Archive | Public Relations RSS feed for this section

We play too many games

14 Jun
Play 'N' the Game album cover

Image via Wikipedia

This is not a post slamming gamers. I’m talking about different kind of games. The games we play at work, when dating, with our family members or our friends.

In an ideal world, communication would be direct, clear, honest. But we hide behind a lot of subterfuge, sending mixed messages and complicating the simple.

We put on facades, execute overly contrived strategies and in the end, we get so lost in the games we play that we forget and totally miss the objective.

I can safely say I didn’t play any games when I was on a casual ‘lunch date’ today. We talked, it was good conversation and it might just end there for all I know. Other women might play bait/switch, make gestures showing interest and all that. I leave those kind of games to insipid women’s magazine relationship articles. It was simple today. He talked, I listened. I talked, he listened. At the end of it, I was direct and clear (I think) and told him “You can call me if you want.” That’s exactly what I meant. If I thought he was boring/scary/not someone I’d see again, I’d have said thanks for the company. And left it at that.
 
Work is a different story. The communications field is a tricky minefield where strategy and approach is always bandied about. How do we make the client see that our counsel makes sense? How do we convince media our client has something to say? The direct approach, I find, isn’t always the best. Different landscapes and people require different tactics. Sometimes it’s the iron fist in the velvet glove. Sometimes it’s outright flattery. Sometimes I need to play the personality card or the ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’ game.
 
If I see it as a game, work is a little more enjoyable. But at the end of the day, there are real things at stake – reputation and revenue. Work may be a game but it’s a serious one. I’m still learning the rules as I go along but I’m finally, finally catching up.
Advertisements

OHAI, I am still a noob

8 Apr

I’m lucky that my colleagues are pleasant and nice to me.

Secretly I wonder if it’s because they’re so used to being nice to me when I was the She Editor from Hell. Not that I’m complaining, no no no.

You see, yesterday I made a mistake normally done by entry-level, wet behind the ears, fresh recruits.

I sent out pictures to the press. Minus captions. Colleague had to login to my PC and resend the captions while apologising to media for clogging their inboxes.

Now, in most agencies, newbies who made the same mistake would be grilled on high and roasted till it’s seared into their skulls never to make mistakes of that silly-tude again.

Well, I happened to have skipped a few levels so certain things that new PR people are made to do over and over again are new to me.

PR isn’t as glamorous as SATC’s Samantha Jones makes it out to be. Oh no. There’s reporting, slogging through event planning, ponderous meetings and routine things that must be done like faxing and emails.

Some things I’ve gotten very used to – like yakking to journalists. Even pitching editors doesn’t faze me much anymore because hey, if one does yell at me, I’d probably just take it as karmic payback.

Certain things though still mystify me. Key messages? Talking points? Briefing books? PR plans? Those are pretty much the tools of the PR arsenal that I never had to think about as a journalist. Not that I gave PR people much of a headache at interviews. I’m a ‘soft’ interviewer. Tech reporting is really about how things work, what they’ll do, who they’ll help. Throw the numbers at the business sharks. Tech journalists will run from terms like “add value” and “verticals” like cats from water.

It’s still rather touching that quite a few friends keep checking in on me. You know, just to make sure I’m sane and not a blubbering mess.

David Lian, of course, does his best to scare me. “This is only the beginning you know!” “See how hard XX works us!” “Wait until it really gets busy!” Yeah, yeah. I survived a bus accident. Hard work is a walk in the park in comparison. Still here, still getting into my stride and thankfully I’ve got good people running with me.

Engaging bloggers for (PR) dummies

6 Apr

So this PR person (not a Textie) asked me: "How do we engage bloggers?" Part of me wants to say: if you have to ask, you shouldn’t even try. That’s the cynical, mean part.

But I suppose I should add my own two cents to the blogger/PR debate which blew up oh-so-nicely last week. Before I joined PR, I was a rarity – a journalist who also happened to be a blogger. It’s certainly an advantage for me in my current job. I can honestly say to journos and bloggers that I know where they’ve been and where they’re coming from. It also makes me rather peevish when I see clueless PR blindly attempting to ‘engage’ bloggers and making a right royal flub at it.

Bloggers are not journalists. While journalists can be bloggers as well, the reverse does not hold true. You do not ‘pitch’ bloggers the way you do journalists. But there are certain things you do with journalists that you can do with the New Media crowd:

1. Find out their niche. What do they cover? What are their interests? Don’t just send any pitch or release willy-nilly. An example of what not to do? Send Paul Tan a pitch about hydrophonic plants instead of about cars, and you deserve to be tarred and feathered.

