The Public Punching-bag Professional

I recently bumped into a fellow PR professional who was visibly upset after walking out of a media house. While walking towards me he gave such a disappointed look that his smile almost faltered. We exchanged pleasant hellos as we passed each other but didn’t stop for a brief conversation. I wanted to ask him what went wrong, but instead I tried answering the question myself by analyzing what possibly could have happened:

Being a Public Relations professional, this guy was smartly dressed. He carried a neat folder that contained press releases and other documents and held a blackberry smart phone. I believe his company was out with a new product, quarterly results or a CSR initiative and this guy was there to get the news published. By the look on his face it seemed as if he was not able to sell the story to the journalist and now had very few options left. He was apprehensive at the thought of going back to office and informing his boss about the development. Probably he would have gone back to his car to think of a brilliant excuse.

Some publications are very critical to crack as majority of its readers are your target audience. Not getting coverage in them means you are in deep trouble and soon you will be doing a lot of explanation to your boss (if working in Corp Comm) or your boss along with the client (if working in a PR Agency). Whose fault would it be? Obviously yours, the journalist will never come in the picture even if they had agreed to do the story earlier but backed out at the very last moment.

Life of a public relations executive is at times similar to that of a punching bag or a rookie in the ring with the likes of Mike Tyson or David Haye, here’s how:

Firstly PR Executives get a combination of jabs and sucker punches from the journalist when they call them for coverage, send them spam mails or call them to confirm if they have received the press release and if it the news will be out tomorrow.

If the news is not carried by the media then there are some upper-cuts, hooks and head-butts by your boss (it would end here if you are in a Corporate)

Lastly (if with a PR Agency) your boss goes on to meet the client to give an explanation as to why the coverage didn’t appear. Without doubt the meeting was a disaster and your boss was taken for a ride. The boss would return (without doubt this would be the final round) to deliver a combination of power punches and then KO or KTFO’D

At the same time, life isn’t that bad. PR Executives are mostly able to successfully pitch new stories to journalists and get ample coverage even in a highly competitive environment where several agencies are vying for limited editorial space. Journalist also can’t do without them as they’re often a source for stories and ingenious press releases. Above all, Public Relations professionals generally get fat pay-cheques.

Kenneth Peter —

Iron Man 2 – Review

The flamboyant billionaire with his superhero armor returns with Iron Man 2. The sequel has more of everything i.e., more characters, more action sequences, more destruction with more things being blown up, impressive special effects and cool moments.

As I didn’t follow the movie gossips and was only focused on the electric whips of Mickey Rourke while watching the trailers, I only learnt during the movie about Don Cheadle playing Col. James ‘Rhodey‘ Rhodes character replacing Terrence Howard. This came as a surprise as I wanted to see Howard in the Iron Man Mark II armor after he said “Next time, baby!” in Iron Man (2008)

The world knows the ingenious engineer, flamboyant billionaire and the ladies man – Tony Stark is Iron Man as he revealed his identity in Iron Man (2008). Iron Man 2 starts with a grand entrance of Tony Stark in the Iron Man armor to re-institute the Stark Expo in order to continue his father’s legacy.

U.S. administration exerts pressure on Stark to hand over the Iron Man suit to them for military usage and for the country’s welfare. However, Stark refuses declaring that he and the suit are one and claims that his competitors are years away from successfully recreating the technology.

Meanwhile Stark is also dying; he is slowly being poisoned by the palladium in his arc reactor and after several attempts he fails to find a cure. Due to his severe condition he appoints his former personal assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) as the CEO of Stark Industries and replaces her post with Natalie Rushman. Scarlett Johansson who plays Natalie, has something peculiar about her and she is not just another slinky recruit wearing tight outfits.

With all this happening, Ivan Vanko aka Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) makes his appearance at a Grand Prix in Monaco flaunting his armor suit equipped with an arc reactor and is armed with two electrifying whips.  With his electric whips he rips Tony Starks racing car into pieces. The background score as Whiplash whooshes his whips in the air is still going on in my head.

Mickey Rourke, remember him from his movie “The Wrestler,” for which he got nominated and won some awards, makes the perfect demented baddie from Russia. His body is entirely covered with tattoos and he has a dreadful Russian accent – “I want my burrd (bird),” – one of his dialogues.

The coolest thing you witness after the entrance of Whiplash at the Grand Prix is the portable Iron Man armor. This briefcase version of the Iron Man’s suit is totally awesome!

