avoid taking out my frustrations with the job on my colleagues. Although I must admit it was tempting at times, I didn’t berate anymore of my colleagues during meetings. I was already hated by many of my colleagues at the agency anyway, Why make it worse?

It wasn’t worth it in the end.

 

 “I’m Full Greek”

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Of all of the smug and arrogant Millennials I had the misfortunate to work with at the Yilmaz Agency, Agnes Lekkas was in a class by herself.

Agnes, who was in her early twenties barely a year out of college, looked like a plainer, heavier version of the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” actress Nia Vardalos. Unfortunately, as far I can tell, Agnes didn’t have much of a sense of humor. What wasn’t funny was just how arrogant, condescending and difficult to work with Agnes turned out to be.

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I got my initial sad insight into this pretentious freak’s character during my first visit to the Yilmaz Agency’s Chicago office shortly after joining the agency. I had noticed Agnes had connected with me on LinkedIn and she said she was looking forward to meeting me during my visit. Agnes seemed nice at first. What a fucking joke.

After a horrible first day of my visit to the Yilmaz Agency Chicago office, where I had to experience in person the fools I was talking to daily on the phone with the sinking realization I had made a serious career mistake, I went with the team to a nearby bar. Strangely, most of the young staff, who had finally met me in person, remained standoffish and unfriendly toward me. Actually, they were borderline hostile even though they barely knew me. It felt like they had already judged me as another idiot. I was nice to them and gave them no reason to hate me, but I think they were angry at Lulu and taking it out on me. In fact, all of them, except for Lulu and Miriam, were young and barely out of school. It was like being at a bar with a Millennial clique but this was far worse. I had to work with these arrogant creeps.

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At some point, as I drank a beer (I didn’t order wine as I figured they might think it was a snobby, California thing to do) and wondered what I had got myself into, Agnes struck up a conversation with me. She wondered about my background as I look Greek, but I don’t have a Greek last name. I told her I was half Greek as my father was English and my mother came from Greece.

“I am full Greek,” Agnes remarked smugly.

I smiled at her, but I didn’t know what to exactly say to her strange comment. Congratulations, you arrogant fuck? Agnes’ response actually felt like a putdown, and yet it gave me a keen, early insight into her creepy, condescending nature.

I mean I was only “half Greek?” Was it a euphemism for her thinking I was only “half a person?” or “half a PR executive?” I don’t know. I never asked her, but let’s just say we didn’t have much to talk about after that. Even when she left and said she was looking forward to working with me I knew that was just a lie.

The “working part” with Agnes was even worse than I could have possibly imagined. Naturally, one of her close friends at the agency was the queen of the paper pushers, Molly Paulson. They were as thick as thieves in their mutual incompetence.

Agnes thought she knew a lot about public relations like Molly did but Agnes was mostly clueless when she started working on my team for our sports app client.

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Like many of her colleagues, Agnes was a mediocre writer, who drafted pedestrian press releases and lame, uncreative pitches.

Yet if you challenged her and tried to help, she would get defensive. I edited and marked up a couple of her lame press releases initially and she got offended. Unfortunately, Agnes didn’t listen as she continued to make the same writing mistakes despite my suggestions. So I just began to rewrite all of her writing and she eventually complained to Andrew, who was also on our team and told me she was frustrated with my rewrites, and even to Lulu. However, much to her disappointment, Lulu sided with me and told Agnes to improve her writing and to listen to me. That didn’t go over too well with Agnes, and it was the start of the rift that developed between us. There were other frustrating incidents where she would actually try to lecture me about media relations when I wondered why she wasn’t delivering results and doing basic follow up with the media. I mean I had been securing top media placements for decades. What was this idiot going to tell me about media relations?

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Maybe it was because it was me, and she regarded me with little or no respect, but Agnes always seemed to be talking down to everyone, even Lulu, during meetings and conference calls. Agnes was so fucking full of herself, it was almost laughable.

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Actually, after her dumb remark at the bar, I knew she was another fool that was going to make my job more difficult, but I had held out hope that my first impression could be wrong. It sadly wasn’t.

I began to dread working with her. Fortunately, after we lost the sports app client a few months later, I didn’t have to work directly with her on many clients at the agency.  However, every once in a while, Miriam and Lulu would bring us together on a project and I would be reminded of why I hated working with her.

After another horrible and draining 12-hour day, I finally arrived home to an email request from Miriam. She wanted me to help Agnes with a pitch for the Yilmaz Agency’s upcoming 10th Anniversary Party. I was exhausted, but I reluctantly agreed to help even though I knew it would probably be a nightmare if Agnes was involved. I soon discovered much to my dismay I was right as Agnes basically assigned the pitch to me with little or no supporting information. I had no press release or background to work from to develop the pitch as Agnes said it wasn’t ready yet to share. I asked her for more information, but apparently, she had checked out for the night as it was getting late in Chicago. So I had to cobble together a lame media pitch out of some information on our agency website and Lulu’s bio after midnight when I was too tired to even see straight. Agnes was of no help at all just essentially dumping the pitch assignment on me and bailing. Something she did other times as well. The phrase lazy Millennial came to mind as I furiously worked on the pitch. Even to this day, I would never dump an assignment on a colleague or an intern that worked for me without background information, a bio, and at least details about the event.

After I finished the pitch, I sent a brutal email to Miriam about how Agnes simply dumped the pitch on me with little or no supporting materials and it wasn’t the first time she had done this bullshit. Miriam asked if I had emailed Agnes about my concerns and I told her I asked for more information and received no response. I was not Agnes’ fucking manager. It was up to Miriam to confront her about her lazy behavior. I also knew Agnes would only get more pissed off if it came from me.

The following day Agnes sent an email thanking me for the pitch, but said she had to make a lot of edits. I told that’s OK as I didn’t have a lot of information to go on. I am not sure if Miriam ever brought up my concerns. I kind of doubt it.

