Wednesday, March 29, 2006

On The Road Again 

I'll be out for the rest of the week working at a client site. There will be little chance for posting during that time.

What Do We Know and When 

Experiments like this are a reminder that we know little and when we think we grasp a situation, chances are we haven't. If one needs proof for the need to be cautious and watchful, this will do. For the most part in PR, we zing along taking in facts and shaping them into messages. Only once in a while do we question whether what we think we know is accurate.

Interestingly, yesterday a colleague and I began to speculate that things in a certain situation are not what they seem to be. There are little clues now, but they are disturbing. Events have occurred in the marketplace as well that may shape the future of the situation negatively. We're in a good spot in that we know we don't know the full story. We're in a difficult circumstance because we're marketing a story that might be open to criticism.

Right now, we're charging ahead, but we're keeping our eyes open. That's better than being trapped off.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Food PR Challenge 

It will be interesting to see if this development proceeds to the table. There is so much fear about genetic modification that it is nearly impossible to get a fair hearing for what science is creating.

When Justice Smears 

I have written about this often enough, but it is worth mentioning again. There is no greater danger to the reputations of individuals and companies than Federal and State prosecutors. They are a PR nightmare from which few recover. That is why it is interesting to see this defamation suit go forward. There is no doubt where the writer at The New York Times got his information. He used it to critique the FBI. In the process, however, the scientist was placed in a harsh light for many months from which he will never recover.

If the scientist is guilty, it makes no difference what was said about him. The problem is that no one has proven the scientist guilty. His reputation, however, is in tatters.

There ought to be better ways of handling sensitive information, and editors ought to be more careful about how reporters characterize "persons of interest." There is plenty of room for Free Speech, but there also should be plenty of room for protecting those who are innocent until proven guilty.

From a PR perspective, there is little one can do when government turns against you. The government carries the credibility and communications power, and the government can use or abuse that power. Zealous prosecutors are frequently abusive and worse, they justify their excess by claiming they are doing the public's work.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Good to See 

The Hispanic demonstrations across the US are good to see. It is public relations in reverse. An oppressed and long-silent minority is standing up for rights it should have had long ago. It will be interesting to see if their message is heard.

I have a soft spot for Hispanics, not because I grew up in California farm country side by side with them. I, as did other high school and college kids of Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley, worked in the fields alongside migrant workers. It was a way to earn money, but it was hard and miserable. No one should look down on anyone who can do stoop labor for 11 hours a day, six days a week in 103-degree Fahrenheit weather. The men I worked with (and they were all men) were ill-educated and probably illiterate, but they knew how to pace themselves and to turn their hands to what needed to be done. Hour after hour with my back screaming in pain I labored to keep up with them. They took pity on me and helped me finish my rows when I fell too far behind. They laughed at me too and taught me all the worst swear words one could utter in Spanish because they thought I wouldn't know the difference. (To tell the truth, I had studied enough to know what they were doing.) But they were good people even with their faults, such as getting drunk on Saturday nights and losing their week's wages.

What bothered me then and now was how farmers treated them. They weren't slaves, but they weren't much better off. If La Migra rounded them up to ship them back to Mexico, the farmers would hire more. In my day, braceros were not provided housing, showers or sanitation. They lived in abandoned shacks near hop fields where I worked. I went home at night, black from the sun and filthy from dust, took a shower and collapsed into bed. They went to their windowless huts and slept on a floor. Yes, they stank, but we all stank after an hour or two. It made no sense then -- and now -- that farmers could not provide better conditions.

What was especially disappointing is that suburbanites a few miles from the fields went to supermarkets to buy fruits and vegetables and never considered the calloused hands that tilled the soil, planted seed, watered and picked produce. They never thought much either about gardeners who mowed their lawns or maids who cleaned their bathrooms.

The stoop laborers, gardeners, maids, dishwashers, cooks and mechanics are now standing and shouting. More power to them. Perhaps it will adjust our relationships with this vital part of the American public.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Dictators and PR 

What kind of public relations does a dictator have who worries about his underwear being poisoned?

Too Easy - Part 2 

Another easy way to destroy reputation.

Good To Know 

We knew this had happened but it's good to know the numbers. Broadband has accelerated consumer preference from print and electronic distribution to the internet for news. This is data worth showing to those few remaining clients who believe it is better to have a story appear in print or on the air.

