It's a Shame

Seriously, is PR going to learn?

I posted a long post - some called it a rant, others didn't like it, but I view it as a wake-up call because I do care about my profession. It's about passion, and I rather have passion than become so beaten down to have no passion about anything.

So, I get to wake up today and read a long list of email addresses from Chris Anderson, he of Wired and The Long Tail. Chris had his own Howard Beale moment - he's mad as hell and not going to take it anymore - and I don't blame him. I receive the same bad pitches all the time - and from some of the same PR firms. Is Chris right in calling out the firms and people - I think he is. There's enough education that people should know better, and we all have media databases. It's laziness versus strategic.

Here's a fun little hint for PR people pitching me: I write on PR. That's about it. I rarely care about P2P music networks, or sunglasses, or social networks. I do care about how they are changing PR, and what is being done that is so different. But, rarely the products themselves.

Now, Anderson's post comes after Marshall Kirkpatrick tried to school PR people on the good, the bad and the ugly. Even in the comments, though, people missed the point on PR and transparency and tried to hide. It's not right - sorry for getting on my high horse.

The fact is that education is missing. Now, there are professors and classes that are trying to get it right. Look at Auburn and Robert French. Look at UGA with Karen Russell and Kaye Sweetser. I spent time today with Kaye's undergrads, answering questions. Why? Because it's about education and helping the next generation of students. I love my little Tigers that I have had the benefit of working with at Auburn, and have worked and helped out a bunch of other college students. Do I get anything out of this - yes, I keep my finger on the pulse of campuses, so I can put together college campaigns, but I also get to balance out some karma (the second if probably more important for me). And, yes, there is value for my company as the students learn about what I am doing, and give me feedback that is very helpful for me and the company.

And, well, it's about relationships. I take these seriously, and I got burnt once because I was promised information that was not delivered. The "lead the horse to water" mindset in PR is not going to work anymore. You cannot burn your relationships because a client does not deliver in a media briefing - it hurts the client, and ruins the relationship. And, at the end of the day, that's what is left for a PR person: good, working relationships. These people don't have those anymore with Chris Anderson.

So, here's my thought - here's my education presentation. I have been updating it and fine-tuning it for the past three years, since I began presenting to companies:

For another take, from a beloved blogger, read Ryan Block's take on it. He suffers a lot - I'm sure - but he still knows that it's a two-way street for bloggers and reporters and PR people.

Other takes from the PR blogosphere:
  1. As always, brilliant. Sharing with our PR staff tomorrow a.m. Passionate ones such as yourself are why social media won't be lost. Keep on keepin' on.

  2. Too funny! I get the same damn pitches as a PR blogger. But I think our Long Tail friend went a little far in outing the list.

    We owe it to the industry to teach (kudos), and point out these crazy errors. At the same time, I have become resigned to the fact that there will always be a percentage of our brethren who won't do their jobs correctly. So I just delete them.

  3. Jeremy, the anonymous comment was me. Must have not been signed in (sorry about that, it's late on the east coast).

    Anyway, here's another outing... My buddy, Aaron did this one.

  4. Thanks Jeremy!

    I'm glad you're back to somewhat regular contribution on PRJots. Why should the college kids corner the market on help?

  5. You are not alone. Marshall's post spun me out last Friday. You may enjoy it.

  6. People who spam are knuckleheads and an annoyance to say the least. The photographer who threw gas on the fire with his lame defense made matters worse. I suspect, however, more than a few of those listed are guilty merely of trying to navigate Wired's maze w/o doing the leg work of keying off prior articles. A mistake indeed but not worthy of vilifying them IMHO. So weed out the knuckleheads, but assuming some of these missives are simply'crimes of omission', then I'd recommend each and everyone of the perps read SEND, THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO EMAIL, by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe to learn when and how to use this tool. Then we can move on to more serious matters like doing good work.

  7. I understand the frustration, but this is absolutely not cool and not the right thing to do. At the very least, Chris could have published only the first half of the e-mails and ended with "..." or the names of the companies, which I still wouldn’t like. Not publishing them at all would have been the more mature thing to do.

    As a subscriber to Wired and POP!, nothing ticks me off more than an ego. And especially when I see other blogger hacks who publicly agree with this method because they think they've cornered the market on all social media.

    Bottom line: When you sign up for a gig, you agree to take the good with the bad. This is part of the bad. We all get it. Can you imagine if someone published a list of "asshole editor-bloggers" and Long Tail or POP! were at the top? And what if they included your phone number? The entire argument is based on assumption—the one that tells you you’re right and everyone else is wrong. This rant is the epitome of why people should wait 15 minutes before posting. The fact that Chris has received this many comments should tell you something other than he’s right.