A couple of years later, Lulu requested me to take Agnes’ place in managing an early morning satellite media tour for our housewares client. It ended up being a crazy all-nighter for me. I  had to leave work at 7 p.m. and try to get sleep for a few hours before getting up around midnight to head to a studio in downtown L.A. to work until 8 a.m. the following morning.  The day before I had to endure pompous phone conferences about the products with Agnes. In stark contrast with the 10th Anniversary pitch, she bombarded me with too much information. So fucking typical. I could never predict in what way Agnes was going to annoy me. So I had to essentially spend all night babysitting a difficult prima donna celebrity chef that was the company spokesperson on a satellite tour. Now mind you while I doing this, my own clients were being neglected and were complaining. Agnes was hardly appreciative or supportive of this fact, which didn’t surprise me.

The low point of the night came after the celebrity chef had messed up some of the product messaging for the company’s blender product in the first couple of TV segments and our client complained and called Agnes. She called me on my mobile phone and asked me rudely what was going on. I told her I had reviewed the messaging with the celebrity chef and she told she was OK with it.

“Jake, you got to get tough with her,” Agnes said sharply.

“I will. No worries,” I assured her.

“You better,” she said rudely. “The client is not happy. I am depending on you.”

Then she rudely hung up.

WTF?! I am doing Agnes a fucking favor taking time away from my sleep not to mention my clients and she is getting rude with me?! Unfortunately, the chef still didn’t care and stubbornly wouldn’t listen to me. Yet I must have got through to her somehow as the chef performed well to the client’s satisfaction for the rest of the tour.

After the satellite tour was over and everything went well, Agnes called to thank me for handling everything, but she never apologized for her ugly outburst. I was done with this freak after that.

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Sadly, Agnes continued working at our agency and I couldn’t avoid her entirely.

My last idiotic working encounter with Agnes came late in my stint working with Lulu after her agency had been purchased by a Chicago agency.  Agnes was managing a difficult weight loss client – having Agnes manage anything was already a nightmare proposition – and Lulu added me to the team as a media relations expert. I had experience working with weight loss clinics in the past so that was why Lulu tapped me for this. However, I knew something would inevitably go wrong and I would butt heads with the fool, Agnes.

After our team struggled for weeks to secure a story about our client opening weight loss clinics in San Francisco area grocery stores, I landed a huge story in one of the top newspapers in the area. The story actually ran on the front page of the business section of several the publication’s newspapers. I thought it was a major placement for our client, but Agnes was not happy with it, particularly as there was a factual error, but also our client criticized the “sarcastic tone” of the article. Our client asked us to contact the reporter about fixing the error, but they also wanted us to confront the reporter about changing her sarcastic tone and reposting a new, more positive article.

I refused and told Agnes I will ask the reporter nicely to fix the error in the online editions, but I will not ask her to change her story’s sarcastic slant. We are not in the censorship business?!!

“I know,” Agnes said. “You don’t have to do that, but we won’t tell the client that.”

“What do you mean?” I asked her. “We’re just going to lie to our client?”

“It’s not lying. We’ll just tell her we followed up and the reporter refused,” she said.

“OK. I don’t agree with that as we should always be transparent with our clients,” I said.

“I know, but they won’t know anyway,” she said. “Just try to get the factual error fixed.”

I got the error fixed in the online version of the article, the reporter had no problem with that, but I never mentioned to the writer our client’s dismay about her edgy writing style.

I was not going to completely abandon what little PR principles I had left for Lulu and Agnes. That, fortunately, was my last encounter working with Agnes.

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In the end, Agnes was “Full Greek” as she so proudly declared, but to me, she was actually “Full Idiot.”

Brainstorms To Nowhere

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Like everything else, brainstorming sessions were also bizarre and frustrating at the Yilmaz Agency. In fact, I am not even sure if you could call these meetings brainstorming. It was more like a stressful idea challenge that went against all the notions of what brainstorming is supposed to be.

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In typical brainstorming sessions I had participated in the public relations industry, everyone would throw out ideas for a client campaign, product name, etc., and it would lead to further creativity. These were not fully formed ideas which is supposed to be the point of brainstorming. The best ideas or brainstorms could be combined to find an even better idea. I guess the other phrase is “spitballing” or essentially throwing ideas against the wall to see what sticks. This I believe is why whiteboards are so popular at many agencies I worked at as it is easy to put down the initial rough ideas that could eventually comprise more expansive concepts and campaigns.

The Yilmaz Agency’s lame brainstorming meetings would usually start when Lulu, Miriam or someone on the team would ask to brainstorm for new ideas for a PR campaign. We would be asked to bring one or two ideas to the meeting. This seems simple enough, but as I soon discovered these ideas were already expected to be fully formed concepts. This already is not how brainstorming was done at other agencies I worked for.

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If you didn’t work out every angle of your idea, you would incur the wrath and criticism of Lulu, Miriam, and my colleagues. Molly Paulson was the worst, especially if it involved her airline or housewares clients. Molly would grill us over every aspect of our idea we brought to the meeting, expecting us have thought through every aspect of our contribution.

I believe this attitude actually inhibits creativity and is counter-intuitive to effective brainstorming. You want to share your ideas among the group so that others can build on them, not tear people down for not having a complete and finalized ideas. Molly would actually make us feel bad and uncreative if we didn’t have completed ideas to submit.  She would act put out and would embarrass us in front of the group. This was particularly hard to take from a paper pusher who was uncreative in every aspect as a PR practitioner. She also was awful in brainstorming ideas, offering lame ideas that she thought out every aspect of. Then she would shame us because we hadn’t done the same. In typical brainstorming, there are no bad ideas, but this was hardly like other brainstorming exercises I had participated in.

