VP of Panic – Saturday Night Panic Texts From Hell

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I’ve had my share of bad bosses, but the combination of Lulu Yilmaz and her vice president Miriam Letti at the Yilmaz Agency were by far the worst.

They questioned and micromanaged my every move to death. It was a suffocating and unfulfilling experience, to say the least.

Looking back on the crazy debacle years later I am still not sure how I got through the experience without losing my mind.

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Lulu and Miriam used to play a twisted good cop and bad cop routine with our agency staff.

Miriam, who I dubbed the VP of Panic for her panicking about every stressful situation Lulu (not to mention our clients) caused, 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.

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In fact, I suspected something was off during our first job interview via Skype that took months to set up. Miriam came across as over-enthusiastic and shallow, but even worse she lied to me about the company’s horrible, unsupportive culture, and her and Lulu’s extensive micromanaging of employees.

I basically found out later that Miriam was a shallow former TV producer, which explained a lot. She knew more about media relations than Lulu did, which wasn’t much, but her writing and PR expertise overall were suspect. Her writing was weak and not a strong as she thought it was.

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Actually, my first day at the agency I knew I was probably in trouble when Miriam criticized me for not having a strong demeanor or speaking voice during initial agency and client conference calls. To be fair, I was still learning about the agency and I was somewhat hesitant to inflict my experience and knowledge on people I just met.

Also, I am somewhat reserved anyway and not some slick TV performer, which is maybe what she was used to or expecting.

Despite her act of pretending to be so kind and understanding, Miriam’s mask would fall and she would panic and attack us when Lulu criticized the staff for not living up to her crazy standards. She never defended us to Lulu or had our backs. She was basically scared to stand up to Lulu and so she took it out on the staff.

No surprise that Miriam and Lulu were as thick as thieves as micromanagement queens.

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So, as you can imagine, weekends were a refuge for me where I tried to get away from Lulu’s and Miriam’s craziness. I was rarely successful as these freaks sadly never stopped working.

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.

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One Saturday night early on in my time at the agency showed me what hell I had blundered into.

It was following a brutal and stressful week when two whiny Millennials, Carol and Andrew, left our firm during the same time and I had to take over their clients. So now I had to do a crash course on four new clients in addition to my own five clients. During one of the conference calls, our client, a phone case manufacturer, was very reticent and was bothered Carol had left. I had to navigate my way through this client landmine the best I could as I still learning about the client’s business. I thought it had gone OK, but Miriam had thought otherwise.

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As I tried to enjoy dinner at my favorite New York pizza place located in Long Beach, this freak Miriam began sending me panicked texts worried about my phone demeanor during the recent client calls. She was concerned if I could handle the extra work and that our client would lose faith in our ability to perform because of my reticent communication skills. I was beyond furious. I was talking with PR clients when this idiot was still a TV producer. I wasn’t some inexperienced fool that just came out of college or something.

Even worse was that fool Miriam ruined my Saturday night, not to mention weekend, right before heading on vacation to Cabo San Lucas for a week. Have a nice trip, fool, I bitterly thought as I texted her back that everything would work out and I would take of it. So while Miriam was enjoying the beautiful beaches of Cabo, I was left to deal with the ugliness of Lulu, who only seemed to get worse when Miriam was gone.

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Miriam not only wrecked my dinner and weekend but made me question whether I should even be working for her and Lulu.

That Saturday night I did my first pros and cons exercise on whether I should stay with the Yilmaz Agency and the cons filled almost two pages. It was obvious I had made a huge mistake joining the Yilmaz Agency only several months into the job.

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Another low point occurred when during my first CES with them a month later, Lulu and Miriam arrived in Las Vegas and began attacking me about my work for our e-commerce company client that I brought to the agency (and used to work for).

Several lazy millennials complained I was doing all the work on the account. Actually, I had to do most of the work as they were pathetic and I couldn’t let down my former employer with mediocre work. I had worked to bring them into the agency and assured them they would get the same great work I had delivered when I worked for their company.

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“Don’t you want to work as a team?” Lulu said. “Don’t you want help? I don’t want you doing all the work yourself. We need you on other clients.”

“Why don’t you trust your team?” Miriam chimed in. “They feel left out and that you don’t trust them.”

Honestly, I didn’t trust this so-called team of lazy Millennials to take our e-commerce client as seriously as I did.

I remember being so livid in the back of the taxi as they berated me and wanting to quit right there and leave, but I couldn’t do that to our clients not to mention my reputation as a PR executive. So, I told them reluctantly I would trust the team more and assign them more work. But I was beyond furious. I was still kicking ass for our e-commerce client while doing the same for the other three agency clients at CES, and I did this despite the lame help I got from my so-called teammates.

