One PR man’s sordid affair with Amanda Chapel

Update: In case you haven’t heard, the next iteration of Strumpette is in the works. It’s called Furthermore. The evolution will be interesting.

************

A few online friends have asked for the “real story” of my no-so-secret love affair with Amanda Chapel, aka, Strumpette. Most of those calling me out are devotees of Web 2.0 – a PR practice niche we’ve all celebrated in our blogs. Since Amanda rejects the use of unmediated communication in PR, many can’t accept my fascination with this anonymous, potty-mouthed vixen — the very one who last week signed off the blogosphere for good.

Here’s my confession – for the record.

amanda.jpgStrumpette delivered a critical and seldom-heard take on the PR business. We needed it. But many couldn’t accept the message thanks to Amanda’s, er, unorthodox style. Unlike most bloggers, Amanda didn’t “converse” with us about her views. She spewed them, sometimes in venomous fashion, and she couched them in satire that many found offensive. But if you read Strumpette as the “Theatre of Amanda,” as I did, you chuckled and you moved on. Amanda loved opponents who locked horns with her, and she ate most of them for lunch.

Harassment vs. heckling: There’s a difference. Some of the more sensitive folks in the b-sphere have accused Amanda of harassment and worse. In fact, she was simply a heckler and a bully, precisely the character her creators intended. As I said earlier, it’s theater. She shouted, she jabbed, she provoked. And if you flinched, she owned you. Amanda was always baiting, and many played along. In the end, no blood was spilled, no wounds inflicted — and only a few egos bruised. Let’s not get too melodramatic about it.

Strumpette featured great writing and satire. Yes, it was at times vitriolic, but it broke through the clutter. It created the “buzz” that so many seek in this self-absorbed lampoon.jpgworld of Web 2.0. Perhaps my age helped me understand Amanda better than her younger readers. Amanda’s creators are my contemporaries – 50somethings from an era when National Lampoon and Don Imus shocked and delighted us. Yes, both Don and Amanda offended more than a few folks over the years, but no one forced you to listen.

On the anonymity of Amanda. I know how you feel about pseudonyms. Me, too. You can’t have meaningful conversation while wearing a mask. But Strumpette was never about “the conversation” – it was a circus designed to entertain and to shock us. If you found wisdom along the way, so much the better, but don’t get hung up on the lack of dialog.

Strumpette created heroes. Through her attacks on the mavens of Web 2.0, Amanda enhanced the online celebrity of Steve Rubel, Phil Gomes, Richard Edelman and others. If my contributions to PR were as significant as those three, I, too, might have drawn Amanda’s wrath — and would have reveled in it. Yet I’m told that Amanda “victims” weren’t at all flattered by her attention. I’m puzzled, frankly.

Amanda’s challenge to Web 2.0. Strumpette’s creators didn’t embrace the cult.jpgprofession’s rush to Web 2.0. Well, it was more than cluetrain.jpga rush; it was a stampede. I was part of it, and remain a staunch proponent of social media for symmetrical PR practice, but not for stealth marketing, a tactic Amanda loved to criticize. There’s a lot to be learned from Web 2.0 contrarians like Andrew Keen (“Cult of the Amateur”), a writer I learned about on Strumpette. Thanks to Amanada, I find myself marooned between the “Cult” and “Cluetrain.” camps. And it works for me.

Strumpette’s evolution. It wasn’t until the last few months that I began to communicate with Amanda’s creators. I was emboldened by A-list blogger Shel Holtz, who signed on as Strumpette’s Week In Review writer back in March. His time with Amanda was short, but like it or not, Shel gave Strumpette legitimacy in the Web 2.0 crowd. It was OK to click there to read Shel (wink, wink).

Then came guest posts by Marcia Silverman, Toni Muzi Falconi, and Don Wright, all folks with serious PR creds. I was given the chance to jump in later, to referee the conflict between PRSA and Jack O’Dwyer. As more folks from PR’s mainstream contributed, with comments and posts, Strumpette began its evolution into a legitimate forum for criticism and – dare I say it — conversation — about the profession.

