Monday, December 8, 2008

I've moved

All future posts will go on my new domain

jeffreyleonard was just an alias, a nom du plume, what my mom called me when I was in trouble.

Said, with lips pursed against teeth, like you say "clients," usually with a raised finger and a stern look, "Jeffrey Leonard!"

I'm 41. She may have more opportunities.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Career Update

The Rat City Rollergirls don't want me to do PR for them. I'm still going to publish my screenplay featuring cartoon roller skating rats cuz I think it's funny and might help them.

I was interviewed for Marketplace Money which will air this weekend. It was very fun, went into KUOW's studio, put on headphones, spoke into a big mic and talked about using time not employed by someone else to explore your creative side, do the things you love, spend time with family, and work on finding the right job.

Who knows what they'll use, but hopefully they'll mention The Stay-at-Home Dad Survival Guide

It might go on their website.

Local air times are here:

Please listen and let me know what you think.

Because no one else has ever done it...

I'm going to publish everything I've ever written.

People will call me prolific, neurotic and misguided.

I'll edit out the dirty stuff and change names where needed.

The truly silly who read it all in its entirety might discover the punchline to the longest, most-mediocre joke ever told.

I pity them.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Got a call from Marketplace, NPR radio

They want to know about underemployment.
I feel like I've never been more busy.
PR for me now is personal PR.
Totally different ballgame, and this cobbler is working hard to put new shoes on the little ones.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rat City Rollergirls

Looks like a fun group to do PR for.
It would beat network security PR, that's for sure.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Flaks - The Musical - Scene 3

The story of a Silicon Valley PR agency during the dotcom boom of the late 1990s

(Britt and Barb are in the women’s bathroom)

Britt (from one stall) – so, it didn’t go well with Clay
Barb – (from another stall) No.
Britt – I told you we…
Barb – Don’t! Just don’t.
Britt – Lori isn’t…
Barb – Shut up, Britt.

(They exit the stalls and stand talking at the sinks.)

Barb – We need to get Billy on the phone and prep him. If he doesn’t get past Clay, we could be out.
Britt – You mean Billy’s out…
Barb – Think Britt. I went to Lori behind Clay’s back, if Clay says “no” then they’ll know I wasn’t entirely truthful.
Britt – You lied.
Barb – Never say that word.

(They stop talking, Barb’s pensively drying her hands. Britt gets dreamy.)

Britt – For a geek, Billy’s kind of cute.
Barb – He’s not a geek. He’s a dork. (She breaks into song)
We need them to see a geek
Britt – But, he’s kind of cute
Barb – Too timid, too meek
Britt – We’ll get him a suit
Barb – What the hell, a male body’s all we need
Those clowns don’t trust me
To pitch their technology
Just you wait and see
They’ll love him for one simple reason
Britt – It’s tradeshow season
Barb – (disdain) they’ll trust him cuz he’s got a penis
The dumb brotherhood of we-ness
That, we, Britt, will never possess

Britt – Oh, right, yes...

Barb – So you see it proceeds logically
Loyalty determined biologically
Just you wait and see
Britt – yes I’ll wait and see
You follow your hunch...
Barb – It’s more than a hunch...
Britt – Fine, let’s go get lunch.

(They exit the bathroom. Two men are stopped outside the women’s bathroom, they’ve clearly been listening. Lincoln is Asian roughly 30, the other is John, younger, 20-something, junior. The men pretend not to have been listening. The women pretend not to care. After they’re gone, Lincoln shrugs at John. John says cheerfully, inanely)

John – Yes, but they don’t have urinals.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Flaks - The Musical -Scene 2

The story of a Silicon Valley PR agency during the dotcom boom of the late 1990s

Scene 2
(Barb and Clay are in Clay's office. Photos of Clay with tech legends, Steve Wozniak/Jobs, Larry Ellison, framed articles on the walls - a bust of Mark Twain sits illuminated in an alcove. Industry Awards are arranged on his desk and bookshelf, Bronze Anvils, Silver Trumpets)

Clay - (across desk) So, you're interviewing for a new AE?
Barb - We're looking around, yeah. (Tense, struggling to be confident).
Clay – When were you going to tell me? I work here, too, you know, oh, wait, yeah that’s right, I own the fucking place.
Barb – Now Clay
Clay – Don’t “Now Clay” me, Barb. I pay the bills around here, it’s my name on the letterhead.
(Clay goes quiet and Barb sits there quietly, too, waiting for Clay’s anger to subside which it does, then he asks)
What accounts would he be on?
Barb - Applied Hyper Math, maybe MetaBall, maybe some new business.
Clay - Oh, you've got some new business, then?
Barb - We're working on some things, we have leads, potentials...
Clay - Potentials...
Barb - Yes, quite a few actually.
Clay - Really...
(another pause as Barb and Clay examine each other)
Barb – It’s not what you think, I’m not going behind your back. We were just talking. The AHM account needs another body and Ron and Dave need to think we get their technology.
Clay – Don’t you?
Barb – Sure, but I can only spend so much time on them, and you know how Britt is, and then this guy’s resume came in and he used to write for Open Systems Today.
Clay – Really? What’s his name?
Barb – Billy Packhard.
Clay – Hewlett’s partner?
Barb – No relation. Listen let me run the kid by the geeks, see what they think.”
Clay – Barb.
Barb – Yes, Clay.
Clay – Fuck the geeks. I (loudly) want to meet this guy. Remember “Clayton Partners. CLAYTON, that’s me.
Barb – Right Clay, of course. I’ll get him on your calendar.
Clay – Great.

