Monday, August 10, 2009

This Blog (address is dead)...Long Live the Blog

So...this weekend I decided to test drive Wordpress...and ended up driving it off the lot the same day.

This blog will now continue on at:

You can also find the main page at

Cheers all!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

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 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.

Monday, August 3, 2009

PRCog's Basic Guide to butchering English for 140 chars....

I'm a long-winded twitter frequently doesn't give me enough elbow room to do my wordsmithing (or add comments to a RT, etc.). So, I butcher English instead and abbreviate the heck out of everything I can. @PRDude is also a frequent violator, perhaps even more extreme in his abbrs than me.

This, as you might imagine, frequently causes confusion and apparently a productivity loss with some (sorry Arik!). It has also inspired some fun mockery & an odd flrry o disc. on whthr this pst itslf shld be wrttn in Cog-esse.

& So, w/o further butchering, the "Basic Guide" (post may be updated as I'm reminded of other abbrvs. Advanced guide e-book available for $19.95, with a mini book light included with your credit card order ;)

Basic Rules

Go with accepted abbreviations:
  • WSJ (Wall Street Journal);
  • NYT (NY Times);
  • State abbreviations (remember, Missouri is MO, not MI; MI is Michigan; not Mississippi; which is actually MS -- not Missouri);
  • w/ (with);
  • w/o (without);
  • PRC (PR Cog) [that is an accepted abbreviation, yes?)
  • WTF
  • WTH
  • Eff (tho writing this one out can feel better)
Write it like it sounds, or should/would sound:
  • Tho (Though)
  • 2 (To/Too/Two--context helps)
  • Thru (Through/Threw)
  • NE1 (Anyone/any one)
  • U (You)
  • U'r (You're)
  • Ur (Your)
  • L8 (Late)
  • c8r (cater)
  • Caveats - Abbreviations that make it look like you have a 3rd grade education are NOT acceptable -- e.g., never use "Rite" for Write or Right. "Rt" is acceptable for Right. Wood for Would is a no-go, but Wld for would is fine (see below); Abbreviating names w/ phonics is frowned upon, go with initials if necessary. [UPDATE: As @tjdietderich points out RT maybe can be confused for a Retweet. Context is important]
The Apostrophe is your friend -- when your meaning is clear
  • G'Morning (Good Morning) [It does help if they're southern expressions]
  • G'day (Good Day)
  • M'dear (My dear)
  • M'Goodness (you see where this is going...)
Drop your vowels -- at least 1 language I know of doesn't use vowels (above school grade writing). Sound/Meaning is derived from context and the approximate sound
  • Mrkt (market)
  • twttr (Twitter)
  • Dsk (desk or disk depending on context)
  • Abt (About)
  • Trn (turn)
  • Arnd (around)
  • The lst is endlss
  • Caveat(s) -- Do not drop a vowel when it will make a different word - "they" cannot become "thy."
That covers the basics for 'Butchering English to fit in 140 chars or less' during ur lnch hrs -- more &/or updts l8r as they bcome req'd or cm 2 my attn. :-P

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

#Masquertweet behaviour

Apparently I've become the poster child of anonymous tweeters (at least in our own little circle). Over the last few days I've heard a few concerns from the other anonymous tweeters about maintaining their security and keeping their (lack of) identity at the event.

I thought this went without saying....but just in case.....

Any kind of misconduct, harassing behavior or motions to un-mask (literally or figuratively) someone at #Masquertweet simply will not be tolerated. I'm all about a good joke and having a fun time (and if you're not then why in the world would you be following my feed), but we all know the stakes in this little game we call life and should all know where the lines are drawn.

If anyone is unclear on this - lemme know. I'm happy to discuss it - you know where to find me.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Social Media: The great communicator?

Rambling a bit on this one...not enough coffee...

