Monday, October 30, 2006

Publicity Terror Tale #2

From an independent publicist, who notes, "I have too many of these stories in the past few years":

On the morning of BEA's opening day, I'm standing in the office of a producer at NPR in Washington, whom I know quite well. Also in the office is a client. He had been in Washington a couple weeks earlier and I had set up a lunch meeting with him and the producer. Although his book wasn't going to be featured on NPR, he was; he'd written an offbeat essay that worked perfectly as a weekend feature. So while he can't plug his book, per se, he still gets on the national airwaves.

So there we all are: He's all wound up and ready to tape his piece, and I'm standing there complaining that I wasn't really excited about BEA, and how I'd have to be perky and upbeat and get in there and sell myself--and I just wasn't looking forward to it.

Author pipes up and says: "Maybe you don't have the right personality for this job."

The producer and I stare at each other. I was so taken aback, I can't quite remember if I said what I was thinking: If I didn't have the right personality for the job, you wouldn't be standing here in this office, you jerk.

The producer says something about how she'd rather hear from me than most people from the houses in New York, and she walks me down the stairs to the door.

I say to her, "I can't believe he said that." She says, "Yes, his arrogance knows no bounds."

And I have never spoken to him since.


Anonymous said...

Okay, he does sound like a jerk, but was it really that professional to complain about your job in front of a client? Just askin'.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, totally agreed. Instead of being mad about his comment, she should probably have been shamed by her client calling her out on her unprofessionalism.

Anonymous said...

Complaining about the cluster fuck of BEA isn't exactly an uncommon thing. It's professional to complain about BEA.

Anonymous said...

If I hired a publicist to present me to the press and the publicist complained to the press about HER JOB IN FRONT OF ME, I would fire the publicist. Did your client even know you were friends with the producer? Regardless, your job is to be perky and positive,not utterly tactless, so perhaps you don't have the right personality for this work.

Maybe you're the horror story.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. He's trying to psyche himself up for an interview, and you're bringing him down. I'd have snapped too.

Eric Riback said...

Oh, please, people. As anon #3 said, it's BEA she was talking about fergodsake. Yes, it probably would have been best not to share something personal in front of the client, but as the publicist says, the fact that she got the author placed at NPR maybe, just perhaps, possibly, proves she can do the job. What mister high'n'mighty doesn't appreciate is that for many of us in sales and p.r., being outgoing and "perky" all the time is a strain -- that doesn't mean we don't like our jobs or aren't good at them. The authors only have to be outgoing from a few minutes (brief interview) to an hour or so (signing) at a time. Try going from 9-6 and then all evening in many cases for three or four straight days. There is fun in there, but it is terribly draining.

Anonymous said...

1. The NPR gig was not a huge coup. NPR is very efficient about their slush pile; it's just not that hard to get good, relevant writing accepted.

2. If I'm paying someone to represent me, that someone had better be on game -- not complaining in my face about the job I'm paying her to do.

3. I do PR too; I get paid to be friendly and polite. If I did that in front of a client, how long do you think my boss would keep signing my paycheck?

4. Her bad, not the author's.

Bella Stander said...

I find it fascinating that of all the horror stories I posted, this one has elicited by far the most comments--and overwhelmingly negative ones at that. Also that everyone assumed the publicist is female.

Perhaps the NPR gig wasn't a huge coup, but it was a coup all the same. There are many creators of "good, relevant writing" whose work doesn't get accepted for broadcast--sometimes due to the writer's performance rather than the writing. This author not only skipped the slush pile, he got to sit down to lunch with the producer. That's no mean feat.

The publicist was complaining about selling himself, not the author, at BEA. The book was already out, so the pub wouldn't have been repping him at BEA anyway.

And if the pub had the wrong personality for the job, he wouldn't be getting NPR slots and other media coverage for his clients, which he does on a regular basis.

'Steene said...

I still don't see the horror here.
"Maybe you don't have the right personality" doesn't always mean "you're bad at your job." It could also mean "Maybe your job is making you unhappy" and given the information that author had, it's not such an unreasonable thing to say.
Should I ever be lucky enough to get a publicist, I'm going to be afraid to say anything at all, for fear he/she might take offense!