My days and nights were long and nightmarish at the Yilmaz Agency. Because of the West Coast time difference between Chicago and New York, my work day would start at 6 a.m. when I got up out of bed and tried to answer all of the phone calls and emails that were waiting for me. I had to do this still try to get to the L.A. office in a timely manner. It felt like I had already gone to work even before I did. Many days I dreaded getting out of bed and seeing the onslaught of phone, text, and emails on my phone.

My days were only made longer and more stressful because of Miriam and her constant micromanagement of my work. She would finish up 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.  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.

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I also even remember once Miriam giving me shit about asking for the day after Christmas off?!! It is a dead media/public relations day with nothing going on and I hardly ever took days off anyway. She finally relented, but she made me feel like I was being an asshole about it.

A couple of months after I joined the agency, Lulu’s former husband Hasan Yilmaz did a consulting project to try and stop the ongoing and excessive employee turnover at the agency and interviewed all of the agency’s employees. The results were very critical of Lulu’s and Miriam’s heavy-handed management style.

According to Palmer, one of the few cool Millennials that worked in the Chicago office, Miriam started crying when the report was shown to her. Very unprofessional and so typical of her lame management style. She also didn’t change like Lulu following this damning report. They both blamed the employees for being ingrates and unappreciative.

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A year or so later, following a scare with a cancer diagnosis, Miriam decided she needed a less stressful position and took a job with one of our Chicago area competitors. She did this right after going to CES with Lulu and myself and pretended she was a team player and would stick around for the long haul. Unfortunately, I had to go on new business meetings with someone that was already preparing to leave. Not exactly professional, but hardly uncharacteristic of her phony ways.

However, I don’t fault Miriam for leaving as working for Lulu was not exactly good for someone’s health.

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Lulu went ballistic upon hearing the news, and after Miriam left, she began tearing her down even though she always praised her.

It was her typical line of attack. “I heard from clients that they were not happy with Miriam and her management…she had let a lot of things go lately.”

It was classic Lulu. Once you left her, you let her down. It was never her fucking fault for being such a horrible manager and scaring people away.

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I was glad Miriam was gone, but unfortunately, the person who replaced her months later, Dane Flynn, proved even worse as you already know from my previous blog.

Of course, I didn’t miss Miriam’s late-night panic texts and emails which was something Dane thankfully did not do.

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Panic just like fear is a horrible place to manage from and it always drives people away.

 

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.

 

 

 

The CEO That Turned Down a Forbes Cover Story

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A Forbes Magazine cover story is one of the most coveted media placements in public relations.

Most PR practitioners go their entire careers without landing one.

I still haven’t. However, there is the one that got away…

One time in my career…I actually had a client turn down a Forbes print cover article.

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Yes, you read that correctly.

He had no good reason.

He wasn’t going to be indicted for a crime or hiding any financial impropriety. At least, I don’t think so.

He was just being another idiot although I must admit this idiocy reached a new low in my career. I am used to having my ass busted for not securing media opportunities like this.

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Naturally, he was my boss Lulu’s favorite client, an emerging company in the housewares market. She built her firm on his company’s unlikely success story.

Yet our client was still overshadowed by older and more well-established brands in the housewares space. Frankly, our client needed this kind of national media.

However, a few months before, this same CEO, who I will call Rob Walker, was interviewed for an industry Wall Street Journal article and wasn’t all that impressed.

That should have been a sign of trouble ahead.

What’s worse is that I worked on landing this Forbes cover story for six months.

I reached out to business writer Rex Terrell with a pitch that Lulu actually rejected. Also, the pitch wasn’t favored by the uptight, paper pusher named Molly Paulson that managed the account for our agency. I will write more about Molly in a future blog.

They again didn’t like me focusing on how the company’s CEO built the company into a billion-dollar company through infomercials and hocking his homemade housewares products at trade shows.

As usual, Lulu and my colleagues were clueless.

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It took repeated follow up and staying in touch with Rex for months to make this story opportunity happen.

When Rex finally gave the word that he was planning a cover profile I was so elated. Lulu, Molly, and our team were excited as well. At least, they seemed to be.

Now, this media breakthrough came after months of Lulu verbally attacking our team in “media relations beatdowns” over this account. We drafted many different pitches about our client’s business story, but no one on the team could land any top tier interest except myself.

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 However, our client was strangely indifferent to the Forbes cover opportunity.

Nicole Williams, one of our client’s communications directors, sounded pleased, but she also seemed disappointed as well. This as we later found out was because she was trying to get the CEO to fire us and hire her friend that had a competing firm. We actually discovered that Nicole (and the CEO) had already secretly hired our competitors, but they couldn’t land anything like Forbes.

So naturally, Nicole also proved no help when the opportunity went south.

Also, Nicole told us that the CEO seemed nervous that the profile could expose a troubled family past at the root of his company. Actually, he had broken away from his family’s business to start his own. His business had become more successful than his family’s business causing a rift between him and his relatives. He was estranged from them and didn’t want them included in the article.