In a recent WSJ article from our own Julia Angwin she notes that digital small talk really doesn't replace a 1-on-1 interaction for finding out what's going on with old friends (BTW - in this case 'our own' refers to the twitter community).

Julia's (terriffic piece) is spot on regarding known friends - friends who we may hesitate to open a vein to because they were that much a part of the building of our own self-image through high school, college and our early careers that we have to keep that persona up with them. That is unless of course we've made a 180 in our lives and don't give a darn anymore.

The segment that goes unaddressed in Julia's piece are those who would not have met without Twitter and other social networks (Nota Bene: I don't include FB and LI in this segment. For my proper personae I only use those for people I actually know or have worked with. Twitter on the other hand is an orgy. I do know a number of others who will connect with anyone on either - that's simply not my style.)

Referencing my last post and making a bit of an exception to it (I promise I'm not bipolar but rather just see many shades of gray) - there are those I've met initially on twitter, followed by a long 'acquaintance curve' that once I actually do meet them in person or have a phone call with them, may actually be more aware of where they are now in their lives than a 'long lost' friend may be even with the assistance of status updates given my lack of prejudice from having known them for years.

For anyone tracking it, I've had the unadulterated pleasure of meeting a handful of you. With each coffee/drink meeting we were able to talk immediately, comfortably, completely passing over the awkward small talk of old acquaintances or the false notion of complete familiarity FB updates may bring. Each conversation would likely have gone on for many more hours (and some in fact did go on for hours).

The topic of twitter as the great icebreaker actually came up in May (sorry I can't find the entire thread).

Of course the proof is in the pudding - it'll be interesting to see how this all pans out next week at Masquertweet and we all get to play with a hundred-ish of our favorite people we've never met.

(PS -- Julia, you are, of course, invited Masquertweet. I'm sure there's more than one of us that would love to talk SM with you).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

How Twitter will die...

(Thank goodness I don't need subheads - not sure I can be that optimistic twice in a row.... ;) )

No, I don't mean the company, I mean how it will die for each of us individually.

As a number of you know I'm an old-school hacker (in this sense). Everything from spending hours tinkering with the order of loading up TSRs in my autoexec.bat and config.sys files to get the most from my 2MB of RAM to coding HTML in DOS 'Edit' before there were any worthwhile HTML editor applications. Back in the day this kind of thing went hand-in-hand with message and file boards to trade secrets, tricks and hacks.

And so, for many of us it all really begins with the BBS. Like so many to-be hackers of the time I was hooked from that first time I heard my 2400 bps modem connect to a BBS (a WWIV system I'll note). It only took days until I began saving up for a 14.4k bps ....

This was still back in those precious days when BBSes, Rock music and staring at a computer screen were all the cause of angsty and withdrawn teenagers in the mass media. Anyone who participated back then surely recalls their parents asking
  • "What do you talk to 'those people' about?"
  • "Why would you send messages to someone you don't know?"
  • "It must only be perverts and criminals - you will stop now or [Insert threat]."
Yes, it's the same questions we get now from the luddites - why would someone I don't know care about what I'm doing or what I thought of a particular movie?

And it's the same reason - we're social creatures and for some of us this is a preferred way to connect, for better or worse ... but that's a post for a different day.

Since then, so for nearly 20 years, I've pretty much done it all:
  • ran (or as they would've called it then - SysOp-ed) my own BBSes, Co-SysOped others; even posting against myself to build interest in the system (Hmmm, maybe I should talk to someone about this MPD ;) )
  • played in aol chat rooms
  • admined IRC and other live (actual live - no APIs and no fail whales) chat systems
  • organized and promoted listservs/mailing-lists
  • and the list goes on....
I've avoided playing with online communities (or as we're now calling them - social networks) for the last few years since I've seen how it works and with the assistance of my crystal ball know how it'll end and had little reason to rejoin the fun...

