I’ve been to LA three times now.
The first time Microsoft was spending a ton of money on a show hosted by Stuff White People Like’s Christian Lander. I was a guest on the show, and the only memorable thing that came out of that was that on the following week, I had my head shaved live on Justin.TV.
When I was out there I told them that if they could get the show to trend on Twitter, I’d shave my head. I kept my word. Little did I know how easy it is to actually get something on Twitter, and at the time anyway, the people at Twitter had the ability to manually make stuff trend. Amanda wound up doing the head shaving. Felicia Day, the guest on the show that following me, said I looked good bald. I don’t think she was being honest because I sort of looked like that really racist Wonder Woman villain without my hair (you know the one I’m talking about.) But. They, Crispin+Porter, was nice enough to bring me out there and I’m a man of my word. I wound up wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers hat until my hair grew back.
The second time I was here was last year. I was struggled with the early signs of heart failure, although at that point I thought it was just the flu. Or the kind of cold you get when you spend too much time on an airplane and haven’t figured out that the tray tables are absolutely covered in diseases. DO NOT EVER USE THE TRAY TABLES. Unless you have like, Clorox wipes or something, but even then, who travels with Clorox wipes in their carry on luggage? (And … could you even get through security with them? What’s that conversation like?). Anyway, it wasn’t the flu. It was the very beginning stages of heart failure, something that wouldn’t fully hit me until I was in Wales for the Do Lectures. So I spent most of my second trip to LA sick, and what little of it I do remember working on behalf of a movie project I was supposed to be working on.
(Don’t get me started on that movie. It’s the first and last time I believe one of these Hollywood types about anything without seeing something really, really solid and confirmed by at least three people I trust. That was one of those situations where, everyone believed what was being said, so nobody questioned it. Long story short, I felt like an asshole, and a lot of people would agree that I should because I fell for it pretty hard. Now I don’t really trust anyone until they’ve signed an NDA and a services agreement, especially if they’re from Los Angeles. Fool me once … )
Neither time, I got to do too much beyond go to Santa Monica Pier. So I intentionally skipped going there this time.
Where were we? Oh, right, #AmtrakLive. That’s tonight! And the reason I’m out here in the first place for the third time. This … was actually the first time I came away from LA with a favorable opinion of it. I’m still incredibly distrustful of people here (I don’t hold grudges, but I don’t forget anything either), but this was the first time I got a better look at the city itself, or cities to be more exact. The thing I hear most often from people that live here is that Los Angeles is like six separate cities that were sort of fused together. That’s pretty accurate. It’s not like Chicago or New York in that, although different neighborhoods may have different appearances, you still know where you are. Here if you haven’t been to Los Angeles before and you were dropped into any given location (except maybe Hollywood) you would think you were somewhere else. Miami is sort of like that too, but talking about Miami means talking about the state of Florida, and I’d like to keep this blog as positive as possible.
That’s something for you to think about. Not that Florida sucks, it does, but that Los Angeles isn’t a city in the way New York City and Chicago are cities. So when you approach marketing / PR in Los Angeles with a mindset of, “Well this thing worked in another big city, it’ll work here” you’ve already lost.
It won’t work here. The problem is that too many of us approach communicating with one another in such a way that we assume “If this is true for this person, it must be true for others”. Nope. It’s not. Everyone is different. That’s why these blog posts that have been popping up lately about “How To Pitch A Journalist” annoys me so much. It’s usually a journalist (or actually, a blogger, let’s be honest here) explaining to you “How things work now” and that “this is the way to pitch journalists in general”, when they’re usually wrong. Why? Because every journalist is different, and so for them to say, “I only want pitches by email and that’s how you should pitch reporters” is incredibly dumb because it’s not true. If you’re a tech reporter, getting pitched by email is the WORST thing that you could do because everyone emails you at all hours of the night. What works for one doesn’t work for another. Yet we still approach it the other way when the other way is totally wrong.
(The ironic thing is that we keep hearing about the age of personalization, right? Everything is personalized. Yahoo doesn’t want you to sign into their services with Facebook because, by logging in with your Yahoo! credentials, they’re able to better personalize the experience. You hear this all the time, but at the same time this is going on, you’ve got people out there giving advice on networking, pitching reporters, marketing in the city of Los Angeles, from a more general standpoint.)
That takes me back to #AmtrakLive. If I was a better man, I’d make a point to learn one thing about each of the people on the train and find a chance to recite it in such a way that isn’t creepy (because let’s face it, my generation is made up of excellent stalkers), and in a way that seems (and should be) thoughtful. But I’m not that guy. You should be that guy or girl. That’s how you handle events like this. That and smiling, lots of smiling. And trying not to say anything too controversial. Like how you think you could make a nice ceramic bowl and fill it with baby guts or something. I don’t know. Don’t be weird is I guess what I’m saying. Oh, and don’t talk about yourself. Like at all. Just don’t do it. It’s all about the person doing the talking, in most cases, that won’t be you. You only talk about yourself if you’re asked directly or if it’s applicable to exactly what’s being discussed. Otherwise? Shut up.
I’m not that guy. At least, not anymore. It’s not that I don’t need to be (I do), it’s just that I’m exhausted. I’m also so conditioned to people now asking me for stuff, and that’s ok, but it’s also made me not be proactive about engaging (legit engaging, not the BS engaging) with new people. I’m the guy who wants to get coffee, sit quietly somewhere, and read a book. And if you want to come hang out with me? Awesome! Let’s chat. But I’m just not the guy to remember that one thing and then insert myself into other people’s conversations. Mostly because, well to borrow from Family Guy, doing that “insists upon itself”. It feels sort of rude to do.
So, my plan is to be myself, hopefully that’s mildly amusing to some, and then hang out quietly and chat with people that way.
Will it work? We’re going to find out in a few hours. But don’t copy me. That’s the point here. What I do isn’t what you should do. Same deal with comparing LA to Chicago or NY. It can’t be done. Everyone is different, every city is different, and that’s ok. You just have to realize