The PRSA/NY chapter and NYU PRSSA chapter “Career Forum” set for April 2 at the Kimmel Center is a classic “cattle call” as defined by website. “An audition in which a large number of often inexperienced actors or performers try out.”

The chapters are predicting that 300 students will be looking for internships or summer jobs from a dozen or two PR firms and companies.

How can a student stand out in such a cluster …?

Have a low golf handicap. Be on the NYU golf team.  Be on the NYU tennis team. Be able to play a musical instrument or perform in some way. Be funny.

What are CEOs looking for? Yet another person to give them advice? No. They want a single-digit golfer to help them win the member/guest. They want someone to help their children with their tennis games and write essays for their college applications. They have plenty of similar chores that need tending to. They have plenty of money. That is not their problem.

The VP-PR of a blue chip told us his entire career was built on a good golf game. He was much in demand by C-suite occupants as a partner and instructor.  Golf is the game of business and especially Big Business.

Trunk’s Volleyball Skills Led to Job

penelope trunkCareer columnist Penelope Trunk told the 2008 PRSA conference in Detroit that her volleyball skills (she was ranked 20th in the nation) led to her first job since her boss liked volleyball.
She said one of the best ways to get ahead is to make friends with the boss and that playing some sport with him or her provides such a route. Golf is the way to spend four hours of quality time with people.

Students need the straight skinny about PR and not the rose-colored version that PR groups put out.
They should read "Always Live Better than Your Clients," the biography of Ben Sonnenberg, the richest New York PR person of the 50s and early 1960s. He searched for what was in the “heart of hearts” of clients and it often involved their children. Do a favor for a client’s child and you’ll never lose the account, was his advice.

Sonnenberg ran what was actually a client-funded nightclub at his five-story townhouse on Gramercy Park. Up to 200 executives, media figures, movie stars and other celebs came for a free night of food and entertainment. The townhouse included a 50-seat movie theater.

“You Need Babysitting? I’ll Do It”

Must reading for NYU students is a seven-page article by Tad Friend in the Sept. 23, 2002 New Yorker that profiled Hollywood publicist Bumble Ward. It was loaded with lore about publicists. Ward pulled no punches about her job. She called it “utterly soul-destroying” in a Feb. 3, 2005 interview with Movie City News, adding that publicists are the “absolute bottom of the barrel” in Hollywood.

Movie executive John Calley, then head of Sony Pictures, described what stars hear from publicists: “Everyone is trying to exploit you, but I’m the one who cares…I’ll sit at lunch with the evil press person who’s trying to trap you, to humiliate you. Your kid needs babysitting? I’ll do it. Dry cleaning. I love picking up dry cleaning. I’m here 24 hours a day. I’ll devote my whole life to you. I’ll steer you. I’ll save you. I’ll make you famous forever.”

The New Yorker said the dominant game in Hollywood had become the withholding of access to the stars, a game led by publicist Pat Kingsley. She earned the nickname “Dr. No” because she blocked media requests “so often and with such zeal.”
Other straight-talkers that the NYU students should read are Wendell Potter, who wrote about his 20 years with Cigna in Deadly Spin, and Scott Bartz, who wrote about his seven years at Johnson & Johnson in The Tylenol Mafia.

(PR) Seminar’s Golf Outing Is June 2-5

(PR) Seminar’s annual ill-disguised four-day golf outing will take place June 2-5 at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay on the California coast.
ritzThe hotel in 2008 became a symbol of corporate excess when it was learned that AIG, which had just received $85 billion in bailout money, had scheduled a meeting there to reward top salespeople. It had paid $440K for the same reason to another lux hotel. AIG cancelled the Half Moon meeting amid public outrage.

Half Moon has two “championship” golf courses. Rooms go for $515 a night even in the offseason or $665 for a “Club Level” room. Between fees of $3,500 and travel/hotel costs, about $1 million is spent on themselves by these, the fattest of the fat PR cats.

