Or, "The best post I never published."
In June I decided to put our house on the market. I'm going through a divorce and wanted to downsize as well as get a fresh start, and since we all know how hard it is to sell a house in this market, I decided to go ahead and get the process started. Lucky me! The first people who went through the house put in an offer (those who attended Edelman's academic summit may remember me out in the hall, negotiating via cell phone).
Of course that meant I had to find a house for my daughter and me, and to do it quickly. I found The Place right away. It was new construction that had been sitting empty for 4 years, in a subdivision in which 10 out of the projected 150 homes have been built. Obviously there were going to be problems. A number of people had liens on the home, from banks to the lumber yard, but since it was The One I was determined to hang in there throughout the complicated negotiations. The closing date was postponed a couple of times, but I remained undeterred. Finally, everything was in order: my lender, the insurance company, the developer, the closing attorney, the realtors -- everyone agreed on the day and time.
So imagine my surprise when, as I was driving to the closing -- literally in my car driving to the closing -- when my lender called and said it wasn't going to happen. Let's just say it wasn't a good surprise. It seemed that one of the banks with a lien on the property had decided not to live up to its agreement about how much it would cost the developer to clear the lien. And yes, legally they can do that, right up until the minute the deal's actually done. I called the moving truck and told them not to bring my stuff. I drove to a hotel to check in... again, since we'd been out of the old house for 6 weeks at that point. I called to cancel the water and electricity. And then I tried to figure out what to do.
I'm a social media believer, so it didn't take me long to realize that I could use it to my benefit. I wrote a scathing blog post, fully maximized for SEO, called, "[Bank name redacted] doesn't care." But I sat there, in the hotel room, in the dark because my daughter was sleeping, and I couldn't bring myself to push the button. Let's face it, Teaching PR is no Buzz Machine. Finally, I went to the bank's online newsroom, found a news release with the PR person's name and email address, copied the blog post and emailed it to her at the bank's headquarters in another state. I gave her some data on my followers (no, not including my Klout or Kred scores), and told her that unless I got some help, I was going to publish every bitter word.
She responded that night, and 3 different people contacted me the next day. I shared their contact information with the closing attorney's office, and the next day, they learned that the bank's attorney didn't want more money, he wanted the developer to agree not to subpoena bank employees in his personal lawsuit against the bank -- nothing at all to do with the house I wanted to buy; I was just a pawn in the lawyer's game. He had purposely waited until the 11th hour to cancel in order to force the developer's hand. But that didn't work; the developer wasn't about to agree with that stipulation no matter what, and the deal was about to die. So the closing attorney's office called me and suggested that I send another email to the contact I'd established at the bank's headquarters. I wanted to go ballistic, but instead I dashed off a message before I rushed to a guest lecture (on Arthur Page if you really want to know) and told the closing attorney that if the bank in question didn't remove the new stipulation by noon that day I was going to back out of the whole deal.
At 11:40 the bank cleared the lien. At 4 p.m. we closed.
I've decided not to call out the bank because a couple of decent people on the staff did help me out. But my realtor believes that had I not stuck my nose in, the deal would've just fallen through and I'd have never known why. And banks and lawyers wonder why people don't like them.
I've spent some time thinking about that PR person I contacted, wondering how on earth she can do her job when her employer also employs a lawyer who thinks it's cool to play hardball to try to win a case. Thanks to his brilliant strategy, I paid $540 in additional hotel bills, extra charges for turning on-off-on the utilities, and another week of eating out, and I'm sure it cost the moving company (which probably turned down other work but then didn't move me that day) and other people involved as well. I'm not even going to get into the personal cost of explaining to my 7-year-old that, no, actually, we still don't have a home, or the stress of those two days when I wasn't sure where we were going to live. I will say that it gives me new insight on the relationship between PR pros and lawyers.
So, there you have it: the story of the best blog post I ever wrote, and why you'll never read it.