(Disclaimer - this applies to the 'everyday' users, not writers/journalists/bloggers or Sm. Businesses who use the service to ply their wares. It's for those of us who discuss booze, dinner plans, work, yoga classes, what our kids are up to, etc. The "real conversations" on the service - where you can figure out a user's top "friends," recommendations, potential FollowFridays simply by looking at their last 40 tweets or their stats. Take a look at my most frequent @'s - I couldn't even begin to dispute the conclusions that can be drawn from it in terms of who I speak to, or have spoken to, on a regular basis historically).

And so, one day, it'll happen a few years down the line - you'll come back from a business trip, long vacation, or sick leave and simply not have the time or energy to login to twitter and your life will continue with no (or minimal) negative effect.

Out of a distorted sense of obligation you'll eventually login, but won't participate like you did before - conversation threads will be lost, the tweeple you only chatted with occasionally will be lost in the static, and your 'regulars' will even be logging in less or their conversations will become diluted as more people join. Then you'll go for weeks without logging in....

Notices of DMs will skim by in your email (assuming you're even signed up for the notices) unless it's from someone you've taken the care to trade actual emails with and even then you'll find yourself replying to them in email. A relationship growth to be sure, but not twitter based which is the topic of this post. Eventually you'll simply not bother to login except when bored on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon with a good drink to see what's going on and even that will stop at some point...

Fast-forward a bit more and...

One day, 5-10 years in the future. Any loosely knit circles of friends you've developed have spread to the four winds and something will spark a memory - A new coworker with a less common spelling of Erik/Arik, mention of a Cog being broken on a gear or someone using the word twitter to actually refer to what birds do and you'll recall a tweet, incident (perhaps a public tweet meant to be a Direct), or maybe even this paragraph.

A smile will pass over your face and for a moment you'll pause. You'll wonder what happened to all those people you 'knew' and spent hours, days even, talking to...and the-then real life will catch up and time will move forward once more.

You'll make vain attempts to reach out to a few of them, but alas cell phone numbers and email addresses change, people become impossible to find, and even if you do find them after half a decade what do you have to chit-chat about that was so special back then in '09? The feeling won't be anything easy to express - just a feeling of a deep (now hollow) friendship, memories of fun, and a sense of loss.

For anyone who was using technology to connect 5-10 years ago - AOL chat rooms, message boards, forums, etc. - Do you still go to the same haunts? Do you have any connections from those prior platforms that moved on with you to twitter and facebook (excluding maybe pre-existing real life connections)?

If yes, then you're certainly a better man than me.

Conclusion - I don't have a real one....

It's up to each of us to make of this what we want. If it's deep relationships, continuing friendships, lasting connections - then make it real. Meet your people, email with them, let them in and buck this trend. If this is just a game, a time-killer, or something to do during calls - then continue on, but one day you will know you've lost something.

(And yes, before the comments begin I do see the irony in this coming from me -- the one who doesn't even post his real name).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Masquertweet Update

Yes - Plans for #Masquertweet are proceeding. Everything is shaping up quite nicely and we expect to have a venue announcement in the next few days.

But, even more exciting, I'm pleased (ok, thrilled really) to announce that all proceeds from Masquertweet will go to 12for12K (or more specifcally their selected July charity).

So, how do I look in blue?

What's 12for12K you ask - well if you've been under a twitter rock (twock?) for the last few months...go here for the best possible explanation.

Over the last few weeks I've had the sheer joy of tweeting, talking and even meeting with some of the lovely 12for12K people - @rachelakay, @ginalaguardia, @arikhanson and of course the 12for12K ringleader @dannybrown (there's too many to name here, but it's a start). This should go without saying, but just in case - follow them ....I'll wait.

Anyway, while working on plans for #Masquertweet @prdude, @aerocles and I realized that in addition to having piles of fun at the event there was room to do some good. Knowing the fine 12for12K people we reached out and things progressed from there.

So know, in addition to having a blast, you can do some good for the world at this July's first-ever Masquertweet.

