See the butter on my tongue? It’s not melting.

ENG: Wang Liqin, chinese table tennis player. ...

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Today was one of those days that felt like an extended ping-pong game. Back and forth, and back and forth.

I suppose I must have been a dictator in a past life, because it’s still taking some getting used to when it comes to team discussions. The Agency likes erring on the side of caution – we discuss all things before they’re sent out, even minor edits or emails. It’s a big change from my editor days where if I spent all my time waiting for a consensus, the magazine wouldn’t go out at all.

Of course, I happened to have to occasionally deal with people who were contrary just because they could be. Which was seriously infuriating to the point I usually just put a very heavy foot down and declared “Because I said so.”

With my new job, I have to be a whole lot more patient and worry less about promptness than about attention to detail. The latter’s never been a strong suit, I admit. Yes, I can be a perfectionist but I’m a big picture person. Which means tasks like the daily media monitoring can seem like a bothersome chore – don’t get me started on the weekly reporting. And that’s just for The Engine; I’m not doing much for The Carmaker, more holding the fort than anything else.

It’s a good thing I’m working from home, because if I feel tense, worked up or just plain exasperated, I can take a shower, yell at the top of my lungs or play music as loud as I want to. When I was still with The Mag, things could easily get nasty within our small pressure cooker of an office. Mixing deadline pressures and volatile personalities together, blowups are just pretty much a given.

So I guess I really am lucky; despite the job requirement to be personable and mix with people, my introverted nature still gets a reprieve. Today was a day I felt really overwhelmed, but both my colleagues were patient with my impetuousness and inexperience. And it made my decision not to work anywhere I had friends the right one – I learned the hard way that the fastest way to lose a friend is to either work at the same place or move in with one.

I’m still dealing with my fear of cold calling folks and tomorrow will be an uncomfortable day of calling people up to ask about the latest pitch. But I’ll get used to it eventually. I hope.

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I’m back…and gone

After a whole slew of emo-angsty-personaldrama posts, I’m back to blogging about PR!

How’s the week been? Well, it’s been busy. I’m already mentally exhausted, and I’ve only got two clients to help with. Probably if I was at one of those big agencies where I’d be looking after an entire roster, I’d be six feet under by now.

Not that I’m complaining. A lot of my journo friends think PR is thankless ass-kissing, menial work which leaves you drained. Yes, there will be the tiring red tape like media monitoring and reporting, clipping articles, sending out physical releases via fax or post, running errands and the grunt work of event handling. That’s all a given – emails, coming up with copy, cold calling media, none of that is incredibly glamorous.

But I find it satisfying because I get to spend a lot of time thinking up ideas,pushing leads and devising strategy. At the end of the day, no matter how tired or spent I feel, I’m happy. Not that I didn’t love my job at The Mag, but there were days I felt like I was chained to the desk plugging up holes. Where even after I wrapped at the end of the month, I’d feel despair. I’d given it my best but my best still wasn’t enough. I was Atlas, carrying the sky, and always worrying that it would fall.

Am also feeling rather happy because I have the whole of next week off! It comes at a great time because right now, my lawn is a mess that needs cleaning up and I need to tidy up my workspace.

Have a Happy Chinese New Year, Rat or Ox, Tiger or Rabbit, Dragon or Snake, Horse or Sheep, Monkey or Rooster, Dog or Pig!

Crafting words that live forever

Staying up to watch Barack Obama’s inauguration, I was amused to see one PR consultant ask in the feed about who wrote his speech. Yes, it was a fine speech. Read it at Time.com, and I’m sure you’d agree.

What has always irked me in my past life as a journalist was poorly written speeches.

I wondered often who wrote them. Did they ever think that with each flubbed speech was a missed opportunity? Did anyone ever tutor them to write a speech properly, to understand the beauty and finesse afforded with finely crafted rhetoric?

Sadly, I doubt it.

