No More Kool-Aid

Radioactive warning signFor some additional perspective on this topic be sure to check out Jason Mollica’s blog – One Guy’s Journey.

Get your coffee, turn on the tunes, and settle in for a read.  I’ve been avoiding a post of this nature for some time, but its time has come.

Most everyone in PR has an opinion of Peter Shankman.  It’s a bit of a litmus test – doesn’t matter what your opinion is, as long as you’ve got one there’s a strong chance you’re actually in PR.  I won’t go into who he is – if you don’t know this post is likely not for you. Continue reading No More Kool-Aid

“Writing is still important” or “Writing is like hygiene”

Over the last several months, notwithstanding going solo recently, I’ve spoken with a number of agency higher-level folks and internal recruiters  about the job market and the candidates they’re seeing and seeking.

Regardless of the position (Entry, SVP or Director) or company (from various agency-types all the way to in-house) or type of work (media relations to a social media specific position) the one thing I keep on hearing, in various forms, is “we’re not seeing a lot of candidates with really good writing skills.”  Continue reading “Writing is still important” or “Writing is like hygiene”

Betrayal, Anger, Frustration, Ulcer…

Ok, not an ulcer, but this post has been stewing for a few days and I think it’s finally ready to be served.  But first, one of my favorite quotes from The Art of War (one of my Top 10 books), with my own addendum…

Keep your friends close,
and your enemies closer.

~Sun-tzu (Approximately 400 B.C.E.)

And keep your business associates as far the eff away as you can.
~PR Cog  (November 24, 2009)

Last week, great PR practitioner, David Spinks reminded us on his blog that he’s here (on social media sites, etc.) for business and not to be our friends.  For him it seems, if friendship develops, that’s great, but it’s not his primary purpose.

The only thing that’s really preventing me from getting completely up in arms is his response to the blog post’s first comment: “You’re absolutely right that we have to remember that everyone is not here for that purpose that you may be.”

Earlier in the response however he asks, “There are people in the social media space that are here just to make friends? Who? lol There may be some people who act like they’re here just to make friends, but I doubt that’s the real case.”

In case you’re wondering — I’m raising my hand David. (So is my proper self (who never talks business on Twitter), my Rabbi (who much to my chagrin is on Twitter), my Liberal Arts department head (with tenure) from college (who pretty much only talks about music by the Beatles and G. Dead on Twitter), etc.)

Need proof of my own intent?  How would a person with no traceable identity get or drive business without revealing themselves?  (And yes, until a few weeks ago there were under 10 people (PRBC-ers included) who knew my first name, and I believe 4 who knew my full name.)

Need more proof? In the half dozen or so events I’ve had the honor of pulling (or assisting in pulling) together between Masquertweet and PRBC never has a single dollar stayed in my pocket, an organization that I’m formally affiliated with benefited fiscally, or any business come my way.

Nota Bene: In case anyone is still confused, the name on Facebook is not my real name.  Properly read it should be PeteR COGnoscenti i.e. PR Cog (Cognoscenti does actually mean something – .  The name is a joke but FB requires a real looking name and so I grew one…).  I still introduce myself as Peter in-person since it makes more sense for those not in-the-know.

My single greatest SM joy (and I think I’ve posted this elsewhere) is introducing people, who don’t know each other, but I believe should.  That’s certainly not business (unless you’re actually a matchmaker).  But from what I’ve seen, and the thanks I’ve received, has been highly successful.

In part, I doubt the veracity of your post.  Not that you’re being dishonest, but rather that you’re really here for equal(ish) parts work and play, but that doesn’t make for great copy and given the option it’s always better to take the high (“professional”) road. You seemed to be having a good time (socially) at the meetup a few weeks back (which is the point, of course so it’s not a negative) and I didn’t see much work going on and yet the entire event was strung together based on social media.  Entirely possible I missed the work component but I likely would’ve heard about something that out of the ordinary (all kinds of tidbits make their way around – it’s a bit spooky really).