I explained this to the writer Rex and he seemed OK with this.

However, Rex wanted to fly out to the company’s Chicago area headquarters and spend a day at the company, which would include lengthy interviews with the CEO, company VP, and other top directors. He essentially wanted to develop a day in the life profile of our client’s company.

Nicole said the CEO and everyone else was OK with it and were excited to spend time with Rex telling the company story.

I must confess I had visions of a Forbes cover story eventually being featured on my Linked IN profile and as part of my portfolio (and to eventually help me escape Lulu’s hell).

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So, imagine my frustration and anguish went all of my hard work went to waste.

I had to inform him on the day of the interview that the CEO was having second thoughts and was seriously considering canceling the interview.

Unfortunately, Rex had already taken a flight from New York and arrived in Chicago the day before the scheduled interview.

Nicole told our team that the CEO couldn’t spend the whole day with Rex and he was nervous about him talking to the rest of his team.

She said he could only spend 90 minutes with Rex.

“Our CEO never spends that much time with anyone let alone a Forbes writer,” Nicole said. “He is also worried about him asking too many questions about his family and his past.”

I assured her that wouldn’t be the case, but the CEO wouldn’t change his mind and spend the day with Rex.

 What the fuck is a day to put your brand on the map with a cover story on the most respected financial publication in the world?

Ahh…then I realized once again I was working in bush leagues with fake, scared business people that had no bold vision. Not the first and nor the last time I am afraid.

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I was mortified when I had to tell Rex that he could only interview the company’s CEO for 90 minutes and he couldn’t spend the day at the company’s headquarters and speak with the rest of the team.

Rex was furious.

“Ninety minutes? I need more time than that with the CEO and his team,” he said. “This is a cover story and I want to get a feel for how the company operates during a day. I need more time. Can’t you ask him to reconsider? This is a Forbes cover story. I flew all the way out here from New York to see him.”

I told him I would try again, but Nicole told us the CEO wouldn’t change this mind and spend more time with Rex.

I don’t think Nicole cared either way and she didn’t push the CEO to do the story because she wanted her friend’s firm to take over our client’s business pitching exclusively.

Lulu and Molly also proved little or no help either in saving the story. Lulu, who had a long relationship with the CEO, could have picked up the phone and tried to convince him but was afraid to go over Nicole’s head and maybe lose the entire PR account business as we also did product PR outreach for the company.

This opportunity hardly mattered to Nicole who was already trying to sabotage the story and our firm’s standing with the company.

I was beyond embarrassed and pissed when I had to go back to Rex and let him know the CEO wouldn’t give him more time.

I apologized profusely, but he was not happy. How you could blame him?

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We acted like fucking amateurs and wasted his time.

Rex angrily went back to New York and had to inform his editors who canceled the story.

After all that work, we were left with nothing.

In the ensuing months, Lulu got annoyed if I even mentioned this Forbes debacle.

In fact, if I had been really bold and had balls, I would quit in protest over this latest sorry episode at our agency, but unfortunately, I still needed the paycheck. In retrospect, truly no paycheck or amount of money is worth this kind of hell.

Sadly, Lulu continued to push our team to secure business stories and I would tell her and team that we had a Forbes cover and they turned it down.

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We were not going to get a business story opportunity better than that.

Lulu and the rest of the team knew this, but they wouldn’t admit it.

Still, Lulu pushed the team to send out more business pitches on behalf of the client, but we were never able to match the opportunity I secured.

Also, after that, I only went through the motions and pretended to care about getting any more business opportunities for this loser CEO.

In an ironic twist, we were fired from the account’s business media outreach shortly after.

In the end, the damage had been done with the writer.

Rex never trusted me after that and ignored my future pitches even when he left Forbes for another business publication.

Do you blame him?

 

 

 

The Business Magazine Cover Photoshoot Meltdown

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I will call this the business magazine cover photoshoot meltdown.

I had worked more than six months to arrange for a business cover story for Azra Yalman, one of the general managers based out of the Los Angeles office of our airline client.

Now, this was a big fucking deal for our agency as I soon discovered as Azra also happened to be close friends with my boss, Lulu Yilmaz.

Azra, who was a Turkish woman in her early forties with black hair and brown eyes, would put on this timid act and pretend that she was so nice. She always acted so apologetic when reaching out to us with some crazy and unreasonable demand. Actually, it was a façade to hide that Azra was a horrible prima donna and narcissist just like Lulu.

When I joined the agency, there was a lot of pressure on me to find a business story for Azra focusing on her impressive rise through the airlines’ executive ranks. For a while, I received no interest until one of my business contacts was intrigued with her story and we set up an interview and photoshoot.

