Posts Tagged ‘Richard Laermer’

While it may not look like it, Jackson Pollock would take great pains to create distinctive energy and motion in every one of his pieces.  What may look like chaos has a great deal of rhyme and reason.   Jackson was deliberate, precise and took great pains to make sure his compositions had his vision in place.

If only PR professionals would take a page from Pollock when they craft a pitch.  Heck, if we all took on that kind of commitment to being clear and thoughtful, Richard Laermer and the Bad Pitch crew would have a much harder time locating those knuckleheaded emails.  So, in an effort to curb some knuckleheadedness, try it the Pollock way – try

  • Starting With a Vision – we all know that you have a client that wants you to deliver a message to someone at USA Today or The Wall Street Journal…but unless you have a unique idea with some clarity or focus in your dealings with the press, they will see right through your verbiage and dismiss you for wasting their time.  
  • Being Deliberate – have some purpose with your communications efforts.  Don’t just throw out some willy-nilly story idea because your client wants you to get a hold of BusinessWeek.  Your approach will come across as half-baked and tired…and you’ll sound like a salesman – quickest route to the trash bin.
  • Using Some Precision – more often than not, there is at least half a dozen replacements you can use for the ‘important’ words with your outreach.  Take those extra steps to use the noun or adjective that properly expresses the vibe or tone that you need.  Beyond that, consider what your message points sound like to the person on the other end.
  • Taking Your Time – you have no time for this…nobody has time for all this!  This is exactly why you should be doing this.  When you give yourself enough room and patience to see this kind of process through, you will be that much further away from mediocrity.  Moreover, you’ll find yourself closer to earning a spot on a short list of people that the press will hear out.


What other aspects of Pollock can you use in your PR pitches?  How long do you take in developing your emails for the press?


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poor yorick“Noo!!! You’ve got to feel the way those words make you…It’s like when you bite into your favorite piece of cake that you haven’t had in years! You’ve GOT TO have that energy SEEPING THROUGH you, that FIRE!  It just makes you so giddy, you just…just…aahhhg!! It’s WONDERFUL!…You know what I’m saying…?”


We had an idea of what she was talking about – even though it was Shakespeare we were working on.  But, in truth, there was NO WAY we could get to that level of understanding…not yet.


But there stood this powerful woman with the strength, passion and animation of an 18 year old – urging us to take the text to a deeper level.  She was fearless and commanded an incredible amount of respect.  And even though she was in her 60s and stood just over five feet, she towered over every one of her students with love, ardor and anxiety.


We spent many an hour dissecting scenes, working the iambic pentameter and trying to make sense of what ‘Billy Shakes’ was trying to say.  But more than anything else, we were trying to humanize characters like Iago, Bottom, Petruchio or Katherine.  HOW could we make their lines relevant to our audiences?  What would make them care?  How can we make them ‘get it’ and not feel restless after the first few minutes of a play?  Keeping an audience happy (or from getting bored) with a contemporary play is hard enough.



But our professor was tireless in her pursuit to help us make it important for the audience – they have to care about what you’re saying and who you are.  We had to work with what we had – nothing more.  We couldn’t dress up the passages with some slang.  We weren’t allowed to throw in some nonsense from our own particular bag o’ tricks.  We would try.  But she would thump us quickly, screaming from the back of the auditorium, “No-No-Noooo!!  That’s not gonna work here, buddy!”  We had to keep simple.  We were building a foundation and framing for a home she would tell us – “Once that’s firmly set, then we could see about painting the walls with our own colors and patterns.”


Yes, it was a little nutty, but it worked.  And here’s how it works for me today:

  • Dissecting the Text – As we found the rhythms and meter (the iambic pentameter) in Shakespeare’s plays, we’d find some incredible nuggets in the words he wrote for his actors.  Much like this dissection of our characters, I make sure that everyone in our team takes the time to pore over whatever documentation our clients give us when we begin a new relationship.  By doing this, we often find some aspects of their business that, quite frankly, has been overlooked – especially if it’s a more tech-oriented company.
  • My Bag O’ Tricks – By getting my hand slapped (most of the time vocally with a ‘Nooo!’) whenever I would try to bring in a familiar look, voice, etc., it helped me to understand that there really are a variety of ways to do a scene.  This has translated so well in PR and Social Media, since our whole goal (as an industry) is (or at least it should be) to deliver a message in a unique and meaningful way.  No BS.  No Tricks.  A good strong message will carry you through. And it will most certainly support a myriad of ideas and tactics…easily.
  • Keep the Audience Awake – Shakespeare done well (truly) is a lot more difficult than you may think.  So when you see it done right, it’s a ROCKIN show. One of the things that supports this occurrence is when you keep an unbiased eye on as to what your play is telling an audience and how.  In PR and Social Media, your overall approach is so very important.  In fact, the infamous and insightful Richard Laermer said yesterday on Twitter that “Tone…is everything.”  How you say something to your audience (be it your current customers, potential customers, business leaders, in a social network, etc.) can damage/propel a company’s reputation faster than you may think.  Consider the messes made when you think about Motrin or David Letterman.


