Note: This is another fictional conversation. It isn’t intended to represent any recent conversation. If you recognize parts of this conversation that might remind you of conversations you’ve had with me recently that it isn’t any coincience. Wait, it is a coincidence. Hold on. If you start recognizing something in this post, stop reading it…. Really though, I like PR people, most of them, but a few of them, well…
Me: “Ok, great, so finally we’re all on the conference call line.”
A polite, robotic British woman interrupts: The conference will now be terminated.
Me: Was it something I said?
(Kenny G starts playing, the phone line is full of highly produced Soprano Sax)
I hang up and call back. A polite British woman asks me for a conference ID. I fumble around trying to find the right browser tab in a stack of 100 on my several desktops. I struggle to switch between Skype, Google Calendar invites, and the numeric keypad on my screen. It takes several attempts to finally convince the polite, robotic British woman that I have the proper conference ID.
Others in a large conference room: “Hello? Who just joined?”
Me: “It’s me again, surprise. So what happened?”
Note: A journalist never talks to a company directly, there’s almost always a PR minder on the phone to ‘manage’ the conversation.
PR minder: “Yes, I’m sorry. I accidentally clicked the End Meeting button. You know what, I really hate this web conferencing service…”
Me: “…right the old, ‘blame it on the conferencing system’ game. If they ever remake Office Space, you’ll be the character that takes secret glee from ending conference calls at random. Can we get started?”
PR minder: “Ok, before we get started, I need to remind you that the information delivered today….”
I interrupt, sounding a little frustrated: “…the information being delivered today is covered under an embargo, not because it’s really that secret but because you are trying to get all these technology news outlets to publish the same boring story on the same day. Even though at least one of these news outlets is going to “accidentally” leak the information on some blog a few days early. I know, don’t worry, I’m playing your game. But, understand that this whole thing is silly.”
PR minder: “You don’t have to be a jerk about it.”
Me: “I don’t, you are right. Between you ending the conference call and this little preamble about being under embargo, I’m ready to just call it a day. Can we get started?”
PR minder: “Ok, today I’d like to introduce….”
PR minder proceeds to introduce seven people who will somehow all talk to me about how awesome their product is in the next 10 minutes. When I say “introduce” I mean it, she’s practically reading a CV for each and talking about how pivotal they were at seriously successful company XYZ. I can’t tell if she’s trying to impress the client or me, but 8 minutes pass.
She concludes with: “Ok, you mentioned that you had already read the presentation and you wanted this to be a Q+A session, but I think our COO still wanted to go through his full presentation.”
Me: “Well sure, I mean we’ve got 12 minutes left at this point, so why don’t you just read the slides I’ve already taken copious notes on. Why don’t we just dispatch with the idea that journalists can do background research and that smart ones might have questions.”
PR minder: “Maybe this isn’t going to work out.”
Me: “Maybe, or maybe we would have made more progress without you.”
Me: “You know, I have a good idea. Why don’t you just pretend I’m not here, I’ll put my screen on record, go get a cup of coffee, and then I’ll get back just in time. At the end of the presentation I’ll say, ‘Wow, that’s some impressive stuff you’ve got going there.’”
PR minder: “I think we’re done.”
Me: “Are we? Let’s ask your client. Charles, I see you used to work for Oxycorp doing CMS work. Is your new product an attempt to build upon the success of your last company? You’ve been working on this idea for 12 years, right?”
Jim, from Fancycorp: “Actually that’s a great question. We’ve been talking to reporters all day and no one’s made that connection. Yes, this product is where I would have taken Oxycorp had I continued to work on it.” He proceeds to talk about his history and motivations for a few minutes.
PR minder: “We should move on to the demo.”
Me: “I’ve seen your demo, one of your marketing partners leaked it on the internet months and months ago. I watched it, I passed it around to a few other people. Your secret’s been out for quite some time.”
PR minder: “Wait this information is under embargo, you can’t….”
Me, interrupting: “I have a strong ability to not give a crap about your embargo. But, I’m not going to publish anything until your magic date. Don’t worry.”
Me, continuing: “Jack is in the room, he does your developer outreach. I’ve been watching you tweet about this stuff for a year. You’ve developed a huge following of users that also use your competitor’s software. Do you think you’ll have an issue once this is launched.
Jack, from Fancycorp: “Interesting, this is not an ordinary interview the last person we spoke to didn’t even know what CMS stood for, you probably know the name of my…
Me, interrupting: “…your son, Jack, yes. Congratulations, I saw you tweet the photo from the nursery. I cover your company, I keep up with your tweets.
Jack, from Fancycorp: “Ok, can I ask you a question, why don’t you follow our corporate Twitter account?”
Me: “Your corporate Twitter account is full of boring announcements and retweets of your company blog. Your feed is much more entertaining and you throw in the occasional curse word. I learn much more about Fancycorp from your feed than that corporate announcement stuff on your corporate Twitter….
PR minder: “I manage that feed and for the record we have over 6500 followers. Our tweetreach is…”
Me: “…your tweetreach is a million unicorns and meaningless. You got most of your followers from an automated follower robot script. You have 6500 followers and you also follow 6500 accounts. That’s a signature of Twitter desperation.”
Me: “It’s been great, but I don’t have enough to work with to write a story. Can you guys call me back when you’ve found a new PR person. I’m on Twitter, just DM me.”