Sam Rockwell plays the character of Justin Hammer, the comical, nerdy rival industrialist to Tony Stark who later joins hands with Whiplash to defeat Tony Stark and the Iron Man.

Nick Fury (Director of S.H.E.I.L.D.) played by Samuel L. Jackson wearing an eye-patch has a limited role in the film; he only shows up in the film’s second half.

To sum it up, Tony is not the only one who has the arc reactor technology; he is being poisoned by the arc reactor and needs a cure; he needs to defeat Whiplash who after joining hands with his rival industrialist Hammer is building something more powerful and superior; S.H.E.I.L.D. has been keeping an eye on Stark; Government and military want the Iron Man suit; who exactly is Natalie and what’s her role.

Anticipation from Iron Man 2 had been high for months. While some critiques say that the plot could have been better and lab, lab, lab… I say the movie delivers what the fans want. I like the flashy character of Tony Stark and look forward to seeing more Iron Man sequels in the future.

My Rating: 3/5

Kenneth Peter —

Iron Man 2 Movie posters taken from www

Have Cash? Get Media Coverage…

During my graduation years I read one of the world’s largest selling daily newspaper to get my dosage of news on latest business trends, current affairs and things happening around town. I felt enriched by my level of awareness and would often take part in discussions and debates. Years passed and I joined a PR agency where I learnt that most of the executives avoided the newspaper I read as they believed or it was a known fact that it carried paid news.

What exactly is Paid News?

Paid News is broadly:

  • Publishing or broadcasting advertisements masquerading as news
  • Paying the press money for publishing or broadcasting news in favour of a particular individual, organization or brand
  • Individuals, organization or brands  advertising in newspapers/ news channels in return for free articles/ airtime

Being in the profession I regularly hear rumours about political candidates, organizations, celebs etc paying money to a newspaper or news channel to elicit favourable news coverage. Browsing through newspapers I usually see a full-page advertisement of a brand, on turning the page I see an article of the same brand. Sometimes the article may appear in a day or two, or even after a week, but it does appear.

It feels like a waste of time reading an article that was actually an advertisement. It feels worse if you actually voted for a political candidate, bought shares of a company, applied to a university after reading and believing the positive article that was actually paid for.

Is the journalist to be blamed? Well, the journalist can say that he had succumbed to pressures from his seniors or from the people who play a major role in generating income for the media house, i.e., the marketing department and get out of the mucky situation.

On the other hand, many newspapers while publishing a favourable article that is paid for usually place a visible header that reads – Advertisement, Advertorial, or Media Marketing Initiative, which is the legitimate way of selling space.

There is no way one could distinguish which newspaper or news channel is carrying paid news and which isn’t. No one knows the extent to which this is happening; even the smartest in the industry cannot spot and claim that this channel or publication carries paid news.

It’s sad and critical for the dozens of media houses that don’t sell their editorial space as they get dragged along with the rest when such a topic arises. The best brains in the industry need to congregate to think this through carefully.

Kenneth Peter —

Daydreaming at Work

Have you ever been caught daydreaming at work? Ever woke up with a blank expression… “huh!” in a soporific meeting when someone asked you a question? Walked into your boss’s cabin and forget why you entered? Listened to an entire conversation and then asked “who in the what now?” This can be embarrassing, but it is very normal.

Stress or boredom can be the culprit, as they somehow let your mind wander away. In my previous  job, I called Monday the ‘Stress-Day,’ as there was tons of work waiting for me on my table. The Big Boss man would walk in with a huge frown as if I was the one that caused Monday to happen upon everyone. Then I would notice the list of pending emails, documents and notes that I had ignored on TGIF!

With neck-deep in work and totally stressed out my mind would automatically deviate towards randomness. Next thing you would notice is that I’m either lost staring at the computer screen or lost in my own world while someone was giving me a brief. Sadly, I was lost daydreaming regular stuff and not something imaginative and sci-fi like Calvin in Calvin & Hobbes. Remember how Calvin kept transforming his teacher Miss Wormwood into an alien while daydreaming in his classroom, wish I could imagine something similar, transforming my boss into an alien emperor who had abducted me and was forcing me to work in kryptonite* and energon* fields.

Boredom, the other reason is equally bad. It usually allows the mind to imagine extreme things in-depth as there are no wake up calls by anyone reminding you of pending work. To stay away from boredom, take a break, read or do puzzles. These days’ social networking sites come in handy when you have nothing to do and can keep you entertained while you keep on learning new stuff. Lastly, were you actually reading this post or daydreaming?