Then she ended it.

No apologies. No regrets. That’s all there is to know about my infatuation with Strumpette. Don’t ask me to apologize. I was good for both of us — and for the PR business, too. I’m sorry that some eschewed the clever and cunning side of Amanda. She was a wonderful little whore who represented the very sleaze her writings worked to expose. Such ironies are often part of satire.

Life goes on without Amanda Chapel, but the PR biz isn’t as much fun anymore. It’s too bad, because we’re a business that tends to take itself way to seriously.

About these ads

30 Responses to One PR man’s sordid affair with Amanda Chapel

  1. Breeze says:

    October 3, 2007: Bill Sledzik makes his debut appearance at Strumpette.

    October 8, 2007: Strumpette calls it quits.

    What do you do for an encore?

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    Hmm. Maybe I’ll work on Hillary’s campaign.

  3. Noah says:

    I made an interesting discovery today. One that may be appreciated by folks familiar with Strumpette’s antics. Start by visiting an on-line photo Web site: http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=239669

    Recognize the picture (too funny)? This erases any doubt about Strumpette being a woman — at least the one pictured on her site.

    I second the motion that you work on Hillary’s campaign.

  4. Bill,
    May I first of all reverse the compliment and say that I find your thoughts interesting and useful and the referee job you did on the jack/prs debate was truly well done?
    on the amanda chapel thing, leaving aside the mostly corny and vulgar attacks strumpette has recently received in some of the least attractive areas of the blogosphere, I was and remain an unabashed fan.
    As much as sometimes unpleasant and outright obscene (but always in luscious style..), Amanda’s views, approaches and arguments have almost always appeared to me creative and offered a view of oor profession which is seldom voiced and shared in the slick airfree salons where we often masturbate (!) ourselves in the effort to appear more relevant than we truly are, and, for many, deserve to be.
    Nothing wrong with a false name as long as you do not disappear, as was obvious to anyone that there were different pens contributing. Remember that wonderful story of the Osama Bin Laden public relations network and the mysterious homicide of the pr couple in california. I lamost believed it! Of course I disliked her attacks on my good friend Richard Edelman, but he seems to survive very well and if you are going to be critic you need to find someone to pick on and Richard exposed himself sufficiently to warrant such a decision.
    I miss Amanda very much. Bill I agree with you
    toni muzi falconi

  5. Kami Huyse says:

    I didn’t mind the full frontal attacks, when Amanda wrote that I was “tossed in the coat closet” I laughed – really I did. But, it was the behind the scenes stuff that was downright scary:

    1. Contacting people’s ISP and having their website shut down in order to get a post taken down (stifling of freedom of speech, really, “Amanda’s” creators, who thrived on the ability to say what they wanted, did this);

    2. Threatening people’s wives, true;

    3. Calling people’s bosses and suggesting they fire so-and-so, true again.

    It went well beyond heckling.

    That said, I never considered the generation gap on this one. It makes a little more sense why so many 50-something men loved this. However, they weren’t the only ones, given the reactions I’ve seen I would say the Strumpette demographic ranged from about 35 to 55 .

    Finally, I objected to Strumpette on principle. As a woman in the PR profession for over 13 years, I took offense to being satirized. It is hard enough breaking through to the top ranks of this profession as it is, much less with a supposed senior female executive claiming she is sleeping with her clients, her boss and whoever else came by.

    If everyone could have clearly seen that “she” was a caricature I might not have minded so much, but most thought she was real (except her dearest fans and bitterest enemies). I had to explain she wasn’t real to someone just a few months ago, unbelievable.

    All of that said, I am also interested in some debate and criticism about the PR industry, there is much to discuss, but I never was interested in discussing it with Amanda. Yuck!

  6. Bill Sledzik says:

    Kami,

    I can certainly see the feminist argument against Strumpette, especially if one didn’t know she was a “character” vs. a real person. Since I knew what she was, I took the satire for what it was. And while she was a caricature, I can tell you that I’ve known at least a dozen “Amandas” in my time — male and female — all empty suits and sleazy operators — all bad for the reputation of our business. I saw her simply as one of those characters playing a role all too familiar to me.