In part, I’m highly offended.  You want to do business — grand.  Then your bio (and anyone else who’s here just with work intentions) should only show business information and leave anything personal out.  For me, I’m rarely more annoyed than when a casual conversation turns into a business pitch.  I’d also be highly disappointed to discover I may have subjected guests at a social event to a sales pitch of some variety.  As indicated above, I don’t think this happened at our event, but for those with a single minded purpose it doesn’t seem like it would be a great leap.

Do I shun those on social media sites that are here for business primarily or solely — of course not.   But at least say so when we first interact, not some 6 months later (you started following me on June 29th — I don’t have the reverse date though).  For me intent is a big part of any motivation — a pure, honest intent can go far to correct mistakes.  Bad intent on the other hand … well, as they say, GIGO.

One point of clarification – do I believe there is gray between pure biz and pure play — of course.  It’s a large gray area IMHO that most of us fall into.  There is a vast difference between learning from our peers and colleagues in the course of conversation and coming to this playground with the specific intent to build your (or your company’s) brand or business.  Heck, I gain insight into our biz in social settings (even from non-PR-folks) all the time — I wouldn’t presume to call that business.

I came here to talk and play.  You came here for professional reasons.  I’m certain those I ‘speak’ with regularly know my intent when I engage with them.

Special thanks to Alex Tan for playing Devil’s Advocate (Factoid: an actual job in the Roman Catholic Church) with me over the last week.

This is a Call (Out)…

I’m frequently asked why I don’t name names when addressing bad marketing / PR practices.  The answer is usually in part because this person may have mitigated what seems like bad conduct elsewhere and I may just not have found it or I see no reason to call someone out for an innocent blunder (at least what I consider, IMHO, to be a blunder).

Usually it’s something I’ve seen elsewhere, to some degree or another, but there’s always one particular incident that stands out and I base the post on that, without calling anyone out.

That’s not a strict policy.

It’s all case by case, and will continue to be.

But today we break the 4th wall and go deeper than ever.

Why…because when it’s obviously not innocent, obviously offensive, resorts to ad hominem attacks, and is against someone I know and trust (who I know wouldn’t deserve such conduct) it’s time to point out the line in the sand that’s been crossed…and to do so with gusto, if at all possible.

That it also happens to be bad PR and is just plain ol’ shi#y, just makes it all the more fun.

If you’d like a soundtrack with this post, try this….play it loud…

[clearspring_widget title=”Grooveshark Widget: Single Song” wid=”48f3f305ad1283e4″ pid=”4a8c8ee2fb328e34″ width=”400″ height=”40″ domain=””]