What tactics are you using today that you learned from an odd job growing up?  Who is your nutty n’ loving inspiration that keeps you digging in deeper for something better today?

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led zeppelinI’ve been thinking a lot about how so very exciting it is to be a communicator these days – with the proliferation of new ideas and methodologies (be it from Brian Solis & Deirdre Breakenridge’s new work to Richard Laermer’s 2011, or Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff’s Groundswell) in this new millennium, this 21st Century network known as social media has only enhanced and extended the reach of these kinds of ideas.


Moreover, it’s pretty much opened up the idea (even though it was always there) and likelihood of multiple practices in communications to work together for one common goal.  Who knew…?  Changes are a comin’…quite frankly, it’s been a long time comin.’ 


But there are still some people that insist that we have this one-off approach where camps are sectioned off and people are ‘brought in at the right time.’  Seems like more ‘process’ than real action to me.


Funny enough, though, every time I think about this 21st Century version of collaborative communications, I think of a 20th Century band – Led Zeppelin.



Of course, I’m a little biased, but I see it this way:


Robert Plant (Lead Vocals) – Taking on the role of lead vocals, public relations can help define and lead the charge of a communications effort.  Like Robert Plant’s vocals in the beginning of Immigrant Song can help sound the charge of a new effort. 

Jimmy Page (Lead Guitar) – Like Jimmy Page, social media is helping to change the way things are being done in communications.  Engaging, fun, compelling – all cornerstones of a good social media campaign…and true descriptions of Señor Page.

John Paul Jones (Bass) – Gritty, driving and in-your-face, guerilla marketing can help move people in new ways to discover a product or idea.  Like John Paul Jones, this marketing tool is particularly versatile.

John Bonham (Drums) – Led Zeppelin’s drummer was a key element (both emotionally and in their sound), providing the solid foundation and backbone of the band.  Like advertising, his powerful beats and distinctive ‘feel for the groove’ made their sound that much more unique and impactful.


Now, this is just four tools in the marketing toolbox.  What other tools/practices would you include in this 21st Century scenario?  What other music acts would you compare collaborative communications to?

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arrogantYesterday, Richard Laermer, CEO of PR agency RLM, wrote up a pointed and critical piece (Who Gives a Hit) about how we, as communicators, may not be the best examples of sharing the wealth when a big hit on someplace like CNN comes in.  As humbling as this may be, the one big image that came to mind as I read Richard’s post was one of the final scenes in the film Wag the Dog


Dustin Hoffman’s character, Stanley, was faced with the idea of receiving payment for his services in the form of things like being granted an ambassadorship, money, etc.  Stanley was insulted, exclaiming, “Money!  You think I did this for money?!  I want credit!”



Granted, Stanley was dealing with a different kind of campaign than most of us are used to; however, it was still the image that came to mind when Richard called the industry out (himself included) on the idea that someone has ‘dibs’ on this high profile contact or that media outlet.   One of the biggest issues with the communications industry (or any other industry for that matter) is that it is filled will human beings that can easily foul up a great idea, like sharing credit for a home run.  This whole concept is easier said than done because EGO is involved.  Like Stanley, we all want credit, praise and validation.


However, striving for true collaboration and equal credit in communications is something worth fighting for.  We just need to check our egos at the door.


Nothing big, right?


It would be sooo worth it.  Checking your ego at the door would support:

  • collaboration – when you’re humble, you’re open to hearing out everyone’s ideas – regardless of what their ‘title’ may be.
  • teamwork – the best work gets accomplished when you have people in a variety of teams and practices helping each other out…all moving towards one common goal.
  • the need for a sense of humor – you don’t take yourself too seriously and realize that you are NOT finding the cure for world famine.  Yes, you are doing something important; but you’re keeping it all in perspective.


And more than that, you’re actually a person that people WANT to work with.

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