Speechwriting is an art. It is the one chance for someone in public relations to write copy that might just stand the test of time, to compose prose the equivalent of a poet’s rhymes.

“Why should I bother spending so much effort for a speech for some product launch?”

Because every speech matters. Once you get used to writing mediocre speeches, it’s a habit that’s hard to break. But in Obama’s case, his speechwriter knew that this was his one chance for immortality. Quotes, as every politician knows, have a habit of sticking around. Forever.

That first pitch

Let me tell you a secret.

I am secretly phobic of calling up absolute strangers.

And non-strangers.

Unless I’ve known you donkey’s years, I am very likely not calling you, not because I dislike you, but because I am secretly terrified. Over the years, though, I’ve tempered that fear somewhat and if it’s just calling the gas man, the plumber, or Maxis Wireless Internet then I’m fine. Mostly I call the latter to yell at them. Long story.

Unfortunately my job requires me not only to call people I don’t know personally, but to bounce story ideas off them.

Guess what I had to do yesterday?

So I called up a certain editor, at a certain newspaper, about a pitch, and I wondered if she could just hear or feel the nervousness coming off me in waves.

Maybe she did. But whether she did or not, she was pleasant, kind and very interested in the angle.

Of course she also made a few enquiries that made me squirm about answering; she certainly has her journalistic instincts intact.

The policy at The Agency is we never promise the impossible, but what we do promise, we deliver.

The last thing I wanted to do was promise said editor things I couldn’t give her/her writer.

Said editor was awesome, and surprisingly patient when I tumbled over my sentences.

Had to call her again today, and it was a great phone call. Fingers crossed at the results of said call, but I’m glad that my first pitch didn’t end up in utter disaster.

The worst thing that could have happened was that she hang up on me.

Which would require me to repeat the whole cycle and call her again.

I now wish I was a little less curt with all those PR noobs and interns when they called me up about releases. But then, those other agencies really shouldn’t have those people call me up just to ask if I’ve received a fax.

But that’s a whole other story.

A different kind of reporting

makanBecause I can, am torturing you with a picture from my last Christmas dinner at The Mag. It was a relatively painless last month because there was very little to hand over, and practically next to no reporting. Did a couple of reviews and news posts and that was basically it.

Now I’m finding myself doing a different kind of reporting – the weekly client media monitoring. I remember having to cut out insurance-related reports when I was doing corporate comms for an insurance firm. Thankfully in this Net-related age, I can find links instead of resorting to the scissors.

As an editor, I did find myself scouring the Net often to keep abreast of trends. Now my searches will be somewhat more focused and I’ll need to be even more immersed in the Internet information stream. But then there’ll be the challenge of not getting too caught up in research to do things like network, strategise and get down to the not-so-glamorous bits of my job like reporting.

In other news, I was saddened to find out one of my favourite bloggers and inspirations while I was still learning to be an editor got laid off. Magazine Man’s one blogger I recommended to anyone in the publishing line, who both entertained and educated me with his witty, laugh-out-loud hilarious posts on life and writing as a vocation. I hope that this experience is a blessing in disguise, and that he moves on to bigger, better things.

Also logged on to Technorati to update my blog’s profile and was pleasantly surprised to find this post which quoted from a soppy blogpost I made not too long ago.

To love means not to suffocate them in your affection, resisting the urge to hold them tightly in a blanket of care. It means giving them space to move, to breathe, to decide. Love is freedom, not compulsion. To love also means to wait in the wings, resisting the urge to run to your loved ones when they stumble. Instead, you wait with open arms, knowing full well that you will just as likely be turned away. But you wait anyway, because that is what it means to love.”

