They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, right? Well, that's exactly what I'm trying to do with this whole "getting fired" thing. Sure the entire experience was mildly traumatizing and has me spinning upside down on a pole three nights a week at Camelot (Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Ask for Fallon O'Carrington.) but I think it may have been the kick in the ass I need to get more serious about my writing and finding a way to make this here rickety old blog my bread and butter. Unfortunately to do this you need to be far more communications savvy than I actually am. If you need someone to come over and watch reality TV with you, crack a few mildly humorous jokes and eventually give you a really half-assed hand job; I'm your girl. If you need someone to market your blog to potential sponsors, advertisers and media people in a professional and confident manner; I am not your girl. Either way; sucks to be me.
I can't market this blog to save my life. Wanna know a little fun fact I never told you about? I had a very casual meeting with MTV in December. They like my writing, bless their hearts. Then they had to go and actually talk to me in person. MISTAKE #1, YOU GUYS. Mistake #1. Why? Oh, I don't know. Maybe because when they asked me what my five year plan was I rambled about exercising more and getting a pug while struggling to find a way a to make my arm placement look natural? How about that? Sigh.
If I really do just want to sit here all day writing love letters to you fine people (which I do), I need to find a way to confidently talk about my blog without de-railing 13 seconds in and concluding with, "NEVER MIND IT'S STUPID I MOSTLY JUST TALK ABOUT MY BOWEL MOVEMENTS AND HOW AWKWARD I AM I'VE JUST WASTED YOUR TIME SO G2G KILL MYSELF NOW BYE." How did this happen? I was a communications minor, for Christ's sake! And isn't AU's SOC supposed to be like, really good or some shit? That's when I remember the absolute show that was COMM-301 (Public Relations) and suddenly my complete and utter communication ineptitude makes a a lot more sense.
I took PR my last semester at college and it was destined to be a hot mess from the start. First of all, it was a block class. May god smite you all in the American University registrar's office for your intense love of block scheduling! For those of you not in the know, block scheduling is when instead of having a class twice a week, you only have it once a week, but it's two and a half hours long. Look guy, that is a tall fucking order. I can't even concentrate on a date for that long and that has the possibility of ending in sex. To make matters worse, it was my second back-to-back block class of the day. Right before PR, I had a two and a half hour Postmodern Art History class. And yowzahs. What a Wednesday. I was sufficiently chock full o' bullshit by the end of that semester.
What really didn't help my already dwindling attention span was the fact that I took this class with College Roommate Danielle. In retrospect, what a grossly horrible idea that was. Danielle and I have the combined maturity of Romper Room. We once stole a life-size cardboard cut out of LeBron James from Mazza Galleria based solely on the absurdity that is this commercial:
Locking us in a class full of comm nerds for two and a half hours was like giving a couple of 12-year-old boys with severe ADHD a handful of pixie sticks, a box of fireworks and a match and saying, "Have at it." Was it entertaining? God yes. Did we learn anything? God no.
I did love our professor, however. He was an adjunct professor by the name of Tim Wild* who works at a major PR firm downtown. I'm utilizing an asterisk there because that's obviously in no way his real name. (Sorry. A girl as lazy as me can only handle so many lawsuits at once.) We were 100% obsessed with Tim Wild. Like, perhaps inappropriately so. And I'd like to think he loved us right back! To this day we're his only two friends on Facebook and it warms my little heart. Every now and then Facebook suggests I "reconnect" with Tim Wild and I'm like, "IF ONLY!!!1"
Professor Wild—who we (very much to his face) called (and not because he told us to) Timmy—had just moved to DC from Houston where he was the head of PR for a major rodeo arena. I'd say about an hour and 45 minutes of every class was spent listening to Timmy's wacky tales of rodeo life. Lord knows they had absolutely nothing to do with PR, but Christ I'm glad I know about 'em.
Just like how I couldn't concentrate in therapy because my therapist looked like a tall Verne "Mini-Me" Troyer, I couldn't concentrate in PR because Timmy Wild looks just like Peter Griffin from Family Guy. Seriously. The resemblance is uncanny in the most distracting way possible and made everything he said that much more hilarious. Not like Timmy needed any help in the humor department. If an hour and 45 minutes of class was dedicated to rodeo stories, the other 45 minutes were dedicated to his hee-larious and long-winded tangents. A lecture with Timmy would start out being about the value of press ethics and morph into a 30-minute rant about what a bitch Ashley Judd was when she stood up Timmy's radio show in college to go to a sorority event. Seriously, that's one of the few things I retained from that class. Ashley Judd went to college with Professor Timmy Wild and stood up his radio show. What a bitch. How do you write a press release? Fuck if I know.
