29 September 2009

Sadly, I still get emails like this.

I'm not too keen on writing about blogger relations anymore - I've written about it a lot, as have people I respect like Susan Getgood and Kami Watson Huyse. But I got an email yesterday that was simply a press release. Apparently some band I never heard of is doing something with a charity I never heard of, and you can listen to their music online. Or something. I'm sure it's all very nice and the band is nice and the charity is nice and even the PR person is nice.

But there was no salutation in the email, nothing to indicate why this release was being sent to me. So I wrote back to the PR person - I'm going to leave names of people and companies out of this (even my own) because I'm writing for educational purposes and not to embarrass anyone - plus I don't want to be the cause of a bunch of Google Alerts.

Here's what I wrote back:
Hi [name] - I'm sure this is nice and I'm sure you're a great person but I kinda think you're doing this wrong. Bloggers aren't really journalists who get press releases. But good luck anyway...
And then I got this reply back fairly quickly:
That's crazy- I work with bloggers everyday.
Perhaps against my better judgment, I saw that as an opportunity to shoot back :
With all due respect [name] - and I know you deserve a lot of respect because you're entrepreneurial enough to start your own firm - I know a thing or two about working with bloggers as well. I direct the social media team for [my company], a global public affairs firm based in DC. My clients include Fortune 500 companies and major trade associations. My close pals in the blogosphere are the leaders of sites like Blog With Integrity, Parent Bloggers Network, Global Voices Online, and so on.

And my opinion is not crazy, not in the least.

I get emails from boutique NYC-based PR firms every now and then. Typically they come from entertainment, fashion, or beauty-based clients. I don't write about entertainment, fashion or beauty. The bloggers I work with get a lot more of these emails than I do and they all say the same thing - "this is proof they don't read my blog." Those emails get sent to the spam filter. Sometimes the domain of the sender gets screened. Sometimes they're the victim of a screed on that blog the next day.

There's a difference between blast-emailing press releases to a list based on keywords and seriously targeting and building relationships with online opinion leaders with relevant contributions. Sometimes you have the time and budget to do one, sometimes you have the time and budget to do the other.

I'm more than willing to accept that you may work with entertainment journalist bloggers or people who will reprint a press release that was sent to them cold. In my world, with the opinion leaders on policy issues and business I deal with, what you did was demonstrate that you don't know a thing about me or what I do.

That said, you have the guts to strike out and start your own company, and you don't hesitate to share your opinion. Entrepreneurs - especially outspoken ones - deserve respect, and you have mine.
And then I received:
You should discuss with [PR list software company] then because they have you listed as a blogger who covers music, non-profit and fashion...
At which point I decided to stop bothering with this one. This is a textbook example of how a PR pro tries to replace real intelligence gathering with automated tools and gets burned. But what struck me was the last statement - I don't have to discuss anything with any software company. I didn't ask to be listed and I didn't ask to be put in categories that anyone who reads this blog would see is absurd. (Fashion? I know something about fashion? Seriously?) This person either got a list for free and got what she paid for, or she wasted her money on a list that wasn't accurate. But more importantly, she goofed up and kept shifting the fault somewhere else.

It's the PR pro's responsibility to target the right people and make sure the pitch is well crafted and relevant to the target. Slapping a press release into the body of an email and spamming who knows how many people? Not so much.


Julie @ The Mom Slant said...

Lazy lazy lazy.

You gave them some great info, and they probably didn't even bother to read it.

Good luck anyway indeed.

SeaBird said...

Yep, I get lots of emails like these... that's why yours stood out :)

becky @ misspriss said...

And apparently that PR person doesn't know a thing about qualifying leads...

Adriana said...

David, I just found your blog, and am still reading older posts to catch up.

"You should discuss with [PR list software company] then" is the craziest response I've ever heard! Thank you for highlighting this episode--perhaps some PR professionals will learn from their colleague's mistake.