    She was a bad ass who played hard ball. And a lot of us played along. As I recall, Amanda had a number of prominent PR bloggers as Facebook friends and may of us sparred with her regularly.

    I’ve heard the accusations that Amanda went beyond heckling, but I’ve not seen any hard evidence. I wish someone would post it somewhere. It would cause me to rethink my position, that’s for sure. And just so folks don’t think I was chummy with the creators, I will point them to the comments on this post.

  7. Rich says:

    Great piece Bill. I agree with much of it. I still think Amanda might have realized the better brand of being a mysterious and provocative foil for the online public relations community without drifting into the “collective” of anonymous writers that would resort to name-calling when some arguments began to erode.

    But what the heck, at least she knew she was doing it. There are several out there that chastised her for it despite doing the same. There were two things that I was aware of that went too far: claiming a copyright infringement against one person and writing to have an accreditation removed from another. Thus, it’s only all good fun when you can take the heat after turning the oven on.

  8. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Rich. As for “going too far, ” it was one of Amanda’s real talents, and it drew her plenty of criticism. But she always managed to retreat — at least far enough to keep many of her readers coming back. It’s interesting how little has been written about the two incidents you mention. I was aware of both, but when I tried to research them yesterday, I found little more than Scott’s and Geoff’s posts. Pretty nasty behavior in both cases, assuming the facts presented are accurate. I have no way of knowing if they are. And there are always two sides to every story.

    I hate it when I miss a blow-up in the blogosphere. They’re so rare anymore.

  9. I have your evidence. Email me and I’ll give you the letter from Go Daddy! via “Amanda” — or Brian Conolly as he is really known — that shut down my site. Your admired avatar didn’t have the guts to criticized on its backwards logic, and when I refused to cow to its ridiculous bullying tactics, resorted to e-thuggery.

    As to your defense: Supporting baseless, mindless attack style rhetoric is for the Karl Roves and Dick Cheneys of the world. Is this really what you want to be known for?

    (Blog author’s note: I sent that email, but never got the real evidence. I got a documentation of the dispute, but never a copy of the content that Brian requested be pulled. I did consult a copyright attorney with the facts as I understood them. Was told Brian’s case seemed a solid one. But like so much in the blogosphere, you never have all the facts, just the hyperbole. A long-after-the-fact clarification, for what it’s worth, since I expect some folks to be revisiting this post in the coming weeks. Bill 1/8/09)

  10. Interesting thread. On behalf of Amanda and Strumpette, let me address the accusations:

    1. With regard to contacting Jeff’s ISP, indeed we did. I was involved with that personally. Jeff solicited a feature from us; and we obliged. He then turned around and used it to ambush us. He then wouldn’t allow us to defend ourselves and comment. Instead, he asked that we comment on Strumpette so as to generate traffic for his site.

    As Jeff acted in gross bad faith, we asked that he remove our content directly. He refused. His ISP rightfully cooperated. Frankly, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Our mistake was in trusting him.

    2. As to “threatening people’s wives”… complete nonsense and outright defamation. Kami, I am appalled. When is the last time you read the PRSA code of ethics? Spreading rumor and falsehoods are referenced explicitly and totally out of bounds. Shameful.

    3. As far as “calling people’s bosses and suggesting they fire so-and-so,” again Kami… where you on the call? Unbelievable. No one EVER suggested that anyone be fired. Period. Indeed there were instances where we at Strumpette contacted the superiors of their aggressive reports. If someone is abusing the resources and power of their office to harass us, we are going to go to the source.

    4. And lastly, with regard to questioning someone’s accreditation, ABSOLUTELY! Again, see the Code of Ethics. You have a duty to “Report ethical violations, whether committed by PRSA members or not, to the appropriate authority.”

