Monday, August 04, 2008

For the want of something intelligent to say

It's a Monday and I'm running on some nervous energy. Didn't get much sleep last night and so I ended up spending the wee hours of the morning writing story pitches for a few people and touching base with a few people. Decided to make a gift of Arup Gupta's CNBC clip to a few people. Unfortunately Enterprise Ireland, which was a prospect I was hoping to hook won't be engaging external consultants but the Irish Embassador was very enthusiastic about ways in which Ireland's interest could have been promoted.

Life in general is at an interesting stage. Am a little short of cash until I collect the main cheque but am in somewhat optimistic spirits. Have been busy trying to put people together and seeing if I can create a few synergies. I think, sometimes when there's nothing better to do, you just got to find a way of creating value - you'll get your reward soon enough. Life's a little funny like that.

Gerard Lim, former General Manager of Leo Burnetts says that he believes in Karma. When you're a junior executive, you find hard to understand, since everything is about trying to take care of yourself. But I think as you get older, you realise that the world is not all about you and sometimes you simply need to let go in order to gain something.

I'm helping out a lawyer called Mark. Like me, he's a one-man show in a profession where the norm is to join a prestigious firm. Somehow he's managed to hold his own against much larger opponents. Although lawyers and PR people are not supposed to get along, we're getting along fairly well. I think it has something to do with the fact that I like his philosophy in life, which is to give back through your work. He does allot of pro-bono work. I've been doing things for people at give-away rates and barter. Sometimes I've taken to doing things for a free-lunch.

But the main point, is I'm actually using my brain allot more and that's good. The worst thing is when you start to stagnate, all in the name of trying to make a buck. One of the things I've noticed is that allot of the doctors I've been working with have made it a point to retain their links with the government hospitals. As my mother puts it - if they didn't, they'd die of bordome in private practice - for ophthalmologist that usually means neurotic people worried they're picked on because they wear specs (specs are not that uncommon in Singapore), for gynacologist, it probably means even more neurautic women worried that their breast are too small or too big (As Thomas often points out - gynacology can put you off sex).

For me, I'm not sure if I've become a better or worse writer since I left the agency game and started on my own. I find press releases to be a drag - I sometimes pitty the editors who have to read the drivel that the PR side often thinks is news. Everyone has "The First-Ever," or "Only in." What do these phrases actually mean? In case you're wondering if I'm casting stones at the PR profession, you're probably right. I've looked through the last string of press releases I've writen and I find myself writing according to a formula - gibberish!

Of course, I live in Singapore and so I can have a bit of fun blamming my clients (Guys, I hope you're reading - censure me if you will - but I'm trying to get us to a higher level). Sure, its nice to see yourself in print or on TV, but the world is larger than that. You should want to engage hostile interviewers. You should welcome a combatative interviewer - only then can you show the world the beauty of your message. You should not be afraid to engage your public when they call back during radio interviews, or respond to you in forums. It's called public relations for a good reason - in relationships, both parties talk and listen.

One of the guys I've really started to admire in recent months is my former intern from BANG PR. Glenn worked at BANG and then at CommsDNA for nearly 3-years. Sweated blood, I think. But when he left and started 20Twenty PR, he actually started doing PR as it should be. Yes, he provides clients with the traditional media relations work, but he's also been very daring and successful in getting them to use new media - instruments like You Tube and Facebook.

I remember saying to PN Balji that I think one of the most crucial things that PR people forget is the fact that they are consumers of the media too. Too often, we feel that we've done our job when the client is quoted in the press or comes out on TV. Sure, the client's ego is often satisfied and its nice to recieve recognition for our work. I know I often allow my ego to be satisfied - satisfied customer equals hefty cheque, praise and probably a good word for you to potential clients - what more could one ask for.

But imagine if PR practitioners got curious about the people reading the news or watching the broadcast? We would actually start creating some real value for our clients. Wouldn't it be good if you could actually tell the client - 'bro if you say it this way, you'll put people off the product or turn them onto the prodcut' At BANG PR, the motto was 'Stories that are READ not PUBLISHED.' Shouldn't we take it further - 'Stories that create a reaction.'

Of course, it's hard to measure a reaction in the way you measure sales. But PR is often about dealing with the intangible and surely these moments should be recorded too. As a profession, we need to get ourselves to a state where we go beyond ourselves as professionals and see ourselves as people who recieve messages. It would be a bold leap of faith but one worth making.

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