Tip #127: Circle jerks

For some reason I don’t quite get, there’s nothing that gets under the skin of journalists more than an email pitch that’s cc’d to a lot of people at once. Do this and you will get killed on the cc list itself as writers whine and complain via “reply to all” about your email etiquette transgression, and to make things worse you might also get killed in the press itself: See TechCrunch and ZDNet .

Instead, use bcc. Better yet: Use a mail-merge app that sends individual emails. Best option: Don’t blast a ton of people with the same crap. Pick and choose your media targets, and write personal notes to them.

And a side note to my compatriots in the media: Chill. If you get one of these bonehead PR spams — and we all do — just delete it. Nothing good ever comes from a vitriolic reply to all, and if you think you’re doing the world a favor by replying to all with the high-minded advice that everyone stop replying, you are fooling no one.


Filed under Email

6 responses to “Tip #127: Circle jerks

  1. Totally agree.

    Yes – it is lame to send the exact same email (to journalists, in particular). But some folks are just moving too fast and not giving it enough thought – and (I don’t think) are quite aware of how lame they are being.

    It seems way over the top when a recipient on the thread makes a pointed effort at humiliating the offending party. I tend to think THAT person is the one that needs to have his head checked.

    What is more passe than the “journalist outing flack” blog postings, btw? It seems like pretty ugly behavior – especially – to post the PR person’s email / name / etc. in the post. These folks that write these scathing “outing” posts – what, they never fucked up in their lives? Pretty despicable behavior, IMHO.

  2. Catherine Helzerman

    I could not agree more. The PR person
    made a novice mistake, whereas some of the receivers showed themselves to be little more than bullies who enjoy watching someone stumble. To the people who felt they had to go the extra step of shaming her and potentially hurting her career -shame on you. And you should count yourself lucky that no one is mass blogging your mistakes.

    Rafe – great post and well said!

  3. While I cringe at the idea of throwing stones, I think it’s enormously helpful for journalists to write these rants. They are justified in feeling indignant about being sent a mass email. Real PR pros don’t do that.

    Anyone who worked through the dot-com bubble knows that this is just more of the same from that era. Journalists ate PR newbies for lunch – and there was a feast of idiots available. Many were culled out when the industry went bust, but now that social media tools (and the economy) have made marketing very DIY, people who don’t even have a pretense of understanding how PR works are trying it for themselves. I support the idea of companies doing their own marketing, but they absolutely must get a little training and guidance first.

    I love to use these rants as examples to clients and others who think anybody can upload a press release to PRWeb (or any of the other wire services) and do their own PR. It’s great to have third-party reminders that it requires skill and experience – even if it is at the expense of those who did it wrong.


  4. As someone who wears both hats (journalist and communications professional), I have to agree with Carri.

    I’ve seen this scenario all too often in PR: senior account managers and other staff hire young, inexperienced people to write press releases and do the pitches (often because they are cheap). A good company will provide mentoring, training, and systems in place to check for good practices and guard against rookie mistakes (like the CC/BCC mentioned above). Sadly many PR companies don’t care, and it is dirtying the pool for the ones that do. It’s a numbers game for many PR companies. It’s not about the strategy, nor content, nor actions but instead is about numbers of press releases and pitches. Then, they go back to their clients and say, “well we sent out 500 pitches to 500 reporters” – that is their metric and justification for their retainer. It’s a horrible practice that is causing people to HATE the PR industry.

    I know, I often hate the PR industry. Trust me I am a very part time “hack” journalist but I still receive hundreds of press releases and pitches and e-newsletters and whatnot from PR companies and/or their clients each week. These range from the good (short, sweet, to the point, and engaging) to the downright asinine 800 word “Cheese Filled Backpacks!” (yes, that actually was one subject line) emails; or the PR company that thinks that because I do food writing I might be interested in a new perfume line?; or the extra spammy very run of the mill fast food chain opening a new place 30 miles from my house announcement and coupon to “come visit!”; or a certain PR company that sends 3-4 different email press releases in a row on the same day. Oy.

    Why does this matter? I’m not getting pitched, I’m getting spammed. There’s a big difference and one that makes all the difference. For example, the PR company that likes to send 3-4 emails in a row? Filtered into a special folder now, I scan that folder only once in a blue moon and mostly delete before reading. I imagine other journalists are as doing the same. Is that PR company really doing their clients any favors?

    Remember, the reporters (in most cases) aren’t being asked to be pitched…but the PR companies are asking for the reporters to do something (and the PR companies are getting paid quite handsomely to do so). Wishing a reporter would be nicer, isn’t going to make it so.

    For, at the end of the day, good PR is all about creating and maintaining strong and good relationships. Alienate your media through bad PR practices and you’ve blown it as a PR pro.

    PR companies absolutely must do everything they can to provide professional, consistently professional and thoughtful communications. It is, after all, what they are paid to do. As someone who has worked in PR for firms good, bad and ugly, I can say that isn’t happening as much as it needs to.


  5. I love this topic. I own a PR agency but I’m also an etiquette consultant so I see it as the convergence of my two passions. First of all, let me say that I think it’s almost never acceptable to send mass e-mails unless the recipients have already agreed to such. For example, members of a non-profit board might agree to receive minutes of a meeting in a mass e-mail. Here at the agency, we do a lot of media pitching, in person, on the phone and by e-mail. When it’s e-mail, it’s all personalized, as it should be. We have a relationship with these people and they deserve a personal e-mail with all of the nuance and context this format provides.

    Having said that, two wrongs don’t make a right. It’s distressing that when someone makes this kind of faux pas, on purpose or unknowingly, that they are called out, named and ridiculed in public. Very poor etiquette indeed!

  6. Pingback: 8 classic PR tactics that work well in social media, too « Conversity.be

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