Friday, February 05, 2010

What not to do when sending PR materials

I'm a journalist. And normally I don’t write about my job because I don’t think it's professional to do that on a personal blog. Also because it would look out of place next to my posts analyzing the merits of various BBC Jane Austen adaptation films.

But I thought this cautionary tale might be helpful to any of you doing your own PR for your books.

Yesterday my boss received an e-mail from some “PR” person who had attached a .zip file of a bunch of articles. The body of the e-mail said something like, “Hello. Here are some articles. I feel that they would be relevant to publish.”

Annnnnnd nothing else. Except in the “from” box, where it was clear the person had sent the e-mail to every newspaper in a 200-mile radius.

This story probably sounds ridiculous to, well, most normal people. But also to anyone who has spent any time on publishing blogs, because we all know how much literary agents HATE blanket e-mails. But you should know…journalists and publications hate them, too. Why?

Let’s set aside for the moment the overwhelming stack of reasons to hit ‘Delete’ on this e-mail, the most obvious being that it that told my boss absolutely nothing about what was in some file he was supposed to download, and the file’s heavy potential for being virus-y.

My boss pointed out that, aside from all of this, the sender should have at least made everyone an “undisclosed recipient,” because now my boss knows that the “articles” (*cough* virus-laden zip files *cough*) have been sent to every one of his competitors.

Local news outlets want to believe they have the scoop on some interesting piece of news. If they know you’ve sent your super-special story idea (with value-added bonus material, which you’ve included because you read this post) to everybody, they’ll be much less likely to want to cover it themselves.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t send your stuff to everybody – maybe you should. Just don’t throw in their faces that they're the 434th person to receive it.

P.S. Disguising your press release as a "Public Service Announcement" and asking me to publish your "PSA" is not going to work. I got one of those today, and here's my PSA to that person: Nobody is that dumb. And random words like "marriage" should not be capitalized when they're in the middle of a sentence. Thank you.


jmberrygirl said...

Hilarious! PSA! Love it!

Dominique said...

Nice PSA. I'll remember that one.

Someone somewhere on the blogosphere once compared querying to asking someone to the Prom. One thing they said was, "You might ask 50 girls to the Prom, but that's no reason for each girl/guy not to feel like she/he was the first." And, probably, if 47 can tell he/she is 47, they're not gonna be feeling the love or the interest you're hoping for.

Tess said...

This made me giggle..and the 'added value' link back to your previous post was really great. I took notes, thanks!

~ The Jolly Bee ~ said...

Thank you. Thank you. And thank you. I am a former journalist and I remember those days of being basically bombed with press releases and those nifty PSAs. We tossed most unless the publisher pressured us into printing them (advertisers used to get preferential handling in the newsroom). Can you say "conflict of interest?"

Kate said...

Great post - I work in marketing and PR and I would never send anything like this and I am a beginner!

Kate xx

Anna Claire said...

LOL Kate. The worst stuff is usually from people who are self-promoting, but I still get crazy stuff from supposed PR "professionals."

I'm fully convinced that many companies have no idea how valuable a good and competent PR/marketing professional truly is.

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