Too Much Free Time

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:


The Most Boring PR People In The World

from the spice-it-up-a-little,-please dept

Like many bloggers, we get inundated with ridiculous press releases about stuff we'd absolutely never write about. While we won't go to the level of Chris Anderson's decision to publicly shame and block every emailer who spams him, sometimes we do try to give some advice -- such as the time we tried to remind PR people that we don't want press releases. Seriously. Don't send them. Ever.

Of course, the real problem is that the annoying PR people don't read the site, so not only do they have no clue what we write about, they also don't see the messages trying to tell them how to better communicate with us. But, still, sometimes it does help to get PR people talking about these things, and if we have to do it, we might as well try to do it constructively. I'd been meaning to post a note about "the most boring PR pitch in the world," but kept letting it slip. However, I'm reminded of it after seeing the bizarre situation (from the same firm) between Valleywag and MWW, a PR shop. Apparently, one of the folks at MWW sent a PR spam to Valleywag, but left in all the edits showing that it was a copied template. Amusing, but not too surprising. However, in response, the PR person who sent the email is now threatening legal action (over what, we have no clue). More interesting, though, is that Valleywag (in that same post) highlights an email that got sent around MWW about how to pitch bloggers, including things like "Don't pitch, talk" and "Be brief."

Well, it appears that some of the folks at MWW take that second one a bit too seriously. For a few months now, the folks at MWW send me a regular stream of PR spam that often has a totally unintelligible subject line, such as the model number of a new mobile phone that I don't recognize and don't care about. It's also just sent from a general email, rather than a person's name. Then, the crux of the message itself is to not tell me why I should possibly care:

We have posted recent news to our media site. Below is the link and abstract for the announcement. Please go to our site if you would like to learn more or to download images or specs.

MWW Group -- Dallas

Click here to view article.
The "click here to view article" is the entire "abstract." I have no idea what this pitch is about or why I should care. The messages from MWW all appear this way, though sometimes it will actually include a one sentence snippet from the press release as the "abstract" way at the bottom while others just ask us to click for no good reason. Now, to its credit, MWW isn't technically sending us a press release. However, if you are going to try to engage with bloggers (or real reporters, for that matter), what's wrong with actually (1) appearing human and (2) giving the person a reason to read what you've got to say? "We have posted recent news to our media site, click here" without any reason why I should care at all is hardly a compelling pitch. We're getting spammed all day long with pitches we already don't care about. To not even tell us what you're actually pitching seems beyond ridiculous. So, again, do not send us press releases, but if you must communicate with us, at least give us a reason to care.

Reader Comments

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  • identicon
    Anne, 6 Dec 2007 @ 7:46pm

    PR Firms are a joke

    There used to be a funny woman with a local talk show in Los Angeles. She took the time to read (and name) some of the PR folks who bombarded her with email, snail mail and other kinds of junk.

    It was obvious that none of the PR folks knew anything about her radio show, which consisted of three hours of playing bad music, recordings of prank phone calls done by other hosts on other shows, and once cooking a Furby, live online, during the first holiday season when everybody had to have one for their kids. (The Furby massacre involved a mallet and a boiling cauldron of water, if I recall correctly.)

    The PR pitches this woman received were hilarious, for everything from the newest diet book to some social cause a wingnut activist thought was important. The PR firms must send out mass mailings to every radio host in the country, without a clue as to what kind of content the show might actually be looking for. The only thing this woman, God bless her heart, would do was make fun of you and your stupid product. I used to call her show the Seinfeld of the radio. There was no point to it at all, but it was damned funny. Kind of like this message.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2007 @ 8:08pm

    U want the idea in 20 words -- the key words.

    I suspect that what you want is the sort of text that you (and slashtdot) have in your header -
    e.g. News Release: New stove uses 1/20 of the fuel. Almost no emissions.
    Stop global warming and air pollution. Price $200 www.?????

    If you think it will interest your readers, you post it.

    i.e. You want 10 to 20 words to summarize the idea and why you should care.

    Then give a 70-100 word description with more info.

    The problem is:
    In 2 seconds you want want to decide:- "keep" of "discard".


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Silicon Valley, 7 Dec 2007 @ 3:31am

    Get Techdirt’s Daily Email

    "Get Techdirt’s Daily Email"

    ....for better or worse, we all have to engage in a little proactive reaching out to survive in the virtual world

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    4-80-sicks, 7 Dec 2007 @ 7:33am

    "Get Techdirt’s Daily Email"

    Yeah, that asks the reader to take action if they want to get that. A little bit different from sending a daily email unsolicited.

    U want the idea in 20 words -- the key words.

    I suspect nothing is wanted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Dec 2007 @ 10:12am

    From the PR person's perspective, if Techdirt isn't the right place for a pitch, that means the audience that reads Techdirt isn't right for the pitch. If that is the case, why would the PR person care about offending someone that wouldn't be interested in their product anyway?

    I am sure feminine hygene companies don't care if I get offended at their ads, I am not a consumer of their products, so what is the harm?

    That being said, most professional writers and editors can seem pretty damm lazy. They could cut down on a lot of future spam if they just replied that they don't cover that subject.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Erik, 7 Dec 2007 @ 10:14am

    Flacks and editors need each other but the relationship is rocky and prone to plate throwing fits. Understandable since both groups have ridiculous goals, deadlines and metrics to measure up to. Flacks have to be pushy, shotgunny and annoying or they do not get the attention for their clients that is demanded. Editors have to be highly selective, fast and able to shift gears on the fly. Hundreds of badly written, poorly targeted emails and calls a day gets tiring and makes it very hard to get real work done.

    Boy oh boy am I glad I'm no longer working in the flack trenches, it was thankless, difficult and exhausting work. Made alot harder by a minority of other flacks who cut corners, blast pitches without regard to recipients and cold call editors without knowing (or caring) what they cover.

    The volume of contacts makes individual responses very difficult but it would be helpful to the industry as a whole to respond, maybe an intern could filter through the mass and forward only likely pitches to the editor and respond to the vast sea of worthless pitches with a canned Thank You but this is the area I cover email? Or they can continue banging their heads against firewalls, blacklists and public exposes like on The Long Tail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Fran Onofrio, 11 Dec 2007 @ 8:41am

    Ink by the barrel

    I've worked in public relations for more than 20 years and have worked diligently to avoid the kind of unprofessional spamming of reporters discussed here. That means saying no to clients at times, but it really means hiring the right people and adhering to a professional philosophy.

    However, honestly, it's a two way street and, we can all vent. I think that we all realize the role of the press release and the changing nature of communication. But I wish I had a hundred dollars for each time an editor ran one of my releases word for word. And in the past PR people have avoided "arguing" with those who buy ink by the barrel and paper by the roll.

    Now there are new ways for both sides and "citizen journalists" to express ourselves. Let's all be more professional.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anon, 25 Oct 2012 @ 10:24pm

    Let it be known that I've studied and worked in both industries and I can tell you, journos and bloggers dont really know what plagiarism means. PR people often create copy from scratch, while you guessed it, journos and bloggers tend to copy large chunks of info and pass off as their own.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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