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.

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.