Friday, February 23, 2007

The Fine Art of Getting the Credit

I recently criticized my fellow bloggers, calling their demands for more credit in the press, unseemly. After a lifetime of self-promotion, this sounded a little odd. How could I complain about them, when - as a professional comedy writer - I have spent hundreds of hours hyping my own accomplishments? Let me explain. If you're a small operation such as my blog, "The Portland Freelancer", there is no PR Department. There is no corporate divison trumpeting your cause. You have to do it yourself. It's part of the business we are in.

The key verb for a freelancer is "parlay", as in, "I parlayed this break, into the next break." So I am not opposed to people advancing themselves through publicity. In fact, this is probably as long as I've ever gone without mentioning that I've sold over 500 jokes to a certain late-night talk show host.

My problem with the bloggers was that they didn't promote themselves with enough flair. It just sounded like whining, and therefore it didn't advance their cause. I wrote a post criticizing them, but the truth is I didn't really mind what they had done - it was just an observation from someone further along in the game. I loved the reaction to the complaining, though. Hey, that was entertaining. Anytime a mainstream member of the press gets in a sanctimonious huff, it's fun for all of us.

True students of the art of self-promotion probably noticed that my post about this cited the Sam Adams/ Tram Rescue drill as an example. See, that idea originated on my blog, and was picked up with credit by Phil Stanford. Eventually Sam's people bought into it, after reading Phil's columns, and the exhibition was on.

Did I complain when the TV stations failed to mention that this ridiculous stunt all began as a joke on the Portland Freelancer? No, instead I worked it in later - sort of like what I'm doing right now. It is true though: While local bloggers were complaining about not getting noticed for an idea, I caused an actual city commissioner to go out of a tram car high above Portland and descend down a rope. That has to count for something.

Do you want another example? I picked up the Oregonian Monday and read the Air America story about Thom Hartmann's terrific new promotion. See? There's that word "promotion" again. The article included this paragragh: "Once again tired of the harsh New England winters, Hartmann and Louise began to think of moving to a more temperate clime. They had friends and family in Portland, and when KPOJ operations manager Mike Dirkx approached him about starting a local morning show in early 2005, Hartmann made the leap. He's been entirely at home ever since."

Now we are drifting into an area where I have no complaints whatsoever, but it's interesting nonetheless. Let me repeat: This isn't one of those credit-denied stories but just look at these old emails from late in 2004, especially the last few lines of the first one.

From: Bill McDonald
Sent: Tuesday, December 14, 2004 6:39 PM
To: Dirkx, Mike
Subject: Re: 2005

Dear Mike,
My name is Bill McDonald and I'm a professional radio writer from Portland. My humor is on over 140 stations and I've sold over 400 jokes to Jay Leno. I've also written 150 columns for the Portland Tribune.

I'm writing to pitch a local radio show for the Air America network, based on a cable access show I do with a young comedian named James Shibley. The show is progressive and funny. We're on Sundays at 10pm(Channel 22), and Thursdays at 11pm(Channel 23) and Fridays at 11pm (Channel 11.)

It's called Born to Slack and it's not FCC compliant, but the roots are there for a great Air America show.

I know the network is syndicated out of New York but it would help to have some local talent. Who knows? Maybe you could syndicate them a show from out here on the Blue Coast.

Hey, there's a good name: "The Blue Coast Show."
Thanks for your time and keep up the good work.
Bill McDonald

He replied:

From: "Dirkx, Mike"
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2004 18:16:41 -0600


Thanks for the note and thanks for joining Mark and Dave in the afternoon on KEX from time to time.

The contact people at Air America Radio are:

Jon Sinton/President
John Manzo/Programming

Check for the exact ways to reach them. I don't know if AAR is looking for additional programming. They recently added Mike Malloy to their evening weekday line-up and moved Marty Kaplan's "So What Else Is News?" to the weekend. They have a handful of other weekend shows. It was announced that Al Franken just signed a new 2 year contract and Randi Rhodes just signed a new 3 year deal. Those announcements make we wonder who might not be resigned.

Again, thanks for the note and thanks for listening to AM 620 KPOJ!

