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

Update on Life in Public Relations Hell Novel, Future blog posts

I started this blog in early 2019 to cope with my growing dissatisfaction with my long-time public relations career.

You can say it was a cry for help in a way.

I was finally sharing my frank views on the dark side of the public relations industry and just how frustrating it can be to work as a publicist or public relations executive.

The experience has been quite a liberating one for me and led to my creating an epic novel of the same name. My first draft was more than 700 pages, but I have split it into two books. I am making great progress on the first draft and I am on my eighth draft. I love how it is coming out and I plan to launch my novel sometime next year. I will be writing a series of novels about my life in Public Relations hell and I also have a rough draft of volume two as well.

My latest post on my blog, the Mormon Backstabber, will be the last until I launch my novel. However, you can get a good feel for my upcoming book’s content on my blog.

You can also check out my blog for updates on my novel and also follow my book’s progress on Twitter, too.

Stay tuned.

The Intern Review Process From Hell

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As with many companies and public relations agencies, the Yilmaz Agency had a six-month trial period before considering interns for full-time employment. This seemed simple and straightforward enough.

However, as with all things, the Yilmaz Agency had a skewed and crazier version of the standard intern review process. It was based on a 360 Review program where a group of coworkers is invited to provide feedback about a fellow employee’s performance. This is a departure from the traditional review method where feedback came from the manager to whom the employee reported. It seemed reasonable enough as the 360 Review is supposed to provide a more comprehensive overview of an employee’s performance across an entire agency or business.

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Yet when Lulu and Miriam tried to adopt it at our agency there was a serious problem, as they asked not only every full-time employee in the firm to evaluate a prospective intern hire, but they had fellow interns participate as well. So, they were asking young people, who still were learning the business, to determine whether we should hire a fellow intern. That made no sense as they had little experience in hiring or in knowing what made someone a quality public relations account executive.

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It also opened up the process to petty infighting among interns who were jockeying for long-term opportunities at our agency. Additionally, it left the door open to jealousy and other animosities where personal feelings among millennials, who were not fully qualified yet to judge someone’s work, could sabotage someone’s future career.

To add to the flawed intern review process, Lulu and Miriam asked everyone at the firm to provide feedback on an intern whether they had worked with them or not, which also corrupted the accuracy of the reviews.

This all came to a head during a six-month review of intern Liam Dahl, who worked with me at the L.A. office. Liam was overenthusiastic – almost to a fault – but his attitude was a breath of fresh air after the creepy indifference of previous intern, Don Caylak.

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Sure, Liam made some mistakes due to his inexperience, but he was a strong writer and showed real promise in media relations and actually secured placements for our clients. Liam also worked long hours and I had to eventually kick him out of the office when it was 8 or 9 p.m. It was a considerable improvement over Don who left at 5 p.m. every night no matter if there was still work that needed to be done.

Unfortunately, Liam ended up being a disloyal backstabber, but I will get more into that in the next chapter.

Despite my high assessment of Liam’s skills and his value to our agency, our co-workers loathed him. Maybe they were trying to get back at me, as I was also not well-liked at our agency. In Liam’s review, all of his fellow interns attacked his work, as did Molly in the NY office. Even that idiot Agnes, who didn’t even work closely with Liam, bashed him.

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I was furious and dumbfounded when Miriam showed me Liam’s internship review. She also had me read it in a meeting in front of Liam. It was beyond embarrassing. I objected to the rest of the team’s nasty evaluations of Liam and told her no one would know better than I whether Liam was a solid contributor to our agency. There was a lot of petty bullshit I read in my colleagues’ reviews of Liam’s work. Also, some of the fools that criticized Liam’s work were awful writers and couldn’t secure a top media placement if their lives depended on it. Additionally, I told Miriam it was ridiculous to have Agnes give feedback when she didn’t even work directly with Liam on accounts. Agnes was relying on hearsay or rumor in her case, which I told Miriam made the overall review process suspect.