For full details on the event -, RSVP at Some details are still up in the air, but we're always looking for additional sponsors, tie-ins, giveaways or other fundraising ideas. If you or your clients may be interested in playing in the sandbox with us, please do not hesitate to be in touch - prcog1 [at]

More details to be posted here as they become available, so keep an eye out and RSVP (even as a maybe) and we'll be in touch.


A very emotional post (Part 1)

So this is a very difficult post for me.

It's an issue I've considered long and hard over the last couple of weeks. Some of the deliberations you all shared last Saturday as I wandered around lower Manhattan awaiting a sign from Sunnyvale, CA.


Yes - I've finally decided on the newest iPhone over the Pre.

First let's go back one step. I Love Palm.

More precisely, I loved Handspring a company created by the original Palm founders that made cheaper PalmOS handhelds. They were innovative in the boring PDA market from Day 1. Multi-colored handhelds, the Springboard slot, the Edge (one of the sexiest PDA's I've ever seen), and finally the Treo line.

Yes - the Treo - up until last week the only real surviving remnant of a product Palm had was actually developed by an acquired company. (Yes, I'm ignoring the Tungsten line intentionally - the PDA w/o phone market is quickly evaporating as prices come down).

As far as I'm concerned Palm was Handspring post acquisition.

And when I say I love Palm I mean, I love Palm. As in we've always been a Palm household - multiple Handsprings, multiple Treos. I even have some Palm stock in my portfolio.

(next part is all about my Apple love....this post got to be entirely too long first time around so breaking it up here....)

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Because she told me to, it's a great pic...and will likely make at least one of them blush....

Thursday, May 28, 2009

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...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dear Twitter....your new @ settings suck

Ok, I don't usually post this quickly on anything but this one sucks particularly badly.

No, I didn't find this out on my own. I first saw it on @whitneyhess's blog.

So here's the beef - there's been a change to what shows up in your timeline - long story short (if I'm reading this right) - when someone you follow replies to someone you don't follow you won't see the update of the person you do follow.

Oddly enough I was working on a blog post on the train this evening reflecting that I get and find more good twitter people NOT through #followfriday but just by seeing who else my people are talking to and what they're talking about. Side note - the iphone/itouch keyboard is really quite wretched on a bouncy train.

Well this change basically takes twitter from a great cocktail party (my favorite analogy) where you can easily join any conversation and make new friends to a cliquey high school cafeteria where if you don't know the right people (or combination of people) you simply won't find a place to sit and wonder wtf you're doing there.

There's simply so many ways this sucks that it's difficult to even list them all. Here's to hoping this changes before I wake up tomorrow morning.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Update: WTF's a #Masquertweet

Hey All -

So, as an update to the original post some new info on #Masquertweet!

A final date has been set - July 16th!

We've also had some problems with the last RSVP page so we've put up a new page at Socializr - (Yes, the post-slash is intentional).

A clarification on costumes - There is NO requirement to be in full costume.  We do realize a large number of you will be coming from work (or job hunting). A few of us will certainly be in full costume, so if you're so inclined, don't feel awkward about showing up in over the top gear.

However, to stay true to theme, we will expect at least a de minimis mask appearance.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Flack Limerick I

Concept initiated by @karyncooks

Flack Limerick I

There once was a flack from Nantucket
Whose pitch was so slick you couldn't duck it
     He pushed send
     The hits never did end
Yet somehow the client still managed to f_(k it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The case against anonymity


'Another kind of tweetgret'

[Disclaimer: Tongue not in cheek for this post]

As a few of you already know, late last week I met with one of my 'follower/friends' (and no, I'm not naming names unless they give the the nod).

Anyway, for those of you who know why I keep my anonymity (and that I'm pretty strict about it) you can imagine this is/was a bit unnerving.  Of the thousand or so of you out there, up until a few days ago, there were exactly zero that had ever (knowingly) seen or met me.  