Junk Study - Part 2 

Not only are junk studies bad PR but they can embarrass your organization.

Too Easy 

It's too easy to hurt corporate reputation these days. Little things like this make one wonder how well organizations are run.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

False Choice 

It's illuminating to listen to arguments among reporters of the trade-off in newspapering between profit and coverage. I'm talking about stories like this. Reporters forget that newspaper wars of the 19th and 20th Centuries were all about profits and not honest coverage, that Pulitzer's and Hearst's screaming -- and often inaccurate -- headlines drove street sales, that honesty came late to the news business, that some of the greatest sports writing from the 1920s was fiction with little relationship to facts or events, that even The New York Times printed poor coverage from overseas correspondents as analytical fact (and didn't know it.)

I don't like newspapers that cut coverage because they are failing to live up to their name -- newspapers. But to argue that a newspaper needn't worry about profit is off the mark. The question is how to achieve coverage while making a profit. It's an issue to which all the technologies we use today should be bent. Some newspapers are making headway: Others moan about new media.

Why Now? 

There are mysteries in PR that one never quite understands. Here is one. President Bush has always been known as an uncomfortable and stiff speaker who is notorious for slaughtering language. Suddenly, he is light on his feet and able to handle the give and take of a live audience. Why now? Why not long ago before the image of a cardboard president took hold in the public's imagination?

Maybe he couldn't do it before, and he can now. Or, maybe he didn't want to do it before. It would seem to be too late now, but it is revealing that he can handle himself well in front of a hostile audience. It seems like a lost opportunity for his presidency.

Junk Study 

I don't critique news articles often but this one deserves it, primarily because it points to an issue that affects PR. It is an example of a junk study, research that has little or no meaning but generated publicity.

The article starts off plausibly and continues so until near the end when the writer reveals that there was only a .27 correlation between being self-reliant in nursery school and being liberal as an adult. Wha? When I took statistics, if your correlation wasn't in the .8 to .9 neighborhood, you dare not claim anything and even then, teachers hammered that correlation DOES NOT equal causation.

I'll give credit to the writer for revealing that fact, but I won't give the writer credit for authoring the story. There never should have been an article about data so weak.

Yet, we do stuff like this all of the time in PR. One of the regular pieces of junk floated to the world is the internet survey without statistical controls. There is no validity to these instruments and yet, they become the basis of news releases time and again.

No wonder we get little respect. It's about the same level of respect that should be shown to the authors of the original study on nursery children and their political leanings.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Knowing What They Know 

We had an interesting meeting yesterday with a CEO of a company that has a media problem. Reporters have concluded some of the company's product sets aren't as useful as others. The CEO contends with good reason that reporters haven't looked at the issue correctly, but he is also smart enough to know they won't. He's given up trying to change their minds.

The CEO is a student of human nature. He understands people make short-hand conclusions about matters then, stop listening. They use the same heuristics we all do in life, so we can wend through complexity without being bogged down by innumerable considerations and decisions. The problem is that unexamined lives really do get locked in over time, which is why we talk about old fogeys hopelessly out of touch with the world. In this case, old fogeys are relatively young reporters. The CEO is a victim of censorship by conventional wisdom.

We told the CEO the only thing we could. To change minds, we would have to present hard data and compelling evidence that invite reporters to think again. And, we would have to go to different reporters. This is frequently the case in PR. One perserves relationships with a beat reporter but builds relationships with other journalists. It's not easy to do, especially in an era of shrinking editorial coverage overall. But, it is necessary if a company is to get its point of view considered openly.

We say reporters provide independent third-party verification of ideas, products and services, and we believe that. But we also know some reporters are unable to grasp issues or not disposed to do so. It's a fact of life in mainstream media: It's a fact of life in new media as well.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Stubbornness - Part 2 

The irony of water is that away from the ocean there is too little of it, and the biggest users and wasters of water are farmers. They too are stubborn about how they consume a precious resource and getting them to use more drought resistant crops and better irrigation is difficult. Where I grew up in California, water was for fightin'. California is semiarid to desert except in the far north. It is overpopulated in the arid section, and Californians believe owning a swimming pool is a God-given right. The fight between farmers and suburbanites is decades old and will continue. The farmers could be more efficient and many are, but others have their water rights, and they're going to use them the way they see fit. Oddly, some get more money from selling water rights than they do using them on crops.