2. Politely make contact, introduce yourself and what you do as well as who you represent. Don’t wait until you have something to pitch to make New Media friends. Importantly, ask them how they would prefer to be contacted. When I was an editor, I preferred IM or emails. If a PR person had to, then call me at work. My mobile phone was off limits except for absolute, dire emergencies. Press releases and invite attendance did not fall into the latter so I did blow my Fiery Editorial Pissy Breath on clueless PR person. Don’t get me started on the Kaspersky rep who called me at 8pm at night.

3. Work on building a relationship. Don’t treat them like one night stands. Use, abuse, chuck. Malaysia’s small. The media circle is small. Heck, even the PR industry in Malaysia is pretty tiny which is how my appointment got blown up as big PR industry news. Make the effort. Play your cards right and you’ll be regarded a reliable source at best or at worst, angry bloggers won’t be crucifying you on their blogs.

What you don’t do with bloggers which you can with journalists:

1. Send them unsolicited releases. No, no, no. Yes, Gmail may give you lots of storage space but most bloggers do not want releases from absolute strangers in their inboxes. Get in touch with said blogger first, ask politely if blogger would like to receive news about your client, then send them. Just don’t bother sending releases to Shaolin Tiger unless you want to see him do a Hulk Rage. He blogged quite a few times about receiving unsolicited PR writeups. And he’s still getting them, the poor sod.

2. Invite them for events and expect them to write about them. Journalists are obligated to write about news or if your client advertises (sad but true) but bloggers are free agents. You want a nice big writeup on their blogs? Contact Nuffnang or Advertlets for blogger advertorial rates. If you call up a blogger and ask him what angle his blogpost is going to have, quit your job now. Please. You’re the type who makes the rest of us look like morons.

Bloggers aren’t a different race or breed of people. Heck, even Tun M blogs. Treat them like people, relate to them, reach out to them and don’t just consider them a ‘means to an end’. What if the shoe was on the other foot? A journo I knew once said this in passing about a PR friend: "Pity she isn’t more useful." Ouch. What PR needs now is authenticity, sincerity and earnestness. The days of spin and fakeness are over. I’ve said this before – I believe there is a way to be good again. Even for us so-called PR flaks.

So much for making a quiet exit

31 Mar

Before I get to make the news public, Advertising+Marketing does it for me.

A M

I never thought that joining a new PR firm would generate so much fanfare.

Yes, I’m joining Text 100. Of all the PR firms I’ve dealt with over the years, I can safely say it’s one I enjoyed dealing with.

The package isn’t what appealed because The Agency’s pay wasn’t much different and it had what some suppose is the ultimate perk – working from home. Yet I felt that Text 100’s core values resonated the most with my own code of ethics. Having as many quirks as I do, it’s not always easy to find a place where my principles and mindset would not only be acceptable but welcomed. Am thankful Text 100 boss Mei Ling’s decided to take a chance on me despite the knowledge I might be a handful. After all, I used to be the reigning Dragon Queen Who Eats PR N00bs For Breakfast.

Of course, I don’t expect it to be all wine and roses. Having some of the crew on my MSN for awhile, I know when they get off work. I don’t foresee going home on time happening very often, but that’s fine with me. Late nights are just part of the PR drill and the publishing beat too.

Right now, I’m trying to decide if working with these people is a perk or a downside…

Case in point:

t1002_3

t1002_22

(pictures shamelessly stolen from http://text100malaysia.blogspot.com)

I kid, I kid. You know I adore you guys! And you’re welcome to ‘rag’ on me for all the times I was:

  1. Snippy with you on the phone
  2. Whiny about not being fed
  3. Putting on my Black-Faced Editor mask at events

And a big shout out to the Text 100 bloggers:

(alphabetical order)

Beatrice

David Lian

Eevon

Lee

Please update the Text MY blog already, last post was in August, slackers!

There is a way to be good again

16 Mar

So I was sharing with a friend my desire to do good works and promote volunteerism and CSR. He scoffed, “You’re in the wrong industry, and probably the wrong country.” Maybe he has a point about the latter seeing as a recent report showed that locally listed companies scored poorly where CSR was concerned.

I was disappointed, but I wasn’t surprised.