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Lulu, like Molly, was also hyper-competitive in our agency brainstorms. She was always out to get the best idea and to show up the rest of the agency. I will give Lulu credit here as she was a lot more creative than Molly, but their attitudes were still not conducive to bringing out the creativity in our entire agency.

I did most of these brainstorms over a conference call, which I don’t know was an advantage or disadvantage. However, at least I didn’t have to see Molly’s or Lulu’s expressions if they hated my ideas. I could already hear it in their voices.

I began to dread these brainstorming meetings, to be honest.

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I voiced my frustration about our agency brainstorms to my intern at the L.A. office, Liam Dahl, a Mormon backstabber, who I will write more about in a later blog. He said that what we did resembled “pitch meetings not brainstorms.” I had to agree. It felt like we were expected to have a complete idea even before we brainstormed for it. It was like what people have described pitching for movie deals or large PR and advertising clients. However, that is not real brainstorming to me. I don’t know what it was.

It actually made me resent being creative and I hated being made to feel inadequate if I didn’t spend hours coming up with the perfect idea for one of Molly’s fucking clients. I had a lot of clients of my own I needed to spend time on, too.

brainstormingnew3So, I began to offer very little at these brainstorms, as it is what Molly would do creatively on her own account work — provide next to nothing useful and just allow the rest of us to step up and provide ideas. I wanted to save my creativity for securing top media placements for my clients. I no longer fucking cared about it after a while and defied them to fire me over not providing extensive brainstorming ideas. I knew Molly bitched about it behind my back, but at least I kept my focus on what mattered – keeping our clients happy not proving I was, in fact, creative to freaks like Molly that didn’t have a creative bone in their bodies.

Crazy.

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Nothing at the Yilmaz Agency was simple or made any real sense. Brainstorming was supposed to be fun and creative, not stressful and ugly. It was like existing in a public relations “bizarro” world or an ugly work Twilight Zone episode that never ended.

 

 

PowerPoint Sucks

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I hate PowerPoint.

I despise everything about it.

I believe PowerPoint is difficult to use, and it is especially a nightmare for some like me who is not graphically inclined and lives for writing and creating words. My favorite business software application is Microsoft Word. So you get the picture, so to speak. I am a wordsmith who is beyond frustrated when I am forced to use this lame business software — PowerPoint — that wasn’t made for someone like me.

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Actually, when I joined the public relations industry in the mid-1990s, PowerPoint was the domain of salespeople and sales managers. No one used PowerPoint at the downtown L.A. public relations firms I worked for and we thought it was appropriately difficult to use and inefficient for our needs. We used Word for our proposals as it is so much easier to use and manipulating text and images is no problem at all. The only time I remember seeing PowerPoint back then is when some salesperson would visit our office pushing some office software, etc. and they would set up a slide presentation. Also, I do remember some hospital administrators using PowerPoint in presentations. But in the numerous proposals, I was involved with at the PR firm I worked at, we stuck with Word, which worked much better for us and we were spared PowerPoint design hell.

In fact, I don’t recall using PowerPoint at any of the PR agencies I worked at during

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the next decade. I do remember a freelance client in the late 2000s changing my Word proposals into PowerPoint slides, but it wasn’t a task I actually had to perform so I remained clueless in knowing how to use PowerPoint. I was more concerned with the writing content of the proposals, not the slick presentation. I also never used PowerPoint in any of the freelance proposals I sent to clients and no one ever said anything about it. When I joined another PR firm in the late 2000s, they also didn’t use PowerPoint for new business proposals.

Unbeknownst to me, somewhere along the line PowerPoint’s stature had changed drastically in the public relations and business worlds. PowerPoint became the defacto software program used in public relations proposals. Now, this wouldn’t normally be a problem, but it was in my case, as I had never used the program and was completely ignorant about even its most basic uses. Honestly, there were people out of college who could blow me away with their PowerPoint skills and they weren’t even graphic artists.

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Why is any of this important? Why I am writing about my disgust with a business software program?

Well, PowerPoint or my lack of ability to use this lame program, got me in trouble with my recent PR bosses and nearly cost one of my jobs. I am a fucking public relations person hired I thought to secure top media placements and run PR campaigns not some graphic artist whiz.

Crazy.

My first PowerPoint hiccup came when I joined a horrible e-commerce company in San Bernardino County as a PR manager.

Duke Brantley, the company’s marketing director, (who always hated me and wasn’t thrilled I was hired in the first place),wanted me to put together PowerPoint slides for a deck (corporate speak for presentation) we were going to present to our CEO to show the quarterly progress of our marketing programs. I was embarrassed that I had to confess to Duke that I had never used the program and he was both surprised and angry.

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“Jake, you need it for your job,” Duke snapped. “Take a look at some online tutorial for guidance or ask one of your colleagues to help.”

Duke made me feel dumb for not knowing how to use PowerPoint. Damn. It wasn’t anything I had ever needed until now as my previous employers were more interested in my writing, media relations and PR skills for securing placements for their clients than me using some fucking graphics software.

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Duke, who was an asshole I will write about more in a later blog, was adamant that I had to learn how to use PowerPoint. Through using an online tutorial, I was able to learn rudimentary skills to develop slides for our marketing decks. It was pretty basic slides I created, but even Duke was OK with it.

When I left the e-commerce months later to take a job with the Yilmaz Agency, I thought I was through with using PowerPoint. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Lulu, who I had mentioned in a previous blog, fancied herself an artist, and as a result, was even more critical than Duke about my lack of PowerPoint skills. It nearly cost me my job. This was being lost in PowerPoint hell to the extreme. Lulu was very critical of the presentations of our PR team’s PowerPoint proposals and lamented them as not being visually interesting.  These were huge 50-60 page proposals that would take days, sometimes weeks to prepare, which was agonizing for me, someone who had little or no skills in creating visually appealing PowerPoint slides.