Here is another issue where PR won't help much. It comes down to economics and law.


If Hurricane Katrina proved one point about human nature, it is that only great tragedy can change human stubbornness and sometimes not even that. At long last, people are reconsidering living on coastlines where they are vulnerable to sinking lands and forceful winds. It's going to take a new flood-vulnerability map and loss of insurance to make some of them do it. And, others will not move no matter what.

A question in public relations and society as well is where to draw the line on human folly. Does everyone have a right to build on barrier islands where one knows rising sea levels and high winds will destroy homes? Does society have a duty to help people rebuild who choose to live below sea level? It is shocking that we even discuss these questions but the power of public opinion is such that we are.

Rationality doesn't rule among humans but habit. This is where I grew up and this is where I'm going to live.

PR can only go so far in face of human perversity and most of the time, it isn't nearly far enough.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Cost Of Rumors In An Internet Age 

Interesting story here. No proof but plausible. The internet can be a particularly dangerous rumor mill that keeps PR and IR professionals hopping.

State of the Media 2006 

If you haven't read this, at least skim the executive summary. This is a fair assessment of what is happening:

For now, the evidence does not support the notion that newspapers have begun a sudden death spiral. The circulation declines and job cuts will probably tally at only about 3% for the year. The industry still posted profit margins of 20%. Measuring print and online together, the readership of many newspapers is higher than ever.

On the other hand, the most sanguine reaction to those changes — that they simply reflect an older medium’s giving way to a newer one, and that citizens will have more choices than ever — strikes us as glib, even naïve.

Even if newspapers are not dying, they and other old media are constricting, and so, it appears, is the amount of resources dedicated to original newsgathering.

There is much more.

Who Needs Wire? 

This story doesn't have much to do with PR, but it caught my attention. It shows how much the world has changed. Even if your phone system is destroyed, you can operate with poles and WiFi through a city. This is a bit of information that PR practitioners need to know in crises situations. Lug your laptop and VoIP software with you wherever you go or get one of new mobile VoIP phones. There is a precedent for what has happened in New Orleans. When mobile phoning rose during the 1980s and 1990s, places in the world that had never been adequately wired for conventional phones simply went into mobile. It was faster and cost less.

New Orleans could become the first US city to go more wireless than wired.

Friday, March 17, 2006


My apologies for not being up sooner today. Blogger crashed late Thursday night, and I didn't know it until I tried to post at 4:30am this morning and got a strange error notice.

When I got to the office, I checked the Blogger bulletin board and noticed immediately the cries of anger and angst from other bloggers who were getting the same error. I sent a message to Blogger asking what happened. To their credit, they sent a message back quickly and referred me to the status board where there was a notice that a filer had gone down.

Now we're back up.

It wasn't heart-stopping but it was annoying to have readers see an error page without explanation. (Blogger did mount a maintenance page later in the morning, but it took awhile.)

Welcome back.

Speaking of Credibility... 

It appears that some local US broadcasters, desperate for money, are starting to accept product placement in their morning news shows. It's the Truman Show all over again where the pert housewife looks at the camera in her kitchen and talks about the wonderful product she is using.

Morning shows always have been loose about credibility. That's how tens of thousands of authors and others hawking products have made it on the air over the decades. PR firms made a good living out of doing this. But there is a limit to how this is done, and news shows should never sacrifice editorial control to advertisers. The worry is that is exactly what is being done.

I don't know about you, but I would be reluctant to send a guest to TV stations doing such "pay for play."

Global Credibility Problem? 

In the matters of debt, countries have lost credibility with the world community for many decades. Think of South America -- Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia. Think of Germany after World War I. Think of any number of African countries. Think now of the United States, and its decision to raise its debt limit to $9 trillion.

No one is calling in the US debt yet. There doesn't seem to be avoidance of US treasury bonds - yet. The world is loaning the money to the US, but we haven't been put on notice -- yet.

Somehow this country maintains credibility based on its earning power and consumption of world's goods. But when does debt become an international credibility problem? There are global relationships among international bankers that I don't understand. I suppose one could call it the highest form of public relations in that bankers handle among themselves the details of country debt and communicate warnings where needed.