Our classmates were just as ridiculous as our beloved Timmy. I'm more than aware I'm about to alienate a large portion of readers when I say this, but I can not stand overzealous comm majors. I get it. You're really good with people. You like to mingle. And network. You have a blackberry yet can't legally drink at a bar yet. You're very important; got it. Now stop reminding me every single chance you get. No one gives a shit about your internship or what local NBC news anchor you met over the weekend. Christ. Being a comm minor, I had to deal with overzealous comm majors frequently, but I had never experienced such an overwhelmingly high concentration of them in once class like I did in PR. Danielle and I immediately found and befriended the only two other slackers in the class (that's out of a class of 35...) and we made a pact that we'd always work together in the far too frequent "real world scenario" group exercises. One chick was a stoner who sold hula hoops on the quad and the other was quite possibly the most Bro-tastic frat boy to ever exist at AU, who fell off a porch and broke his leg a week into the semester and rarely showed up. We were like the Geneva Convention of slack assery. We'd be given a task like figure out what we'd do if we were the PR people for NIH and Avian Flu broke out or something like that and while every other group would present these polished press releases that they had already gotten published on the wire just for funzies, Timmy would call on our group and be like, "Well, well, well...what did you four geniuses cook up today?" We'd then awkwardly shuffle papers back and forth and look at each other expectantly until Danielle inevitably got up, shifted her eyes back and forth, slowly said "Synergy" and sat back down. Then Timmy would be like "OH, YOU GUYS!" and move on. Every single time. God I loved that man.
I've given it some honest-to-god thought, and I can say I only remember learning four concrete lessons in that class (besides the fact that Ashley Judd is a bitch and will stand you up if you have a radio show), which I will gladly share with you now.
#1. Professor Wild had a little saying that he told us often, but not nearly often enough. It was Timmy's mantra when he did PR for the rodeo. What was it? "Send in the retards." I'm not saying it's right, I'm not saying I agree with it, I'm just saying that that was Timmy's go-to motto when things got rough. "If something goes wrong, and I mean like really, really wrong," Professor Wild told us, "I always say this little phrase we had at the rodeo—send in the retards." [Pause for Danielle and I to shoot awake and give each other synchronized looks that clearly communicate "DID HE JUST SAY THAT?!", glance around the room, notice that nobody is sharing our reaction, proceed to urinate pants, move on.] "You see, whenever something really unfavorable or embarrassing happened at the rodeo that put us in a bad light, we'd host a day for the mentally disabled or a local elementary school or something. Because you see class, sometimes the best thing to do in a crisis situation is to admit fault and work to shift the focus from the negative back to the positive. So, send in the retards!"
This lesson, to this day, is one of the most absurdly ridiculous things I have ever heard in my entire life. Not because it's heinously inappropriate, not because it came from the real life manifestation of Peter Griffin, but mostly because it came out of the mouth of a man paid buku dollars for his expertise in how to appropriately address the public. Uh-mazing irony.
#2. One day the PR Director for some ocean conserving non-profit...thing came in to give our class a presentation on how to handle a last minute catastrophe. The title of his presentation had "catastrophe" in it, so I figured it had to be interesting, right? Wrong. This was the most boring two hours of my entire life and I still resent that man for taking them away from me. The PR Director was this thin waif of a blonde gentleman wearing a queer little seashell tie, who needed a stern lesson in how to tell a story. Allow me to compress an hour of his story into one sentence: his non-profit led an expedition into a sunken battleship from the Civil War and they made a startling discovery. He would not shut up about this alleged startling discovery. The build-up was insane. For a solid 15 minutes he was like, "What we found on that ship changed everything for everyone. TIME STOOD STILL. Worlds collided. Men were made and broken in a single moment. Dreams were shattered. Lives destroyed. Friends became foe. It was the most intense moment of my entire professional career and the lives of 100 men and women relied on my next move." BLOKAY! WE GET IT! SHUT THE FUCK UP AND TELL US WHAT HAPPENED ALREADY, YOU LITTLE TWIT! Finally he told us what happened: they found human skeletal remains. On the sunken battle ship. From a war. Yes, a battle ship used in war. That sank. Somebody died. That was the big controversial catastrophe.
