"You have no idea who I am, I haven't taken the time to get to know you, and now I'm going to pitch you my client's product. Now, please write about it!" Sadly, this has been the spirit of a growing number of emails landing in my inbox.
I work in marketing for an online research and information company, and I don't consider myself a news gatekeeper. But between my weekly MediaPost op-ed column
and my personal blog
, I've started to receive a steady flow of PR pitches, particularly for products and services related to Web 2.0 and online media and advertising. I truly value these pitches because I consider them important feedback on my own writing and expression, and they help keep me fluent on new developments in my industry while expanding my professional network. I also value the interactions because they put me on the receiving end of PR pitches, and that makes me more adept when it's my turn to pitch ideas to others. Sure, PR and industry evangelism is a part of my job, but the mastery of pitching ideas extends throughout all aspects of life.
The paradox is that I can name only a few products and services that I directly featured or acted on as a result of a pure, cold-email PR pitch. Like most people, my time and attention is limited. For PR people and the companies that hire them, this underscores the importance of the pitch in the first place.
Aside from supply and demand of attention, what's going on? While I usually appreciate the information PR people present, they often cripple the opportunity to engage by hard product selling, not unlike an annoying car salesman. I know product sales equal revenues, but hard product selling also forces people to put their guard up and turn away. Moreover, I'm not a product reviewer!
Then there are some pitches that are so weird I don't know what to do with them. I won't expose the guilty, but here's an excerpt from a pitch I received this week:
"I caught your blog post about socialnetworkitis thanks to a link from Steve Rubel's MicroPersuasion. I'm not going to blow smoke up your rear and tell you that I read your blog religiously or do any begging that PR guys would normally do to get you to acknowledge their pitch. Here's the pitch...."
Well, Mr. PR Guy, thanks for not blowing smoke up my rear, and not telling me that I'm your bible! And thanks for the pitch - not!
For the record, I'm just a very average Joe, sharing my observations and analysis about the changing marketing and media industry - a subject dear to me. My only aspirations with my blog and column are to crystallize my thoughts, expose them and interact with other like-minded people. It's that simple. I invite anyone
to reach out to me, but please do so thoughtfully.
It's important to note that I have featured in my writing a number of companies, as a result of interactions initiated by them. But more often their inclusion is the result of organic interaction, where an employee - sometimes in PR, but just as often elsewhere - reaches out to me to contribute an idea, challenge something I said, or invite me in to build on a larger issue. It's the more meaningful, intellectual, curious and passionate non-pitch inquiries that garner my attention and engage me. Those are the attributes that can make PR people more effective, and are what causes many non-PR people to end up creating the best PR value for their companies.
To be sure, I'm not
flack bashing, because I'd partly be bashing myself. As mentioned, PR is part of my overall job - it's part of everyone's job. I fully appreciate that PR people have very specific missions, and their clients and agendas are what's supporting their communications with me. I'm happy to engage under those pretexts. But I think a majority can do a much better job - for the sake of my time, their time, and their clients' money.
Finally, I acknowledge - humbly - I may be demanding an investment beyond my worth or potential ROI. But that's OK. In the spirit of Mr. PR Guy above, you can just blow it up my rear