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I had to fight hard against the objections of my colleagues, but eventually, Lulu and Miriam relented and Liam was hired. I also let them know that I thought the intern review process at our agency was deeply flawed and should be revamped or scrapped. I suggested that we should have top management make the call on hiring a prospective intern after talking to those the intern worked closely with, and evaluations from fellow interns should be either disregarded or not as highly considered in the hiring process. Lulu and Miriam reluctantly agreed and we went back to a more formal intern evaluation process going forward.

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However, no good deed ever went unpunished at the Yilmaz Agency.

Liam ultimately turned out to be an ungrateful backstabber, hiding his true malice toward me and the rest of the agency behind his smiling face.

 

The Millennial Who Asked for a Reference After Quitting With No Notice

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Every once in a while, Lulu would be contacted by her Turkish friends and acquaintances, who would inquire about our agency hiring their sons or daughters as interns. That is how Marissa Aslan joined our agency. It was the same for Don Caylak, an annoying and snotty Turkish-American millennial, who had recently graduated from a local university studying photojournalism.

When I first met Don, I actually thought he was still in high school. He said he was 24, but he didn’t look a day over 18. Don was thin with black hair and brown eyes and greeted any of my work requests with an obnoxious smirk. In fact, this was his constant expression. I guess you could say Don had a bad case of resting smirk face. So, he fit in well with the rest of the lame millennial crew at the Yilmaz Agency. Don only lost his smug, snotty expression when he had to deal with one of Lulu’s unreasonable demands.

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Don actually had no public relations experience and had taken no PR classes at school, but I didn’t hold that against him. I also had no PR education before I joined my first PR agency. It was his journalism experience that intrigued me. Don had worked at the school newspaper as I had while I was in college in Long Beach.

Unfortunately, our similarities ended there.

Don was not easy to manage, as he always thought he knew better, and didn’t seem much interested in learning anything from me. He displayed this snotty, smug attitude despite having weak writing skills and little desire to overcome his ignorance of basic public relations practices. Don honestly showed no enthusiasm in learning the public relations business at all. Don was only there because he was pressured by his parents to get experience in business following his graduation.

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So, there was only so much Don could help me with. Don could work on media lists and help me with some media pitching, but I had to drastically revise everything he attempted to write. His writing was fucking awful, and I wondered at times if I should have bothered to assign Don writing assignments and just done the work myself. I couldn’t help but lament again the quality of writing classes in college these days. Don had no grasp of the basics of writing, let alone public relations writing. Don didn’t seem to care, though, as he ignored my edits and continued to write poorly.

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Lulu also had Don work on research projects for her and it was no surprise she was unhappy with his shoddy work. However, Lulu didn’t do anything about Don’s incompetence, as she had basically forced the idiot on me. I didn’t have a chance to interview him for our intern position. Lulu just handed me his resume and said he would be helping me with no consideration of whether Don would be a good fit for our agency.

Don also would spend a lot of time during the workday texting his colleagues in the Chicago office or talking to them on the phone, including one noxious millennial named Pattie Kelleher. He had met Pattie when Don and I had made our first and only trip together to the Chicago office for Don’s training shortly after he joined our firm. He befriended Pattie and others, and later I can only assume Don started backstabbing me through texts during the workday. I had noticed that Pattie and others at the Chicago office had become more hostile toward me after Don came back from our Chicago trip.

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Also, during our Chicago trip, our creepy colleagues at the Yilmaz Agency didn’t even make an effort to entertain Don and me, and at least take us out to dinner or show us the town. We weren’t treated like valued colleagues, but like visiting idiots. I was offended by their unfriendly behavior, and it showed me just how diseased and crazy Lulu’s agency was. Maybe it was the general lack of manners I have seen with so many young people I have worked with in recent years. Or maybe they already hated us because the previous L.A. office managers before me hadn’t been popular with the Chicago office. At least, that is was Lulu told me. Who knows if it was true?

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So, I was stuck with having to entertain Don the night we were in Chicago, which was an awkward experience. After a long walk, we finally found an excellent Italian restaurant. Typically, our colleagues were no help, as no one in the Chicago office recommended a local place for us to eat. We were truly on our own.