The mini-meet went great (IMHO).  We talked about twitter (and its weirdness), our significant others, how we ended up in our professions, non-work related projects, etc. 

An interesting side note -- this person, notwithstanding evidence (i.e. the meeting itself) that I might actually share it with them, respected (wc?) my anonymity enough that they didn't ask me who I really was and as far as I could tell the thought didn't even cross their minds (that might not be the case though as I'm not psychic).  Then again, they just might not care (entirely possible as well).

Overall this was the type of person I would enjoy getting to know better - trustworthy (I believe), smart, funny, kind, etc. - and likely would if we were in the same office or met under different circumstances.

And there's the wrench - of the hundreds of you I've had conversations with, odds are there's a significant number that I would enjoy real-life business or personal relationships with (in the platonic sense - seriously people - happily married w/ Coglings, remember?).

Of course, without my anonymity there's little chance I would've ever met a fraction of you, or if I had, there's little chance the relationship would be the same.

This mask I voluntarily put on every day, gives me the freedom to spew hellfire about my clients and co-workers, make inappropriate comments, and do what I do (not sure there's a suitable word for it).  At the same time it keeps me in the shadows (at least while at this place of employment) when it comes to really interacting and taking anything to the next level. Quite literally this persona (with the exception of #Masquertweet) is 99% talk...140 character talk...but talk nonetheless.

It'll be interesting/challenging to see how this progresses....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

5 of 25 real things

Yes, this was inspired by the stupid FB trend.  

I thought would be more interesting here since, quite literally, 0 (zero) of you know me IRL (in real life) and sometimes 140 just isn't enough.  

Presented in the occasional 5 bullet segments (that way when I've been ignoring the blog for some time I can throw another five up here to buy myself some time...:)
  1. I've never been west of Las Vegas, and before that (since it was for business and all I saw was the inside of the convention center and the place we rented (so it doesn't really count...)) Colorado.
  2. I haven't owned a car for nearly 9 years.  The only time I miss it is when I rent one.
  3. Notwithstanding my flirtering I am very happily married w/ little coglings.  (Sorry twitter-ettes).
  4. Politically I'm 90% bleeding heart liberal.
  5. I'm a Google Ho - if I can use Google for a service I do: mail (for my real accounts), docs, applications, maps, video, phone ...(except subway maps...just doesn't work well).

Thursday, April 2, 2009

WTF's a #Masquertweet

Some of this info in this post has been updated - after reading, please check here for more info.

Well it started innocently enough...

For those of you who have been following me for some time know I tweet anonymously for numerous reasons. As does @prdude and @aerocles recently became more open with his id (check his blog as well as prdude's at too!).

And so we went here

and here...
Along the way @jessisjuicy hopped on (w00t!) and we came up with a name:

(Because #twitterade sounds like something you drink after a long tweeting session.)

Unfortunately @prdude refuses to sing Broadway show tunes and snuggies have been banned. But we are expecting cupcakes (and cupcakes ? men! ;)) and have a few leads out for booze distributors.

We believe it might be the first masked tweetup (though we may be wrong). There's also been some talk of mixing it with #tweetnaked.

And so where are we now? Here's what we know:

  • The #Masquertweet will take place in NYC
  • It will take place sometime in July (not the week/end of the 4th) July 16th
  • We do not have a venue yet, are seeking one and have been in contact w/ Heather Dueitt @hdueitt who's got some great leads.
  • We're happy to consider vendors, anyone wanting to provide promos, etc. drop one of us a tweet or email.
  • To be kept in the loop, RSVP yes or maybe at
  • We'd love to make this totally free/open bar - so sponsors very welcome. Or buy this apartment and I'll put all the bounty money into the event (Please send any other reward arrangements our way, we're happy to advertise...).
  • This is not a flack only event...assistants can come too ;). No really, any and all are welcome, even journos =]
If I've missed anything (pretty sure I have), drop me a note or a tweet.