Mike Dirkx
Operations Manager
4949 SW Macadam Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97239

A few short weeks later Mike was inviting Thom to do an Air America show syndicated out of Portland. It certainly reads like what became the Thom Hartmann show was my idea. It doesn't sound like the notion of a Portland Air America show was in play when I wrote. Not that it counts for anything either way. It's just a cool notion.

I once sent a joke to Leno and when I called in to see if it had been mine that aired, they politely said no. For the first and only time, I sort of wondered about it out loud since the wording had been so close. The person on the phone said, "I think we got 12 versions of that joke." So ideas aren't exactly solo bolts of lightning direct from God.

I filed the fact that there was going to be a new show on Air America, but I didn't mention it. I could have followed up on the credit part, and when you consider how Thom is now much bigger than before, this would be a significant point of pride. I mean it's possible that the Dems would not have won back Congress if it hadn't been for Air America. If I made any contribution or set anything in motion, that would be fantastic.

So using this as an imaginary complaint, how do you handle it when you want credit for something that you feel you're not getting? Once again: This is not the case here - I use my emails merely as an example.

I think the best approach is not to whine. Let it go at the time and wait for the right chance to work it in later. Like now for example. Stand back and marvel: In this one post, I've managed to mention the Leno jokes, the Sam Adams/Tram Rescue stunt, my Portland Freelancer blog, my old columns for the Tribune, and my Born to Slack Cable Access Show, complete with channels and times. (Actually the Thursday airing is now on Tuesdays, but you get the point.) And my co-host James Shibley.

Plus, I mentioned my decade of work writing for over 140 radio stations and suggested that I am still looking for a radio DJ job. By the way, notice how Mike effortlessly plugs the Mark and Dave show on KEX? That's how it's done. I have nothing but admiration for this man.

I originally sent this to Kari at Blue Oregon, where it didn't make the grade. (Kari, would it kill you to write back and say thanks but no thanks?) The reason I sent it there was simple: The idea for the Blue Coast show was no doubt inspired by Blue Oregon, and it deserves a nod of credit for that.

Now, some might say I'm really just using this entire exercise to promote myself - to draw attention to my accomplishments in case it leads to something else. Hello? Of course, I am. But when you are trying to hype yourself, it's better to be mildly amusing - rather than the whining I've been hearing from some bloggers lately. What's that sports saying? Act like you've been there before. Otherwise you'll just get yourself and other bloggers shut out from the process.

It's a good sign when blogs get mentioned in the press, but there's no point in calling the print people on every little thing that goes wrong. Play it cool, and parlay whatever comes your way, into something else. That's the Fine Art of Getting the Credit. The Portland Freelancer has spoken.


At 10:15 PM, Blogger chumly said...

Thanks for the post. I am not good at self promotion. I had 5 older sisters and I was the youngest and only male, besides my father, but they castrated him before I was born. So I got in trouble a lot.

At 11:47 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

I hope they didn't make you wear the hand-me-downs.

At 12:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am watching born to slack and you guys are talking about Gore should have won the election. He did. Check out hacking democracy. Our elections are as honest as your boy the decider. As for the us pulling out of Iraq, yea right, just like Bill pulled out of Monica. It does not matter who is in office. All politicians are corrupt! Tell me, Why do you have to piss in a bottle to work at Mac Donalds? or Winco? But to run the country and be in charge of trillions of dollars no test of any kind is required? competency included. Fuck this Government! To anyone who thinks I am unpatriotic how many years did you do in the military? I did 20! All you Bush supporters, Prove it, Join the ARMY! Bill you should mention something about Stop loss. the back door draft. just in case any of your viewers are thinking about joining the military. Fuck This Government because they will fuck you. Just ask anyone who lived in New Orleans.

At 12:23 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

We know Gore won, but if he hadn't been so ineffective he would have won too big to steal.
Remember the debates. Each time Gore showed up as a different personality.
Hey, I dig the technology. You're watching us on TV and we're talking about it on the Internet. I have high hopes that all this communication will eventualy change things for the better.
Thanks for the comment, and the 20 years.


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