How A Fake Taxidermist Is Keeping AT&T On Its Toes

September 27th, 2010 | Shonali Burke | 3 Comments

Remember how @BPGlobalPR, the fake BP “PR” Twitterfeed took off?

Meet @ATT_Fake_PR (formerly @ATT_Wireless_PR).

No, I’m not doing my best Rip Van Winkle impersonation. I’ve been following and “talking” to ATT_Fake_PR for a while.

Vest-less

Now, I am not, and have not been, an AT&T customer (I’m quite happy with Verizon Wireless).

I have no experience of, and no beef with, AT&T. I’m sure there are many nice, decent people who work there.

But ATTFPR’s Twitter stream is hilarious. So I reached out to him a while back, to see who exactly the genius behind this stream was.

Apparently he’s a taxidermist.

Or not.

Whoever he is, he’s a breath of fresh air, and I know my day is livened up by his tweets.

So I give you the first-ever – EVAH! – complete interview with ATTFPR.

Since he (?) operates under a strict veil of secrecy, ATTFPR told me I could call him “Roger.”

That immediately conjured visions of a skeletal visage, complete with hook arm, eye patch and parrot on shoulder cackling “Arrr, Matey” ad nauseam.

Image: Clyde Robinson via Flickr, CC 2.0

All of which, possibly, “Roger” has.

But I wouldn’t know.

Ready for some hilarity? Read on.

(My questions are bolded and italicized.

Everything else is “Roger’s” response and opinion, including the screen grabs he sent to me for use.

EVERYTHING in this post is parody and/or opinion.

Sigh.)

“Roger.” Is that really your name?

No, Roger is not my real name. However, where I come from, “roger” can also be used as a verb, and I felt it accurately described what AT&T has been doing to many of its customers over the years.

Who are you?

Well, as we’ve already discovered, I’m not Roger. I’m many things.

Most importantly, perhaps, I’m an AT&T customer, or as I prefer to say, victim.

I became a victim of AT&T upon the release of the original iPhone in June 2007. I sold my trusty Treo 700 on eBay, bought my way out my contract with Sprint, and walked, as if hypnotized, into an Apple Store.

There I paid a man with a soul patch $600 (U.S., not Canadian, mind you) for the tech world’s equivalent of methamphetamine.

You’ve been using Twitter quite delightfully to poke fun at AT&T’s wireless service. Are you what they’d call a social media “guru,” or are you just a concerned citizen trying to get AT&T to up its game?

Noooo… I’m no guru. I was just pissed off and decided to write about it.

Back on June 15th I was trying to pre-order an iPhone4 online along with most of the US.

While AT&T’s servers were crashing left and right, I thought, “Huh, I’ve got a few minutes. Now would be a good time to ‘join’ AT&T’s PR team.”

Until there's a cure for sucking, won't you join us... on TwitpicThe ATT_Wireless_PR Twitter feed went live that afternoon in an attempt to give humorous voice to the frustrations that AT&T users have felt for years.

That, and to meet women.

What do you “really” do?

I’m a taxidermist by trade [SB: possible hoax alert!], specializing in small mammals (chipmunks, voles, the odd woodchuck), and I’m studying to become a professional shepherd.

Goats, not sheep.

I’m also in the entertainment industry and enjoy tweaking the nipple of large multi-national telecom companies that annoy me on a daily, if not hourly basis.

Huh, that last sentence might actually be true.

Has AT&T noticed you? If so, what has their reaction been?

Urm, yes. At first AT&T’s reaction was to play along. @ATTCustomerCare, aka Molly, even joked publicly with me over one of my tweets.

But after a couple of months they seemed to lose their sense of humor.

On August 30th AT&T had Twitter shut down my account saying that I was “using a trademark in a way that could be confusing or misleading.”

I’m not sure what pushed them over the edge.

Perhaps when I suggested that all AT&T mobile plans would now include free antidepressants & rage therapy kits.

Or

Or when I announced a new AT&T eco-initiative: Plant a tree for every dropped call. Entire US to be forested in 3 months.