Danielle raised her hand, "Uh, I think I'm a little confused here. Why is it so shocking that you found skeletal remains on a sunken battle ship from 1863?" The PR director laughed at her like she had just asked, "Was there scary octopuses on there, mister?!"
"I don't think you get it, young lady. We found human remains on a battle ship from the Civil War. People are still awfully sensitive about that. Especially in the south!"
"Yeah..." Danielle continued, "But it's a sunken battleship. How could you not think you'd find human remains?"
"Well! As it turns out, we did! I looked in the communications guide for the expedition and there was a whole chapter on how to handle finding human remains! So we were fine! Moral of the story: always be prepared."
I thought I was going to shoot myself in the fucking face. An hour and a half build-up for that. I guess I learned three things here: 1.) The south is still deeply sensitive about the Civil War; 2.) Always be prepared; 3.) Storytelling is not an art form for everyone.
3.) For our final project, we had to design a professional PR plan for the business of our choice. A girl we called "Southern Girl" did her project on a new home development in her home state of Oklahoma. Southern Girl was 16 different kinds of insufferable. She looked like Jenna Bush, dressed like Barbara Bush, Sr. had an obnoxiously large Louis Vuitton bag that she was forever fishing shit out of, had a deep southern accent and despite being dumb as a box of hair thought she was the tits. Southern Girl delivered her PR presentation like a slick big-city lawyer type. She wore a business suit! She had a laser pointer! She walked slowly around the room with her fingers interlaced like Mr. Burns and nodded her head a lot! It was, for lack of better words, fucking obnoxious. Then she got to the portion of her presentation where she talked about what kind of homes would be located on the development: log cabins.
"But these aren't just any log cabins," Southern Girl explained, "These log cabins are made from jen-you-wine spruce trees grown right here in the great state of Oklahoma. Our craftsmen shave these trees down by hand for a finish that is out of this world. Our hand smoothed logs will be like nothing you have ever seen and nothing you've ever touched before. Nobody has logs smoother than ours! You can't help yourself but reach out and touch our hand smoothed logs as you walk by. You just gotta feel our hand smoothed logs once to know what kind of quality this development will house. I got a sample here; feel free to come up and rub our hand smoothed logs for yourself."
I thought I was going to pee my pants if she said "hand smoothed log" one more time. Because: penis. Penis, penis, penis. It was one of those situations I frequently find myself in where I'm internally laughing about something because I'm a child and then I realize that someone else, in this case Danielle, is also trying not to laugh and the situation becomes that much more impossible. Lesson learned: "hand smoothed log" is never not the funniest thing to come out of the mouth of a homely girl in a business suit.
4.) This last lesson was learned immediately after Southern Girl finished her presentation. The next person to present was this Meeky girl who was clearly really nervous and struggling to get through her presentation. Her voice was trembling and she was saying "uh" and "um" a lot and talking on the fly, versus Southern Girl and her well rehearsed script. I understand that when you're talking off of the top of your head, you don't phrase things exactly the way you mean to. I get that. However, this girl accidentally said the most magical thing. She delivered a good point about how the best way to publicize an event for her business was to inundate the internet, radio and television with advertisements. Then, probably due to nerves, she kept rambling and said the following sentence:
"We need to advertise in as many places as possible. Because, you know, sometimes you just have to come [pauses] in their faces.........[longer pause].................................................................with information."
Danielle and I 100% lost our shit. All the "hand smoothed log" laughter we had been suppressing came pouring out and then some. Tears were streaming down our faces; we were physically grabbing each other for support. By the time we had regained composure, we looked around the room and realized that we were the only people laughing. Frankly, any embarrassment I should have been feeling was canceled out by how confused I was that nobody else in a class of 35 people thought the wholesome looking Meek saying "Sometimes you just have to come in their faces," was the funniest thing uttered in the history of human speech. Every time Danielle says it to me, it's like I'm hearing it for the first time. I am literally cackling in the darkness of my apartment, alone, as I write this right now. If I close my eyes I can still see her saying it. I remember everything about what she was wearing that day and where I was sitting in relation to where she was sitting and just everything. It was like falling in love for the first time.
So final lesson learned: sometimes you just have to come [pause] in their faces.
...And yes I did get an A in this class. God bless you, American University. Welp! I'll be telling potential advertisers to fuck off and die if anyone needs me! L8r!