Some of this info in this post has been updated - after reading, please check here for more info.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dear Journalist ... (Part 2)

(Please see Part 1 for the intro to this post).

PS - There is one more reason we won't stop -- it works.

We (Flacks) have all gotten an undeserving hit at some point or another in our careers.
  • the story was so great the reporter didn't care that we called when they've only asked for emails, or
  • it was such a slow news day in Miami that a story about something in Minnesota made it into the local section
we've all had a great hit from the combination of dumb luck and a hastily built list.

If there's even the slightest chance of a random hit, what's it hurt to increase my list by another 50-500 reporters. Costs me nothing but a hit could be out there, just waiting for the right time. Would you waste the chance?


Dear Journalists ... (Part 1)

Dear Journalists (and bloggers) -

Gina is right. So is Chris. We (flacks) as a group, generally suck. As a whole it took us a long time to catch on to the whole blog thing and we're still a little terrified about it. Generally there's no publisher to threaten appeal to and your commenting readers are of the One Flew Over the Cuckoo nest kind of nuts.

But this is really directed to mainstream press...

Here's the thing - and I'm sure most of you realize this, you're mostly pretty smart folk - we do what we do (including overmailing and blind-mailing) because we have to. We're hired guns - the client comes to us and the conversation goes something like this -

"Hey Flacks - we want a story in The Metropolitan Moon about our widget."

"But it's the MetroMoon - they don't generally cover Widgets, or anything similar."

"They wrote something up 10 weeks ago." (Produces trend story).

"Yeah, that was in the lifestyle section on new, modern, widgets. It's a trend piece - this was before you hired us, they aren't going to redo the story now. Most people never have a reason for a widget in their life - 2 stories in a year, much less 3 months just isn't going to happen."

"Well we want in. If you can't or won't pitch it we'll find another agency that will." (May not be stated, but is always implied).

"Oh. Ok, we'll pitch it"

And then the thought process begins - how can I pitch this to a great pub., that just isn't going to care. Inevitably one of the following pitches will be produced, sent and perhaps follow-up pitched -
  • To the energy editor - "Just wanted you to know that some widgets by widget co are produced with clean/wind/horse/nuclear energy"
  • To the religion writer - "You may not have known this but the factory workers at widget factory have a religion"

  • To the kids/family writer - "We wanted to remind you (and your readers) that widgets are totally appropriate toys and not at all a choke hazard"

  • To the W. Coast bureau chief - "We wanted to let your office know that widgets are really popular out there and may merit a story."
You see where this is going.

It isn't that we don't care - we do, we're just trying to do what our client wants even if it's not best for them because (and I know you understand this) they won't end our contracts if we do what they say even we advise against it and sometimes it takes a phenomenal failure (under their instruction) to be given a bit more rope to do it right. And potentially worse for all of us, if we do pushback and they go to another, less reputable agency you'll get the same crap, but worse since the new agency is likely disinclined to push back even a little against their newest client.

Then again, sometimes we don't know better. Here's the other, not uncommon, scenario....

New client - sells Tidgets wants press. He opens the first meeting with ....

"So, we're launching a new Tidget the day after tomorrow, 8a eastern time. This launch can't fail, we've spent nearly 7 figures on the R&D so we need everyone to cover this. No it can't be moved - we're ringing the bell at the NYSE that day."

Forget whether or not the MetroMoon even covers Tidgets - we've got to learn the Tidget trade mag scene intimately in about 24 hours, craft a strategy, implement it and measure it.

After stopping all other projects, calling all-hands meetings and figuring out WTF a Tidget is, much less what could cost nearly 7-figures in making one, do you really think the first things we're going to do is dissect each issue of:
  • TidgetWeek

  • Month of Tidgets

  • Tidgets & Widgets

  • Tidgets Worldwide

  • Widgets International, with a quarterly Tidgets International supplement
to see who the exact proper beat reporter is?

