‘This is a very simply game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes…it rains.” Bull Durham
As I see it, one of my roles on this blog is, for lack of better words, to play the fool. For you that is. In other words, I’m taking one for the team. I’ve said time and time again that I’ve wished, both when I was starting out and still as I find my way, that I had someone like me who I could ask for advice or learn from. But I didn’t when I was starting and I frequently forget to ask for help now…so here I am as a result, sometimes doing it right, sometimes doing it wrong, sometimes…just doing it.
And last week, I did something wrong. So I’m here to tell you about it so that you, hopefully, don’t do it wrong if the opportunity should present itself.
Swimming around the freelancers’ pool
Freelancing has placed me in wide variety of situations at this point, I’m assuming you could say the same. By definition, we get thrown into all matter of circumstances where we may or may not have any clue how to act or be or do. Over our heads, soaked to our ankles, blowing bubbles, treading water or swimming speedily through the course – sometimes within a span of 5 minutes. Right?
Currently, I’m working on a massive project with a sizable team, we’ve got a little bit of every role you could imagine. Specific to my ‘doing it wrong’, we have two publicists. They’re Big deals. (It was suggested that I add the capital ‘B’). One of them is French – and I imagine her sitting at a huge mahogany desk with a toy poodle on her lap and a long, thin cigarette hanging off of a long porcelain cigarette holder between her long thin fingers. Her hair is piled on top of her head and she’s wearing Chanel. But I have no idea if that is even a little bit true.
Anyway, I pissed her off.
You see, on a regular basis, the publicists send out emails to the team alerting us to news breaks or product mentions. And I, in my blind ignorance and bloggy haze of ‘we’re all in this together’, figured they were just letting us know whenever we were featured in the media. Since I’m running the social media campaign, I’ve engaged many listening tools – effectively holding my trusty stethoscope up to the internet – so that I know every time we ‘appear’ online. Obviously, then, I thought I should contribute to these emails as well. You know – one for all and all for…
I got told off…and how (and quickly) for this gaff. Those press breaks they were sending were gigs the publicists themselves had landed. The break is there metric for their work for the client. Had I secured the mention I just emailed? (she asked). Um…nooooo, not so much. I just thought we were all spreading the good news. It turns out, we weren’t. Not even a little bit.
All worked out fine, I apologized, I never did it again, I returned to my corner to do my job. And I learned some things, which makes it all worth it in the end:
- Now that I know why what I did wasn’t okay, it seems blaringly, glaringly obvious.
- This is true of most lessons learned, except maybe those gleaned from a calculus textbook.
- When entering a new situation, take a good look around and identify things that might not be familiar.
- Find someone, either within the fray or without, that is familiar with those things.
- If you feel like doing a certain something that is out of your general knowledge area, ask this someone for guidance: Run it by them first.
- Keep your wits about you – did you just break a cardinal rule? ruin a business? step over a cultural line? threaten someone’s place on the totem pole? Put your mistake in perspective.
- Life is very interesting when the old media and the new media play together in the sandbox.
- My skin is getting thicker. Once upon a time I might have been mortified or at least obsessed about my faux pas. This time I said ‘whoops!’, laughed and moved right along.
- What’s next? (Thank you, President Bartlett). The only way out of an error is forward. Fix it, change your behavior, don’t do it again.
- When you have the best readers in the world, it isn’t that hard to tell them about the times when you’re stupid.
- I really do love to share. It’s how I got myself into this mess…and it’s how I’m getting myself out.
Image credit: Banalities
Join the discussion 20 Comments
Great post, interesting tips.. Thanks. I am awful at asking advice so I totally get how you used to be. And wish I could learn to ASK!
And, a small fyi (which you can edit out of this comment) Chanel, not Channel….
.-= Laura´s last blog ..Working from home =-.
A great piece. I think maybe you’re being a little too hard on yourself. These publicists need to also appreciate your position in social media. If the ground rules aren’t stipulated in the beginning, what might have been obvious in marketing with old media situations might not be so obvious in the new space – in fact, it might just be plain out wrong. Everyone involved in old media need to realise that in the new sandbox, they’re not automatically a Big Deal any more. It’s earned.
I love your blog – another smart commentator professional who’s a mum too. :)
Oh yeah #11 – listen to your gut. When I wrote ‘Channel’ I thought – I should look that up. I don’t wear designer clothes and I don’t know how to spell them…
Thanks, Jo – and you’re right. It’s why I included #6 – about keeping it in perspective. These people are fixtures and they do great work – so in this case, it really served me to find alternate routes, not take it so seriously and, as I said, do MY job.
Thanks for the great advice. I’m eager to learn from the “great ones” like you, Julie! I appreciate you sharing with me so I don’t make the same mistakes.
I particularly like #9: The only way out of an error is forward. Fix it, change your behavior, don’t do it again – everyone, no matter what they are doing, should follow that one! They need to ADMIT they made a mistake in order to do this – and that is tough for many.
.-= Shawna Cevraini´s last blog ..Happiness Project Update =-.
I love that you took a mistake and made a winning post from such a personal perspective so really, it was a great mistake to make! You may have been momentarily embarrassed but in the end many of us benefit, including you. It is one more tool for your toolbox.
Also, some people are just really full of themselves and want to make their special jobs really, really special. They may have simply resented the ease and happiness that you interjected into their process. Part of their mystique and high fees is attached to the knowledge and experience they bring and you just breezed right in there ;-)
.-= Mary´s last blog ..Monday’s Wonderful Recycled Finds =-.