I remember telling the last guy I dated when we ‘broke up’ that “I don’t love you, but I could have.” Been a week since we parted ways and it’s still hard to get over the hurt. It’s funny that while I was cleaning up my photos, that I could smile at old pictures of my ex-fiance but when I looked at this one picture of MFM, I felt my chest start to constrict. The wounds are still too raw and I’m still counting every day. 11 days since he left, 4 days since I last texted him, 4 days that I managed not to call or bug him on IM. He did me a favour by breaking up with me before I started my new job – I threw myself into the job wholeheartedly and didn’t have to think about his distance, his secrets, his baggage.

And I want to hate him, to denigrate him, to paint an unflattering picture of him in my mind. But I miss his voice, his silly habits, the way we’d think or say the same things at the same time. How soft his hair was when I ran my fingers through it and the way he’d pout. I miss him saying “Yes, dear.” I miss his almost fascist food leanings that extended to taste and water. I miss how happy I was when we actually were spending time together.

But I don’t miss the times in between, when everything was a stupid complicated mess. And I knew even then he’d never love me, and that it would all fall to pieces eventually. When you’re with someone, and you know someone or something else is always on his mind even when he’s with you, you know there is nothing to hope for. But for one more minute, one more breath, one more night, one more morning, one more smile, one more second before you say goodbye.

I thought it would hurt less because I came in with no expectations. But I guess I was wrong. The day comes, I greet it with hope and fill the day with plans and thought. But at night as I grow tired, I find myself broken just before I go to sleep. There is no comfort for me in that brief stillness before sleep finds me – only a searing loneliness from memories not quite cast off.

Tomorrow is another day, I tell myself. And it is.

Can an introvert do PR?

Suanie, Reta and me Omnia mutantur, nihil interit – Everything changes, Nothing is lost

It’s been a rollercoaster week. As my spiritual mentor says, sometimes it’s better to jump first and fear later. So I’ve pretty much immersed myself into PR and taken the 180 degree turn in stride.

There were comments I was unnaturally super-perky and happy at the Nokia 5800 event, one I attended as a guest instead of media.

The thing is, most people who know me know I’m very much introverted. I do like people, and have a tendency towards empathy and compassion but to be honest, crowds can overwhelm me and I value my solitude. Which can confuse people who’ve seen the quiet, reserved me and then have to deal with Ms. Suddenly Sunshine. Really I’m just a dog in a cat’s body – I’ll be skittish as a cat at first but when my guards are down, I’m as affectionate as a golden retriever.

Again I find the MBTI my best way to explain my duality (bold parts are my own):

“ (INFJS)… sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people — a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long- term friends and family…at intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload to which they are so susceptible as inherent "givers". As a pattern of behavior, it is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character to outsiders, and hence the most often misunderstood.” – from the INFJ profile by Marina Margaret Heiss.

It’s just my inability to pretend to give a damn about people. I never pretend. I can’t fake insincerity to save my life; yes, I can be snarky and have an evil sense of humour. But when I ask you if you need a drink, and if you’re feeling all right, it’s because I really do worry if you’re cold, tired or hungry. And if I don’t ask you, doesn’t mean I don’t care either. I could just be feeling tired, preoccupied or emotionally overwhelmed at that precise moment. Faked politeness and niceties aren’t built into my DNA, unfortunately.

When I ask you how you are, I really do want to know. But I’ve been around enough to understand that most people ask because they don’t know what else to say. So my default answer is “Doing OK, thanks.”

And to answer the question and Nigel’s qualms…I really was happy at the Nokia event. Had been waiting on the phone to launch forever, a lot of my friends in tech media and the blogosphere were there, I love Nokia’s reps who have always been warm and fun to talk to and of course, I love the Texties. Not to mention it’s been an amazing week where work is concerned.

I have God, my loved ones, my health and a lot to do and be excited about. So maybe my heart still bleeds a little in the middle of the night. But I can’t dwell on loss forever; in the darkness, I can still smile at the stars.

Timesheets – so I’ll be accountable. To me.

I know plenty of programmers, PR people and other people who have ‘billable hours’ hate timesheets.

So why am I making myself start on timesheets? Especially when I haven’t been asked to?

