Update about the launch of Life in Public Relations Hell novel in 2022

I wanted to kick off a new year with an update about my upcoming novel exploring my life in public relations hell.

This year, I made great progress and I am working on finishing the 13th draft of my novel.  After I complete two more drafts, I will publish the first volume of my novel series later this year as a digital and paperback book. I also plan to look into Amazon’s new hardback book service with this book.

I love how my novel is coming out. I started this blog in early 2019 to cope with my growing dissatisfaction with my long-time public relations career. It has been a lifeline for me, helping me deal with my ongoing job frustration.

Finally sharing my frank views on the dark side of the public relations industry and just how nightmarish and heartbreaking it can be to work as a publicist or public relations executive has proved a liberating experience for me.

I was hoping to have my book out sooner but a combination of financial difficulties and the impact of the covid pandemic delayed my novel’s launch.

However, with recent developments and trends in the job market including the Great Resignation, this year is the perfect time to share my novel.

Once I publish my first PR hell novel next year, I will begin working on the second volume of my series for launch in 2023 or 2024.

Stay tuned for upcoming book cover reveals and other book launch details later this year.

Happy New Year!!

GP

Cage Boy

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Lulu’s husband Lorne Whitney was also a piece of work. I privately 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 I had the misfortunate to experience my last couple of years at Lulu’s firm. The worst thing of all is that Lorne was another obnoxious fool who knew nothing about public relations but he would still try to manage me on campaigns even though he wasn’t my boss.

Lorne was a tall, bald Caucasian man in his early forties with a muscular physique that he had maintained since his fighting days. He still looked the part of a fighter. Lorne seemed strangely distant when I first met him. I remember Lulu telling me that he hated to socialize, and not to take his cold attitude personally.

My first troubling encounter with Lorne occurred shortly after I joined the Yilmaz Agency. My small business magazine contact was looking for a cover story of their Orange County edition and asked me if I had any candidates. This was the same publication that featured our airline client in a cover story I detailed in my earlier blog about her photoshoot meltdown.

I ran the editor’s request past Lulu and she suggested Lorne would be a good candidate for the article. I arranged for Lorne to be interviewed for the story, and when the cover story came out Cage Boy was blown away. He sent me several emails praising me and he eventually had the article framed at his office and home.

“He’s never had anything like that,” Lulu said. “He wants to do something for you.”

I told her that it wasn’t necessary as I was just doing my job and trying to help her and him out. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but Lorne did.

I soon discovered the dark side of Lorne after he invited me as his guest to watch a UFC fight event that his company was putting on a Saturday night. I thanked him but I told him I already had plans and couldn’t attend. I actually didn’t have plans, but there was no way I was going to spend Saturday night with Lorne and Lulu after another horrible and stressful week at her agency. Fuck that. And on top of that, I am not a UFC fan.

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Lulu assured me that I didn’t have to go and it was OK if I had other plans, but I guess it was important to Lorne that I was there. He apparently was insulted that I had refused his invitation. After he sent me a short email saying that he understood and it was no problem, I never heard from him again for a couple of years. I didn’t care as dealing with his wife was bad enough.

As I soon discovered, no good deed went unpunished when it came to Lulu and even her family.

Fortunately, Cage Boy didn’t work with Lulu’s agency in my first couple of years there, as he had started a TV UFC company. 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 UFC company was acquired 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.

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Lulu told me she wanted Lorne to help us out to find clients and he started to join me and Lulu on new business meetings. Lorne would try to leverage his UFC business success to our potential new clients, who seemed impressed at first. Several clients that we secured from Cage Boy’s business leads soon realized he was clueless and it was all a front.

Lulu, unfortunately, started including Lorne in our agency’s client work. Lorne would say that “he knew nothing and that we were the experts” and then he would proceed to tell us how to do our jobs, specifically how to write pitch letters and press releases and new business proposals. He would put on the act that he was knowledgeable in business and PR but it was all an aggressive lie.

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Lorne was right – he knew next to nothing when it came to public relations writing, media and client relations — and he should have listened to our expertise. I wondered what he was doing there as he was only making a horrible situation worse.

The trouble began when Cage Boy edited and drastically revised our press release and pitch letter for a VPN client he helped us land. Cage Boy turned our creative but solidly written copy into slick bullshit writing full of hyperbole and claims. It resembled bombastic advertising copy, and he even included exclamation points, which I hate as you know from my previous blog.

He would tell me that my original version was great and that we were the experts of PR writing and then he would foist his lousy, hyped up copy on us. I didn’t know what to do as Lulu seemed to think it was OK.

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Then things got even more stressful when Cage Boy demanded we write five different pitch letters for our VPN client which was just fucking overkill. My team members in the Chicago office flipped out and I had to reassure them it would be OK, but I had to wonder.

Two days into the campaign, things took a turn for the worse when Cage Boy started pressuring us about securing media results.

“We got get them results right away or we could lose the client,” Lorne said in a panicked phone call.

“Lorne, we just launched the campaign. We have some promising responses, but securing media results takes time.”

“I know…but we have to be three steps ahead of the client,” Lorne responded. “You guys have to be more aggressive. I want a report every day on how we are making progress.”

“OK. The team is following up with the media and doing our diligence to uncover opportunities,” I said, thinking this guy was a fucking idiot. “We’ll keep you posted.”

