Want Me To Write About Your Stuff? Don’t Lie In Your Pitch

I receive several pitches each day. In general, even if I don’t write about what they’re pitching, I welcome the approach.

A few days ago, however, I received this email:

subject: I’d like to know your opinion Hello, My name is […]. I’m a […] student at […]. I writing you because I’d like to know your opinion about a YouTube Viral ad I saw recently posted on AdRants for a nonprofit called […]. Recently I’m seeing more nonprofits use social media to spread their message. This ad in particular struck me because it seemed like it was directed at a specific type of YouTube viewer, FailBlog fans. FYI FailBlog is a YouTube channel that posts juvenile videos about people falling and such. What I found refreshing is the fact that a serious nonprofit like […] is using a juvenile ad to communicate a serious message. Here’s the video link: [Deleted – I’m not giving him the traffic] Hope you enjoy it and post about it. Look forward to hearing your comments. Thank You

Reading this, my spidey senses started tingling:

  • The person sending the email opened saying they wanted my opinion and closed asking me to post about it (is this what you had in mind?)
  • Some of the language sounded a lot like an informal version of what I see in a lot of pitches – “Recently we’re seeing more companies use X to do Y.

After about 30 seconds of pondering this, I glanced at the email address of the sender, only to see that the email came from the domain of one of the world’s largest advertising agencies. What’s more, the person who sent the email appeared to be the person who had posted the video on YouTube. Instead of potentially getting me to write about their creative video, the agency has succeeded in getting me to block all emails from their domain in future. What’s wrong with this approach?

Main faults

  • The email, coming from an ad agency’s domain, claimed to be from a student. Even if the person really was a summer student at this agency, their actions reflect on the company. 
  • The sender claimed to have seen the video on AdRants (it was indeed posted there) when in reality they posted it to YouTube themselves.

More problems

  • The email describes the video as a “YouTube viral ad.” It had 2,900 views. Not exactly viral.
  • There are clear typos in the email, for example “I writing you…”
  • There is zero personalization in the email. I have no way of knowing if they have ever seen my site, or even if they know my name.

This kind of deceptive outreach is deceptive, unethical and frankly despicable. Don’t do it.

  • Well they did succeed in getting you to write about it – without mentioning what it is! LOL!

  • Not only that but now that organization has basically burnt any sort of relationship they had with you prior. I’m curious of their motive surrounding this email rather than being up front and asking whether you could post/give them advice about their video. Did you send a response to the email or just ignored it?

  • Ouch. Honesty is probably the most important thing in PR asides from getting coverage. Lying or being misleading is a sure way to burn through your contacts/relationships. Even if you are looking for a quick hit…don’t be that guy.

  • I wonder what they would have done if you’d simply given your feedback by email (as opposed to post, which is what they were going for). Use your comments in a testimonial?
     
    Definitely not cool. Why misrepresent? I’ve pitched you before … directly … for similar reasons (ie: trying to interest you in blogging about the social media aspects of my client’s campaign). While I didn’t get any public results (ex: blog post), I did get some Twitter DMs. And while I didn’t use that content publicly, they helped me guage reaction from the group I was approaching and allowed me to give my client feedback about the strategy they had asked me to implement. All in all, very useful to me, and to my client.
     
    Plus, I know that because we’ve built a relationship, over time, based on trust, I can feel comfortable approaching you again, under appropriate circumstances, cards on table.
     
    Win-win. For me, my client .. and hopefully for you if I can feed you content you’ll find interesting and/or thought provoking enough to blog about.
     
    The approach you’ve outlined in this blog post? Nice try, but Fail.
     
    In my book, honesty wins out every time.
     
    Slimy? Not so much.
     
    You’re a gentleman for not outing the PR rep, Dave. I’m thinking you’ll have sent them a link to this blog post. Hopefully they’ll learn from their mistake.

  • Michelle – absolutely. We’ve gotten to know each other over time, and you can pitch me any day.

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