    Bottom line: as juniors often do, a few here are confusing cold and intolerant with mean and unethical. They’re not the same. NO ONE at Strumpette acted unlawfully or unethically ever. The suggestion is absolutely ridiculous and coming from a handful of insecure practitioners who were and are threatened by the light that was shed on their questionable practices and weak convictions.

    Kami, you owe us an apology. Jeff, you’ve proven to be incapable.

    Sincerely,

    Brian Connolly

  11. Bill Sledzik says:

    Hmm. Just like old times.

    So readers know, Geoff did send me the materials documenting his tiff with Strumpette. I know more now, but I’m not qualified to tell his story. In the spirit of the conversation, Geoff, you may have the floor.

  12. No need to say anything, Bill. My work speaks for itself. Ask my clients.

    Brian’s repeated bad behavior visa vis Amanda Chapel and here speaks for itself. He can’t let his thoughts stand on their own without going into attack mode. His points on the PR industry’s weaknesses are needed, the attitude and false bravado is not.

  13. And perhaps Brian can learn to spell my name right if he intends to attack me so frequently.

  14. Stumpette vision of Anti Cluetrain PR = libelous trolling and frantic calling of employers of critical bloggers to try to get them fired for blogging during work hours. Some evolution of PR.

    5 fat unemployed white guys in Chicago cowering behind a North Korean female avatar, dropping F bombs and juvenile slurs on those who don’t praise idiot Andrew Keen’s amateurish book “Cult of the Amateur”.

    not impressed by team trolls and cowardly fools, sorry!

    :^)

  15. Geoff,

    For the record, your insecurity and weak opinions here throw a huge question mark over your capability. With regard to your clients, regrettably for our business, there’s a sucker born every day.

    Brian

  16. Brian Connolly is a nutjob, ask Nokia.

  17. And I did receive a death threat from the Amanda Chapel hoax hogs on Twitter. “You’ll be the first one we whack…” etc

  18. Bill Sledzik says:

    Vaspers,

    Welcome back, man! Some thoughts for you.

    One of the criticisms of Amanda Chapel that has so many upset — you included — was her willingness to resort to name-calling. So next time you pass the mirror, take a close look. I’m not an apologist for Brian or Strumpette, but Amanda’s points about hypocrisy are…well, like I said, check the mirror.

    And also check the facts about Strumpette’s writers. You have it wrong. That’s all I’ll say.

    There’s also a lot of discussion about Amanda as “stalker.” I wonder how your critics will characterize the last three comments on this blog. It too easy to toss the words around, and in the process we limit the debate. Let’s not.

    As for your death threat, who exactly are these “hoax hogs,” anyway? And if you perceive the threat as serious, why not report it to authorities? I know I would. It’s so easy to make accusations. Let’s start using logic and reason. Let’s all look ourselves in the mirror.

  19. “She turned me into a knute!”

    “You don’t look like a knute.”

    “I got better!”

    -Monty Python

  20. Bill Sledzik says:

    And the name-calling continues. http://twitter.com/GeoffLiving/statuses/347940852

    No, Geoff, I’m not active on Twitter. But I do pay attention, and so do my friends. I was hoping for a discussion, of varying and critical views of PR. But I guess all I’m going to get is name calling, the very thing you and the other critics of Amanda decry. I’m starting to see why she got so infuriated. But I won’t resort to her tactics, rest assured.

    I do owe it to my readers to expose the hypocrisy.

    As I have said before, those who didn’t like Strumpette’s slash-and-burn style didn’t have to play the game. But so many did because it boosted traffic and brought in those treasured links. Now that Amanda is gone, the theatre isn’t as entertaining, but it sure hasn’t stopped, has it? I’m loving the front row seat.

    Be well, Geoff, and rest assured that my door is open to dialog. That’s why I’m here.

    Best,

    The Troll

  21. Hey, I call it like I see it, too. A supposedly ethical PR professor who supports cursing, and the use of false identity to call people’s wives, their employers, and shut down people’s businesses is a troll. I can see why you like Amanda/Brian so much.

  22. Bill Sledzik says:

    OK. I’ll just let that one speak for itself, just as my case does.