Or

And on and on…

At any rate, Twitter agreed to reinstated my account after I changed my name from ATT_Wireless_PR to ATT_Fake_PR and made some changes to my bio, thus ensuring that even a retarded catfish wouldn’t mistake me for the real AT&T.

I steadfastly refused to take down my “AT&T logo,” pointing out that it had been heavily edited to resemble the Death Star, and so was no longer a copyright-protected image.

I told them I would be happy to take it down if they received a formal protest from George Lucas. Or Darth Vader.

Actually, it was a good thing. With the word “fake” in my name I now feel free to say whatever I please. It was very liberating. Thanks, AT&T!

What about others? Have you noticed any increase in notoriety/anything else? Are people still playing along?

Yes, sure. People have been playing along since we started, and continue to. We signed with our very own fake PR agency, @HeishmanFlill.

We were mentioned in the New York Times.

We were written about by bloggers and news sites.

We’re also being followed by several people on Verizon’s PR team who are doubtless enjoying the ride.

I should mention, as I’ve been asked several times, that I have no connection whatsoever to Verizon.

Other than coveting their signal strength, that is.

Did you have specific goals in mind when you started the @ATT_Wireless_PR handle? Or were you just trying to create a ruckus?

A stop to the senseless slaughter of the red-footed dung warbler.

Mutual understanding between religions.

World peace.

Ruckus is such a great word, isn’t it? Yes, I wanted to cause a ruckus, I suppose.

But as with any writing project, it’s better to write about what you know.

I know first hand about AT&T’s dreadful wireless service and worst-in-class customer service, so it seemed like a good fit.

But my only real goal was to hold their corporate toes to the fire, and to have a few laughs along the way.

Anything else is a bonus.

How much time do you spend “managing” ATT_Fake_PR?

It’s a 24-7 operation. Our secure war-room in an undisclosed location monitors real-time dropped call information from our network of private satellites.

After we finish filtering out the profanity, a team of crack animal trainers and fashion bloggers feed these data into an NSA-grade Random Comedy Generator that writes suggested tweets for the following day.

Actually, not much time at all. AT&T does all the work for me.

I follow their company news, monitor the #ATTSUCKS hashtag on Twitter, and pay close attention to my own user experience.

From there the tweets pretty much write themselves.

How long are you going to keep this up?

I have always said that I would stop writing the Twitter feed if I could go a single day without a problem with AT&T’s service on my iPhone.

I don’t see that happening any time soon.

If AT&T offers to buy your handle and everything that goes with it, will you sell out?

Absolutely! Bring on the cash!

Small bills. Brown paper bag left at the feet of the Portlandia statue in Downtown Portland – a massive rendering of the Goddess of Commerce.

I like the irony.

I love the irony.

Thanks, “Roger,” for giving me your time (and patience as I pulled this together).

Btw – you can “like” the AT&T Fake Public Relations Facebook page too, if you want. Have more questions for him? Just let me know.

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Shonali Burke
Head honcho of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke is President & CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc. Based in the Washington, D.C., area, she loves helping for- and non-profit clients, both small and large, turn corporate codswallop into community cool™. She also loves ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
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2 comments
Matt LaCasse
Matt LaCasse

Outstanding interview Shonali! I really think these fake feeds are in the best interest of companies like BP and AT&T. It helps keep them on their toes, and understand what customers are REALLY feeling, even if it is painful to hear.

I don't have a problem with AT&T wanting Twitter to ensure the feed is indeed labeled as fake, that's understandable. I'd like to see them engage with "Roger" a bit more, like they did in the past. Showing you have a sense of humor about your company, warts and all, is never a bad thing IMO.

Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

Hey, thanks, Matt. :)

Yes, I think the fake feeds can be amazing learning experiences. The companies must really feel like they're between a rock and a hard place, though, and I can't blame them for that.

It is, at the end of the day, pretty easy for those of us who are looking in from the outside to say they should do "this" or "that," though I agree with you that I think heightened engagement from "real" AT&T with "Roger" would be quite remarkable. I imagine that's a tough battle for them to fight internally.

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