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Even Molly Paulson, who managed our agency’s NY office, agreed with me how crazy it was for Lulu to expect us to be PowerPoint graphics pros. She said at her past agencies they would hire a graphic artist to work on the visual aspects of their PowerPoint presentations while the PR team honed the actual content. That made sense to me, but remember Lulu was crazy after all.

After Lulu mentally beat up me and the entire team over the look of our proposals for a Brooklyn e-commerce company and a healthcare client, things came to a head. Lulu confronted me in a heated private meeting and asked me how I could approve of such shoddy visual work on our proposal decks.

“Your head is not in the job, Jake,” she said. “How could you let such work go? Are you looking for another job?”

Honestly, I was looking for another job, but that was not the reason I was struggling with her high PowerPoint and proposal standards.

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“Lulu,” I told her. “I am not a graphic artist. I am a PR expert. I am not trained in using PowerPoint and other graphics tools or identifying areas where the visuals can be improved. That is not my skill. Is that why you hired me? To put together PowerPoint decks? That is not what I bring to your agency.  I mean look at all of the media placements and successful PR campaigns I have run since I got here. I didn’t know I was supposed to be a graphics pro, too.”

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Lulu finally admitted that she was wrong to expect me to be some PowerPoint expert and she backed off.  Going forward, she would actually run the deck past a graphics artist before sending it to the client and she stressed that she wanted me and the rest of the team to focus more on the content of the proposals.

However, that didn’t stop Lulu from occasionally dumping a 50 or 60-page PowerPoint proposal on me and rest of the team to work on during the weekend. But at least, I wasn’t responsible for the “look” of the deck.

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One good thing Dane did when he joined our agency was to convince Lulu to get rid of these huge, cumbersome PowerPoint decks and actually create our proposals in Word. I know Lulu didn’t like it as it didn’t appeal to her artistic side, but even she admitted that Word was a hell of a lot more efficient and easier to work with than PowerPoint when creating proposals.

Thankfully, I don’t have to use PowerPoint at my current agency as we use Word for our proposal documents. I don’t miss it at all.

Unfortunately, I still have nightmares about having to create huge PowerPoint decks again if I decide to work at another agency. I guess have PowerPoint phobia. Strange I know, but if I see a job listing where it states that I have to use PowerPoint I will just skip over the job opportunity.

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I want to spend time at work strategizing how to secure top media coverage and not putting together some fancy PowerPoint presentation to impress current and potential clients. This shouldn’t be that hard to understand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Paper Pushers

It's a big misconception. Everyone thinks hell is all fire. Actually, it's all paperwork.'

I call them the “Paper Pushers.”

It is my private name for my colleagues in the public relations industry through years who are great at performing administrative tasks, coordinating accounts, and editing, but they can’t write worth a shit and overall lack creativity.

They are great at “pushing the paper” and making sure they stay on top of tasks, crossing every t and dotting every i, but they are pretty much useless when it comes to thinking out of the box and coming up with creative angles for PR campaigns, media pitches and press releases.

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Actually, they are mostly glorified administrative managers, but of course, they would never admit this.

They typically stay quiet during brainstorming sessions, offer little or nothing, but the paper pushers are quick to attack others’ ideas, though.

meetings-idiotHonestly, they wouldn’t last long in my previous profession of journalism where bad writing is generally not tolerated and will hold you back in your career.

It is hardly surprising the paper pushers have done well in the public relations industry, which is a sad commentary on what the business cherishes – slick, management over creativity.

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So, naturally, I have butted heads with my share of paper pushers during the years. They have rejected my creative ideas, gutted my pitches and press releases, and removed anything creative or interesting and replaced it with slick corporate writing. The kind of boring writing that ends up in the media’s spam and trash folders.

Admittedly, I prefer the creative side of public relations, finding interesting angles to intrigue the media through my writing and securing media coverage over the boring administrative task and client relations side of public relations. That doesn’t mean I am not capable of handling those tasks as well, but I just enjoy being creative and pitching the media more than pushing the paper.

I have worked with many paper pushers during my long career, but two past colleagues come to mind to illustrate my frustration working with these uncreative types.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, Molly Paulson was an uptight, paper pusher who ran the New York office for Lulu at the Yilmaz Agency. She also managed two of the largest clients at agency, an airline and housewares company.

Molly, who was in her early thirties, had an odd looking face and huge green eyes. She also had this bizarre wide-eyed expression on her face most of the time as if she was constantly surprised by everything that occurred. Now I realize it was probably a way for her disguise her contempt for me and many of my colleagues.

Molly wasn’t a dumb Millennial as with many of my colleagues at the Yilmaz Agency and had worked a number of years handling mostly music public relations. However, sometimes I had to wonder when she would suggest a strategy that made no sense, particularly when it involved writing or media relations.

Molly would constantly try to pick apart anything I would say.  It was subtle, though, as she pretended to be so nice when she first joined the firm, but I learned it was only an act to get something she wanted such as help on a project. She was no fucking ally. I believe she undermined and backstabbed me during my years at the agency. Unfortunately, it was hard for me to know for sure as I worked alone in the L.A. office during most of my time at the Yilmaz Agency.  Her contempt for me still came through in emails and our phone call and phone conferences. I dreaded working on accounts with her and was happy when I could avoid it.

Molly constantly questioned my writing — although she couldn’t write worth a shit – and my management skills. Molly was always looking for things I missed or a strategic decision I made she didn’t agree with. She actually told Lulu that she didn’t respect me and didn’t feel I brought a steady, experienced management approach to the job even though I had a lot more experience than she did in every area of public relations.

“Molly doesn’t feel you bring a strong enough management presence to the job,” Lulu told me.

I naturally was pissed off as I thought Molly was an uncreative public relations hack who did nothing more than provide empty, slick management skills to her position. She lacked real vision and creativity and hid this is busy work.