See, my biggest ‘failure’ as I think of it at The Mag was not being able to push the whole concept of CSR within the organisation. Oh, we were happy to ‘support’ our clients’ CSR pushes by writing pithy articles and politely feigning interest. But it was always about the money, the bottom line, the next thing to keep our clients advertising.

It’s hard enough trying to make ends meet in the industry without promising coverage and time to, say, a charitable foundation. The most I could ever go was write about causes that mattered or making the odd snarky reference in my editor’s note. As far as I could get away with it, I let others write advertorials while I wrote meatier features on Net Neutrality and other topics I felt mattered more than megapixels.

But it always bothered me – that nagging little feeling that I could do more, and be more. I tried working for the UNHCR and found quickly that though I loved the refugee cause, I could do more for it outside than inside the organisation.  Leaving the UNCHR gave me more opportunities to speak about refugee issues than I ever had while I was working for it. There was too much red tape, too much worry, too much stress and strain.

Does social responsibility have a place within the ‘flack’ industry? Weber Shandwick makes interesting points about why organisations can’t afford to ignore CSR:

“CSR is not easy. It isn’t a product you can just buy, which is why that email I received was so revealing. It is a state of mind and must form part of the "core DNA" of a company if it is going to be worthwhile. Ideally any company’s commitment to corporate responsibility will be endorsed and owned by those at the very top of its leadership.

CSR is a particularly difficult area for the PR industry. Ask most CSR practitioners or NGOs and they will tell you categorically, even scornfully, that CSR is "not about PR". In a sense it is a fair point. There must be substance behind the spin. If it is a half-hearted attempt to keep NGOs at bay, it will not generate value for money or raise profile. In that sense there is no point in using PR if there is nothing substantial to communicate.

On the other hand, all substantive actions will be wasted if companies do not hire the best in the business to communicate their CSR work loudly and clearly. In addition to its societal benefits, CSR is providing entirely new angles for businesses to communicate with their audiences.”

My strength, and weakness, is my idealism. No matter how cynical I may seem to some people, I really do believe that doing good matters. If everyone stopped, gave up, and just wrote off good works then there would be no one to fight for the poor, the disenfranchised, the disabled, the helpless, the voiceless.

What I hope for might not be realised in this lifetime, but I can cling to the hope that it might be realised for my grandchildren. Whether or not I have any is immaterial; I want to make the world a little better for my having lived in it. That’s my only dream that has remained through all the years of heartache and disappointment. So don’t shatter it for me, please?

Why I’m not missing journalism

13 Mar
Reynolds Journalism Institute Lobby

Image by moohappy via Flickr

My third month into PR, and I’ve already been asked if I missed journalism.

I miss the people I worked with – four years of sharing tough times and crazy times (like almost getting killed in a bus crash) does leave you feeling attached.

I miss having people around me; it gets lonely sometimes, just me and my computer.

But I don’t miss practicing journalism in Malaysia. If you look at it as a day job – churn copy, submit before deadline, collect your pay then maybe it’ll feel like a job like any other. If you care about what you write, if you have ideals about standards, truth, and telling a really good story then prepare to be constantly waging battles you’ll more often lose than win.

Unfortunately writing isn’t really respected in this country. The perception is that anyone can write.  Why hire professionals? Yes, maybe you can write but can you write well? That makes all the difference.

When I joined PR, my German friend, Rolf, laughed and congratulated me on joining the ranks of professional liars.

When you’re a tech reviewer in Malaysia, you get used to being called a liar. The perception was that we would write good reviews for our advertisers. Million dollar question: was that true? I can honestly say I never lied about a product, and never said I liked it if I didn’t.

But reviewers weren’t allowed to ever ‘slam’ a product. Still, if they had any reservations, they had to write their misgivings as opinion and not present it as fact. “In other words, hedging-lah,” my deputy said.  I answered, “No it’s being diplomatic.” And if we ever encountered a product of extreme sucktitude, we politely told clients, “We don’t think this measures up to the standards of your previous offerings so it really doesn’t do your brand justice.” And declined to review it. Oh yeah, I was getting lots of PR practice with The Mag.

In PR, the goal is to get the message across. Perception of said message, unfortunately, is not something we can always control. People have minds but what PR does is to ensure the message the client wants out is the message that actually does come out.

“This is who we are and this is what we’re saying.” Succinctly, that is what PR is communicating about and for clients.

Interestingly, Text 100’s put out a release on a study that claims PR is more powerful than advertising in building brands.