Still, $9 trillion is a huge number and one wonders if we aren't pledging the future of our children to repay, say, down to $1 trillion -- a still incomprehensible sum.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


I don't know about you but building new documents out of old ones is tedium. I spent most of yesterday stringing together sentences and words from 10 or so releases, pitch letters and fact sheets into a white paper. There's just no fun in doing that. Pick up something here, a little there and perhaps, a word or two over there. Drop them in a line and massage until smooth. It's slower work than if one wrote originally and in the end, with all the changes, one is writing anew. But, there aren't any new resources to consult, and the client needs a white paper.

The challenge is that every underlying document was purpose-built so its focus and tone are different. In the end, all one does really is to lift facts and start over. On occasion, it is possible to take a full sentence, but inevitably, something sticks out and needs changing.

So, it's hour and hour of tinkering. After awhile, you hope the phone rings, and another client needs something fast. That gives you an excuse to drop the writing for awhile. Fortunately, exactly that happened. I was able to arrange an interview on the spur of the moment with a major business magazine.

But all that means is the rest of the white paper is sitting there and waiting for me -- today.


Voice of Wisdom 

Among journalists fearful for their fate in the fast-changing mainstream media, there is a voice of wisdom.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Deja Vu 

This story and this one too are deja vu. We've heard them before, and we know the outcomes. Some things never change, even when we know better. No matter how much one communicates, no one is listening.


If there was ever a move that said a company is out to screw its customers, this is it. It's an anti-public relations move and deliberate affront to customers who are already twisted into seats pushed much too close together. Regrettably, it is move that the airline is likely to get away with since it has a lock on some of its routes. But one wonders how long customers will put up with such ill-treatment before they find some kind of alternative.

This story proves that some companies can go a long way in destroying their reputations and still survive.


Some issues rise quickly to alarming proportions. They might have been simmering for a long time, but suddenly they are pressing as if ignited by hidden force. Thinning of arctic sea ice is one such issue that has swiftly changed global opinion and made warming an issue that cannot be escaped. No matter what the White House says about causes of global warming, we are now aware that the sea is rising, that glaciers are retreating in both Greenland and Antarctica, that deep water circulation of the central Atlantic is slowing and that the world is changing in ways that affect how we live. In the US we are experiencing warm winters and violent weather patterns, all forecast by climatologists studying global warming. We are seeing severe droughts that were also forecast. But, no matter how good our weather-prediction systems are, we cannot control the change. We can only watch it with a sense of fear about the outcomes.

That is why environmental issues are now a part of nearly every organization and why corporations like General Electric, are moving quickly to capitalize on the opportunities provided by the global shift. GE is spinning public relations gold for itself as it gets into windmills and more efficient turbines and "green" locomotives. Other companies are not far behind.

But I wonder if we would be as worried were it not for the dramatic thinning of the arctic sea ice. I suspect not because environmental issues are now more than 40 years old, and concern was not as generally expressed as it now.

The Big Outline 

For several days now I have been completing an outline on a new client. It's a technique I've used for years. It helps me organize what I know in a logical format plus it helps other account members get up to speed quickly. The outline gathers information about the client from anywhere I can find it, digests it and lists it in logical categories. This will include 10Ks, press releases, product literature, news clips, speeches, employee literature, etc. When done, it might run to 20 pages or more as this one does, but one can understand more quickly who the client is, how the client operates and details that make the client unique.

Some clients have fact books, as this one does, but fact books are often not suitable for grasping the culture of an organization. It requires digging to get under the surface and to understand how a business operates below. The goal of digging is to ask smart questions to show we have done our homework and for the client to know there is no need to explain everything to us. Dealing with clueless PR people is a frustration clients can do without. Smart digging also fosters better conversations. One can more quickly isolate concerns that bedevil clients and get them to open up. It's only when clients do that does one find what the real challenges are.

Anyway, I'm awash in data on this client right now to the point where friends and others are tired of hearing about it. I guess that means it's time to take the next step.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Another One Down 

Old media is learning the effects of consolidation felt throughout global industry.

Hard Lesson To Learn 

Everyone knows with the internet it is hard to keep secrets, but not everyone remembers this fact. Even Google forgets occasionally.