Kenneth Peter —

*Kryptonite – fictional element in Superman
*Energon – primary source of power for Transformers
Comic strips taken from Google

Are you Pitching or Spamming?

Brand launches, quarterly results, joint-venture, tie-ups, promotions etc, there is always something or the other happening in your organization that requires immediate media attention. For the same you have your Pitch Note ready, drafted a fancy email with an appealing subject line, attached all the relevant documents, copied all the email id’s of journalists and bloggers on the bcc list and are ready to hit the send tab. (More like: In your face! like it or not)

Many Public Relations Professionals often forget that the people they are pitching the news item to, might be working on something more important. Whether they are journalists, bloggers or someone at the news desk we need to respect them and their precious time. While pitching to the media you need to establish who will welcome your pitches and also understand your target audience in order to have the best results.

Sending repeated mails or ‘spamming’ journalists is not the best way to get your news published. The trick is to understand what the journalist or blogger usually writes about so that you may have a better chance of sending them something that would grab their attention. Here are a few steps that might help:

  • Read as much as you can: Pick up all the papers and try reading all the news related to your industry, while browsing through the rest. Maintain an excel sheet to note down the names of the journalist who cover your particular sector.

  • Do some research online: Make a list of blogs and bloggers covering your sector. Also subscribe to their blog to receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Pick-up the phone to get answers: Try calling media houses directly and ask for the journalist who covers your topic as this will make the pitching process simpler for both the parties. This can save you a lot of time.

  • Go meet them: While on the phone, try to set up an appointment and go meet them personally to build a connection.

Several journalist I have met usually point out that PR professionals keep on pitching like there’s no tomorrow. They refer to our pitch notes as ‘spam mails’ and say the pitch usually ends up in the recycle bin. The point here is many PR professionals blindly select journalists to pitch without knowing the beat they cover, thus their pitches are treated as unwanted emails.

Think before you pitch and don’t end up being referred to as a PR spammer by journalists.

Kenneth Peter —

10 Comments you always wanted to leave on Facebook

The homepage of facebook always welcomes us with updates of the recent activities of our friends, colleagues or of people we don’t even know but have added them for some reason or the other. Some are funny, some are interesting and some are apt for whatever is trending at that moment. But many are just plain stupid… dumb status messages that are there for no rhyme or reason.

What irritates me is to see some dimwit acting as an industry expert or critic and giving out his or her opinion; half left status messages left by people, asking for follow-up comments from friends before they complete their message; minute by minute commentary of an ongoing game and so on…

I have stopped myself several times and that too at the very last moment from commenting on such status updates. Here are some comments that were created but never got posted:

  1. Who’s gives the ****!

  2. Your status message really sucks!

  3. Why do you even need to think? Or Nobody cares of what you think!

  4. Will you stop leaving your status message incomplete just to gain attention of curious losers asking: Why? Where? How? What happened?

  5. Just shut-up and go weep elsewhere

  6. You think your status is funny? Get your head examined!

  7. I’d visit a news website if I wanted news updates

  8. You look really ugly; please stop torturing us by uploading more pictures of yourself partying

  9. Has ESPN signed you as their official commentator on Facebook?

  10. Get a life!

Felt really good to get those comments out.

Kenneth Peter —

STOP! Don’t eat…until I take a picture

Trending these days is clicking pictures of elegantly garnished dishes before taking a bite. Almost everyday, I see pictures of delectable food uploaded by people connected to me on social networking sites like twitter, facebook, and linkedin. In fact, one of my friends has a photo album on Flickr dedicated to exotic dishes he has had over years.

Clicking food pictures, keeping photo albums or having a food blog is a growing phenomenon.  Aware of the trend camera manufacturers like Sony, Nikon, Panasonic have already released cameras with special macro focusing, close-up mode or simply ‘food mode’ features.

These pictures or photo albums are also a quick source of information. Pictures are usually accompanied by a status message and follow-up comments that give information on the food item along with the name and location of the restaurant. So if you like what you see and the restaurant happens to be in your neighborhood, you don’t need to do a Google search for the restaurant or read the reviews.

Lastly, if you are maintaining an online food diary, they will help you calculate the amount you spent on eating out and also keep a tab on your calorie intake. Later, you can point out to your son or daughter how you gained those extra lbs.

Kenneth Peter —