Sep 09

A Wigotsky in every agency

I must commend PR Week's 2010 career guide. It's chock full of information that's as useful to an  undergrad as it is to an agency principal.

Careerguidecover_117145_117858_117859 Stories include a roundtable discussion on the importance of a master's degree in PR (color me skeptical) and a fascinating profile of Harold Burson and his legacy to the agency that bears his name.

Burson produced a plethora of industry leaders over the years, including Ketchum's Rob Flaherty, CA's Bill Hughes and PulsePoint Group's Bob Feldman. The latter said his training at Burson began the day he joined the firm from Utica College in 1978. Feldman recalls a training program that mandated ALL writing done for clients was to be first reviewed by a former newspaper editor on staff. Feldman says the procedure made a great statement about the firm's commitment to quality.

I agree. I had the exact same experience as a young junior account executive at Hill & Knowlton. We, too, had a former editor check each and every piece of copy before it went to a client. My editor's name was Victor Wigotsky and he made a big impression on me.

Victor was a very demanding editor. Before he'd even give you his edits, he'd ask you what the story angle was and why it mattered. He'd then ask you what primary or secondary research supported the angle. Only when you'd provided the correct answers would Vic deign to review your copy. And, boy oh boy, was he ever meticulous in his edits. I cannot tell you how many times he'd send me scurrying back to my office because I'd buried a lead, hadn't nailed the 5Ws in the lead graph or neglected to correctly attribute a quote.

Victor was never mean, but he was strict. And we learned as a result. I'll never forget how happy I was when one of my initial press releases finally earned a 'VWW.' Those were Victor's initials and secretaries (yes, we all had secretaries back then) were under orders not to mail (yes, snail mail only) releases or bylined articles unless they saw the VWW stamp of approval.

I wish today's PR agency model had the time and financial wherewithal to mandate at least one Wigotsky in every firm. Unfortunately, between the 24×7 demand for constant content and the worst economic downturn in memory, there are few, if any, firms who insist ALL copy be reviewed by a Wigotsky-type first. As a result, I continually hear or read about poor writing when I attend events or scan our trades.

It's too bad that Wigotsky (and his Burson counterpart) are gone with the wind. I think everyone's writing would benefit from a VWW every now and then. Mine included.

Mar 12

A higher concentration of more intelligent women

Some time ago, a gifted junior employee left one PR firm to join another. Fair enough. It happens all theShocked
time. But, in doing so, she’d ruffled some feathers along the way. Again, fair enough. Stuff like that happens as well.

Now, fast forward to a recent industry event in which the CEO of the woman’s former agency bumps into her new boss. Pleasantries are exchanged. Backs are patted. Success stories passed back and forth. Then, as an aside, the woman’s name comes up in conversation. ‘How’s LaSheika doing?’ asks her former employer. ‘Oh, she’s a superstar,’ responds the new boss, with the slightest hint of a smug smile. ‘And, she’s much more content now since she says she didn’t feel intellectually challenged before.’

‘Oh, really?’ asks the erstwhile boss, starting to feel his gastric juices boil. ‘Yes,’ sighs her current employer, ‘she feels we have a higher concentration of more intelligent women.’

Befuddled, bewildered and, by now, totally batshit, the original CEO wraps up the small talk and beats a hasty retreat into the evening air. The next day, he passes along the message to his troops. They, too, are befuddled, bewildered and totally batshit with rage.

Now, fast forward to the present and foreseeable future: the intellectually-sated employee goes about her business at the new firm blissfully unaware that she has done a major job on her image and reputation within the industry. If, and when, she grows tired of the higher concentration of more intelligent women at her current job and begins floating her resume, those toxic remarks will come home to roost in a very big way.

Moral of the story? Loose lips sink ships (and careers). They can also put a real damper on a cocktail reception.

Dec 03

Party hard, but party wise

It’s holiday season time and once again employees old and new, senior and junior need to mix good cheerOffice_party
with good sense.

Over the years, I’ve attended holiday parties that have been a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. To wit:

– one employee becoming totally inebriated while the rest of us watched in horror
– a consultant slinging back mud slides and then wobbling around our hallways, insulting women near and far
– one employee so smashed he literally couldn’t pull himself off the floor
– a senior executive attempting to make a speech, but being so blasted he forgot what he was saying, stopped and walked away into the night
– an intern flashing the magic finger at Ed not once, but twice
– various employees breaking down and crying
– dirty dancing, groping, fondling and hooking up

We’ve also had great themed parties, including one that featured a murder mystery and another with a magician performing various tricks.

Holiday parties can be a great bonding experience. But, they can also do a number on one’s reputation and career path. The best advice I’ve heard is to party hard, but party wisely. The image you save may be your own.

Thanks to Debrah Hussey for the idea.