Tra la, tra la. Spring is here! And with it, daffodils and baseball and Easter Eggs and our semiannual shaming of public-relations incompetence!
PR is not the most complicated enterprise, requiring only the ingenuity and labor to find overlaps of interest between clients and the media. The best way to do that is by scrupulously considering the needs, interests, desires, audiences and proclivities of the particular medium before attempting to offer story fodder to them. This builds ongoing relationships, reduces suspicion and engenders trust.
The other way is just willy-nilly: the indiscriminate blast. Which is like fishing with dynamite, minus the subtlety.
From: Kristen at ChicExecs
Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 12:14 PM
To: Bob Garfield
Subject: Can I book this with you?
Warmer weather is on the way and women everywhere are thinking about this year’s swimsuits—and
this year’s fitness routine. But how do you keep fitness fun and interesting while guaranteeing that bikini bod?
Introducing a brand new workout that’s easy, exciting and can burn 880 calories per hour…
Yes, email lists are inexpensive, so there is a certain efficiency to sending a pitch to every carbon-based organism in the universe, knowing that one of them may be on the swimsuit-body beat and so desperate to fill space that they get past the insipid first sentence of such an email -- if you don’t mind the risk of alienating, say, someone who writes only about media and marketing and who will tell anybody who will listen that Kristen at ChicExecs is a nuisance.
Plus, she didn’t even have the courtesy to inquire about my weekend. So, you know, she missed the personal touch. Unlike Nicki at Veteran PR.
From: Nicki Veteran PR
Sent: Monday, March 16, 2015 12:11 PM
To: Bob Garfield
Subject: Kacelia Media Tour
I hope you had a great weekend! I am working on setting up a media tour in various cities and states for Dr. Evelyn Haworth and her husband Kelly Haworth, health and wellness experts and inventors of the Tru-Align Body System. Are you interested in setting up an interview with them?
Hi, Nicki. 1) My weekend was lovely, thank you. Took my daughter and her friends to the theater for her birthday. 2) No. Or with any of your other clients. Ever.
The Risk Management Association Launches Foundation
TOP 7 Romantic Hotels in the Czech Republic
U-Haul partners with Long Island's Bellport Convenience & Smoke
British Actor Emrhys Cooper guest stars in American Hit TV show ‘Person of Interest’
Now, maybe I’m being harsh. Maybe that’s my fault for being so flighty and unpredictable, having been writing on media and marketing for only the last 33 years. Why wouldn’t I jump on the blockbuster Bellport Convenience store story or some of the other exciting opportunities to find their way into my inbox? Which is why, Adrian of Believe Advertising & P.R., I’m going to not only jump on the pitch you sent me, I’m going to print your entire letter! Because my readers do have an interest in brand-building functions of public relations, and you are an example for us all.
I both value, and admire, the work you do, most times, on the radio and in the various web-once-print places where you appear.
That's why this bit of nonsense is both sad and beneath you.
The folks writing you may have not have a choice. I am also willing to bet that their dream as college kids was not to write about, or do PR for, perfect bikini bodies.
You humiliating these folks is, therefore, pointless arrogance.
Maybe you should employ your considerable intellect more usefully than inserting snarky comments among other folks pitches.
This is lazy bit of writing is both unkind and childish.
Again, as someone who admires your work, I hope that this pungent bit of brain flatulence is a once-and-never-to-be-repeated miscue.
Finally, I am guessing you thought that this little bit of drivel was funny but, alas, it was not — just clumsy and embarrassing.
Hope this is an isolated screw-up amongst your, otherwise great, work.
Thanks, Matthew, but it's worse than just arrogrance. It borders on delusions of grandeur. I'm actually letting myself believe that semiannual shaming will make some p.r. shops cleave -- if not to best practices --at least not to abusive practices. So, no. It's not a childish one-off. It's another one of my crusades.
I take note of your objection; it is well taken. And I appreciate the compliments, too. But I proceed -- not for my sake but for that of the p.r. profession.