Interesting background on this as well. When I developed the pitch, I had several Millennials, who thankfully left the agency soon after, and Lulu, attack my pitch I had developed about Azra. They thought it was too personal and would never work. They changed it into some boring bullshit, but I sent my original version to the business editor anyway.  Apparently, I wasn’t such a fucking idiot after all.

So much for having supportive and knowledgeable colleagues. What a joke.

Yet an early incident should have shown me what I was in for with Azra.

During my first couple of months at Lulu’s agency, I had to attend a travel trade show in San Diego to support Azra and our airline client.

I had set up several interviews at our client’s booth and Azra seemed pleased overall with my work.

However, during one of the interviews on the second day of the show, I accidentally introduced Azra to a travel writer as “Azra Asaroglu,” which was her married name and was listed on all of her emails. She got divorced apparently and Yalman was her maiden name. In my defense, I was not told that she hated her married name or even that she was divorced (or even married for that matter).

Azra became livid although she didn’t say anything at the time. She just gave me the cold shoulder and acted strangely and standoffish for the rest of the show. I knew something was wrong but I wasn’t sure.

When I got back to the office, Lulu told me that Azra was offended that I had used her married name when introducing her and wondered if she could work with me again.

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I was disgusted and shocked and it was a rude awakening to the kind of nightmare I was in for with Azra and our airline client in general.

However, in the ensuing months, Azra warmed up to me again as I continued to secure media for her and had set up the business interview and photoshoot.

Azra also had a freaky public relations manager named Pam McKibbon, who was a haggard Caucasian woman in her early fifties that appeared a lot older. She was always hostile toward Lulu and our agency and acted as if we were trying to steal her job or something. It was a classic case of the PR person who worked inside the company being threatened by a PR agency. It is something I have experienced more times than I can recount during my long PR career. So, naturally, Pam was also unfriendly to me and was little or no help during the photoshoot disaster. In a later chapter, I will discover just how much of act Pam was putting on while working at the airline, but there was no sign at this time that she was cool or interesting in any way.

The business magazine sent a photographer I had worked with in the past while at another agency named Sherry Jenkins. She was a talented and experienced photographer in her early forties, who had also shot my own headshot. I was relieved to see her when I arrived at the airline’s L.A. office where we had arranged the shoot to take place as I knew she would make things go smoothly and she delivered professional work. Little did she or I realize the nightmare we had in store for us.

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The first sign of trouble is when Azra showed up for the shoot three hours late. This more than concerned Sherry who worried if Azra had forgotten all about it. I assured her that was not the case, but I checked with Pam anyway, however; she wasn’t much help.

“I don’t know where she is,” Pam said.

When Azra finally arrived almost four hours late for her own photoshoot, she acted strange and reluctant to participate. Then she kept calling someone on her phone and speaking Turkish. Later I found out she was calling my boss Lulu to complain about the shoot she was three and almost now four hours late for. This was so fucking rude and embarrassing that I had to apologize to Sherry several times, who was becoming frantic and frustrated.

Finally, after more cajoling from Sherry and myself, Azra began to pose for photos. Unfortunately, she kept resisting Sherry’s suggestions and kept holding up the shoot. After Sherry finally got some shots done, Azra retreated to her office to call Lulu again and to even check her emails.

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Sherry was beside herself.

“What are we going to do, Jake?” Sherry said. “I’ve been here more than five hours and only have a few shots done.”

Then I got a call from Lulu.

“Jake…what’s going on over there?” Lulu said harshly. “I keep getting calls from Azra that she is unhappy with the shoot and photographer.”

Unfortunately, Sherry overheard Lulu’s comment (another embarrassment), so I quickly walked outside the office and assured Lulu everything was all right.

“I hope so, Jake. I am counting on you to manage the shoot. We could lose the client if this continues.”

“No worries, Lulu,” I said. “I am taking of it.”

We could lose the client?!

It was bad enough I had to deal with our prima donna, crazy client, but Lulu’s scare tactics only made things worse.

It took a lot more coaxing from me to get Azra to resume the shoot, but unfortunately, she continued to resist the photographer’s direction.

Then the whole photoshoot went south in a horrible way that still haunts me when I think about it.

Sherry tried to get some lifestyle shots of Azra interacting with her fellow employees. She suggested that Azra pose for a photo with one of her younger employees, a dark-haired man in his early twenties, and Azra went ballistic.

“No!… I will not take a picture with him! I hate him!,” Azra shouted and then she stormed back into her office and called Lulu again.

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Then of course came the inevitable call from Lulu who berated me again and repeated her warning that “we were going to lose the client!”

Pam came up to me and told me that Azra had canceled the photoshoot, but after I apologized to Azra profusely she reluctantly decided to finish it.

But she repeated several times that “I won’t take a picture with him! I hate him!”