NYU’s PR majors probably never heard of (PR) Seminar and neither have their professors.

It is a gathering of about 150 of the elite of corporate PR execs, the bluest of the blue chips. It used to have editors and publishers from blue chip media as speakers (New York Times, Washington Post, Economist, etc.) but criticism by journalists including Peter Sussman brought a halt to that.
Sussman, a founder of the Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, listed ten violations of the SJP Ethics Code that journalists broke in going to this secret meeting. The group dropped “PR” from its name in 2007 when Jon Iwata of IBM was chair. Almost none of the members have PR in their titles although that is what they do. How many spies go around with the word “SPY” on their backs in yellow?

Winds of Revolt Blow at NYU

The winds of revolt are blowing at NYU and we hope the school’s PR and J students will get caught in the draft.

NYU’s largest college in mid-March gave a 298-224 “no confidence” vote to president John Sexton.
It is rebelling against his “top-down management style,” his campaign to spread NYU worldwide including facilities in Abu Dhabi, his pay of $1.5M plus $2.5M bonus to be paid in 2015, and his planned six million square-foot expansion in Greenwich Village by 2031.
PR/J students need to revolt against the “cattle call” that PRSSA and PRSA chapter leaders have scheduled for them.

The O’Dwyer Co. has opened a “career desk” at its offices stocked with databases and articles and has invited NYU students to peruse the materials at any time during business hours.
Students cannot job-hunt without such tools any more than someone can do gardening without tools or play golf without golf cubs.
The students who do this will be able to ask knowledgeable questions of PR speakers who show up April 2. As of today, no speakers are listed on the site. We hope that New York chapter president Lea-Ann Germinder and president-elect Henry Feintuch will make appearances.
National and chapter leaders are notorious for their habit of ducking public exposure. Last year’s chair, Gerry Corbett, faced none of the 110 chapters and his predecessor, Rosanna Fiske, faced two. No national Society leader has faced the New York chapter in more than two decades.
Germinder should be asked: Why can’t reporters join PRSA when they are allowed to join the very similar Int’l Assn. of Business Communicators? Why can’t members of PRSA have access to the complete list of Assembly delegates? Why does PRSA avoid having its national conference in New York? The last one was in 2004 and the Society has now picked five future sites none of them New York. Why have you not insisted on having a literature table at the Career Forum?  Do you approve of reporters being barred from the Assembly?  Why can’t members know details of COO Bill Murray’s new three-year contract? Why can’t members and the press have up-to-date financial reports including 4Q of 2012?  What are you doing to end the monopoly APRs have had on Society leadership since the 1970s?

What Happened to PR Golf?!

While on the subject of golf, a mystery is what happened to all the PR golf outings?

Doremus, Manning Selvage & Lee and Carlson/Rockey for many years had all-day golf outings for the business press.

We attended at least 25 Spring conferences of the Counselors Academy which involved three days of golf. Executives of Burson-Marsteller, ITT and numerous other PR companies and PR firms invited us for rounds of golf. There were so many invites that out of guilt we staged two outings at our own club in Old Greenwich as payback.
Golf is one activity where titles don’t count. Everyone is equal on a golf course. This does not mesh with today’s secrecy-ridden, title and hierarchy-obsessed PR world.

Personal Skills Can Be Key

An example of how personal skills can help build a relationship is the one that developed between us and Bob Wood, CEO of the second-largest PR firm, Carl Byoir & Assocs.
Wood loved golf and music. He knew the words to hundreds of songs. The insiders at Byoir were the staffers who went with him after work to a club at the top of the Met Life building and sang a cappella for hours.
Wood’s discovery that I played golf led to dozens of rounds with him at the Winged Foot club in Mamaroneck. When he learned I played the piano, I was invited to play for his singing group. Wood and I often played golf and topped it off with songs in the music room of Winged Foot. Byoir staffers once came to our home for a night of music. Needless to say, Wood and I traded many a story during our hours together.