Well, it’s so I know what I’ve been doing and to keep me accountable. It’s too easy to be distracted by all the online temptations I’ve been used to while I was working. My last job, I needed those distractions. You do not churn out articles by staring at the screen until your forehead drips blood. Writing is a somewhat subconscious activity. You take the germ of an idea, let it ruminate in your head, check out sources, sniff out leads and let it stew before you finally take it all and put it on paper.

That’s the time you tell reception to screen/block all calls, you drink enough coffee to make the entire office reek and nothing registers at all when people talk to you. “Erna, what do you think about the new Brand X All Singing Notebook?” “Mmmhmm Waah Ah Mumblemumblegoawaymumble”.

PR is a different sort of thing. Instead you start a thunderstorm in your head and just start catching the ideas that spark. Then you try and rearrange them to make some sort of sense.

So there are things I can’t do anymore. Like hang out on Facebook practically all day. Or blog anytime I want to.

It’s all about focus, discipline and completion. Now I’ve got to stop blogging because I have a few possible pitches to ruminate about over coffee. Mummble mhmmhcoffeegaaahmmmmh yes.

Making room by letting go

vista

What a lot of us don’t learn is, that to make room for some things, you have to let other things go. For the harder you hold on to the old, it becomes nearly impossible for the new to come in.

Part of embracing my new path in life means letting go of things that could prove to be a conflict of interest – like my contributing to Blorge. I’ve officially resigned as a senior writer with the site and it makes me sad, really. Yes, I’ve had difficulties trying to get with the flow of the site and juggling my hours around getting my posts done, but I did learn a lot and will miss the odd camaraderie going on there. And with all my heart I do wish them the very best.

Plus it would be difficult to report on anything. “No, I can’t blog about X! I do PR for them! No, not Y either. They’re X’s competitors!” Let’s just say that one of my clients is such a force that a reverend I know jokingly calls it the Almighty. Though David Lian does blog about his clients, but with full disclosure and stressing that his words are merely personal opinion, I again must err on the side of caution. Though I made passing reference to my past employer as The Mag, I’ll likely never refer to my (new) clients in any form or any way.

I’m on sketchy ground, after all. Wet behind the ears or in gamerspeak – a total n00b. It’s not quite easy shaking off my journalist/editor skin to embrace the persona of a Public Relations person. Where before I’d be more of a risk-taker, this year I’m going to spend more time reflecting before I do things. No, I’m not suddenly going to become indecisive. Just less impetuous.

And today I stumbled upon a video by one of my favourite YouTube artists called the Mario Kart Love Song. It’s the cutest thing ever and would definitely strike a chord with any Mario Kart lover. It made me a little wistful because it reminded me of the last guy I broke up with, such a gamer him. But like he’s said before, it all works out for the best in the end. All the messy complications would be the last thing I need this month as I try to reorganise and realign myself this year. So you did me a favour, baby. Though part of me will still miss the crazy fun we had for a long, long time, I’ll be OK and hopefully we’ll be OK.

V1:
You be my princess
I’ll be your toad
I’ll follow behind you
on rainbow road
Protect you from red shells
wherever we go
I promise.
V2:
No one will touch us
if we pick up a star
If you spin out
you can ride in my car
When we slide together
we generate sparks
in our wheels and our hearts
Chorus:
The finish line
is just around the bend
I’ll pause this game
so our love will never end
Let’s go again
V3:
The blue shell is coming
so I’ll go ahead
If you hang behind
it’ll hit me instead
but never look back
cause I’m down but not dead
I’ll catch up to you
Bridge:
Don’t worry about
Bowser or DK
Eat this glowing mushroom
and they’ll all fade away
Chorusx2
to the mushroom cup
and the flower cup
and the star cup
and the reverse cup
walalalalala
walalalalalawaluigiiiiii
COPYRIGHT 2008
Music and Lyrics by Sam Hart