It is rare for PR people to "have" to send something any person. When I was doing PR I broke my e-mail lists into many groups and when I had something to send I picked which groups to send it to. I worked hard not to send things to those who not have interest. You can still miss but PR professionals usually do their best to not overload in-boxes with worthless information.
As much as I agree with a little of Matthew's sentiments (I too was once young in this business), I have to agree with Bob. There is no excuse for this kind of "PR" which not only hurts clients, it keeps a stink on the industry (such that it is). Over the years I have seen dozens of other journalists write essentially the same column. Must have been a reason.
Thanks for clarifying reply.
Your explanation leaves me with a better understanding of your motivation for going to war — and I agree with you on the need for war — yet I'm still not comfortable with the weapons used.
Should PR folks be sending you product marketing pitches?
Nope, but I think some of this is the silo effect as in "I'm a PR person, so I gotta pitch writers, editors, TV producers — and if I could just get that Bob Garfield guy to see wisdom, indeed the importance, of the perfect bikini bod — well that would be a home run!"
The bikini bod woman should probably have counseled her client to do a YouTube video, then buy some banner ads, plus an email list pointing to that video as better options. (But that's not PR — so hard to bill for — it you are a "PR Pro.")
So, I guess we will have to agree on the need for war — and disagree on weapons employed.
I will stand by for a later piece by you such as "The American Bikini Bod: A Gut Wrenching Struggle Between Traditional and Social Media"
Or, some other lean-and-mean story that puts the bikini bod issue into its proper PR, advertising and media context.
Bob, thanks for calling out by name some people who act like PR amateurs and give a bad name to those of us who try to be professional.
These off-target pitches are caused by a few things. One is using automated list-building tools like Vocus and Cision without actually checking names to weed out those that are off target. Those tools, it seems, often get it wrong. That's compounded by the fact that release distribution and pitching is often relegated to people low on the totem pole who just don't know the media and are given inadequate supervision or none at all.
So good for you -- call these people out by name. Maybe they'll learn and you'll get fewer dumb pitches, which will make it better for you and for those of us on the PR side.
David Reich makes a good point about list building and release distribution being relegated to junior employees. If I was the supervisor of one of these people Bob called out, I would be mortified and ashamed that I didn't do my job to make sure they understood the pitch and the appropriate media to approach. List building services make it easier to skip that latter step to just get the job done as quickly as possible.
Bob, you are correct to call this out for many reasons, but mostly it is important because it is about raising the bar of our industry. It doesn't matter if these publicists are junior, that is absolutely no excuse and they are clearly not being trained properly. It takes little effort to go through your list and take out the inappropriate editors/writers/publications. Your work product is your brand. If it is sloppy it speaks for itself. I am also a journalist and our agency creates a great deal of content, which means I receive literally hundreds of pitch letters and press releases daily myself. I received BOTH of the pitches you cite here, thus had a laugh reading this. As an agency, we only hire senior publicists, experts, and this is exactly why. Thank you for bringing this to light. Though I am sure the team at ChicExecs and Nicki Veteran PR aren't feeling so savvy right now, it is good for all of us as a reminder to mind our work product and remember that in today's digital world, everyone is looking.
While I agree that pointing out the errors in the pitch or how you were pitched is fine, I don't agree with the public shaming of the associate that sent you the pitch. This will live online forever. And, while the flack (I say that with respect and endearment - as I'm one!) may learn from this feedback, they may be unemployable in the industry after you call them and their agency out by name. We certainly Google search prospective employees before making an offer, and would easily be able to find this.
What about sending a note to the agency owner, the associate who pitched you and their client if you are so put off by the pitch? Or, just block their email - or the agency who pitched you from this point forward? The message will be heard loud and clear, and then the associate can be corrected, trained better, etc.
I know that I made mistakes as a young publicist, and thankfully had some good mentors and kind journalists set me straight. I am sure there is no one among us posting here who is error free in our careers - especially when we were starting out.
I enjoy your work, Bob - but I think that your judgment here is not sound.