At issue is transparency. Just how transparent should companies be with an omnipresent eye about them comprised of millions of lesser eyes -- employee-bloggers and e-mailers, fans, critics, reporters and ordinary citizens? The answer is not easy for there are secrets that must be maintained by law until made public to all at the same time. There are personnel decisions that require secrecy for the protection of individuals and careers. There are proprietary processes and inventions that are difficult to patent but confer competitive advantage. And, there are embarrassments CEOs and boards would prefer not to air in public.

In client work, we are privy to secrets, but we are more fearful that news will escape before its time. If we know there will be a major announcement, we advise clients to move quickly now. News tends to slip sideways into the public domain. Someone whispers to someone who mentions it to someone and suddenly, it's out. It was easier when one had to worry about five or six reporters.

We predict a lessening of efforts to create broad impact with coordinated news releases and more rushing to the media, simply because we will be forced to do so.

But, there will still be secrets because organizations cannot be totally transparent. Some issues are better handed behind closed doors.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Discovery Of A Wheel 

File this story under the heading of "Doh." It's as if reporters are just waking to the impact of bloggers in key industrial and political sectors.

Caught in the Middle 

My colleague, Peter Shinbach, spotted this and sent it. He wonders what it must be like to be the PR spokesperson at Google these days. My answer was that any general public resource experiences the same problems. I'm sure Al-Qaeda sympathizers are happy to have a place to meet and the US government is reading these sites more closely than the sympathizers.

Sign of the Times 

It's a sign of the times that CEO's are criticized their compensation packages. This story leaves out a critical bit of news revealed elsewhere. The New York Times reporters criticized the Time's CEO compensation to the CEO's face in a public meeting. That should confirm that compensation is and will be a white-hot issue going forward. There has long been grumbling, but it will be anger under the new SEC transparency rules when total CEO compensation is expressed in a single number.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

It Takes A Long Time 

It is easy as a communicator to fall into the trap of believing that powerful messages change behavior. They might but rarely right away. I was reminded of this from two sources. The first was a client who was talking yesterday about the subject and used her own experience of giving up smoking. She said six months after she stopped smoking, she was walking on a street in New York City and suddenly realized how bad smoking is. That is the essence of this story announcing sales of cigarettes have reached a 55-year low point in the US. The story seems positive, then you realize how many cigarettes were made and sold in the US last year -- 378 billion. That's billion with a B.

There is still a long way to go to get people to stop smoking.

The amazing part of it is that American society shuns smokers. They can't smoke in restaurants, in office buildings, in transportation terminals and in some places, anywhere indoors. They are bombarded with messages telling them that smoking is bad. Parents yammer at them, wives and girlfriends, children, doctors and bosses and advertisers offering nicotine patches. The price of cigarettes has skyrocketed.

They still smoke.

In their defense, smokers are addicted, but even so, all forms of communications have yet to help millions stop. It is hard to change behavior and always will be, and a little communication is never enough.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Reverse Publishing 

This may be the start of a trend. Reverse publishing is where the newsprint is a digest for longer and more complete copy on the web site. It seems to be going that way anyway but give credit to the UK weekly for taking the leap.

It would be easy to see a number of US newspapers going this way -- especially weeklies.

Newspaper Mashups 

I wrote about mashups earlier as a technique that PR should be using. It turns out that newspapers are doing it already.

Local Aggregators 

Here is a neat idea. It is a site that aggregates local bloggers and their material into a general arts and news locale for the town of Portland, OR. This is a concept a mainstream medium should steal. It is another way into community journalism and interactivity with citizens. Sites like this are a boon to public relations. They offer outlets for news and information in addition to mainstream media. It's an idea that is both logical and clever, and I wish I had thought of it. It provides a perfect medium for local advertising as well, except that this site doesn't appear to have gone that way yet.

It will be interesting to see how Urban Honking develops.

Update: A reader has sent in another site that does much the same thing for Minneapolis-St. Paul. The idea is around. I overlooked it.

What the Chinese Are Doing 

What the Chinese are doing about blogs, US lawmakers are still getting to. You might think it would be the other way round. Somehow, I don't think Chinese bloggers will be allowed as much freedom to bash those in power.

