A Friend Is...

This post is not about PR, but, it's a damn funny story.

I was in Boston this weekend with my wife. The kids were home in CA, with their grandmother. At 6am PST, we get a frantic call: our 200lb. English Mastiff, "Owen," has fallen down the steep grade in our backyard, and may have broken his leg! Our son (12) is pretty shaken and confused about how to handle this situation, but our daughter (10) is frantic: apparently she thinks that dogs that are as big as horses get put-down like horses, when their legs break. "I DON'T WANT HIM TO DIEEEEEEEEEEE" she howls.

So I'm pressing hands to my temples. I am 3,000 miles away!
Now what?

I call a friend down the street. He is gracious about his 6am wake-up call and hustles his entire clan into the car, on the Big Mastiff Rescue Mission.

Now, Owen loves this family; they watch him for us on occassion - so when he sees the whole squad peering down the embankment at him, he miraculously lifts himself up and limps up the hill to say hello. And 30 minutes later, after a lot of huffing and puffing, my friend has managed to hoist the big boy onto the patio. Then he takes him to the vet...

Owen is shaken up. He's upset. And he HATES the vet. Our last vet quit on us, because he got sick of wrestling with a 200lb. trembling baby. Owen's all hunched up, whimpering, as he waits in the lobby with my friend. My friend tries to calm the dog; scratches his tush.

And then he is instantly coated by a thunderous spray of liquified excrement!!!

Yes... My 200lb. dog took an enormous shit all over my friend.

The entire vet office - the vet himself, the nurses and staff, and all the patients EMPTIED OUT of the building - THAT'S how bad it smelled.

After Owen (finally) checked out okay, he and my buddy hop into the minivan - which my friend just posted for sale that same week! They are both still covered in diarrhea.

Owen is brought back home. My friend hoses off, and hoses Owen off. The misadventure is almost over.

And then Owen lets loose another bowel-ripper - all over my friend. Again. In front of my horrified kids.

And thanks to the miracle of cell phone technology, I was getting the play-by-plays every 15 minutes. The emotions ranged from desperation to laughter to horror to relief to terrified disbelief. The "terrified disbelief" really kicked in when I thought to myself, "How in the hell do you repay a favor like THIS one???"

Man o' man. That's a friend. Even after his 6am wake-up call, the back-breaking exertion, the shit-coating, the vet bills, the car detailing and discarded clothing, the guy refused all compensation.

"Just take me out to dinner one night," he says. "...And make sure they serve alcohol."

PR Finds Its Own Level

Is it just me, or is business picking up? Feels like the pipeline is chock-full of good leads lately (thus the recent paucity of posts).

What's kind of strange about this newbiz activity is the classification of leads as either RICH or POOR. The VPs of Marketing that we are talking to either have plenty of PR budget (which, for SHIFT, is in the $12 - 20K range), or, like, $5K.

One company called me to say that they were currently using a Big Firm (it's a name you'd know, a WPP subsidiary), but, "we are not getting our money's worth, for our $6K budget."

First off, why-oh-why do these Big Firms even bother to take on such paltry retainers? Are they THAT greedy that they wouldn't want a boutique agency to thrive?

Here's the thing: if a client only has $6K per month to spend, that's a lot of money to that client. It is not a lot of money to a Big Firm.

Thus there is a disconnect between the expectations of the client and the capability & interest of the Big Firm. For the principals of the Big Firm to use their brand equity to lure-in a naive marketing exec is unconsionable.

"Work with us! For just $6K a month, you'll get the same team working on our MONSTER-SIZED account! Trust us, we're REALLY, REALLY interested in your company/technology/sector/whatever...we'll do a great job for you."

And then a year later, the poor marketing exec has little to show his/her CEO and has to explain how they pissed away their PR budget on the Big Firm, but, "may I have some more money, please?" It's silliness.

"I'm a PR Guy! I could Ruin you!"

OK, my PR brethren, I'm just curious: have you ever felt like using your powers for "evil?"

Ever wonder if a well-placed call to a reporter on your "friendly" list would right a wrong?

You know what I am talking about: you got shafted somewhere along the line, and doubly frustrated when trying to deal with the problem, and then wickedly pissed off (as we'd say in Boston) when your righteous indignation was met with petty insensitivity from the powers-that-be.

And you thought to yourself: "I'm a PR guy/gal. I think I could single-handedly ruin this company!" Images of a war-strewn media landscape fill your mind. Soon, every man, woman and child will curse the name of the corporate malfactor who peed in your proverbial oatmeal!

For example (were you waiting for this?) I've been seriously mucked-up by Alaska/Horizon Airlines more than once. Delays, incompetence, long lines - that "business traveler nightmare" scenario.

I found myself muttering, "I just might have to call my guy at the NY Times about a story on the rapidly declining quality of airline services...the story could start with a horrific example...like mine!"

Admit it, you've had those thoughts?! Maybe not about an airline, but maybe about your HMO? Or your hair stylist? But like me, you've slept on it and thought better of pursuing your quest for revenge. For now.


I'll admit it freely: I don't post as often as I should.

The usual excuse is that I am too busy.

But every now and then - maybe every 4th or 5th post - I draft up a swell posting full of verve and spunk, and when I hit "Publish Post" the damn thing goes whoooosh into the ether.

Everyone who's ever had a system crash in the middle of an important Word document (and let's face it, truly everyone has had that happen) can empathize with the jagged, futile feelings of anger and despair that well-up when you realize you've just lost 30-60 minutes' work to the whims of technoligica.

When that happens, I sweat ta God, it takes a week before I can even look at this Blogger website.

So, that's part of the story. It's the part I like to call, "My Lame Excuse."

On the plus side, thanks to a note from a reader (besides my mom), I now have the Site Feed link working, so you can have these posts pushed to your newsreader whenever they DO pop-up. Lucky you! ;)

p.s. - Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

A Good Day

Today was a good day.

Today we learned that SHIFT was named one of the top 20 places to work in Boston, and, we also were informed that we'd won a BellRinger Award for one of our kick-a$$ PR campaigns of last year.

In our profession, we all deal with a lot of huffing egoists and blather about buzz, but in the end, amigos, it beats digging ditches! The ditch-digger's best reward is a pat on the back from some stogie-chomping foreman, and a cold beer at the end of the day.

We PR folk get to sit on our duffs, make good money, brainstorm to our hearts' content, win some cool awards - AND drink a cold one!