Have to agree with Jo on this one. You’re being way too hard on yourself. This is by no means a major gaffe. You didn’t hurt the client. You didn’t do anything to undermine the team or the project. All you did was send an email pointing out that the movie got some publicity. I don’t see how anyone but an extremely insecure individual could interpret that as you trying to steal their thunder (or that such an email could in any way imply that you were responsible for the given publicity). You were being a proud member of the team. You should get a pat on the back, not grief for it. I’m perplexed by the behavior of the PR team and find it most unprofessional. If anything, they owe you an apology for being small-minded and petty.
.-= Ron Miller´s last blog ..The Ever-Changing Face of Technology =-.
In the situation you describe, I have to wonder what the word “team” means to those publicists, and what exactly do they believe your role to be? Perhaps publicists are taking a hit from social media (hence your wonderful take on “old” vs. “new”) but if it were me, I would also toot the horn *for the entire team* as you did. A great lesson in stating roles up front…but I think that publicist should have apologized to you in return–for not understanding what YOUR job is on this project. Great piece.
I love this post. As others have said, it’s awesome for me to get to learn from your experience. I work a regular office job, but that comes with the same perils. Any time you step out of your routine, you risk stepping on toes.
It’s easy to live in fear of that, and I think the clarity and sincerity of this post makes it easy to get over that, too.
And, of course, I really adored the scene you painted of the French publicist. Made me want to write a story about her!
.-= Aaron Pogue´s last blog ..Interesting Things (Technical Writing Exercise) =-.
Thanks, Aaron. It’s funny reflecting back on my ‘innocence’, that I wasn’t afraid – I was psyched to contribute.
And, yes – she’s part Cruella, part the Devil Wears Prada and part Haversham. Let me know if you write about her after all…
Interesting story and I agree with the others, sounds like you are being a bit hard on yourself. So if I understand it right, you “marketed the marketer?” Is that what you meant when you stated you promoted “what they had landed?” Just curious as it sounds like a good pr lesson, but a little confusing as I wasn’t sure what product you were talking about.
Sorry, I have to be a bit vague.
The funny thing is, I wasn’t hard on myself at all. Which is rather unusual for the likes of me. However, I was firmly put in my place and told that I had overstepped my bounds. It was an innocent mistake, but still, a mistake.
What I did was call attention to an article that featured our project. Traditionally, the publicist ‘gets’ to do this as it is her way of announcing to the team that her PR skills landed us some press.
If I can step back in one more time, this has nothing to do with right and wrong or making a mistake as you put it. It has everything to do with trying to protect your turf. The PR people are rightly threatened by your social media savvy as they should be. They are old world and going the way of the dinosaurs. Your way is the way that things will be promoted moving forward. As David Meerman Scott has pointed out, you can beg for access, which is the job of the average PR person, or you can produce content and build an audience organically (which is what you are doing , Julie). If I’m wearing the other hat, I’m looking at you going, watch out for her. That’s why they felt compelled to slap you down. You’re a direct threat to the way they make their living and they don’t like it one bit. It might have been a breach of protocol in their eyes, but only because they see have the future and her name is Julie Roads.
.-= Ron Miller´s last blog ..The Ever-Changing Face of Technology =-.
Ha!!! Yeah, baby!
Thanks, Ron – you made my day.
Yeah what Ron said! Heaven forbid copy be organic and real! :-O
.-= Regina´s last blog ..Colorado’s new bill = baby out with bathwater… =-.
Ah Julie…thank you for being so damn real!!! I know you must have been mortified, even if for a second, when this happened but I can’t help but laugh! It’s like reading through my own silly mistakes that were bred out of sheer idealism that suddenly went sideways.
I love the Devil Wears Prada reference in your comments. That is exactly what I pictured and yes, I have worked for the infamous Ms. Priestly in my time…except she was two “almost adult” men. Lot’s of oppsies to be had there.
Thank you for your post and your fabulous lessons.
Keep it up Julie! You are my inspiration!
.-= Farrah J Phoenix´s last blog ..Hockey: Canada’s Pride and Joy (part 2) =-.
Julie, you did the best thing that anyone can do, admit it, learn from it and move on. IT just shows how much of a consommate professional you are. I am working right now with a lot of PR agencies and it has been interesting to feel the interaction between old and new media, I think that sometimes they feel threatened, and at other times they think they can apply traditional principles when they can’t. On the other side I am trying to be very cognizant of how it works on their side as well. It’s been very interesting. The lessons are something to print up and tape to my monitor! :-)
.-= Andi´s last blog ..Misadventures in Venice Hotel Hunting =-.
It makes you human and lovable to talk about the errors of your ways. This one seems kind of minor–despite how major the poodle lady thought it was. Reminds me of years ago when I’d moved to a new area and therefore signed up for lessons at a new Tae Kwon Do facility. My former teacher was not a rules guy. He just taught us how to kick ass. This new place was all about rules. But since I’d never really had rules, I didn’t even know to seek them out. So when I was sparring and punching a black belt in the face a few times, I was taken aside and told that I’d committed a humongous mistake. One does not hit another in the face apparently (especially not another black belt when one is not a black belt). One only delivers body shots. I was so embarrassed that I stopped going. Which was silly. It takes a lot of courage to face down a situation after making a mistake, but that’s how we grow even stronger and wiser.
.-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..The Last Day Principle =-.