Continue reading This is a Call (Out)…

Be Reliable

One day last week I was stuck in an all day meeting.  Sitting at a conference table, eyes not on me but I certainly had to behave.  I could sneak a look at my phone every now and then, but for the most part I had to be good.  (Some of you were quite entertaining during my hiatus — thank you.)
Oddly enough there were also no computers that I could use in the building.  That’s about as far off the grid as I like to go.
At one point in the meeting I got a Direct from a close twitter-friend (I won’t name her here since she’d likely blush for the rest of the day, but most of probably know who I’m referring to.  If not, D me.)
Anyway, the message itself had a link pointing to a ‘security’ problem with my identity.
Explanation: For those of you who don’t know, my real identity is a very close secret.  There’s a small handful of followers/friends who know my real first name and they don’t know who else knows it and know not to begin using it with me in conversation.
That is the cause of all the masked events, etc.
I do take this seriously, going so far as to have separate cell phones, email accounts, even paypal accounts for my identities (more on how to maintain a secret identity in a future post).  When necessary I have other smoke & mirrors to pull out if I need a ‘real’ person to exist.
Anyway, obviously I was in a bind, and while I do have exit strategies for almost any fiasco, being stuck in a meeting wasn’t part of any of those plans (it is now).
Arms crossed, looking down while typing I asked this person drop a note to the person who could fix it.  Certainly an odd request to begin with.
Within 5 minutes of my request I got a note that she would.
Less than 20 minutes after that I got a CC of the email sent.
Less than 40 minutes after that I got a Fwd of the reply saying it had been handled.
I stopped sweating.
The point of this post (besides so much navel gazing we all do on our blogs)?  And “Is there a PR discussion in here?  It’s tagged ‘PR’ Cog…get to it.”
This person, who I consider a real friend, not only let me know about the problem, but was able and willing to help handle….no make that singlehandedly handle it when I was in a bind — all in just over an hour.
Not only had she proven herself a good person and trustworthy in the past, but this went above and beyond – this is someone I know is reliable and can depend on in nearly any situation and someone I would go out on a limb for myself.
Can we all say the same thing?
How many unanswered emails are in your inbox?  I’ve got at least 3 I know of in my PR Cog account, and 2-3 more I need to initiate.
Through your career, how often have you not called someone back on time (perhaps because the client told you to dodge or because it was a small outlet).  Did you apologize afterwards?
When was the last time you (either on your own or to cover for the boss) pushed back on a deadline for a “barely honest” reason?
How many weeks have you been saying, “I’ll get to it later this week” to something started 3 weeks earlier?
We’re in a business where the client’s time is money (and possibly a few hits), the journalist’s time is coverage, and our own time is not ours from 9-5 (or whatever hours you work).
The best parts of this –
There’s no experience required to do it, or teach it.  Everyone from the intern to the CEO can master it and teach it to the other.
There’s no learning curve — you can begin today and if you screw up, start over.
It’s not a zero sum game — we can all do it and win without taking anything away from each other.
It works in all sectors, at all agencies, and you can take it with you without it taking up space in a cardboard box.
Do the hacks on your call list know they’ll get a callback?  The client an answer that’s not a dodge? The intern their shoes back? Once those members of our audience stop considering us reliable we’re of minimal use to them.  In this quickly changing time and tone of our industry there are a few things th

One day last week I was stuck in an all day meeting.  Sitting at a conference table, eyes not on me but I certainly had to behave.  I could sneak a look at my phone every now and then, but for the most part I had to be good.  (Some of you were quite entertaining during my hiatus — thank you.)

Oddly enough there were also no computers that I could use in the building.  That’s about as far off the grid as I like to go.

At one point in the meeting I got a Direct from a close twitter-friend (I won’t name her here since she’d likely blush for the rest of the day, but most of probably know who I’m referring to.  If not, D me.)

Continue reading Be Reliable

“Man Up” (Woman up works as well)…

Or, let’s stop stroking each other

This post was originally going to be about how often it seems we’re stroking each other’s egos in the industry — can we all really think all of our friends’ blog posts are that fantastic that we’re retweeting them to everyone and commenting?

Of course not, but we’re there supporting each other in the industry and trying to provide new and insightful commentary.  Of course much of what we say has been said before, perhaps not as well, by others and we’re just adding our own spin to it.  While not necessarily academic, it is supportive, and given what I’ve seen lately probably for the best.

Now, as far as “Man(ning) Up” …

Over the last several weeks (and the last week in particular) I’ve seen a number of negative, condescending, passive aggressive and/or half-assed tweets directed at campaigns or individuals.  Some of the campaigns being run by our brethren (or at least their clients). (No I’m not naming names or linking tweets, no need to call anyone out).

Seriously folks — we’ve got the world at our disposal to get our ideas out there – twitter, blogs, podcasts, video blogs, etc.

If you’re going to muster up the energy to type in 140 characters or less being negative or objecting to someone’s content (whether it’s a campaign, blog post, or twitter stream) at least “Man Up,” put on the track suit and run the race (This is particularly true if the receiving party calls you on (what is likely) your BS).

If you’re (considered) a thought leader in our field, or actually do have deep  thoughts about these things (and simply don’t have the 5-figure fanbase), you owe it to your listeners to give them more than 140 characters on your groundbreaking, cutting edge, revolutionary [how many more horrible press release words can I use] theory/conclusion.