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Molly would also get frustrated when she thought I wasn’t handling an account as she would. She put me in charge of the U.S. media relations for our airline client and then questioned my every move. We butted heads eventually as she was clueless to effective media relations strategy on the account. At one point, we set up a schedule to reach out to the media with a different pitch almost every week. The problem is that we were pitching the same media over and over and they were getting sick of getting bombarded from our pitches and client news. A number of our media contacts began complaining to me about sending too many pitches in a short time. I told Molly this and she ignored me. It was when I realized Molly knew nothing about media relations strategy. She approached media pitching as she did every other part of her public relations job — she pushed the paper. The only problem is that you must avoid pissing off the media at all costs and sending them constant client news with no sense of timing is a sure fast way to get ignored. This is death to a publicist.

Yet it was Molly’s lack of creativity that stuck with me. I would work to come up with creative angles for our airline clients pitch letters and press releases and she would pick them apart and rewrite them into boring, cliched angles that had little or no chance of being picked up.

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I was relieved when we lost the airline client as I wouldn’t have to work with her micromanaging ass anymore. As you could imagine, both Lulu and Miriam loved that Molly had an obsessive attention to detail, but I thought Molly (as with Lulu and Miriam) always missed the bigger picture – the importance of securing media results for our clients and building their brand presence.

Unfortunately, before Miriam left, she put Molly on the team of a Canadian audio manufacturing client I was managing. Although she was only on the team to reach out to the so-called music media she had contacts with, Molly quickly questioned everything I did on the account. She wanted us to send out more pitches on the account even if we didn’t have any news to share. It was our airline client all over again. I was frustrated but this time I ignored her suggestions as she had mine. I was running the account after all.

Yet it soon became obvious Molly was also truly miserable at media relations. I knew this from working with her on the airlines and housewares clients, but in those cases, she could hide behind her administrative duties and spending a lot of time running these accounts as a reason for not delivering results herself.

After several months, Molly couldn’t secure a single placement for our audio client even though she boasted about having great contacts in the music business and that’s why she wanted to be on the account. By contrast, I had no trouble obtaining numerous high-profile stories for our audio client and I knew this really pissed Molly off. She eventually used the excuse of her heavy workload to stopping working on the account. I knew she really was embarrassed that she couldn’t deliver media relations results on an account in an industry she was supposed to be a past expert on. I had to wonder after that if anything she said was true and that her past experience was a complete lie.

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Molly also wasn’t as bright as she acted. Heavy technology accounts put her off. When Molly was put in charge of running a Turkish tech client – after a dumb Millennial that managed the account left for another firm – she was in a panic. She was having trouble understanding the client’s technology which was essentially business to business payment software for companies.

Suddenly, after years of being snotty toward me and stabbing me behind my back, Molly was very nice to me again. This time, though, I knew it was because she needed my help to help manage the Turkish tech client even though she would never admit this. Although that didn’t stop Molly from trying to micromanage me and rewrite all the pitches and press releases I had written for this client. She did this even though she knew nothing about the technology. Despite her paper pushing efforts, though, we eventually lost of the account anyway.

Sal Ramirez was another paper pusher that had the misfortunate to work with at my first PR agency early in my career. He was one of the worst writers that I have ever worked with, that is until recently when I started working with Millennials. He was even worse a writer than Molly. In fact, Sal had trouble with basics of press release writing, but he was not someone who just come out of school and had been working for an agency for years before joining our firm. I remember a friend of mine at a local newspaper lamenting how he received a press release from Sal that had none of the essential information you would expect from a press release – the where, what, why and how. It was such an embarrassment for our agency, but unfortunately our boss Jimmy Mears didn’t care. He liked Sal’s administrative skills and would tap me for the creative, brainstorming tasks.

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Sal would also ask me for help in rewriting his press release and pitches and adding a more creative flair. I, of course, I helped him as I am a team player, but Sal never seemed all that appreciative. Worst of all, he never seemed to improve and was still a crappy writer when I left the agency a few years later.

Clients liked Sal as he was solid in handling accounts, however, he was constantly coming up short with media relations efforts and I would have to be brought in to try to obtain coverage and save the account. It was ridiculous after a while as his accounts were always in “media relations trouble.”

Sal, like Molly, was also terrible in brainstorming sessions, providing little or nothing useful. Many of his ideas were clichés or borrowed too heavily from Hollywood movies. Yet he never hesitated to criticize other’s ideas, particularly mine.

I didn’t mock him or criticize his lame ideas, though, but no one ever used his suggestions and he knew down deep they were terrible.

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They say there is no such thing as a bad idea in brainstorming, but I believe Sal was an exception to the rule.

When I left the agency, Sal was determined to show me up. He and an obnoxious jock intern named Lance teamed up to come up with ideas for an upcoming obesity clinic’s event in San Diego where people would turn in their previous large pants to show off their weight loss. They came up with all of these odd and crazy ideas and taglines. Some were good, but mostly it was overkill. I even bet Lance came up with most of the ideas, Sal was so proud of what they came up with. Even though he didn’t say it – Sal was implying they didn’t need me for creativity anymore. He did this once in all of my years at the agency.  By contrast, I tried to bring a strong level of creativity to every account and do the same today, not just once in a blue moon like Sal.

Paper pushers or uncreative gutless wonders like Molly and Sal – that I have found at every agency or company I have worked at — are just more a reminder that I am in the wrong business that rewards slick, management skills over creative vision.

Team Juicing?

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Lydia was at again this week with her lame definition of teamwork.

First, there was her lame “Team Lunches.”

Now it is…Team Juicing?

One recent morning — around the time I wanted to head over to Starbucks for a late morning coffee — that freak Lydia invited MBA Boy and other team members — all millennials except for Code Boy  — to walk over to some local fucking juice place — right in front of me.