    This will forever haunt him. For starters, I'm canceling my subscription to Wired. I can find the news elsewhere. And following your reaction, I’m considering not following your feeds either. You guys may be skilled in some areas. You just don't think that far ahead.

  8. Wow, I'm not even bothering to respond to Chris' post because it has become such a long tale (thank you, I'm here all week)-- but a colleague did.

    Generally you cannot go more than a week without seeing some kind of Bad pitch rant-- B.L. Ochman has a series of PR pitches from hell, and Kevin dugan has a whole blog devoted to Bad PR pitches.

    I used to send these rants around to people at my old agency, and the bosses told me to stop b/c it might hurt morale. BS I say, this stuff makes us better.

    I have no problem with what Anderson did-- I'm sure it was as you say-- a "Howard Beale moment" he couldn't take it anymore, and snapped. If you're on the list, too bad, but how much of a loss is that-- why are you pitching an EIC anyway? Pitch the right person! Have we not learned not to spam (please don't answer that-- i know the answer).

  9. @jason falls
    Thanks. I hope the staff gets what I'm trying to say. Laziness may save time, but it'll always bite you in the ass. I've been bitten.

    Yep, love Aaron's take (I'm calling him Site Master now, though).

    While I think Chris might have gone over the line, it was probably a "straw that broke the camel's back" situation. No one knows what happened in his office to make him write that post.

    Oh, we'll always have people that just SPAM w/o thought.


    Come on, the kids are so much more fun than us! ;)

    I Twittered that once I got into a better place, I'd be blogging more. And, it's true. A different weight on my shoulders, a better one.

    Good to see you blogging from a PR perspective. I caught the post after I wrote, and we need to catch up when we're both in the Bay.

    But, well, you are a perfect example of outreach on point - Skype for Skype Journal. Heck, I had the fun of calling you down (and for some reason, I always thought you lived in the EU).

    Well, it is about good work. It's about doing the leg-work each time, as you noted.

    I'll have to check out the book.

    First, thanks for subscribing to my feed. As you can tell, I am passionate about PR.

    Now, I feel I owe you some explanation and background on various levels. I'll write what's for public consumption, and ask you to ping me (most of my contact info is on my blog - and I looked for yours first).

    I'll go with a story from when I was at Ofoto.

    My PR firm was booking a media tour in New York to meet and greet and let the press know what was new with Ofoto.

    That's fine - that's PR, that's what you do. You put together a tour, you go forward with the target list, and you start calling and emailing.

    At least, that's how I would do it when I was at an agency. I have no idea how this firm did it, though.

    I get a nasty-gram email from Walt Mossberg, because the AE on the account wrote to him, asking to meet him in NYC. First, Walt is in DC. Second, Walt had written about Ofoto two weeks prior.

    Walt was slightly miffed, at both the company and the agency. And, he notified the AE not to contact him ever again.

    My question then - and still now - was where was the oversight? Why were the AS and VP on the account not going over the tour targets, making sure they were appropriate? And, yes, I was at fault too because I could have asked to see the targets, and caught the mistake.

    Even after the email, the VP took a full day to contact us, and then did not follow-up as we requested with Walt.

    I feel this is the same issue - where is the oversight on media lists? Where is the oversight of junior staff (and probably senior staff) that is pushing for SPAM PR? Where is the education in PR on how to put together media lists, on how to work through editorial assistants or managing editors? It's gone - and it's frustrating to me.

    This shouldn't be happening in PR - that's the reason I'm siding with Chris. Do I think he's right? No, not totally. Do I think everyone on that list deserves to be there? No, not at all because I don't know th individual stories. Do I think this needs to happen once in a while in PR? No, it shouldn't - but it keeps on happening because we are cutting corners instead of doing it right.

    @doug haslam
    It tires me. It does. I'm not a big believer in public outings, but we gotta learn.

  10. Jeremy, nice post. I'm new to PR, not on the account side but on the staffing, and it's interesting to see the parallels between the account side of PR and what I do which is research and sourcing. We have the same problem in our function; it's usually the new people or the ones misguided by archaic recruiting practices being taught to them who think spamming is the quick, easy shortcut. But as a friend of mine would may get 1 or 2 good responses to 100 spammed emails, but you managed to piss off the other 98-99 people in the process. Not worth it in my book!

    I am subscribing to your RSS today - look forward to learning more from you!

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  12. Jeremy,
    You are fantastic. What a great presentation. Wish I was still teaching and could share with my students. You are fantastic!

    Erica Elliott

  13. Ok, I am a bit late to comment but I just stumbled across this today. Great presentation. I am sending to my entire team. Thanks for sharing the love!


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