During dinner, Don and I really didn’t have much to talk about except for how lame we thought our agency colleagues were. I now realize Don probably told our colleagues my displeasure with their lack of social manners and their lousy work performance.

Don also would mock things I would say or do right to my face. It was crazy. He would, in particular, accuse me of having a phobia about my iPhone running out of power, as I kept a charger with me to make sure I could keep my phone powered up. I had one of the older iPhones at the time with the earlier batteries that didn’t hold a charge for too long. I needed to keep my phone charged at all times for business, and also, I was in a strange city and knew no one there. I needed to be cautious and vigilant. In our modern times, a phone has become an important lifeline for us. Strangely, Don couldn’t understand that even though he spent most of his time at work, texting.

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I couldn’t wait to get back to my hotel room to be alone with my thoughts and lament how I could have taken such a shitty PR job that only seemed to get worse with each passing day. I also picked up some wine and a bag of chips to try to relieve my work sorrows. I felt better for a short time, but the next day I had to deal with our colleagues’ hostility, not to mention Lulu’s and Miriam’s demands, and endless meetings with the team before flying back home to California with the idiotic Don. I also remember overhearing Marissa talking with Don and her asking what we did the previous night. She wondered why we went to that particular Italian place, which was not one of the cooler places in the city. Marissa did this with a straight face while ignoring the fact that she and the rest of the team treated us like lepers and didn’t offer any dining suggestions, let alone consider joining us. Idiot.

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I was glad our stay at the Chicago office was short, only one day and night, for Don’s training, as I always felt depressed following a visit with my Chicago colleagues. It only reminded me that I needed to get a new job soon. In L.A., I had to deal with the Chicago office’s dysfunction from afar through email and the phone. Seeing it up close was far worse.

This time on the flight back I tried to ignore Don as much as possible. I just put on some earbuds and listened to music and he did the same.

Also, because of our idiotic HR person, Maurice Lemons, we didn’t have Wi-Fi on our flight, but this I didn’t mind as I had a brief respite from Lulu’s and Miriam’s constant demands and craziness.

As I had mentioned, things only got worse after that between Don and me. He began to blatantly fuck up on the easiest of assignments, and he truly didn’t seem to care. I knew I soon would have to talk with Lulu about replacing him and I wasn’t sure how she would take it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.

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A month or so after we got back from our Chicago trip, Don asked me to give him a ride to the airport to pick up his parents at LAX. His parents were an odd couple, to say the least. His father, who was in his early sixties, dressed as an older Bohemian surfer with sandals. Don’s mother was in her late fifties with dark hair and a nervous look on her face. She kept worrying we were going to get into an accident, as I tried to navigate my way out of LAX traffic after another long and horrible workday at the Yilmaz Agency.

However, Don’s parents, unlike their son, actually had manners and thanked me profusely for giving their son an opportunity to work at our agency.

I told them it was nothing, and it was our pleasure. In fact, only the first part of my response was correct. Don’s deteriorating performance did absolutely nothing to help our agency.

I recall Don telling me that his father was waiting for a big lawsuit case award for a disability back payment he was owed in Turkey. He really didn’t go into the details, but for some reason, Don’s father couldn’t work. I only mention this, as about a month later, Don showed up at our L.A. office one morning declaring that he had to quit his internship to take a job at Home Depot because his father had lost his case and someone in the family had to make an income. I was sympathetic, but Don left that morning without giving us any notice. It really fucked things up, as me and the Chicago office were relying on Don to handle certain media monitoring tasks for our clients, in addition, to pitching the media.

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I was furious, but I wished Don luck. I told Lulu what had happened and she said she would be talking to his parents about Don’s abrupt departure.

I told Lulu that going forward I wanted to interview anyone first before they joined our agency and that I preferred people that had an interest in working in public relations to avoid another debacle as we had with Don. Lulu agreed and she put out an ad for a new intern instead of relying on her Turkish friends.

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Now that should have been the end of the story.

