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 Mormon Backstabber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Backstabbing poisons work environments.

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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cage Boy

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Lulu’s husband Lorne Whitney was also a piece of work. I privately called him Cage Boy as he used to be a UFC fighter years before. It was also a reference to his in-your-face management style I had the misfortunate to experience my last couple of years at Lulu’s firm. The worst thing of all is that Lorne was another obnoxious fool who knew nothing about public relations but he would still try to manage me on campaigns even though he wasn’t my boss.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fortunately, Cage Boy didn’t work with Lulu’s agency in my first couple of years there, as he had started a TV UFC company. Through years of public relations help and advice from Lulu, before I joined the firm, (not to mention free PR help from the agency staff), his UFC company was acquired by a large corporation for hundreds of millions of dollars. So now Cage Boy was rich, and he bought a huge home for him and Lulu in a gated community.  No doubt the money made him even a bigger asshole. Not surprisingly, he was forced out shortly after the corporation bought his company. Then he started hanging out around our agency, pretending to be a cool entrepreneur.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lulu agreed with Cage Boy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mmmm…sounds familiar.

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

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

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

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

 

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.