Flak Attack

If it’s in the news, the Flak attacks!

Archive for the ‘Editor’s Note’ Category

Jean Carpenter: Texas State Fair loses a legendary face

leave a comment »

Jean CarpenterLate last month, Dallas/Fort Worth learned that Big Tex wasn’t the only legendary face on the state fairgrounds.

Her name was Jean Carpenter, and although she had her own practice in North Texas, she was known for representing the Texas State Fair annually for the past 30 years.

Thanks to this obituary/story from the Dallas Morning News, we learned she died of a brain tumor at the age of 80.

“Jean was just running every direction that morning making sure things came together the way they were supposed to,” Ms. [Nancy, of retired State Fair fame] Wiley said. “Pretty much everything did, except for the trained pig. We discovered pigs don’t like to get up before dark and perform. Jean was right out in the middle of it, herding the pigs in the direction they were supposed to go. She was tremendously versatile.”

The last memoir there describes what true flacks do. This is not a 9-to-5 gig. It’s round the clock, ofttimes thankless but erstwhile rewarding. And that’s what Carpenter made it.

I had the privilege of working with her once on behalf of another client. Although Big Tex towers over the fairgrounds, that woman clearly wore the huge pants around that place. She ran the joint and no one got through that gate without her consent.

Including yours truly… and I had approval, only the news didn’t make it to security that one fateful morning. Sigh.

Chutzpah and credibility, all in one bound Dallas package. She will certainly be missed.

To really appreciate a more personal approach, Rawlins Gilliand wrote an amazing celebratory piece that Big Bob Wilonsky posted in Unfair Park. Please visit, it’s worth the read.

Ms. Carpenter is survived by her companion, John Patrick Byrne of Dallas, and a sister, Jerry Stevenson of Lufkin, Texas. Memorials may be made to the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children or the State Fair of Texas Scholarship Fund.

Advertisements

Written by theflak

July 27, 2009 at 10:00 am

The Long Sabbatical

leave a comment »

lawrence-of-arabiaposterRoaming around the Internet – and the country – like Lawrence of Arabia, I have been ramping up the air miles like a true PR vagabond. However, I have been neglecting a certain blog.

It’s sad because I’m never dry on opinion and there have been a litany of PR stories to rant about, such as:

> Michael Jackson and the news cycle that keeps on rolling

> Obama. Need I really say more, namely with the “Brotherhood of the All-Star Pitching Mom Pants“?!

> Health care, energy and other mind-numbing things to make you pray for rapture

Whatever the situation, I have missed out, but… I’m baaaaaack.

Hold the fanfare, just send the comments.

Written by theflak

July 23, 2009 at 10:31 am

Posted in Editor's Note

Tagged with ,

Internships: The new interview?

leave a comment »

NEWS FLASH: The economy blows.

And besides the current 8.6 percent in this country who are feeling it the most, quite possibly no other audience has more to hurdle than the broad jumpers currently graduating college.

Think about it: they are unproven, they have no contacts, they have nothing to fall back on and… that resume? Woof.

What’s a graduate to do in this profession, and in this market?

Answer: Become an intern – anywhere!

The class of 2009 is ready, willing and able, so why work for free? How do they make it?

According to this article from San Bernandino Sun, those questions are considered in-between cramming for finals and those drunken stupors allegedly dealt with on a bi-weekend basis.

“It’s exciting to be graduating, but very frustrating,” said Christina Dudley, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from Cal State San Bernardino in June. “It makes you wonder if it’s even worth it going to school all these years, paying all this money and then not being able to find a job to pay back student loans.”

No kidding.

The article continues to discuss the deft trifecta these students are facing:

  1. The job market blows as much as the economy does.
  2. Consider the usual competition for PR jobs, now multiply that by 10.
  3. The market sucked last year too, so all those graduates are still looking for a gig.

Which leads me to internships. Sure, you may have to get a part-timer sacking groceries, but interning creates four magic words on a resume your diploma can’t buy: “On the job training.”

More and more, agencies have a need at the assistant account executive or account coordinator level but are waiting for the summer months to hire. No, not at your level but that one intern who will do everything, get everything, help everyone and be happy doing it.

Agencies don’t have the cost of benefits and stil get a hungry person willing to show off a little to get a little. And possibly a lot more in the fall. Yes, that’s why!

Interns get their foot in the door, develop a new skill set not foreseen during semester mid-terms and get a lot closer to a managing director than your resume ever will.

So, if you’re out there, fresh hair cut, creased pants, diploma in-hand and still without the job, consider the intern. I’ll bet more of them get hired in the next coming months than more of you.

Written by theflak

May 28, 2009 at 11:00 am

Hey reporters, call me. Please?

leave a comment »

If you consider what flacks like me do for a living, it’s a viable question.

We spend hours noodling on that finely crafted pitch, attempting to personalize it with a back story and customize it with our own sense of dazzling wit. And then, as we hold our breath and squint out of one eye, we hit “send” and off it goes… will it return, who really knows?

I know odds are not good we get that return call, but what’s a flack to do? Quit? Stop trying? Anything?

Plenty, based on this brilliant read from “The Bad Pitch Blog.” It seems I’m not alone with my discombobulated woes.

Probably my former GM. His other car said "Move the Needle".

Probably my former GM. His other car said "SYNERGY".

According to the sage authors here, the reason media types don’t call us back is because most of “us” aren’t answering the effin’ phone. And why?

Too much of a good thing, in this PR practitioner’s opinion?

Think about it. We have a voice mail at work and on the cell. Some have an e-leash… sorry, a Blackberry. And now, there’s our LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.