No, we're going to our database and searching for Tidget beat and Tidget 'pitching notes'...even if the pitching note says "Not interested in Tidgets, I think they're the scourge of the Earth."

Yeah, you've got a blog called "Tidgets Today" that doesn't cover Tidgets for some reason -- tough, you're getting the release and the follow-up call. Heck we may even be a bit drunk to get the nerve to actually make these calls (ok, not really, but we'll wish we were).

And this doesn't just apply on coverage topics, it's also a geographic issue.

Imagine if you will, the days before the popularization of the internet - the midsize shop in NYC knew the regional press and the trade press. If a project fell outside that parameter they found a colleague in another small shop in the proper part of the country/world. So when NYC Co. opens LA Office small shop in LA gets directed to handle the LA press under NYC's guidance.

Now we're all national (if not international) agencies because we can see every paper on the planet every day and most for free online. Of course all the small-medium NYC agencies don't read the LAT everyday, we've got enough NY papers to keep up with, but you can bet if a client walks in and asks can we handle an LA project the answer will be yes. Why? Why not just farm it out to the LA agency?

Two big reasons - dollars and cents.

This year in particular we're all trying to bring in as much as possible now. We'll worry about later when later happens. The other big issue - even if our client loves us, the second we look at them and say "we can't do that" (even if there's a good reason why not) we run the risk of losing the client altogether, not just for that one project - either to a larger agency (which always poses a threat) or to a similar agency that is willing to lie and/or blindmail everyone possibly interested.

So we pick the lesser of the two evils - staying in business and keeping the client and doing our darndest to not bother too many people or hit outside the interest area. Do we succeed? Certainly not all of the time...

Oh, and PS .... (see part 2)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dear Client...Let's review what deadline means and what it means to you

Dear Client --

Ok, let's review what deadline means and what it actually means to you.

Yes, technically a deadline is "the time by which something must be finished or submitted; the latest time for finishing something" ( and so you'd think a deadline for an interview is the time by when it must be completed.

That would be true.

It's also true that it may be completed earlier.

Journalists do not have due dates (like in school) where it's all the same if an article is turned in on Wednesday or Friday. For them there IS a difference between finishing close to the deadline and finishing days before the deadline.

The most notable difference is time, which allows for more reporting or writing and/or free time (depending on if they're full-time or freelancers and how ambitious they are).

That doesn't even take into account being the first to break a story or provide profound information for a developing story.

If...scratch that...when we land you an interview and offer time slots do not automatically go for the last one because you feel like it. If you wait 2 (not unlikely) things can happen:

1) It's completely possible Life will happen to you or to the journalist (kid breaks arm, emergency root canal, power goes out, building evacuations) and then you're stuck because the journo's deadline probably isn't extended because of Life. The story, shorter than originally intended has run and you've now been edged out because you couldn't take 15 minutes on Tuesday and decided to wait until Friday.


2) The journalist has been interviewing tens of other people for the article and it's mostly written meaning your "authoritative" comments (which are the same as everyone else's in the industry) will be 4th fiddle, shoved somewhere in the middle of a story, if they even make it in at all.

When the page is blank it's easiest to get ink. Once the work's been done you've gotta have something real special to make the reporter do a significant rewrite.

So, the Fortune Cookie lesson is - take the interview as early as you can without breaking the laws of physics, it costs you nothing but significantly ups your odds of getting ink.

--Your ever-humble PR Cog

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dear Client ... Write for the right reasons

Here's to hoping I'm the only one this happens to and that it's a wasted read for the rest of you, I doubt it tho.

--PC (PR Cog)

Dear Client -

Write for the Right Reasons.