(Barb leaves. Clay sits alone in his office. He looks over at the bust of Mark Twain sitting in its lit alcove, the light goes gauzy and Clay walks over to the bust and starts singing plaintively to the bust.)

Samuel, my old friend Samuel
This place has gone to hell
What’s a guy to do?
It got so complicated
My life lies bifurcated
My soul’s been sliced in two.

(Mark Twain bust starts singing, too)

Clayton, my dear friend Clayton
Your whining’s fucking gratin’
Sac-up and kick some ass
you whinging worthless mass

Clay – But Sammy…
Twain – No butts
Clay – God damn me
Twain – such a putz
Clay – It’s all just slipping away
All those years and now we’re cool
And the whole thing’s slipping away
Beat up and teased, the losers at every school
Now, they’ve seen our worth
The geek shall inherit the earth
But these bitches and schemers
Are bilking us dreamers
Stealing the light from our day

Twain – (nonplussed) you don’t say.

(Gauzy light goes away. Clay looks at the once again solid bust and turns away).

End Scene

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What I would say my first day teaching a class on PR at the local community college were anyone silly enough to let me teach a class on PR (anywhere)

First, I would sit at the front of the class for a long time; reading, taking notes, sometimes paying attention to people walking in, but mostly not.

Then after everyone was sitting impatiently I would get up and say:
First, let me tell you I’ve been fired by more PR agencies than any of you are likely to work for in your entire careers, so I know from whence I speak. Second, I never studied PR, never took any PR classes, and frankly think the idea is absurd.

Good PR people are born good PR people, you don’t make good PR people. Also, let me point out now that I’m full of shit, but I’ll get back to that, it’s going to be a recurring theme of the class.

Good PR people need to be honest, not Boy Scout honest mind you, but honest enough to make people trust you, and if you don't tell them you're full of shit every once in awhile they'll never believe you. I'd never believe anyone who told me they never lied.

If people trust you they’ll forgive you if you neglect or refuse to divulge certain facts. Withholding information is not dishonest, sometimes it’s the very reason you get paid. And let’s face it we’re all doing this because we want to get paid. No little boy or girl dreams of growing up to be a flak.

However, it’s your honesty and integrity that protects the institution you represent. Break those bonds of trust and you’ve not only sullied your good name, you’ve sullied the people that are paying you. What’s more, if the people paying you WANT you to continue withholding information, dissembling or otherwise damaging that trust, both yours and theirs. Then you need to push back.

Look at Scotty McClellan.

Not everyone’s a White House press secretary. True. But it all comes down to personal integrity, if you don’t have your good name you ain’t got bupkus because at the end of the day when you’re a doddering old fool no one’s going to say, wow, he was really great at making money by carefully releasing information. Maybe it’s morbid to think about what other people are going to say about me after I’m dead, but I highly recommend it. Really puts things in perspective.

You may think it’s all about the client. It’s not. It’s always about you. Never forget that. I’m not talking pure selfishness. You need to be principled to protect your clients, too. A good PR person should be the conscience of a company. After all, you’re the spokesperson, you’re the one that has to get up in front of people and spout the party line, it’s your name on the press release, your number on the website. You’d better be able to push back, to have a hand in shaping the story, otherwise you’ll get stuck telling a stupid story.

If people can’t get good information from the guy chartered with disseminating it, people will go elsewhere and then, then...all bets are off. It's very hard to control what other people say, but that boys and girls is just what a good PR person is born to do.

Now, let's take the rest of the day off. Who's buying?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Flaks - The Musical - Scene 1

The story of a Silicon Valley PR agency during the dotcom boom of the late 1990s

Scene 1
Two young-ish women (early thirties) Barb and Britt sit in a glassed-in conference room. Barb is looking at a resume. They're both well-dressed, stylish and evoke an air of the cynical.

Britt - Where's he from?
Barb - Nowhere.
Britt - What do you mean, 'nowhere'? Everyone's from somewhere.
Barb - It depends on what you mean. If you mean where was he born - I don't know. If you mean where was he working before - then he's from 'nowhere.'
Britt - OK, fine, let's bring in Nowhere Man.