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It was no surprise as Lydia has no sense of manners and is completely clueless about building real team camaraderie and teamwork.

No doubt it was MBA Boy’s time to bash me, which is also hilarious as he has little more PR knowledge than Code Boy and Lydia to say anything.

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I constantly have to clean up his mistake-ridden press releases and pitch letters and deal with his lack of any strategic sense.

They also invited this strange freak called Nanci — another unfriendly Millennial intern poisoned by Lydia. All I know is that she fucked up a serious research project for a client — right before their campaign launch.

It was for a lame sports app bracket client. They claimed to be the only one to do what they do — but that was not true.

Nanci missed this in her competitive analysis research. After that critical fuck up, which I barely caught and shared with the client in time, I wanted nothing more to do with her.

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So “Team Juice” runs or “Team Lunches” or whatever you want to call it is pretty typical of this place and the diseased lack of social support I receive.

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I guess it is just me but I believe if you invite your colleagues to lunch or coffee, etc. you either invite everyone in the office or you don’t do it. Such clueless behavior is bad for workplace morale.

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Our agency has sadly become a Millennial bozo party of people who have no clue what business is, how to run it, and how to create a real team.

I fear for the future. I really do.

 

Big Agency Fools

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Bigger is not always better.

And get your mind out of the gutter…as I am not talking about sex.

As a strategy to bring more professional respectability to her fledgling small PR agency, my boss Lulu would hire managers and executives from big public relations agencies through the years.

It really didn’t work as most of them proved sadly to be what I called “Big Agency Fools.”

They weren’t a good fit for the fast-paced, bootstrapping nature of small PR agency life where we had to do everything from putting together media lists, writing releases, pitching the media, putting together proposals, and handling client relations.

These big agency fools were used to having 20-30 person teams to throw at a PR campaign. We had small teams of 4-8 people at the most.

So, these fools right away would show deficiencies in their writing, creativity and media relations skills.

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Two “Big Agency Fools” come to mind to illustrate this.

Jason Spinelli joined our firm to run the Chicago office from a large global agency. He was fine with managing projects and could push the paper — my phrase for handling administrative, non-creative tasks. Not surprising he quickly became close friends with Molly Paulson, the queen of our agency’s paper pushers that ran our New York office.

But when it came to providing creativity or knowing anything about media relations, Jason was clueless.

I saw this when he tried to write a lame pitch for our airline client. His press releases were also slick, empty and uncreative, but that was already the norm at our agency.

Jason was also decades younger than me which proved embarrassing when he tried to advise me about public relations, but most specifically, media relations.

I was securing huge media placements in the New York Times, CNN and other top publications when he was in grade school.

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Jason soon after realized he made a mistake and couldn’t handle the small agency workload and stressful life, not to mention Lulu’s craziness. Jason left our firm and made an odd career pivot into advertising and moved out west to intern?!! for an advertising agency. He hardly showed any sign of being creative while at our agency so I wonder how that worked out.

Jason was basically a nice guy in over his head, but Dane Flynn, who replaced our VP of Panic, Miriam Letti, was the worst of the big agency fools to join Lulu’s company while I was there.

From the start, I despised this arrogant faker who hid his skills deficiency in bluster and rudeness. Dane was a rude motherfucker from our first encounter.

He attacked me in a meeting in his first week at our agency about being too truthful with a client about our media relations efforts.

Our lame client was an online video sharing company that was trying to rival YouTube. Good luck with that. There’s a business graveyard of small companies that have tried to do the same thing through the years.

On behalf of our lame client, I contacted a top writer at one of the entertainment trades about doing a story about their launch and plans for the future. The writer said it was too early for the company to receive a profile and that she wanted to wait a couple of years to see how they developed in the highly-competitive online video industry.

Seemed like a reasonable response to me, and our client was OK with it as they were happy for the frank feedback.

However, this creep Dane was pissed off that I told our client what the writer had said in a previous meeting. This happened in a client meeting before the fool actually joined our agency.

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“If I was your client, and you told me that, I would have been offended,” Dane sneered. “I would wonder if I wanted to work with you anymore. I wouldn’t trust you to share my story.”

Unlike this fool Dane, I believe in transparency in client relations.

“I am not going to lie to our clients,” I told him. “I believe in providing them with honest media feedback.”

Dane did not agree and he forbade me to talk to our client honestly again about our media relations efforts as he took over lame leadership of the account. Lulu, of course, stayed silent and didn’t object to this fool’s ignorance.

At that moment, I knew Dane was a fraud that knew nothing about media relations, let alone client relations.

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He wanted to me to deceive our clients. I knew then things had taken another dark turn at our agency. It was no surprise when we lost our dumb video client a couple of months later. They actually said they were frustrated because we weren’t being open and transparent!! with them regarding our media outreach.

Soon after, Dane tried to bring client hour restrictions and big agency budget controls to our small firm. Essentially, he implemented big agency budget hell at our firm. Now we had to account for every fucking hour we spent trying to make our clients happy.

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Due to his big agency background, Dane was completely clueless that our clients hired a small boutique agency to receive more service, not less.

Even worse, this big agency fool would force us to go to our clients and say we would cut them off once we reached our hours limit unless they paid more.

We also had to send Dane weekly hours reports and then have horrible, time-consuming meetings about it.

In another one of Dane’s cost-cutting measures, the idiot convinced Lulu to close down our agency’s L.A. office.

I loved working in our office that was located in a high rise in the L.A. area. It felt cool being part of the bustling business community located near our office. We had a great view of the ocean as well.

So, I had to return working remotely from my home, which is I wanted to avoid when joining Lulu’s firm. Trying to do conference calls from my home across many offices was just one of the many challenges I faced working from home for our lame agency.

Another low point involving Dane was during my last CES visit with Lulu’s agency.