When you send me an article for placement (that is, a 'byline'), after reading it and fixing some of your wretched speeling and grammer (ha!), I try to figure out what the best target publication would be for your piece. Among the items I consider -
  • who can make sense of this article (is it too technical for a general purpose publication),
  • who would be most interested in the article (if it's stale it does little good to anyone) and
  • are there any other factors limiting its usability (a 12K word commentary is probably NOT going to find a home in a newsweekly).
Once I think I've found an appropriate set of targets I'll likely run that list by you, and anyone else in your PR, marketing, business development department that needs to see it. Then the inevitable will happen. I (and you might be CC'd on it) will get an email, that in some way or another can be distilled to one of the following:
  • How will placement there help us get new customers/business/clients
  • No one in the industry we know will see it when it runs in X
  • It'll be meaningless and/or a waste of time if it runs in Y because we'll have to cut it down to size.
There are three main (non-academic) reasons to put pen to paper and author an article you want to see placed:
  • To bring in new business
  • To strut for your industry (can overlap with #1 if referrals are a big part of your business)
  • To reinforce your reputation with old business
These are all perfectly valid reasons to write, but for each purpose there are considerations to well...consider (I only take out the thesaurus for paying clients, you readers will just have to cope).

If you want to develop new clients/business you have to write at a level your client will understand. If you work with widgets, don't get into statistical analysis of widget use over time - it's boring and no one will want to read it except subscribers to "Widget Analysis Weekly." Write instead, on what people/businesses can get from statistical analysis of their widgets - use plain English and real life examples:
When XYZ Corp analyzed their widget use they discovered none of their clients actually LIKED the yellow widgets but they ordered it because they wanted the complete set. They discontinued yellow, introduced canary, which customers loved, and began ordering individually.
No mention of how the survey was done or other minutiae that potential clients don't want. Give them the what and the why - not the How. These type of articles CAN go in general purpose business/entrepreneurial publications. Potential big circulation, but the trade-offs will be 1) No one from your industry will see it and 2) a pretty small percent of the readers will actually be interested in it so that circulation number can be deceiving. That being said - the ones who are interested, can become clients.

If you're trying to strut for your industry peers, which is not at all inappropriate if a significant part of your business comes from referrals or you get a decent amount of B2B work, go as high end as you'd like.

Make it excruciatingly detailed on the how - they're the ones that will be able to call your bluff if you gloss over something - let it be known far and wide that you are the man (woman) when it comes to this field and if they want the best they need to call you.

The trade-off - No WAY does it make it into a magazine you can find at the airport and your friends and family will have never heard of it (with certain exceptions - JAMA, etc.). What I'm saying is that it WILL end up in a trade. Circulation will be low, but of those subscribers, a well developed concept will be important to most of them and will get readers. These also frequently take the form of newsletters with high annual subscription costs (they'll have a big pass-along rate where a large office only has 1 subscript.) and no advertising since the circ. numbers are low. The readers are looking for deep content, not something to read while waiting for the dentist.

Both of these types of articles can help with #3 - building up your rep with existing clients.

A stat I've heard tossed about indicates it costs around 1/10 the cost to keep a client than it does to get a new client. Remind your clients of why they hired you - if you send them a newsletter with your 'published articles' and it's recognizable business magazines or respected trades they'll know you're staying sharp and current on the industry.

Don't wait for an RFP where you're begging for your lunch to make the client feel good about the choice of hiring you (or buying your product) - do it continually, like bringing your spouse flowers for no external reason, or doing the dishes/dinner/other chore without being asked (or asking if you should).

And so the moral of my story -- write for the right reasons:
  • If you're looking for new clients, figure out where they read and write to their level - tell them something they don't know but should.
  • If you're looking to impress - do it, but realize who's going to be most interested.
    • One one more thing - if you're doing this do it when it's most helpful. If you're writing an overview of a new law or regulation in your business do it when it's new - not 6 months later. If you write an 'overview' article 6 months later write it 'down' to a general reader because everyone IN your business already knows what you've managed to regurgitate onto the page and needs analysis or real deep thought - not just summaries.
Your PR Cog.