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The even more shocking thing was Azra was general manager of the office and west coast region for the airline and she still melted down this way in front a member of the media. Even more baffling is I thought Azra was the boss and the person she hated worked for her! Yet she came across as a powerless, petulant, and immature child.

Sherry naturally was mortified and kept asking me if Azra was OK.

How were either of us to know that we would offend Azra simply by asking her to pose with one of her employees?

Finally, after Sherry did some quick and simple set up shots with Azra posing with airline props and standing in front of the airlines’ logo, the nightmare photoshoot was over 10 hours after it was supposed to start.

Azra apologized to Sherry profusely and thanked her. Sherry said it was no problem but she still appeared shook up as she quickly packed up her photography equipment and made a quick exit.

I was beyond embarrassed and didn’t know what to say except to thank Sherry for her patience.

Azra thanked me too, but she didn’t apologize. She then went back to her office and called Lulu again, but this time apparently everything was OK.

Lulu called me as I was leaving and thanked me for managing the photoshoot and she shared that Azra was happy that I was there and excited to see how photos came out.

WTF?!! Azra basically loses her shit and puts me and the photographer through hell and she can’t wait to see the photos!??

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As drove down the 405 Freeway toward our office after my call with Lulu, I seriously pondered quitting. It was beyond a demoralizing experience and made me question what I was doing with my career but also my life.

After the business cover finally came out four months later, Azra was ecstatic and praised Sherry for her photos and was very pleased with me for setting it up.

Yet when Azra tried to book Sherry for another photoshoot, she refused.

Sherry told me later that she was disturbed by Azra’s unprofessional behavior.

“She really seemed angry and disturbed during the photoshoot. I am uncomfortable going through something like that again,” Sherry said. “I have done thousands of photoshoots with top CEOs and business executives and I have never experienced a meltdown like that.”

Azra tried to smooth over things with me by sending me flowers and chocolates at our office, which I threw out in a dumpster after I left work.

There was no way I was going to be bought off like that.

A few months later, Azra even sent me a roundtrip airline ticket to Turkey, which I didn’t use to my regret — I was too busy, overworked and broke to actually take a vacation — but in retrospect maybe it was for the best.

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No amount of gifts could take away the ugliness of the way she treated me during her meltdown.  Nothing could make up for me having to deal with her crazy ass.

My job was hard enough, but this was a craziness I could do without.

I had heard of horror stories from celebrity PR people having to deal with meltdowns like this on a daily basis, (another reason I avoid entertainment PR), but until you actually go through it, you have no idea how horrible such a client tantrum can be.

 

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

Social Media Hack

 

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Sadly,  I have worked with my share of social media hacks in my public relations career. Most of them have no idea the role of public relations and how it can be leveraged in social media to benefit clients. More on that in future posts.

However, one of the worst social media managers I have worked with in my career was a strange Millennial freak I will call Lark.

In his mid-twenties, scrawny with short hair, Lark was a strange, awkward and unfriendly freak.  Lark used to wear track clothes, shorts, and tennis shoes to our office and would run (yes, run!!) past my office numerous times a day to visit my boss few offices down like a punk kid.  It was beyond annoying.

One day during summer, he even wore flip-flops to our office. Sorry, call me old-fashioned but flip-flops don’t belong in a work environment. This is work not fucking vacation. Unfortunately, his attention to his work reflected this attitude.

Lark was hostile toward me from my first day at our agency. Not sure why. Him and Code Boy went to lunch on my first day and didn’t even invite me along. Not exactly welcoming. Kind of like onboarding in hell. It gave me a glimpse right away into the dysfunctional situation I had walked into.

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The worst thing about Lark was that he was dumb. He had little or no creativity or intellectual curiosity about his job or anything else. Not exactly a good trait for someone who is supposed to have his pulse on the media and pop culture for promoting our agency’s clients.

Frankly, he was a social media manager only one year out of college who was in over his head.  He had some strange notions as well about social media.

Lark was so afraid of posting too many social media items for our clients, he rarely posted at all so our clients’ social presence actually got worse after they hired us.

Lark actually had the gall to say to me once that he took public relations classes in school and knew a lot about PR, but honestly, he was fucking clueless about what I did for our clients.

It was so frustrating to secure numerous high-profile media placements for our clients and for my work not be represented in our clients’ social media pages. Lark never had any communication with me to find out what I working on and honestly, he didn’t care. Lark and I hated each other and there was no hiding it. It wasn’t just our age difference. He had shown no respect for me even though I was experienced and knew what I was doing. I had no respect for his incompetence and inexperience and my success made him look bad.

But the bottom line: our client’s social media suffered from this fool.

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When we went to the new business presentation to a Chinese company in Silicon Valley (which I mentioned in my previous blog), which was for social media and not PR, Lark didn’t present to the client. He hardly said anything at all until forced to by our boss.