Britt motions through glass to the receptionist, Tiffany, who is younger and more provocatively stylish. Billy, who is younger than Britt but older than Tiffany, wearing an awkward coat and tie is led in and cautiously takes a seat opposite Britt and Barb.

Barb - (looking at resume) So…Billy, tell us about yourself.
Billy - Well, what do you want to know?

(Britt looks at Barb, smiles wry smile)

Britt - Why don't you start by telling us where you're from.

(Break away to the receptionist who welcomes with a nod an older man, Clayton, clearly in charge as he reenters the office, cell phone to his ear. He flips down his phone, begins to walk past the conference room, then comes back to ask Tiffany a question)

Clayton - Who's he?
Tiffany - Barb is interviewing for a new AE.
Clayton - Really? (brief suspicious double-take, walks to the big office)

Tiffany is left alone in the reception area. She mutters, “’Really…really’” then jumps up onto the large front desk and screams “Really!” Starts singing:

He says “really” but no one really
Knows what he means.
No “yes”es, no “no”s
Everything’s all in-betweens.

(Jumps down off front desk and picks up the phone, sings into it)

Hello, Clayton Partners PR
Yes, we really, really are
Give us some cash, we’ll make you a star
In whatever galaxy you choose
And if we fail, we don’t lose
We get paid either way
We’re Clayton Partners PR
We “really” are
And “really” that’s all we can say.

(Tiffany quietly sits back down behind the front desk)

(Back in Conference room interview)

Britt - So, you're a writer.
Billy - Yes. I mean, I write, yes.
Barb - That makes you a writer in my book.
Billy - I suppose it depends on what you think of when you say the word "writer." I mean I've worked for magazines, written articles, book reviews, done freelance work, a whole lot of copy editing. I've also written for myself, you know fiction, short stories and things, so that's what I think when I hear the word "writer" - people like Faulkner, Fitzgerald, people who write, create things, but I don't know if I really qualify, see, I've never actually sold anything like that. So, I've been doing stuff wherever I can do it, like at computer pubs.
Barb - Right. OK.
Britt - So, I see you wrote for Open Systems Today.
Billy - Well, wrote, you know...

(Barb just holds up her hand. They look at each other. Billy thinks then speaks)

Billy - Yes, I wrote for Open Systems Today.
Britt - You've got a good grasp of the technology then, I take it.
Billy - No, not really (hesitating). I mean, I was an English major, I never took any computer classes. Is that a problem?
Barb - You know Word?
Billy - Well, yeah sure. I'm a writer (grins).
Britt - As long as you can talk about it. No one expects you to do any programming.
Barb - Old joke, 'What's the difference between a used car salesman and a PR flak?'
(Billy shrugs)
Barb - The used car salesman knows he's lying to you.
Britt - It's not rocket surgery.

End scene


Your client assigns you a project and it goes something like this:
Client – “Oh, I put together a rough draft, just some notes, really. I’m not the writer, that’s what we pay you for, ha-ha.”

You talk some more, get the details, review what the press is saying about the topic, incorporate some of that language, and (as Hunter S. used to say) you piece together a few facts throw in a little old negro wisdom and, bam, this nightmare’s over.

Except when you send it to the client for review they come back and say, “You know, just change it back to what I had before.”

So, what do you pay me for?


Say it like Seinfeld used to say “Newman” – with pursed lips and clenched teeth.


When I was on the agency side we used to joke that this would be a great job if it weren’t for the clients. Talk on the phone, read magazines, write and suggest to other writers what they should write. Only we had to suggest they write about our clients. Sure there are plenty of creative ways to do that, but you’re still pimping someone else’s dream.

Back then I thought, well, those reporters can’t be too pleased with themselves either. As kids did they dream about growing up to write about COBOL or Virtual Private Networks or Public Key Infrastructure? God, I hope not. I would hope they dreamt about being Ernest Hemingway or Woodward or Bernstein or both (Woodstein? Bernward? Ouch). No, who would ever dream about writing for a tech trade rag?

Now, though, you see people writing about all this crap just for fun, because they like it and want to share their opinions about it – for free.

And there, oh imagined reader, is the rub.

See, we had to pimp for our clients, that’s what they paid us for. The writers at CMP and IDG, et al, they had to write about tech because that’s what their bosses paid them for, tech was what paid for the rag in the first place. No ads, no articles.

Everything’s all upside down now, and crazy people are writing whatever sort of crap they want. Present company excluded, of course. What is one to do?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Jester

Where did they recruit for court jesters, you know back in the day. Were these clowns just fallen noblemen, townsfolk who attracted the wrong sort of attention, or did people aspire to the job? Did the king place ads? What would that job req look like?

