Wednesday, November 16, 2005

To All the Flacks I've Loved Before

Part of my job involves talking to PR people _ flacks, as we call them on this end. I've been doing this for over three years, and I've seen a number of archetypes sift out. Let me share some of them with you...

_ The Nut Who Can't Believe You Don't Want to Write About His Stupid Idea: These are usually people flacking their own books or companies. You can hear them blinking in disbelief when you don't express awe at their pitch, say, for a book on Illinois' most famous Mafia gravesites.

_ The New Yorker: Usually a 30-ish woman with a nasally voice. They begin their pitch with the hyphenated name of the PR conglomerate they're enslaved to: Rubenstein-Gidwitz-Stern, Blastula-Thompson-Reed, etc. They speak quickly and are forgotten quickly. A corollary to this is...

_ The New York Hipster: A younger male. Usually flacking big corporate events and tours for cell phones or satellite radio. Their voices are tinged with the irony, condescension and self-hatred that are fast becoming the defining features of our generation.

_ The Jock: Sports flacks. The younger ones are of the ESPN school _ you can hear them smacking gum and sneering over the line. The older ones are like high school gym teachers, which I find comforting for some reason.

_ The Burned Out: Often older. Sighs frequently. At the end of his/her rope and with a constant headache. Maybe you'll feel sorry and agree to write the stupid story. Closely related to...

_ The Angry Flack: Also older. Has survived in the ruthless PR business by being a massive asshole, and you'd better write this stupid story, you peon. Let me talk to your editor.

_ The Yammer-er: Gives you the whole pitch in one breathless sentence before you can even say "Hello." My solution? Say "No," then hang up.

_ TOO Personal!: This was popular with female flacks in our state government offices when I started my job. They call you "sweetie" and "honey." One state flack would open unsolicited calls with a long pause then a whispered, breathy "It's me." Thankfully, this approach has gone the way of the Carrier Pigeon, though we might be ripe for a comeback (shudder).

_ The Speaker Phone Warrior: There's one state flack, god bless him, that tries to convey his authority by using a speaker phone. These kind of people get red-flagged to the front of the line for disparaging fictional representations.

_ The City Worker: Flacks for Chicago government offices are a lot like their brethren behind the counters at the DMV: Laconic, slow-moving, perturbed. The only exception are cop flacks, who are obliging and direct in a cop-like manner.

_ The Nice Flack: I won't say they're rare, but I wish they'd call a little more often.

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