Articles on PR and Blogging 

In light of the CENTCOM decision to contact bloggers that was referred to here yesterday, here is a reaction of a blogger to being contacted by PR people. Another one is here. Both concern Wal-Mart's outreach to bloggers. It strikes me that Wal-Mart is handling the situation well. It offers information to those who want it, and it doesn't press if a blogger doesn't use it. Hat tip to Instapundit for seeing these first.

UPDATE: Here is The New York Times article that appeared this morning on the subject. From what I read, it appears the person from Edelman PR who is contacting people on behalf of Wal-Mart has handled the issue sensitively and done nothing unethical. Frankly, I think the article is a bit specious and "the pot calling the kettle black." If every newspaper were forced to disclose the material it received from PR people, news columns would be filled with attributions. PR is a resource to reporters. The key is that PR information should be accurate and without "spin." I see no obligation on the part of bloggers to inform readers in every instance where they source information.

When Fans Are Doing It 

...it's time for PR to help out. This is a guaranteed publicity approach because the public is telling us that it wants it. "Mashups" have been applied to many uses already. Here is a list of basic steps for how to do them.

Old Media New Media 

An interesting update on what Old Media are doing to adapt to New Media. One could wish the article to be more detailed, but it's still worth reading.

Monday, March 06, 2006

PR or Propaganda? 

This one is difficult to call. If done correctly, there could be good PR value here. If done badly, it is maladroit propaganda. Certainly, one should give accurate data to those who err, as long as one realizes bloggers have no obligation to be accurate as private publishers. Perhaps some bloggers will take "good" stories and comment on them, but the "good" stories need to be grounded deeply in fact or they will be dismissed quickly. I wish CENTCOM the best of luck on handling bloggers, but I'm skeptical.

The Global Web 

There is a misperception that creeps into one's thinking after using the Web for nearly 10 years. That assumption is everyone uses the internet. But the answer is not quite.

For example, I continue to misjudge the usage of the internet in the US. On Friday, I was asked how much penetration there is, and I guessed close to 85-90%. Well, no. It's 70%. I have to ask myself what the missing 30% are doing, and how one reaches them. My guess is the 30% are not easily reachable, even with traditional publicity techniques. Then, of course, the question arises whether we need to reach the missing. My guess is that for many messages, it is unimportant to do so, but for others, such as health and safety issues, it is critical. I'm not sure what I would answer if a governmental health agency asked how to get to populations missing from US media coverage. It would be an interesting media study to do.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Why Do This? 

Why boast when you don't have the product to show for it? You would think Microsoft would know better, but the company has apparently never learned to avoid placing itself in a high-risk PR position. To its credit, Microsoft has had a history of backing up its boasts, but it only takes a few failures before people stop listening.

Left Hand Right Hand 

An interesting PR problem for a US Senator. My husband gets paid by the opposition but supports my position? The Clintons have been deft at negotiating trickier dilemmas.

Blogging Newspapers 

Just in case you didn't see this, the Houston Chronicle appears to be in the lead among blogging newspapers with the Washington Post in second.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


For the past two days, I've been prepping two new clients. Preparation is the most important and sometimes, least enjoyable work a PR practitioner can do. It consists initially of reading reams of financial, marketing, news, speech, press release and other documents to begin to understand a client and environment in which the client operates. Usually some of this work is done in the sales process, but it is never enough. Once a client is signed, the real work begins.

One mistake some practitioners make is to launch directly into client interviews without this "secondary" research in depth. It becomes apparent the practitioner doesn't know much and that leads to an early loss of confidence.

The most important element a practitioner brings to any new relationship is a smart question: Smart questions are gained through preparation, but not only preparation. The second step of prep is the hardest. That is digesting data into key points that explain the client and suggest topics for discussion.

The challenge of digesting is knowing what to take from boxes of documents -- and what to discard. I've never found a precise way of doing this. Usually I look for facts that explain the client and market in greater detail, but that is not all. I also look for statements of opinion that reveal how a client thinks. If I can give back to the client in my own words what the client thinks about the company, competitors and the marketplace, I've done a successful job. If not, prep has been only modestly successful.

I've got days more work to do on these clients, and I'll be depressed about the middle of the task because I usually conclude I will never understand them -- until I do.

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