  23. Hi Bill. The death threat was silly and childish, so I didn’t call the cops.

    If you think the Amanda Hoax losers are mature, professional, and worthy of studying, check out these Twitter pages of their troll tweets:

    http://twitter.com/amandachapel?page=14

    http://twitter.com/amandachapel?page=10

    http://twitter.com/amandachapel?page=11

    http://twitter.com/amandachapel?page=12

    I confronted their advocacy of Oligarchy (rule by the few, like Korporate Amerikkka CEOs in love with China and North American Union), and their hatred of Democracy, Of the People, By the People, For the People, which they dismiss as “populism”.

    I don’t mind being called names, or trolls using the F bomb constantly. But I don’t think they’ll gain or retain many “clients” (if any ever existed for them) that way.

    Hiding behind a North Korean female avatar is the funniest thing about these soup kitchen bums pretending to have something to say about their betters, i.e., successful PR professionals.

  24. P.S. My pursuit of Brian Connolly and his unfortunate Cluetrain player haters is to show people that the Amanda Chapel Hoax flamers:

    1. Cannot harm anybody
    2. Cannot debate
    3. Cannot silence their opponents
    4. Are not to be taken seriously on any level
    5. Are actually comedians with lots of time on their hands

  25. Bill Sledzik says:

    Vaspers,

    I don’t think we’re as far apart as it may seem, Vaspers. And I like that you have a sense of humor about all this. Some of us have to, eh? I certainly agree with this part of your comment:

    “My pursuit of Brian Connolly and his unfortunate Cluetrain player haters is to show people that the Amanda Chapel Hoax flamers:

    1. Cannot harm anybody”

    And as you point out, the death threats are harmless, too, if in fact they came from the Strumpette folks at all. It’s a lot like when my wife says: If you open another beer, I’m gonna kill you. And I do it anyway, of course.

    I won’t get into the Cluetrain thing. I once met and had a chance to talk briefly with David Weinberger and I hold him in the highest esteem. (Even have a signed copy of “Everything is Miscellaneous.”) But criticism of the social media movement should not be treated as heresy. I got a lot from Andrew Keen’s little rant, and the most critical of his points is that we need the MSM to protect democracy. We need paid, trained purveyors of truth (aka, real journalists — not just “citizen” journalists) who know how to critically vet information.

    You’re all right, man. Hope to see you again.

  26. [...] example, one of my character defects is a short temper that causes me to get into it with folks sometimes. This is particularly bad when I am dealing with the gemeyn shmegeges at Strumpette. But [...]

  27. Just a hypothetical question for you … if you were at the other end of one of the posts, how would you feel and react?

  28. Bill Sledzik says:

    Hi, Jeremy. Thanks for stopping by. Though we always tell our clients not to answer the hypothetical, that’s a fair question.

    I’d react in one of two ways. First, I could take the stage along with the writer and wrestle with her, which many folks did. That’s a bit like wrestling with the Masked Marvel (I’m showing my age). You know he’s gonna cheat and maybe do a little eye gouging. But you know what you’re getting into, and that’s OK, since you also know wrestling isn’t real.

    Second choice is to accept the fact that it’s all staged and choose not to play the game. Some folks went that route — Richard Edelman comes to mind.

    I never wrestled with Amanda on her blog, but did have my disagreements with her on this site and on Facebook. I had fun with it, and so did my readers, who looked forward to visits by Amanda and those who debated her. No harm done. It was comic relief in a very serious world — at least at this site.

    I saw Amanda as a reincarnation of P.T. Barnum. Like Phineas, she sometimes went too far, but our willing suspension of disbelief kept us all coming to the circus.

  29. [...] I wrote this line in October of ‘07: “I find myself marooned between the “Cult” and “Cluetrain” camps. And it works for me.” [...]

  30. [...] Sledzik lost his mind? Hardly. Longtime readers know that my defense of Strumpette in ‘07 cost me a good many “friendz” (Amanda’s word, not mine) in this [...]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 94 other followers

%d bloggers like this: