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Public Relations – The Worst Job A Shy Person Can Ever Have And Why I’m Glad I Did it

April 29th, 2012 1 comment

Okay, public relations probably isn’t the worst job an overly shy person can have – but it’s pretty damn close.

Public relations is all about trying to persuade strangers in the media to take interest in your client’s product and write about it. This usually involves hassling them by all means necessary – email, phone, in person – repeatedly until they give in or invest in a restraining order. Public relations also involves high concentrations of flirting and schmoozing, which are both effectively Kryptonite to shy people.

People + Social Setting = Shy Person Kryptonite

So what the hell was I doing in Los Angeles as a public relations coordinator?

That Cliff’s Notes are that I wanted to get to California, public relations fit my college degree, and I somehow convinced myself that doing something that I would likely be terrible at was a great way to overcome my shyness.

The company I worked for specialized in promoting video games. My vast video game resume included playing Mario Brothers and King Kong on my Nintendo when I was seven. Luckily, the company’s hiring policy was “take the first person who walks through the door and is breathing.” After demonstrating my impressive breathing skills, I was golden.

 

Over the next couple of months, it became more and more apparent that public relations was the exact opposite of everything that I was good at. For instance, I am great at not talking to people and not going to parties and not impressing crowds with my wit and candor.

The worst part was the phone.

Da dun...

It would always happen the same way. Our client would make some sort of announcement, maybe new screenshots or a game trailer. We’d send out an email to our vast list of media sources asking them to write about it. 99.9% of all these emails were ignored, and so we would turn to our next weapon of choice: phone.

Da Dun...Da Dun

I would print the list of contacts out, sometimes hundreds of names, and call them one by one, pitching them the story and using all of my non-existent charm, wiles. It took me all of one day to develop a deeply-seeded complex about the phone. I loathed it. I woke up in the morning and felt the weight of all the calls I’d have to make that day pressing crushing me.

Da Dun...Da Dun... DA DUN, DA DUN-DA DUN-DA-DUN!

In other words, it sucked royally. I should just add here that I hardly ever actually played the video games that I was pitching and did not, in fact, own a single gaming system – not even a Game Boy.

Each day of work became harder. I started taking the stairs instead of the elevator just to forestall the inevitable calling for a few extra precious seconds.

 

And then there were the events my company threw on behalf of our clients. We were not only expected to attend but also to come off as mildly interesting. My memories are a blur of crowded bars filled with fashionably dressed strangers. For the most part, people were very nice, but I had a lot of trouble with the “at least be mildly interesting” instructions I was given.

 

My coping mechanisms at these events included fiddling with a drink, wandering aimlessly from one side of the bar to the other and texting my sister to call me so I could step outside and regroup for a couple of minutes.

Sound like a nightmare? It was.

I was a terrible fit for the position and left after less than a year. Yet, for all that stress – all those dreaded climbs up the stairs to a list of names I needed to call – I’m glad for my public relations experience.

Why?

Simple – I learned one of the most important lessons of my life. No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be a bright, blossoming social butterfly.

I'll never be a social butterfly

The more I struggle to force myself into the wrong mold, the more miserable I’ll be. When we concentrate on improving weaknesses, we may be able to reach a level of mediocrity if we’re lucky. If we concentrate on improving our strengths, we may just be able to become great.

When I started focusing on the things I was good at – mainly, writing – my confidence grew, and I noticed my shyness backing off. There’s no self-esteem booster like being good at something and knowing it.

Now, as a part of my copywriting and copyediting business, I’m on the phone almost every day. I also have to network and meet potential clients – sometimes complete strangers – to pitch them. In essence, I’m doing a lot of the same things that used to give me hives in my PR days, yet I don’t feel the same nearly-terminal level anxiety.

The reason’s pretty obvious. I’m not pitching video games I don’t care about, and I’m not thrown into a situation I have no control over. I’m pitching myself and my writing skills – two things I truly believe in. That makes all the difference.

The moral of this story is to do what you’re good at. Be proud of your skills and use that confidence to keep your shyness at bay. This may seem like a really simple lesson, but it took me nearly a year of hell to figure it out.

The Free Press Release Experiment Part Two

January 19th, 2012 8 comments

The Exciting Conclusion!

I know that you’ve been on the edge of your seat waiting for the results of my groundbreaking free press release experiment.

…not the edge?

At least the middle of your seat then…oh…not even that huh?

Mild curiosity?…come on, don’t make me beg.

Alright, so you’ve been mildly curious to learn the results of my free press release experiment.

Last week, I put together a little experiment to test the integrity of the free press release options on the web. Sure, there was a little scientific curiosity in the mix, but mostly this experiment was spurred by my lack of marketing budget for my new ebook Falling – Girl with Broken Wings.

 

I spent three hours putting together a press release announcing the book’s release and two hours submitting it to five press release websites:

The release went out on 01/11/12. It’s been a full week now, and the results are in. Was my five hours of time worth the investment? Do free press releases provide any type of reach? Am I now a multi-million dollar author who can afford to clone my favorite goldfish so that me and Hans the guppy will never be separated? (Hint: the answer to that last one is no, but I’ll find a way Hans. I swear it!)

They say that the vast majority of scientific experiments end in failure. It’s comforting to know that I’m in good company. Below is a screenshot of a Google search I did using the exact title of my press release.

 

You’ll see that I got a whopping three results. I’m no math major, but I do understand that, with the exception of the numbers one and two, three is pretty much as flimsy as it gets.

