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?