The boss’ other son Brian, also a Millennial, a former gym trainer who sadly handles our new business outreach with no experience!!!, had to give the presentation, which was questionable as well. But at least he did it.

Is it any wonder we didn’t get the business.

This is when I realized just how much our agency was in trouble with Lark handling our social media.

I once asked my boss why he didn’t replace Lark as he was clearly incompetent. My boss said he didn’t want to bring on a more experienced social media manager because they would demand more money. So instead, he cheaped out, and our agency’s performance suffered because of it.

Strangely, the only time Lark was sociable at all was with his Millennial colleagues.

Lark’s shallow partner in Millennial crime was naturally Lydia. But he also hung out a lot with a strange Millennial freak from India that joined our team to do research and help out with social media. Arushi was very short and wide, long black hair and an odd looking round face. She was very timid and shy, quiet and also only came out of her shell around other Millennials, namely Lark and Lydia.  Yet Arushi always had this notion that people were trying to hit on her if anyone got too friendly, too. I saw how she got weird once when Code Boy was friendly toward her.

Arushi hardly said anything to me and was actually hostile because of poisoning from Lydia and Lark. She even rudely bumped against me during a new business meeting with a client. I was so outraged by her rudeness I barely could stay long for the meeting.

Yet Arushi was a fraud, too, of sorts. My boss and  Brian praised her research skills, yet I once had her do a competitive analysis for one of our PR clients. It was inadequate, to say the least. The interns I eventually hired to help me in my PR department made her work look terrible. However, she took the cake for me, when before she left our firm, she actually walked into my boss’ office and demanded a $70K salary to stay working there as her internship was coming to a close. She was barely out of school and knew nothing about marketing or social media and was asking for this??? Millennial stupidity and arrogance will never cease to amaze me.

So, after several months there, I finally had it with Lark, and his inept ways and let my boss know of my displeasure with his lame social media performance, and his having no communication with me. It all came to head as my boss and Lark got into a series of arguments about his lame performance and willful ignorance.

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This didn’t improve anything between me and Lark, but it did lead to his departure from our firm a couple of months later much to my relief.

However, be careful what you wish for.

Lark’s replacement was actually worse.

More on that in my next blog.

 

TEAM LUNCH?

 

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Sometimes I wonder how I ended up here…working late in my career at an agency that has a staff made up of mostly interns attending college or recent graduates.

So naturally, you can imagine I work in Millennial hell. (I will write more about my disdain for Millennial attitudes and work habits in later posts, but I will only make a passing comment on it for this post).

Being a veteran of the business and much older than these interns, you can imagine that I didn’t have a lot in common with them, to begin with.

However, I am a firm believer that you shouldn’t use the word TEAMWORK if you truly don’t have an understanding of its meaning in a workplace environment. Cliquish, high school behavior should be avoided and is anathema to building a supportive team culture. Unfortunately, many of the Millennials I have worked with have no concept of this and exhibit rude, standoffish behavior like they are still in high school or in a college fraternity.

And yes…sadly ageism is alive and well in the public relations industry, too. But more on that later.

This blog post will focus on an idiotic co-worker I will call Lydia. She is a 24-year-old recent graduate from a local southern California college.  Lydia started out as an intern but was later hired by the agency as a graphic artist. My boss, who actually is pretty cool as far PR bosses go, but that is not saying much, thinks Lydia walks on water. However, I constantly find errors in her work for websites and campaign pages. She hates when I point it out.

I think real reason my boss likes Lydia is that he can get her cheap as she is just out of college rather than having to pay more for an experienced person, who is more professional. My boss is cheap, which I won’t dwell on too much in this blog, but even he is not the cheapest person I have worked for in public relations. I’ll explore that more in future blogs about how hard it truly is to make money in the public relations business.

Lydia is a short, chubby Latina woman with a strange, round face, bad teeth, stringy red hair, who thinks she is the shit. She is not. She also speaks very quickly (uses definitely a lot) and even mispronounces words in client meetings. It can get embarrassing at times.

Lydia also is shallow and constantly laughs (more of a high-pitched cackle to be honest) at jokes and videos on the internet and comments from her colleagues Norman and Alireza, who are not funny at all.

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Norman is the bosses’ son, who I call Code Boy, as he creates websites for our agency. He is in his thirties, tall with short hair, a goatee, and an odd, arrogant and unfriendly demeanor. He wears pilot shades while in the office and thinks he is so cool. He is not. However, his own father warned me during a trade show trip that Norman could be a cold person and not to take it personally.  Actually, I think he is two-faced and creepy, and I remember when I joined the agency, Code Boy didn’t talk to me for several weeks.

