I’m not saying public relations professionals don’t need a wake up call on the stayed and stale practices of copy-paste pitching. I’m not saying there aren’t unethical hacks out there who should shape up or ship out.
I am saying that a journalist (or a blogger for that matter) who publicly humiliates someone just trying to do their job â€“ even poorly â€“ or goes a step further by declaring that person’s employer on a permanent banned list is performing the adult (though not mature) equivalent of Chris Hargensen ordering up buckets of pigs blood to be dumped on Carrie White at prom.
Geoff Livingston is a friend and fellow public relations pro who seems to agree with me.
My biggest beef is this: Public relations professionals most often serve a valuable purpose for media members, including bloggers. They provide access and useful information about their clients or companies. Without them most stories that entertain and enrich the public through traditional media and many on blogs would go untold. The others would have half-assed information.
For Gina, Chris and Matt (almost) to say, “One person â€¦ Jane Smith, the 23-year-old newbie who doesn’t know any better but I’m publicly and forever humilitating because I’m an almighty and powerful journalist/blogger person, bwahahahahahah! â€¦ from a firm sent me a pitch that didn’t catch my attention, therefore your company is forever considered a spammer and won’t make the consideration set,” is unfair to the individual, the company, its clients, its future clients and, most importantly, their own audiences.
My suggestion is that by declaring these media members or bloggers unfit for pitching, they are the ones who will ultimately pay the price as they cut their audiences off from the world of valuable information public relations professionals provide them.
What if a company Lifehacker routinely covered or highlighted in their posts were represented by a firm on her banned list? Oh, wait. Ogilvy, one of the most respected PR firms in the world, is on there. LG Electronics is their client. Guess Gina won’t be using info from LG anymore.
What if Steve Jobs hired Ogilvy one day? Would Gina backtrack and accept emails from them? If she’s not a moron, yes. Hope she knows how to re-white list people and if she does, that she’ll publicly admit reinstating PR firms into good graces.
For the record, I know firms like Ogilvy, Shift Communications and Future-Works, all on the banned list, are very committed to best practices in blogger outreach. But because of the short-sighted cruelty of the triumvirate above, if they hold true to their word, are forever banned from doing their jobs, and without the opportunity to make amends or draw retribution. Even if PR firms followed my unrealistic notion of blacklisting journalists, their clients would suffer, so it’s not an option.
I’ve had the good fortune to sit on both sides of the aisle in the media/blogger vs. PR pitch person relationship. I’ve even been a real, full-fledged journalist, not just a blogger, and at a large media operation. In the noisy world that is PR pitches, it’s easy to get frustrated, especially with the bad ones. But starting a public embarassment wiki is below the belt and unneccessary. It’s the kind of thing that feasibly could negatively effect people’s careers or a company’s ability to earn business.
And, as it turns out, Gina Trapani’s personal email address is listed in Cision’s media database, meaning she and/or Lifehacker have volunteered to put her on outreach lists. It doesn’t excuse bad pitching, but she kinda asked for it and now wants to humiliate those she gave permission to. Sad. (NOTE: Graph added after initial publishing.)
NOTE ON PREVIOUS GRAPH: As we’ve reported in a subsequent post, Cision admitted making the mistake of adding the incorrect email address for Ms. Trapani. As such, the previous comment from me was based on incorrect information. I still think humiliating PR firms and folks is bad form, but she didn’t do it with the insinuated contradiction.
Does PR have a long way to go? Yes. Do many public relations professionals need to learn that reaching out in the digital world demands relevance, personalization and relationship-building? Yes. (I would argue reaching out in the traditional world demands that, too, by the way.)
But is it cool for journalists or bloggers to publicly humiliate those with pitches that are bad, hastily done or perhaps even just ones the journalists don’t like? Hell no.
On Media Pitching
The immediate predecessor to this blog was one called The Straight Pitch. The original premise was for journalists and bloggers everywhere to fill out a simple form explaining how they liked to be pitched. Several outstanding media members participated. I gave up on the premise after recording over 2,000 custom asks of media members and bloggers to tell the world how they like to be pitched and notching a success rate of less than one percent. While I didn’t approach Chris, Gina or Matt in that array of 2,000 approaches, journalists aren’t really interested in helping with the problem. The recent attacks on PR firms and folks by the three amigos above is further evidence of that.
I’ve also written some pointers on how to appropriately approach bloggers, including a case study for everyone to comment on, here.
IMAGE: Gina Trapani by Will Pate on Flickr.
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