A Message To Non-PR Folks: We’re Not All Like This

Black Sheep

John Biggs at CrunchGear and Michael Arrington at TechCrunch both wrote in the last day about a nasty encounter they had with a public relations person (I would normally say professional, but…). I’m not naming the person here – that’s not my style – but I’m disgusted enough to link to posts where you can find their name.

The Biggs and Arrington documented a laundry list of bad practices by the culprit, some of which have also been documented previously on the bad pitch blog and other sites including the Freakonomics blog:

  • Off-topic pitches;
  • BCC’d spam pitches;
  • Relentless phone calls to people throughout publishing organizations, even while acknowledging that it’s wrong;
  • Abusive replies to people who complain about the pitches.

I’m not going to go to town on that person. Others have done that enough.

I’m directing this post to anyone who reads this site:

Not all public relations professionals are like this.

This is important. People need to know this.

We do the background work

My colleagues and I spend hours creating and refining our media lists when we begin working with clients, and we refine those lists on an ongoing basis. Occasionally we’ll land off-base; when we realize that’s happened we fix our lists.

We contact people individually

When I send email pitches, they begin with the recipient’s name. Next!

We build relationships

As far as I’m concerned, public relations is a two-way business. Our clients have their objectives; journalists have theirs. We do our jobs best when we help both sides. That means building relationships with journalists so we know what they’re after and can help them with that. It takes time and effort, and it certainly doesn’t involve spam or insults.

We target

We might approach a couple of people within a certain organization if they’ve both written about our client or their subject area. We certainly won’t leave messages for 45 people at two publications. 

Caveat: We’re human

I’m not going to pretend we’re perfect. Sometimes we screw up and contact someone who’s completely uninterested in the subject. Anyone who says they don’t is a liar. However, when that happens we apologize and try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Don’t let black sheep make you think we’re all like this person. We’re not.

(Image credit: s-s via sxc.hu)

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  • Chamika Ailapperuma

    Great post Dave — that particular PR person reminded me of another person in Ottawa who somehow got my email and started sending creepy pseudo-personal email newsletters about herself. When I called her out, I got a really nasty series of replies with the actual line of “well, if I was an incompetent government worker like you with a big salary, I would not have to do this” (!). I sent her links to your blog, Mitch Joel’s blog and Seth Godin’s blog and told her to educate herself on professionalism. Never heard back from her, but hope she followed through on the suggestion!!!

  • Good read Dave. A few bad PR people should not spoil it for the rest of us who vette contacts very carefully with highly appropriate pitches. Leaving message after message for reporters is not only ineffective, it’s harassment.

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  • Greatpost – it’s such a shame that so many good PRs get let down by the minority bad ones.

    There’s been a few posts recently talking about bad PR practice, Dennis Howlett’s in particular was pretty angry – http://accmanpro.com/2008/12/03/pr-is-so-over/

    Jen Mitch has suggested a Good Pitch PR blog..http://socialmediapr.wordpress.com/ grand idea I think.

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  • Twitter Comment by @PRupdates (PRupdates)

    A Message To Non-PR Folks: We’re Not All Like This [link to post]

    http://twitter.com/PRupdates/statuses/1077457924

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  • PaulH

    Found you via Techcrunch. Jason Calanis IS on to something. PR has changed, and not necessarily for the better. While there are still plenty of classy guys around (like yourself) the industry is getting reconfigured by a bunch of kids whose idea of PR success is getting lots of followers on Twitter, flirting with “influencers” and acting out. My teenaged daughter has a thousand friends in Facebook. Does that mean you should hire her to manage your Toyota client? These kinds of people are giving your industry a bad name and inspiring people like me to hit the “block” feature more and more often.

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