A couple of weeks later, I got a call from someone at Home Depot, asking for a job reference for Don. The lame fucker had the gall to ask for a reference even after leaving without giving us an appropriate notice, or really any notice at all. It was unprofessional behavior, and naturally, we didn’t give Don a reference beyond that he worked as an intern at our agency. It was a standard response when someone was fired or quit on bad terms. The job reference call was indicative of Don’s cluelessness when it came to business or probably anything else in life.

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Maybe things are changing and giving businesses a two-week notice is no longer considered necessary by younger workers, but I still feel it is a show of respect to your former employer. There was no faster way to burn a bridge in the business world than to quit without leaving notice, as Don discovered that day. It was something I had to learn the hard way in my own career, and I suspect many other millennials like Don will be learning this hard lesson in the years to come.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 “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

 

 

Exclamation Points In Pitches and Press Releases!

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Another one of my big pet peeves in public relations is when my colleagues have used exclamation points in press releases and media pitches. It seems like overkill to me, and even worse appears cheesy and hokey like marketing, sales, and advertising copy.

Why is it a big deal?

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I can only imagine media people getting a lousy pitch or lame press release full of exclamation points and laughing and mocking the PR practitioner or agency to their colleagues before deleting it. There’s no worse way to ruin your reputation as PR practitioner than with bad writing, but then you add in exclamation points and it can only make you look worse.

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My goal in public relations is trying to write as much as possible like the media in my public relations writing. The media are the main audience of our press materials after all. Do you see news and feature articles from the top publications full of exclamation points? No. The best journalists and their editors know better.

Now I have no problem with fiction authors using exclamation points in their prose where appropriate. I just think it has no place in public relations writing.

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So it is no surprise when I joined the Yilmaz Agency, the team’s pitches and press releases used exclamation points quite liberally. I would take the exclamation points out in my editing and my colleagues – mostly clueless Millennials — would put them back in even after I told them that they were not needed in PR writing. Even Lulu didn’t get it at first. I mean for years she must have had lame press releases and pitches go out with exclamation points all through their copy.

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The worst culprit was the whiny Millennial, Andrew, who worked in the Chicago office. His writing was bad enough as his pitches and even press releases read like lame, slick marketing and sales copy, but it seemed he couldn’t write a sentence without using an exclamation point. It was crazy. And he was also the most resistant to my suggestion to remove them even when I used to edit them out and include a comment in the word document of why I removed them.

When Andrew left our firm a few months after I arrived, he was still stubbornly including exclamation points in his copy, which I frustratingly would have to keep removing. I think it was doing it in defiance after a while. I can only wonder if this fool is somewhere at a company or agency still writing lame copy with exclamation points, oblivious to how he is marring his PR and client’s business reputation through a small, but important punctuation choice.

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Even Lulu finally agreed with me when I told her it would make us look foolish to the media and didn’t object when I removed the offending exclamation points from our agency’s PR copy. If there is one positive thing I did at Lulu’s lame agency, it was influencing her and our team to stop using exclamation points in our copy. A small victory, I know, but at least it was something considering the hell I went through at her agency.

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Now clients through the years have also been a nightmare about using exclamation points in their press releases. Some have balked about me removing them until I explained that it could make them look bad to the media and were better used in marketing or advertising copy. Recently, I had a sports app client send me back editing revisions to his press release and he added in exclamation points to emphasize claims he couldn’t prove. So my challenge was to urge him to not only take out the claims but also the embarrassing exclamation points. After some convincing, the CEO, who was a nightmare that listened to no one, backed off when I told him we not only don’t include unfounded claims in our press release, but we never use exclamation points. He only agreed when I stressed that it could hurt his reputation with the media.

I have had to remove exclamation points along with bad, hyperbolic writing from my client’s press release edits more times than I can recall.

It may seem like a small thing, but everything you do down to a simple choice of a punctuate mark can damage you and your client’s reputation with the media and business community.

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So to avoid looking like a PR fool that the media mocks, don’t use exclamation points in your PR writing!!

There. I used even two exclamation points, but this is a fictional blog after all.

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.