A Campaign sucks? Tell anyone who will listen why in a full blog post or podcast – talk to them about branding, how the LCD (lowest common denominator – i.e. the great majority of the populace) will view the campaign, how it damages the company’s prior reputation or image in the sector where they were the leader.

A twitterer’s stream bothering you? Tell ’em why and offer advice on how they can fix it to your liking, not just to ‘stop.’ Or, when they respond, engage in what we call dialogue and perhaps you’ll find a meeting of the minds, or at the very least a more thorough understanding of each other.

Whether or not the advice is taken at least at that point you’re providing a real opinion, (hopefully) backed up by coherent thought, logic, perhaps even case studies or the like.  Not firing off a half-assed, extraordinarily brief, (non-rebuttable since there’s nothing to respond to but a conclusion) attack on their work in the public sphere.  We’re all professional communicators (heaven help us), don’t we owe it to each other, and those that learn from us, to give it our best each and every time we try to express a professional thought?

A response (an @, not a ‘d’)

A day and a half ago I’m sitting at my work PC, working on some client nonsense or such when I received a direct message which read, “OMFG we are being so rude according to shankman – we @ reply each other WAY too much.” [This was during Tuesday’s HARO call with @skydiver and@chrisbrogan — BTW, if you’re not following them, follow them – what’s wrong w/ you? They give great info and are certainly worth the follow].
Anyone who follows me knows this is at least partially true — I tweet (and @ reply) a lot. Tons — I’ve been on twitter for about a year and as of this writing have 14K tweets. My last thousand tweets averaged out to nearly 150 tweets per day (not bragging, just making sure everyone saw the unit of time). I tweet about everything – client/journalist pet peeves; what I’m listening to; reading; blogs I’m commenting on; and yes even occasionally what I’m eating.

Of course my initial response was, “You and I got called out specifically on a HARO call?” I was a bit impressed. Of course this wasn’t the case. Before commenting I waited to get the mp3 and listened…it wasn’t as inflammatory as I had originally thought, the full conversation (which followed a discussion of follower loyalty vs. number of followers) was this (Peter speaking in this quote):

[some sentence fragments removed for readability]

“…they [someone commenting on twitter I believe] disagree, it’s about answering, talking and answering your followers and having conversations on twitter. And Chris you might argue with me on this. I don’t believe that you should respond to every single person who responds to you in the public using an @ reply. I tend to direct message anyone who sends me an @ reply unless it’s something of value to the bigger audience. In my opinion, if you send me a question and I reply to you and it’s a personal question or it’s not of interest to everyone I’m being rude to 50,000 of my followers who might not care so I’m very very big on the dm not so big on the @ reply in a public forum. There are other people who disagree with that, there are companies who will @ reply every single person with the most trivial facts, if that works for them great – I just don’t believe once you hit a critical mass on twitter that that’s worth it…Chris what do you think about that?” [Chris’s Skype connection conked out. When he returned he agreed with Peter and the conversation tangented to a quick discussion of multiple accounts.]

I’m one of those who disagree.

First, a few notes:

a) I appreciate that Peter notes it might work for some people,
b) I’m not Peter and don’t have anywhere (and likely never will have anywhere) near his following.
c) I certainly don’t know what the critical mass is, but it’s presumably somewhere between my 1,800 followers and his 49,000.

Here’s what I do know:
a) off ALL of my off topic, sometimes nonsensical, double entendre laden tweets never have I been told I’m tweeting too much. Have I been unfollowed — sure. Do I know why — of course not.
b) some of the best conversations I’ve had with people would not have happened if I wasn’t tweeting nearly everything publicly.

More re: b) — when you do follow a decent number of people, individual tweets become blurred. If you only tweet once about a subject it’s very likely to get caught in the larger stream of those watching and very potentially never seen. If you’re having a good, interactive conversation you’ve got a better chance of being heard and others joining the conversation.