“The findings of the Media Prominence Study, which calculates brand value based on Interbrand’s 2008 Best Global Brands report, show that on average 27 percent of brand value is tied to how often the brand name appears in the press. In industries that involve more research before purchases are made, public relations can account for nearly half of brand value. For example, in the computing industry, media prominence accounted for 47 percent of brand value, or 16 times that of the personal care industry.

This study underscores the importance of managing and growing brand value through public relations efforts during a recession. The more complex a product is to a buyer, the more likely they are to research the product category and to look for information they can trust – from editorial content rather than advertisements.”

And here’s a note from Poynter.org’s Butch Ward on switching from journalism to PR:

“While I’m never happy to learn that people are leaving journalism — especially when the decision is made for them — I’m now able to reassure them that their abilities to write, to gather and to organize information, and to think analytically, will serve them well in the business world.

And, I can assure them one other thing: PR — like journalism — can be a very honorable way to spend one’s life.”

So far, I’ve been lucky enough to find that it’s true.

 

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

I can’t see clearly now…

24 Feb

IMG_2061Been a bit of a stressful week, one where I had to confront the fact I had too much on my plate. Dropped out of a collaborative writing project because between learning the ropes at my job and producing Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, I have precious little energy left.

After Bun died, I thought I should get Pie a companion to cheer him up. I thought wrong. Pie didn’t take well to the baby bunny I got (who Calvin has named Ignatius aka Iggy) so I took Iggy inside, leaving Pie to claim the backyard. And I foolishly thought I should get Iggy company too…so I got Pop. Iggy and Pop, get it? Calvin insists Pop’s real name is Zoe. Wishful thinking.

Unfortunately, I’d thought Pop would be placid and docile company for Iggy. Wrong. Pop is a little scamp (she’s the tiny one with a star on her forehead) who will run everywhere if I leave her unsupervised. Iggy on the other hand prefers to just stay in his cage, stuffing his face. Which explains why he’s already gained a fair bit of weight in the 2 days that I got him. He sits, chews, snuffles around for something to eat…and that’s about it. When I put him on my lap, he attempted to nibble on my dress.

Busy PR job, busy in my after hours producing a play…I don’t forsee dating in my future this year at least. But a girl gets lonely sometimes so hey, cuddling a bunny will just have to do. At least I won’t have to worry about one of them giving me the ‘commitment’ talk.

Unfortunately stress levels have gone sky high. Whenever I get stressed, my eyesight deteriorates so I’m pretty much seeing double while I type – my astig’s gone up temporarily, but will return to normal once I pay my sleep debts.

How’s PR? Do I still love it? I’ll always be a writer. It’s my vocation. It’s the one thing I do better than anything else I manage but I don’t miss publishing. In Malaysia, editorial takes a back seat to sales and marketing – inevitable because we don’t have the circulation to stay afloat sans advertisers.

What I like about PR is the excitement of the pitch, the challenge of using ingenuity and sometimes, sheer tenacity, to get points across. It’s hard work but there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had at the end of the day. I’m still learning the ropes and I’m getting a lot of help along the way. But I did end up talking to my boss about standard operating procedures, and processes. I like structure, having a framework to build on. When needed to, I can wing some things but in the end, I need something to hold on to – roots if you will.

I’ve always been a systems sort of person – I like creating systems though it doesn’t mean I’m the neatest person on the block. Am schizo that way. Today you’ll see my desk cluttered with stuff, the next you’ll see it devoid of anything but the essentials. I can live with a little clutter, but past a certain level, I can’t think and will just en masse cull things mercilessly.

Hopefully I can get some sleep tonight because it’s painful to squint at everything. Would be asleep too, if a little scamp didn’t wake me up by prodding me with her nose to play. And I just went out in the rain to rescue the stubborn Pie who refuses to get in his nice, dry cage and was emo-ing in corner while raindrops fell on his head. Pie is now safely in his cage with his favourite hay. Can’t keep him indoors because he’s just not made for indoor living and I can’t give him the running space he needs in the house. Iggy and Pop are tiny, and won’t grow past 1kg or so each, but Pie’s a huge fellow who needs all the space my backyard gives him. Not to mention he thrives on hay and certain plants that grow wild in my ‘garden’.

Right now – I want my sight back. I want time to ride my bike. I want to learn to play the keyboards – since my bro moved in with an ancient but perfectly servicable synth. And now, my body wants to sleep.