Even worse, Code Boy actually thinks he knows more about public relations than I do and he critiques my emails to clients at times, and even my press releases, although he knows nothing about PR.  One time when I went to a Dodger game, soon after I joined the firm, he tried to get an inappropriate media pitch for a military client pushed through my department without my approval. I stopped that immediately and spoke with his father and he never tried that bullshit again.  Now, during our conversations, usually, after everyone has gone home, I notice Norman looking for every little mistake or sign of weakness I show to share with Lydia and the rest of team to mock me behind my back. So I am much more careful what I say around Code Boy now.

Lydia’s other compadre is Alireza, a scrawny creep with a beard who joined the agency as a graphic artist a few months ago. I have never exchanged more than a few words with this fool, but he has always been unfriendly toward me.

How can you hate someone you don’t even know?

I can only think it is because of what I call Lydia’s “poison.”  Her hatred of me has always been there since I joined the agency and didn’t want to engage in dumb small talk with her. But two other factors, a dumb social media millennial fool who used to work at our agency who also despised me, and something I will call THE BRAZILIAN INCIDENT, also turned Lydia against me. I will explore these subjects in later blogs.

So, at the end of each week, Lydia will walk around and invite all the Millennial workers in the office to what she calls a “team lunch.” (Norman is the only one invited that is not a young Millennial out of school, but he is the boss’ son after all).

Lydia does this right in front of me, knowing I can hear her do it. It is a form of shunning me, but I have come to believe it is much worse.  Lydia calls her lunch backstabbing sessions “team lunches” but since she doesn’t invite everyone on the team, it can’t be a team lunch.  Lydia has no idea how high school and dumb that is.

I used to think nothing about it and figured they were all young and wanted to talk about school and other trivial matters Millennials love.

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However, I soon came to believe Lydia’s “team lunches” had a much more sinister purpose toward me and were doing serious damage to collaboration and so-called teamwork in our agency.  She used these lunches to bash me and my PR work at our agency yet she also knows nothing about public relations.  I began to notice this when Lydia started inviting interns that worked on my PR team to her lunches. Before they went to lunches with Lydia, the interns that worked for me were supportive and respectful. They were eager to learn. After Lydia’s lunches, they became unfriendly and even disrespectful and unprofessional at times. The female interns’ reactions were even worse. They became wary of me as if I was going to hit on them or to do something inappropriate, which would never be the case.  A future blog about the BRAZILIAN INCIDENT will make this nightmare more clear.

Even Louis, who works for me and I will call MBA boy, (and will write about more in a future post), has also been poisoned by Lydia’s lunches. His attitude used to be much more respectful and supportive but has turned unfriendly and questioning in recent months.

I know I am not imagining things as I was reminded of again recently when we had three new interns join our agency, and they were all friendly toward me until they went to lunch with Lydia. Now the new interns are unfriendly, ignore me and are even borderline hostile toward me. And they don’t even know me. I can only imagine all the horrible things Lydia is saying behind my back. It has been hard to deal with at times as I already hate my job, but I have grown to hate this creepy Millennial agency culture even more.

It has come to the point where I don’t even bother to befriend new people who join our agency as I know they will soon be poisoned by Lydia against me. I have seen it happen so many times over the past year.

And women say they are not vindictive.

It is a sad fact I have to face — I have no allies here except for my boss. I’ve had allies in the past at other agencies, but not here.

I am feeling isolated and left out a lot during most of my work days. There is no real sense of team at our agency. Although everyone here pretends differently.

I just want to work with cool and supportive people and make more money.

Is that too much to ask for?

 

 

 

 

Being a Publicist is a Thankless Job…

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Being a publicist or public relations executive is truly a thankless job.

Publicists get no respect. It is even worse than comedian Rodney Dangerfield could have imagined.  Everyone dumps on us — the media, lame advertising people who don’t understand public relations, and worst of all — clients.

Public relations clients are never satisfied. It is kind of like being in a relationship with a nymphomaniac or sex addict. No matter what we do — securing front page magazine and newspaper articles, intriguing online profiles, top TV coverage, etc. — it is never enough. They always want more, more, and even more…like true media whores.

Your past successes mean little in the public relations industry as far as clients are concerned.  PR clients’ overall attitude and mantra remain constant: “What have you done for me lately?”

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Sadly, most of the clients I have encountered and worked with through the years, have little or no clue about what us publicists actually do for them, the actual difficulty of the job, and the true nature of how the media works. They want everything yesterday even though obtaining media relations always takes much longer than anyone thinks, and is a time-consuming and frustrating process that requires diligence, and patience — the one quality most clients I have known…lack.

I could write a 10 volume encyclopedia about what clients don’t know about public relations and even that wouldn’t cover it.  Each PR campaign launch requires a constant educational effort for clients who expect instant media coverage. Keeping clients’ expectations within realistic and achievable goals is an ongoing job that never stops.