Wanted: Fool. Willing to say and do offensive things to power, but in an entertaining and ridiculous way. Juggling, tumbling, walking on hands required. Occasional food tasting.
Competitive salary, EOE, good benefits, limited retirement package.

The purpose was to have someone around to call bullshit when all the yes-men were just saying “yes” to something patently stupid. Companies don’t hire jesters. So, the more CEOs become like kings the less likely someone will call bullshit. Royal salaries and do-nothing boards of directors contributed to the mess we’re in now. Egoists wielding expanded powers, no one willing to stick their neck out and cry bullshit for fear of losing their share of the booty, and then when “mistakes are made” and regulators no longer regulate, it all comes crashing down like a house of cards.

The jester can then do some card tricks, but he’s no better off than anyone else.

Maybe I just suck at PR

There comes a time after getting fired when you’re done beating yourself up, and you're done blaming others, and you’re just about ready to forget it and move on when you think, you know, maybe this isn’t the right line of work for me.

I mean, I’ve lost every PR job I’ve ever had, not always by my choosing, okay, almost never by my choosing. Why then do I keep coming back for more?

For the same reason I started, of course, for the money. There’s nothing else out there that I want to do. I never dreamed of being an accountant or a salesman, I’m not a technologist, I don’t have any trade skills or business sense. I’m not terribly fond of kids so teaching would be a drag (and not profitable). I suppose I could be a politician, but I’ve got a sordid past, I’d hate asking people for donations all the time, and I’d like to think I’m not that kind of a guy.

I could go back to school and get a degree. But, in what? And when that was done I’d still be in the same boat, looking for a job, except with more debt.

No, it’s not entirely about the fact that I suck at PR, it has something to do with the gnawing feeling I have that PR is just the thing that I suck at the least. And for which I can get paid the most money.

Is that it then? Scramble around from PR job to PR job pimping someone else’s dream for the rest of my life? I suppose I could find fulfillment in other ways, other aspects of my life. Do charity work, devote myself more diligently to fatherhood, or really work on my golf game (the Seniors Tour awaits!)

Yet, I’m still left wondering if I’m not meant to do something more during my time on this rock.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

You can't handle the truth!

"The Truth"
These days it's hard to write those words without following them with a cynical, "Yeah right."
Presidential candidates, especially the old, white ones, seem to think they can say whatever they want and no one's going to check the facts. If anyone does, and calls them on their bullshit, they're part of the enemy camp, part of that vast mainstream media conspiracy to keep them and their base oppressed. They may not be shooting the messenger, but they've got sharp blades out slashing away at media's knees.

And the PR flaks, the spokespeople, the "communications professionals" stand there and spout rubbish they can't possibly believe. What was the name of the Iraqi Information Minister,, who had the thankless job of standing before the world after "shock and awe" declaring with a straight face, "All is well" living in his own alternate reality. It wasn't all his own, he was doing his job to the end.

Scotty McClellan did a pretty good impression of Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, and to his credit came out (belatedly) and told people he may have been fibbing a bit. Or that he was fibbed to. The right-wing spin machine ripped him to shreds.

So what are these clowns Rick Davis and Steve Schmidt and all their ilk going to say when this is all done? "Just playing to win, guys. No hard feelings, right?"

The bigger the lie, the bigger the mistake, the more likely you're going to get away with it. Some poor schmuck goes off-message at a software company and he's out in the cold faster than you can say "COBRA is too expensive." But, the CEO of a financial services firm presides over the implosion of his company and he takes the limo back to Connecticut for single malt and a cigar. Macanudo to you, too MonkeyBoy. Then there's the King of all MonkeyBoys, George W hisself. Give away a surplus, ignore all warning signs, then put on a mask of bravado and come out swinging. Seven years later nothing's accomplished, the country's in the crapper, and he's getting ready to mosey back to the ranch, clear some brush, cash his pension checks, and build his library, a big one, with books and everything.

I want a big library, and I'll tell you one thing, if I had a big library, I'd actually read the books.

Yes, an angry screed from a guy on the bench. Dismiss me if you will. Don't worry, I won't be offended. It's happened to me before. Lots of times.

So, this PR guy walks into a bar...

Here's the deal.
In 1992 I quit my job at Charles Schwab and decided to try to make a living as a writer. After three years of freelancing, scribbling in San Francisco, publishing a newsletter ("zine"?, remember those?), and doing work for a computer trade rag, I was lured into PR by the promise of a steady paycheck. Sixteen years, four PR agencies (five if you count my own brief solo career), and six in-house positions later, I've decided to turn around and bite the hand that fed me, curse the hand that dragged me into this hollow field, and critique it.

Hey PR, get those hands dirty! Do some real work and relate to the public. You can "influence the influencer" all you want, except you should know, the influencer is everywhere.

Yes, it's different now, but it still ain't rocket surgery.