I met Dane for the first time in person and found him even more of an arrogant creep in real life.

I hate CES anyway, but having to be there with this idiot only made it worse.

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He walked into the CES suite of our consumer electronics audio client from Canada and was very standoffish and rude.

“Are you happy?” he said bluntly to our client, a nice Asian woman named Clarice, who was one of my favorite clients. “Are you getting what you want?”

She said yes and praised our work, but that didn’t seem to matter to him. She paid us $4K a month and Dane considered her small client not worth his time and he treated as such.

I felt so embarrassed as we left after five minutes of visiting with her as I had promised we would stay for 30 minutes and talk about how the show was going and her company’s upcoming meetings with the media.

Dane said to me as we left that our client was “kind of a cold bitch.”

I didn’t know what to say as she was quiet but a very nice lady. Not a bitch at all.

But what do you expect as Dane was an asshole after all.

Later we had drinks and he confessed to me that he didn’t have much respect for Lulu and Lorne (we were in agreement there) and that his favorite employee at the Chicago office was a whiny Millennial named Marissa Aslan, a Turkish woman that started working at our firm as an intern and later was hired as an account executive. Marissa was annoying paper pusher who couldn’t write worth a shit. Her pitches and press releases were barely passable, but apparently, she knew how to kiss Dane’s ass. They did share negative attitudes, though, so I was not surprised they got along. Marissa later cost us a client with a stupid email blunder, but I’ll get into that more in a later blog.

Later during our CES trip things went from bad to worse. We had booked our difficult tech client from France, who was exhibiting a smart shoe, for an opportunity on the Today Show. The client was hard to work with and wouldn’t send the shoe, which was still in prototype form, to the show via mail. They insisted on taking the shoe to New York themselves so Today could include it in a tech roundup show. Naturally, it was a logistical nightmare, but I had it under control. At least, I thought so, but Dane began sending me worried emails about my handling of the Today show opportunity.

I emailed him back “No worries” and that everything was being handled appropriately.

He shot back a rude email writing: “I know that ‘no worries’ is just a phrase everyone uses, but frankly, I am worried. I am very concerned with how you are managing this big opportunity.”

I was beyond pissed off. I used “no worries” to tell him not to be concerned that I was doing my fucking job and he used it against me. Another new low.

By the way, our client’s smart shoe was eventually featured on the Today Show and they were thrilled. Dane looked like the asshole in the end, even though he probably privately took credit for it and said it was his ugly management style that forced me to do my job. Nothing could be further from the truth as I have booked numerous huge TV placements even before that idiot Dane was in the PR business.

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Another troubling development took place at the show when I was not invited to a CES dinner with Dane, Lulu, and Lorne. Lulu had always invited me to dinner while at CES to talk about the future, but now I realized I probably didn’t have one on her agency.

When I got back home from another successful CES where I had secured a lot of media for our smart shoe and audio clients, Dane called me. I thought I was going to be fired. In fact, I actually wished for it. Instead, Dane called to inform me that he was cutting my pay 50 percent so now I was making my lowest salary since the late 1990s. I was disgusted and shocked and determined to leave Lulu’s firm more than ever.

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I know it is not professional, but the pay cut was my breaking point. I didn’t quit but also didn’t give a fuck anymore. During the next six months, I started getting up late, missing meetings and worked my own hours. I no longer gave a fuck what Dane or Lulu thought. I dared them to fire me and put me out of my misery.

The way I looked at it if they were going to pay me a lot less, they were going to get a lot less of my work and dedication.

Yet I still took care of my client’s media relations needs and secured top media placements, but really that was for me as I launched an aggressive job search and wanted new media coverage for my updated portfolio. Unfortunately, I struggled to find a new job and was stuck at Lulu’s as they wouldn’t fire me. Essentially, I had become cost-effective and Lulu and Dane wanted my media expertise on staff in case we got new clients that needed top media coverage.

Early the following summer, Dane went on a long vacation. I was relieved as any day not dealing with his arrogant, stupid ass was a blessing. Apparently, the day he returned from his trip Dane got into an argument with Lulu and abruptly left our agency. The fucker didn’t even leave a two-week notice. Hardly professional considering all the fake professional BS he tried to shove down our throats during his time at our small agency. (I will have more on Dane’s ugly departure in a later blog).

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Although Dane was an unprofessional, insufferable asshole, he at least did one good thing. His quitting finally dissuaded Lulu to abandon her practice of hiring big agency fools and soon after she sold her company.

However, in a sad commentary about the PR business and business in general, after inflicting stress and damage at our agency, Dane landed on his feet and not long after was hired by a big agency again. So, the big agency fool had returned home.

Crazy. I can only imagine the ugly administrative fakery he is foisting on his new agency and colleagues.

 

 

 

Not A Turkish Delight

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Working for a perfectionist is a special kind of hell.

I have worked for my share of micromanaging perfectionists in my long public relations career, but someone I worked for a while ago, Lulu Yilmaz, was by far the worst.

Lulu was a short blonde Turkish woman in her late thirties who ran her own firm, the Yilmaz Agency, with offices in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles.

She was headstrong, pushy, very opinionated, and hated when anyone on her staff challenged her.

Lulu also fancied herself an artist and had her lame artworks featured on the walls through her offices. It was truly pedestrian impressionist art to me and I don’t know shit about art. This artistic side of her proved a pain in the ass later when she would be very critical of our PowerPoint proposals as not being beautiful enough. I hate PowerPoint, but more on that later.

Lulu had experience in public relations, more than 15 years, but she knew next to nothing about media relations and couldn’t write worth a shit.

Even worse, nothing we did was ever good enough for her.

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You could have one of the agency’s clients on the Today Show or in the Wall Street Journal and it would never matter. You could never build up trust with her.

It felt like have a bank account flush with money one day, and empty the next.