The main problem is too many people don’t really know what public relations actually is and what role PR can play in promoting a company and building brands over time. Too often they confuse it with advertising where you may control and pay for the message, but it doesn’t have the same credibility as public relations, which is simply free earned publicity for of your company, etc.

Yet even trying to explain this difference to friends and family is a daunting and frustrating challenge.  A typical conversation goes like this:

Family member or Friend: “So…you’re in advertising?”

You: “No…public relations.”

Family or friend: “That’s the same as advertising…isn’t it?”

You: “No. Not exactly. In public relations, we don’t control the message of our clients. We provide free publicity. In advertising, they buy the message and essentially ad space or time.  We have to earn public relations coverage by telling stories and promoting the news value of our clients…”

At that point, your family member or friend stares at you blankly in abject confusion.

“Oh, OK,” they say and quickly move on to another subject.

So once again we get no respect as no one, including our clients, truly understand what we do and the true value of what a strategic public relations campaign can overall bring to enhancing a company’s reputation.

Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t just stay in journalism. I might be hated but people would at least understand what I do.

The funny thing is I thought public relations would be a cushy, high-paying job. Boy, was I ever wrong.  You couldn’t blame me, though.  I was an underpaid, overworked high school and college sports editor for a Southern California daily newspaper. I actually loved the work and writing but hated the late hours, constant deadline pressure, and ridiculously low pay.  At one point, I worked 45 straight days without a day off. I worked almost every holiday and most Friday and Saturday nights. I even worked Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve one year. It was hell on my social life, to say the least.

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Even if I wasn’t at the office, I could be called into work on a moment’s notice or would have to work on articles at home. I was stressed out and couldn’t ever seem to relax and get away.   I see now that it was my first introduction to work burnout. I figured public relations couldn’t be that bad, but PR had its own downsides I didn’t foresee.  As a reporter, if a reader doesn’t like one of your stories, they can write a letter to the editor, call the editor to complain or post nasty online comments under the story. However, generally, you don’t lose your job over reader complaints. There still exists a US vs. Them mentality in journalism even today.

In public relations, if a client complains to your boss about your performance–  you could be gone. As with many other industries, there isn’t a lot of employer loyalty in PR especially when it comes to public relations clients and the business they bring into an agency or firm.  The client is always right even if they are so completely wrong. They pay the bills as advertisers, and to a lesser extent, subscribers, do for news organizations.

Also, you can remind your clients a million times that you have no control over the media and you need to approach the media with modesty, finesse, and creativity, and all they want to know is why you couldn’t get their lame product or story covered in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Even at times when you land a huge placement for your clients,  they will still complain and ask why the media didn’t just print their comments from the press release or their favored message points. They essentially want to turn the media into their own publicity outlet with no regards to the news value of their product or story or the media’s own needs to tell an interesting story to their readers.

You can painstakingly explain this media dynamic to clients like they are a 3-year-old and many of them still won’t get it.

Recently, I was reminded of this media dynamic at the CES show in Vegas. I had one client that became the hit of the show and received an avalanche of coverage. They get the role of PR in launching their business and support our efforts and the planning that went into it. They treat us more as a partner in their business than a vendor.

The other client we had at CES began complaining and demanding instant coverage even just 12 hours after launching their press release at the show. Their product was hardly anything new or truly groundbreaking at a show that specializes in just that.  Still, eventually, our team rallied to get our client interest from a major business publication and an interview with another high profile publication at their booth.

The bullshit never ends.

Even though I have been able to effectively transfer my journalism skills to the PR world, I have long since lost patience with the bullshit side of the PR business. This why my career has been a revolving door, and an endless and ongoing search for the perfect public relations job and agency that I am beginning to realize may not exist. Still, I hold out hope…but can’t help thinking that I am deluding myself.

So…welcome to my life in public relations hell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Introduction of sorts…about a frank look into public relations hell…

 

I wanted to start this blog to share my experiences, funny stories, crazy anecdotes, hard lessons as a public relations executive. I am hoping to shed more light on the dark side of the public relations world.

I believe public relations is one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated careers. Everyone thinks they can do it, but many (especially clients) don’t have a clue. More on that later.

As a current public relations executive, I need to write this blog under a fictitious name, but let me assure you that the stories that will make up this blog are honest and truthful.  However, the names of the people and companies have been changed or left out to protect the not so innocent and clueless.

This is not a chronological diary or narrative blog as I will jump around to different times in my career to share a bizarre story or make a point. As I have found, even with the passage of time, human nature, the dark side of it I speak of here, has remained eerily similar through the years bearing out that old adage that the more things change, the more they remain (sadly in this case) the same.

I will eventually adapt these posts into a series of fictional books in the coming years.

However, please remember this blog is fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, any events or locales is purely coincidental. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.

In the meantime, enjoy this always frank look into life in public relations hell. 

Look for more posts soon.