The top result is from the 24-7 Press Release website. The second result got picked up from I-Newswire, and the third result was from the PR Log site. It’s disappointing enough that these three companies provided only a single link each, but what the heck happened to Online PR News and PR.com? Does their free press release option distribute to an Internet that exists in an alternate reality (and do these alternate reality web suffers even have access to Amazon?)

It’s interesting to note that the press release I posted on this blog (not exactly a search engine powerhouse) made it to the second page of search results. Therefore, I can only conclude that this humble blog is a better PR site than PR.com and Online PR News. (Thus, I will soon be rolling out an online press release service called “Shy Writer Diamond Plan – sure, you’ll only get one link but we’re still better than Online PR News and PR.com”)

Just for kicks, I searched for the title of my press release on Google News, which brought back zero results. This was not surprising as most PR distribution services require payment to submit to Google News. Googling the full title of my book did not bring up any of the press releases on the first two search results pages. My efforts weren’t a total waste, though. I did learn that there is a song called “Girl With Broken Wings” by Manchester Orchestra.

By the way, I have heard a crazy rumor that other search engines exist that are not called Google. A quick Google search quickly laid these rumors to rest. (This is a joke. Bing and Yahoo! do exist, I think. I’ve never used them.)

Lastly, combing through the Google Analytics for my book’s website, I was not able to find any indication that my press release adventure had resulted in a bump in traffic.

These results point to a non-surprising, non-revolutionary conclusion that will not rock your world in any way, shape, or form (won’t even jostle your world a little bit). Free…sometimes sucks.

If you are looking for a cheap way to market your company, I suggest taping your cat for five hours. You’re bound to catch it doing something that will garner a few hundred hits on YouTube. Adding your company’s website address in the video’s background should result in some decent exposure, certainly more than you’d get by spending five hours putting out a press release through free websites.

Don’t have a cat? Well, then you might need to dole out some bucks. Most of the same press release companies I used in my experiment offer basic distribution packages starting at $22 on Online PR News and $49 on 24-7 Press Release. I-Newswire offers monthly packages, PR Log is a free press release site, and PR.com…well, that site just looks ghetto. I’d recommend staying away unless you want to get your car jacked as soon as you look the other way.

In the past, I’ve used the 24-7 Press Release $49 service with decent results. They put together a nice report with over a dozen links to distribution sites, which I appreciate.

I know that there are additional press release sites out there on the net. Some of them may even have free options with a little more push behind them, but I’ve learned my lesson. Free press releases aren’t worth the effort. Plus, I don’t have time at the moment. I’ve got to go walk the fish.

The Free Press Release Experiment

January 13th, 2012 3 comments

So, I find myself in a bit of a quandary. I’ve released my ebook, Falling, and I want to let everyone know about it, but I have a marketing budget of roughly zero dollars.

Luckily, chance/fortune/providence/a broken condom saw to it that I ended up right here in this time and place where access to bunches and bunches of people was just as easy turning on Torgo (my laptop) and hopping online.

Free is the new black, so why not take advantage?

The traditional way to announce an important piece of news was to launch a press release. Now, many people are satisfied with posting an update on Facebook and Twitter. Press releases are still around however, and so are a growing number of press release distributors (the companies that actually release the press releases to news and media networks).

I’ve written many press releases; first as a worker bee at a public relations agency, and more recently for my own clients as part of my copywriting business, Endeavor Writing.

There are some top tier (means expensive) press release distribution sites like PR Newswire and BusinessWire that PR agencies typically use to cast a huge net. There’s also a growing crop of smaller distributors. These guys don’t have quite the distribution muscle of the big guns, but they’re also within the budget of most small business owners. Some even offer free press release options.

Free, the magic word.

I’ve always been curious about these free options. I’m well aware that they don’t have the distribution power behind them of a paid press release, but do they get any love at all?

No time like the present and a non-existent budget to try it out. Earlier this week, I spent roughly three hours creating and polishing a press release. It wasn’t one of my best, but I am a big believer in the idea that “perfection is the enemy of actually getting stuff done”. Next, it was time to hunt down these free press release sites, upload my little baby and see what happened.

On 01/11/2012, I ended up submitting to five different sites that offer free press release distribution options:

In all cases, these sites offered a free press release option that was ad supported. That means my baby could very well be announcing my book and pushing weight loss diet pills at the same time. It’s not a comforting thought, but I’ve little room to complain.

Most of the programs restricted free press releases to one per week, or even one per month. Understandably, the free press releases were allowed very few extras in the way of category choices, keyword options and image inclusion. Bare bones means bare bones. In fact, only one company – PR Log – allowed me to add an image.

On a side note, PR Log is a free press release site and was, by far, the easiest site to use. Many of the other sites kept hounding me to switch to a paying option throughout the submission process. One company in particular – I-Newswire – was really bad about this.

It took me just under two hours to submit my press release to these five sites, making it a five hour adventure from start to finish. Now we’ll see if my time was well spent. I’ve created Google Alerts for a few terms related to my book. These alerts will pick up any mentions across the web and let me know what type of distribution my press release got. I’ll also be checking the Google Analytics on my book website to see if any traffic was generated from these websites.

All in all, I think I should be able to track the results of this experiment pretty well. I’ll give the press release a couple of days to land, and then I’ll report back the results on this blog.

On a last note, if you are considering performing this same experiment, don’t rush the process. Make sure you develop a compelling press release (Google “How to Write a Press Release” for help). You’ll need to create an account with every press release distribution service that you use. You’ll also find that each company has a slightly different submission process. Some of these sites are not very intuitive. Some of these sites, in fact, seem to take some malicious pleasure in watching you impotently click on every conceivable links searching for where you can actually submit your god damn press release! Read all of the instructions carefully and double check everything before you submit. Once your press release is out, it’s out.