Or it was like trying to build a house on a foundation of quicksand.

Lulu was also extremely blunt in her criticism, and many times, it felt as if you could do nothing right when working for her.

“Now, Jake,” she would say in a condescending tone of disapproval and disdain. “Our client is not happy.” Then she would follow with a litany of criticisms that many times were unfounded or unfair.

However, since she expected perfection, you could never hope to match the delusions in her crazy mind. It was demoralizing, to say the least.

Lulu used berate our teams in horrible conference calls that I called “media relations beatdowns.”

horrible boss

Lulu would try to shame us and tell us we were keeping her up at night by not delivering results for her clients. Sometimes she would do this on Friday, and then demand we pitch the media, even though everyone knows in PR that this is the worst day to pitch and is usually when companies dump bad news.  Far too many times, Lulu was strategically clueless.

As I have also discovered unfortunately in this business at other agencies, our clients were always right in Lulu’s eyes (because they paid us) even when they were so obviously wrong. She was tough on her employees, but rarely, if ever, stood up to clients and defended our work. It was always our fault. However, this ignored our role as PR consultants, which is to educate clients about the PR process and advise them the best strategy to benefit their business.  Clients don’t hire us to be a “yes-man” or “yes-woman” agreeing with everything they propose. They hire us for our expertise, which is something Lulu would conveniently forget whenever we were criticized by clients.

Lulu had two coveted clients, an airline and a housewares brand (her first client), that she built her firm around. These clients abused us in so many ways but Lulu never took our side.

Also, we were always expected to drop everything to make sure these two clients were happy. It was beyond a nightmare.

At the end of my first year, Lulu declared that this is “the best team we’ve ever had at the Yilmaz Agency…”

I took pride in that initially until over the next year I sadly watched nearly everyone one of our staff leave our agency because of Lulu’s ongoing craziness and unreasonable demands. I then realized that this statement by Lulu was a lie and part of her con to try and keep us there.

crazy to work here

Even worse, she said the same thing at the end of my second and third year as well, but by then I had already seen through her manipulative bullshit.

Not surprisingly, the turnaround at the Yilmaz Agency was atrocious. When I joined the firm, there were around 35 employees spread out over the three offices.

In the following three years I worked for Lulu, more than 55 employees, (honestly, I lost count after a while), left the agency.

After someone left her agency, they were always in the wrong in Lulu’s eyes. “I heard bad things about them from clients…” was Lulu’s usual refrain.

As you could imagine, Millennials didn’t last long working for Lulu, and the ones that did became bitter and angry and difficult to work with.

God knows how tough I am on Millennials and their horrible work habits and attitudes, but they had a point with Lulu.

Lulu would work our younger staff late into the night on time-consuming proposals and projects, and on weekends and holidays, too.

crazy pr

She once dumped a 57-page PowerPoint proposal project on me and the Chicago office on a Friday afternoon. We spent all weekend on the proposal, and we later got the client, but they fired us after a month because of a fuck up from one of the junior staff that worked in the Chicago office (that unbelievably went on to work for one of the largest PR firms in the world). More on that incident later.

When I joined the firm, the young staff was already in rebellion and complained bitterly about her horrible and unappreciative management style. I had many times wondered what I had got into as I had left of the worst PR jobs as I ever had as a PR specialist at an e-commerce company. Working at Lulu’s agency proved worse. I felt embarrassed that I had described Lulu’s agency as a dream job when I left my previous position at the e-commerce company on good terms. I had no idea how much of a haunting joke that would be.

Lulu used to play of sort of bad cop, good cop routine with her vice president Miriam Letti, who I later called the VP of Panic. Miriam, who was an obnoxious dark haired Jewish woman in her late thirties, would come off as the reasonable and nice one, but it was all a lie. She was hardly nice as Miriam would panic when Lulu attacked the staff for not living up to her crazy standards. However, Miriam proved twisted in her own timid way as she would text me on Saturday nights and weekends with ridiculous demands that I knew from were coming from Lulu. I also remember once Miriam giving me shit about asking for the day after Christmas off?!!

Miriam was also a horrible micromanager who would finish her work at the Chicago office, and after eating dinner at home and putting her kids to bed, would send me a series of panicky reminder emails about client work.  This is where the time difference really proved a nightmare. After finishing my work and wanting to go home around 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. PST, I would have to field all of these constant reminders and criticisms from Miriam which would keep me at the office even later. I will write more about her dumb ass in a future blog.

micromanager

Lulu’s husband Lorne was also a piece of work. I secretly called him Cage Boy as he used to be a UFC fighter years before. It was also a reference to his in-your-face management style as well, even though he knew nothing about public relations. Fortunately, he didn’t work with the firm in my first couple of years there, as he started a TV UFC company/league. Through years of public relations help and advice from Lulu, before I joined the firm, (not to mention free PR help from the agency staff), his company was bought by a large corporation for hundreds of millions of dollars. So now Cage Boy was rich, and he bought a huge home for him and Lulu in a gated community.  No doubt the money made him even a bigger asshole. Not surprisingly, he was forced out shortly after the corporation bought his company. Then he started hanging out around our agency, pretending to be a cool entrepreneur. But I’ll return to Lorne’s story in a later blog.

Honestly, I couldn’t stand working for Lulu’s crazy ass. I am still not sure how I lasted more than three years working for this demented freak.

quitting

The one time that I finally stood up to her and basically told her what I thought of her lousy firm, crazy management style, and cheap ways and quit, Lulu wouldn’t accept my resignation.  It was a strange reaction as she admitted to me that no one who worked for had ever spoken as bluntly to her as I had. So Lulu gave me a raise to try and appease me and everything was OK for a short while but then things went to back to the normal craziness a few months later.

Sometimes I think I was a masochist for having stayed as long I did working for Lulu.

It nearly ruined my career.