Training Wheels Not Included

5 06 2008

I’m Kristin Patterson (aka SparkyPR) – Vice President in Mullen’s PR group and cycling enthusiast. Lance Armstrong once said, “If you’re worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on.”
For some of us, that certainly isn’t a problem … I fell off my bike this weekend. It wasn’t just any old fall either – I landed on the left side of my face in gravel. Ouch. That left a mark.

Nursing my wounds over the past week, I started thinking about how we figuratively fall off our bikes in this business all the time. The training wheels come off quickly, if you were lucky enough to get them in the first place. Think about some of the first media calls you made in your career… did the reporter hang up on you? Were you yelled at? Probably, but that didn’t stop you from picking up the phone again and learning from the experience. Likewise, we’ve all had clients who haven’t liked our recommendations or ideas and we’ve had failed new business attempts. Each time we fall, we learn something about our clients, our organizations and ourselves. Those experiences shape who we are and make us better practitioners.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, I got right back on my bike, but I won’t take a road bike on a gravel road again.


Relentless Thanks!

1 06 2008

Each month, to express our gratitude for your generous contributions to our conversation, we’ll recognize each of you, encourage you to keep coming back, and ask that you invite your friends and colleagues to join us at relentlessPR. We extend our relentless thanks to all of you who contributed in some way to our conversation since our official start on May 19th:

Jim Anderson, Larry Bodine, Tom Kane, More Partner Income, Rjon Robins, Jenny Love, Michelle Golden, Kevin O’Keefe, Jim Calloway, Dr. Alan Freitag, Leo Bottary, Stacia, Boyd Neil, Eric Eggertson, Marc Rapp, Liza Jones, Dan Hull, Todd Andrlik, Maria Palma, Martin Lynch, Ed Lee, David Mullen, Chris Brogan, Scott Baradell, Sherrilynne Starkie, Amanda Chapel, Lara Kretler, Susan Iskiwitch, Kelli Matthews, Matt Kucharski, and Kami Huyse.

On to June!

I Was the Pete Best of MySpace

28 05 2008

Before Web 2.0, before broadband, before the dot bombs exploded, when grunge ruled the airwaves, I, Michael Bourne, was friends with Tom Anderson, the co-founder of MySpace. Tom is the first “friend” you make when you join MySpace, but he’s unknown to most MySpace users personally. His smiling face greets you when you join, but it’s like the face on a milk carton, amorphous in space and not tied to reality.

But I knew the real Tom when he sat across from me in our English Lit honors thesis class at Cal Berkeley. He had an aura even then, a confidence that was conveyed from his strong stare and impressive intellect. Tom read Nietzsche and understood him. He was writing about Superman, and not the cartoon. Tom spent hours under the pedestrian bridge in Sproul Plaza strumming an acoustic guitar and singing Beatles tunes. So I asked him to join my band, he said yes, and together with crackerjack guitarist Justin and funk bass man Lenny, we formed Meathead.

The name was a joke. A riff on the fact that Lenny and I lived with vegans in the hills of Berkeley. Our first real gig was at Meat Fest, a celebration of red meat at a local co-op, and the name just stuck. (I can’t make this stuff up.) We played the Bison Brewery and some open mic nights, and even cut a demo. I recall one day at a sushi buffet when we sat down and drew a poster for a concert we were putting on. We stapled them to every lamppost near campus. In some respects, MySpace has done that for bands on a broader scale.

I had no illusions about the future of this band. I knew that we’d split up once I moved to Japan and Justin pursued his advanced degrees in mathematics. But I had a feeling back then that Tom was destined for greater things. Like all great front men, he had the swagger, the look, and the charisma. Even if he didn’t pursue a music career, I knew that I’d see him again.

Fast-forward 14 years. Tom has cashed out to Rupert Murdoch and is following his bliss on various projects that keep him ridiculously busy. The last time I spoke with him was to congratulate him on the sale of his company. We’d exchanged some snail mail over the years, and he took care of my guitar while I was in Tokyo, but we definitely lost touch. Now, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, et. al are making it impossible for people to lose track of their friends. Social networking has made a lot of people very rich in the process, and the world is a better place for it.

Me? I’m in PR promoting some great brands. It’s been a long time since my beats set the rhythm for Tom’s on-stage moves, and the lyrics of my songs came out of his mouth. It seems that everyone in the marketing world wants a piece of him, like little screaming schoolgirls at a concert. And marketers have been trying to have Web 2.0 pioneers dance to their beats and say what they want to those teeming masses. They’ve had some hits and misses in the process. I think successful marketers will join the bands of the Web 2.0 masters and make beautiful music together, and strike out on their own to create masterpieces of their own. One thing is for sure: if we don’t do it, we’ll all need to find new gigs.

Original MySpace Tom Anderson Gig Poster

Ad Agency May Be Best Place To Practice PR

19 05 2008

Edward Boches

I’m Edward Boches, Chief Creative Officer for Mullen. Welcome to relentlessPR!

I still remember the first time the agency tried to “sell” public relations to one of its clients. “Give us the business and we’ll deliver a stack of press clippings this tall,” one of the advertising account guys promised. He held his hand about 16 inches above the table. The client’s eyes lit up. I shuddered. You’ve got to be kidding me. I had just joined a Boston ad agency to help to launch its PR practice and this was how they presented it? These people had never heard of Edward L. Bernays. They had no idea how PR worked. To them it was a way to offer clients media space without paying for it.

Twenty-five years ago, this was how all ad agencies looked at public relations.

I got out of the PR business and into the creative side of advertising. In an “ad agency,” if you wanted to do something interesting, this was where you had to be: big ideas, brand launches, Superbowl spots.

But along the way, something interesting happened. Our PR department, under far better leadership, grew to about 60 people. In part because it had a competitive advantage in the form of a creative department able to deliver posters, viral campaigns, and PSA TV commercials to augment what were already impressive PR programs. In fact, in the case of the Grains Food Foundation we actually conceived a two market outdoor and viral ad campaign whose sole purpose was to make the association look so big that we’d get national press and TV coverage taking head on the anti-carb craze. Copywriters, art directors, press relations, street performers all worked together to change consumer opinions, wake up the media to a different point of view and most importantly make the cash register sing.

Something else changed, too. Creative advertising people started thinking like public relations professionals. In fact this month, for client National Grid, we’ll launch a campaign titled The Power of Action, the centerpiece of which is a digital experience that encourages people everywhere to make friends with a virtual polar bear. When they do, they’ll have the power to enlarge or shrink the ice floe on which it lives, all based on their energy consumption and willingness to change. It’s a program that will educate, inform, alter behavior and, yes, even generate a stack of press clippings “this high.”

How ironic. Twenty-five years ago an ad agency was the worst place to buy or practice public relations. Today it just might be the best.

Coming Soon!

9 05 2008

Starting Monday May 19th, the PR team at Mullen will bring you relentlessPR – a new blog dedicated to sharing our point of view on public relations and illustrating the value of true full-service agency integration. It’s the difference between traditional PR and relentlessPR. Our Chief Creative Officer, Edward Boches will get us started, and once you read what he has to say, you’ll understand why. To demonstrate how serious Edward is about our integrated approach he says quite simply, “We won’t conceive an idea or a program without one person from each group in the room.”

In the meantime mark your calendar, add us to your RSS feed, and prepare to join our team of bloggers for some relentless conversation.