I mean, come on. Cage Boy fucked up our PR materials and now he’s hounding us for instant results.  It doesn’t work that way. Media relations and PR were not like fighting in a fucking cage. You can’t finesse the media with a takedown move.

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Two weeks into their media campaign, our VPN client became unreasonable expecting instant coverage from top media such as the New York Times, L.A. Times, etc. They did this even though we had already received interest and coverage from several top tech publications including Mashable and TechCrunch.

Lorne didn’t defend our team’s work to our client and doubled down on his aggressive efforts to pressure us into securing media coverage. And, of course, Lulu didn’t support us either.

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Soon after, we lost the client over an email pitch fuck up by Chicago account executive Marissa Aslan (that I will describe in a later blog) and was relieved as I thought I wouldn’t have to work with Lorne again.

Unfortunately, one of Lorne’s business leads was the online video company that I mentioned previously had hired us to launch a PR campaign. Lulu wanted Lorne to take a hands-on role on the account, which led to more of his noxious micromanagement and pressure tactics. At times, working with Cage Boy felt like I was trapped in some horrible chokehold move. It was a deflating and suffocating experience as my long-time PR expertise was ignored and my creativity was stifled.

Then Lorne took it a step further as he tried to tell me how to speak to our online video client about a Wall Street Journal interview I secured for them.

I told our client that it took some convincing from me to get the reporter to sit down with an unknown startup company in a crowded tech space – online video – that was dominated by YouTube. I felt our client needed to know the work that went into securing a meeting for them with a writer at one of the top financial publications in the world. Our client’s CEO grimaced when I told them the writer was busy and almost canceled the meeting, but I persuaded her to sit down with them anyway at the paper’s New York offices. It was no surprise that our client was typical of many startups I have worked with where they think they have the greatest product or service ever invented and the media should just fall over themselves to cover them. Such delusional business attitudes run rampant in the tech world as I have discovered during the years. I’ve come to believe it is part of the DNA of those entrepreneurs that launch tech startups.  Apparently, this understanding eluded Cage Boy.

“You never tell a client something like that,” Cage Boy snapped when we got the elevator after the meeting.

“Lorne, I believe in being honest with our clients letting them know what the media thinks about their companies. I am not going to lie to them,” I responded.

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Who the fuck was this idiot? I thought bitterly as I struggled to control my anger. How would he know? Had he ever handled public relations at an agency? It was bad enough I have to deal with Lulu’s ignorant bullshit about PR and now I had to endure her husband’s moronic crap, too? I had been working closely with PR clients for decades and I knew what I was doing.

Lulu agreed with Cage Boy.

“You have to be more careful in speaking with clients,” she said.

Because of that incident, I was not allowed to attend any more in-person meetings with this client.

It also explained Dane Flynn’s hostility toward me concerning this client when he joined our agency a few months later. Cage Boy and Lulu no doubt told him about this incident with our client.

After a while, there were rumblings of discontent from my colleagues the Chicago and New York offices about how difficult Lorne was to work with. I also mentioned to Lulu that I felt Cage Boy was in over his head when it came to public relations work and I would prefer not to have to work with him directly.

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Lulu actually listened to us this time, and she decided that Cage Boy wouldn’t be involved in the day to day client work anymore and would only help us in new business meetings and searches.

I was more than a little relieved I wouldn’t have to work with Cage Boy anymore. After Lulu sold her agency the following year, Cage Boy wasn’t part of the deal. Last I heard Cage Boy was trying to put together a union for UFC fighters and he was getting pilloried by the sport’s leaders for being an untrustworthy scumbag who knows nothing about the fight business.

Mmmm…sounds familiar.

Cage Boy even put on a big showy press conference in the L.A. area to announce his lame UFC union.

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Even though I was actually based in L.A., Lorne preferred to work with people in our agency’s Chicago office and I was not involved in helping promote Cage Boy’s press conference. I knew by then Cage Boy was not too happy with my criticism about his work and attitude that I had shared with Lulu.

I didn’t care, though. It was just as well. From what I could tell nothing ever came from Cage Boy’s efforts. No surprise there. Cage Boy was like so many other clueless buffoons I had encountered during my PR career – so full of themselves and lacking in any real talent.

Cage Boy seems a fitting moniker for him in more ways than one.

 

 “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.”

Update on Life in Public Relations Hell Book

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I wanted to give a quick update on the status of my Life in Public Relations Hell book based on this blog. I am thrilled to share that this weekend I completed the first draft of my upcoming book.

I love how it is coming together. It is turning out to be an epic novel — 55 chapters and more than 600 pages — detailing the funny, crazy, strange, heartbreaking tales from my long-time public relations career.  As you can already tell from my blog, I hold nothing back in the frank and honest way I describe the up and downs of working in public relations.  Not all of the chapters in my book will end up on my blog as I will save some exclusively for my novel.

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I plan to take a short break before starting on the second draft of my novel.  I am planning that this novel will need about 9-10 drafts before it will be ready to share. So, that should take me about a year or two before my novel is ready to publish on Amazon, etc. 

So far, it has been an incredible journey exploring my angst, heartbreak, frustration and honest feelings about my PR career and the public relations industry overall through my novel and this blog. I can’t wait to share as this will be only the first volume of many planned novels depicting my public relations experiences.

In the meantime, please return to my blog periodically as I will be sharing a new post of a chapter from my upcoming novel each month or two as I work toward completing a final published book.

JW