All those meetings. All those clients. And then, some adoring member of the media has the nerve to return your message.

Sure, you screen your calls. Who doesn’t? But if you aren’t holding true to a 24-hour return call policy, you need to consider a new line of work. I don’t know, like Toll Booth Operator.

You see, most spin doctors I know who don’t return calls are the type to pitch at 6:00 p.m. and file the report, “Called but no return message.”

It’s the personal interaction that scares the bejesus out of some in this vocation. To which, I say get over it. It’s in the job description.

Sure after-hour calls, e-mails, tweets and an impersonal LinkedIn message is contact, but all hail the days when all we had were phones and those antiquated answering machines.

These days, hitting “7” ad-nauseum is so much easier to clear your calendar for that new business tee time, isn’t it?

Listen, if you are one of these media habitues who live on Caller ID, consider the economy, answer the phone and who knows… you may enjoy the interaction. Just a thought.

Warren Buffett and his nail for the newspapers’ coffin

leave a comment »

Warren Buffett – he’s one of the most beloved philanthropists and investors, one of the richest dudes on the planet and a guy who knows a thing or two about newspapers.

The only place in America where the paper is still read

The only place in America where the paper is still read

Much to the latter, Buffett was quoted at the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting discussing the recent plight of dwindling newspaper circulations and the fact America doesn’t fancy itself as a reading nation any longer.

“For most newspapers in the United states, [his company that dabbles in publications] would not buy them at any price,” he said in response to a question about whether he would consider investing in newspapers. “They have the possibility of going to just unending losses.

Talk about kicking the crap out of an industry while it’s down. Publishing magnates everywhere collectively inhaled and choked on their stogies when this quote went transcontinental.

So, how so, O’ Sage of Omaha? Well, to paraphrase Buffett’s street savvy, “It’s all about the Benjamins.”

As long as newspapers were essential to readers, they were essential to advertisers. But news is available in many other venues, such as the Internet, which means a dramatic drop in advertising revenue.

So, is this pandemic Google’s fault? Nah. It’s ours. Folk enjoy anything that can chucked into a microwave and bought at a drive-thru. Our quest of diversify our calendars has been the driving force to plunder newspapers everywhere.

We enjoy the Cliff’s Notes versions found online rather than sifting through countless headlines and ads to find just exactly where was the last place Brangelina or TomKat was seen in public.

Why look for the story when we can hunt for the Google images and copy that in our Facebook page? Who knows.

Written by theflak

May 20, 2009 at 10:00 am

Newspapers only wish they could print cash too

leave a comment »

So, eh, breaking news? Newspapers are closing their printing presses everywhere.

It’s not they are running out of ink or stories, just money. And so, publishers have been hurling their heads into their desks trying to figure a way out of this Internet mess.

Online NewsThen, without fail, faster than a speeding IRS agent, more powerful than a local blog and able to leap tall requests with a single check… here comes the U.S. Government, thanks to HuffPo.

Yeah, yeah. Get your barf bags ready and let’s say those two magical words together, “Bail. Out.”

Hosted by Sen. John Kerry, some of this country’s most influential publishers caucused on Capitol Hill with shades, a cane and a dirty coffee mug in-hand awaiting a hand out.

Among the blinder, publishing magnates were  James Moroney from the beleaguered Dallas Morning News, who claimed a “quasi property right” over facts that were being used for “commercial gain,” not by readers but by “someone else.”

Yeah, that’s called public information once it’s online, so I’m fairly sure that “someone else” would be every person who regretfully isn’t interested in buying a paper to see the advertisinguh, read the stories first-hand.

Why Kerry? Among the near-dearly-departed who be his beloved Boston Globe. So his impartial and unbiased interest in saving that paper is about as transparent as Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan being interested in the goings on of the automotive industry.

Ah, politics.

Now, Kerry and the gaggle of civil servants who gathered are looking into a proposal to steer around labeling it as a bailout – allowing papers become non-profit entities.

I wonder which of those former-writers-gone-publishers was responsible for that ironic twist. Hrm.

Imagine paying rent at a homeless shelter

with 4 comments

Signs of the Times?

Signs of the Times?

Ever been to New York City? If you work in public relations, the answer is probably, “Yes.”

It’s the media mecca. It’s the holy ground of journalism. And it’s the… most friggin’ expensive place on earth!

My God, man. A brother can go broke there without ordering room service.

I mean, has anyone bothered checking out the home prices in that city?

$1.5 million for a 660 square-foot tin shanty, but hey, it’s got a view… if you look waaaaaaaaaay in the corner of that rear window in your bathroom, you can see a tree past those gutters. Sweet.

Well, the economy is evidently still putting the squeeze on real estate in the city that never sleeps.

According to this alarming story from Newsday, city officials have begun charging rent to families living in… wait for it… homeless shelters. Classy.

The spin:

The policy applies only to shelter residents who have income from jobs.

Sure. Never mind those jobs are typically dishwasher, asbestos cleaner, sewage drainer and pooper scoopers, but hey, it’s a gig. Right?

The catch:

They could be expected to pay up to half their earnings.

Because when you are living in a homeless shelter (oxymoron, eh?), you can easily afford that kind of scratch on three hots and a cot… for you and your family.

Pathetic. In a world where the economy is public enemy #1 and charity is sorely floundering amidst public panic, New York City shows up in a sterling fashion.

I understand every city has to get their cut, but to get “stimulated” on the backs of the disenfranchised, impoverished and destitute? Hrm.

The Big Apple looks like it has sour grapes to me. Poetic. And nutritious too.

Written by theflak

May 14, 2009 at 4:48 am