IMHO this leads back to the greatest question of the twitter-age — Why are you using twitter? I, personally use it as my own water cooler not soap box. A place to have conversations with others on the topics of the day and our lives.

When asked about twitter by Luddites I compare it to a cocktail party — you walk in, may know a few people there and can join or initiate any conversation without it being rude or intrusive. At the same time you can pull someone to the side and have a private conversation with them. But if we begin conversations and immediately pull the person we’re speaking with aside and talk only to them about it we’re losing the possibility that someone else in the group may have something of value to contribute to the conversation.

Simply put, IMHO (and compared to these two giants in the industry it is my own humble opinion) — until you ask, or allow for the possibility, there is no way to know what will and what won’t interest any number of your followers and to block that from happening by moving to directs immediately isn’t what twitter’s about (for me at least).

Of course asking everyone about their interests, keeping a record of it, and then somehow involving them in certain conversations is impractical if not impossible (remember, no multi-directs) on twitter. That leaves allowing for it to happen naturally — i.e responding publicly, the way the question was asked and see who pipes up. You never know what hidden gems you’ve got in your following until you let them know what you’re talking about and who else may be able to participate.

Proof of this came to me a few weeks back at Masquertweet, and I fully expect it to happen again at #MNH

I had a few, personally great moments at the event. The first of course being able to help 12for12K raise money for their July charity Eye Care for Kids.

The other joy, mostly unnoticed by others thanks to my mask, was seeing people I had been talking to for months and had introduced to each other online finally meet each other in person, and have real conversations about work, play and everything in between — without me doing any sort of weird twitter-matchmaker handholding. Some of them even making individual plans to get together and continue their conversations following the event. These were connections that may not have happened but for my introduction and I have no doubt that I was able to make those introductions because I chat up everyone publicly and allow the possibility that my followers will find each other interesting separate and apart from me.

This even took place NOT at an event — by leaving the door open for the possibility of a natural friendship to develop between two agencies I knew individually and had introduced to each other a new, hopefully life-long bond, has been forged. A connection (among many others) which fills me with joy each time I see any of them @, RT or #FF the other.

I’m not a big believer in #Followfriday, but each time I’m included in a #FF grouping and every other name I see is one I know, and I recognize introductions I’ve made, I glow a little bit. If these two (or more) random people have connected and like each other enough to now pay attention to each other (and become friends), and I was in some small way a part of that process it’s makes my Friday and my twitter life just that bit better.
Just my own $0.02.

The case for anonymity

As anyone bothering to read this post knows I had the sheer and absolute pleasure of hanging with @rachelakay earlier this week.

For those of you who are curious – she’s an a complete delight!  I could go into all the ways she’s great but I don’t think I have enough room.  In brief – personally she’s great – interesting, fun & funny and truly a joy to hang with.  Professionally – she certainly knows her stuff, doesn’t pull punches and has real opinions.  If you’re not following her yet – go now…I’ll wait…
No really…go…
Once the hours of Guinness and wine faded I pretty much had to again consider my position.  Not that I really could easily change it, but if we ‘don’t learn from history’ and all that good stuff.  Also, I was left with a different post-meet mood than from #1.  I admit, could’ve been the Guinness.
While I’m still constantly mystified at how I ended up here (I do know how it happened chronologically, just looking at the end point it makes little sense (I will cover this in a later post)) it really struck me that without this persona I would have missed out on the opportunity to meet with those of you I have, those of you I intend to, work with the half-dozen or so who have stepped up to help out with Masquertweet, or party with a hundred or so of my favorite people I’ve never met.
And so, while in the grand scheme it makes things more difficult overall since everything’s a bit cloak & dagger in anything I do it is well worth it to have this opportunity.
Tangent alert: And in case anyone missed it – I’m now on FB.  Since I have virtually none of your email addies I’ll need you to start –
And in case anyone’s curious…yes I do have an ‘exit strategy’ that should keep PRCog alive & active, but allow a bit of collar loosening in the coming months….That’ll have to wait for another post tho…