Public relations fail: A lesson and a rant

Public relations fail: A lesson and a rant

Summary: I try to be supportive of the public relations industry. I spotlight wins.

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I try to be supportive of the public relations industry. I spotlight wins. I publicly thank people for their good ideas. I do research reports to help clients, bloggers and agencies better communicate and understand each other. All of that said, I have very little tolerance for basic violations of "PR 101" best practices. This morning's violation? I'll explain in three parts:

  1. Mass email
  2. Unapproved inclusion on an email list
  3. Lack of BCC on said mass email

Who does this? Beth Brody of Brody PR and Michelle Brusyo of Digital Brand Expressions did this today. The dynamic duo created an email list of, I'm guessing, at least 100 social media influencers to promote some social media book. What book? I am not going to tell you because I don't want to give this book any publicity. But I will say to the author(s): Find new representation.

This PR flop resulted in countless "reply all" emails to the list, and many requests for removal. I heard from a few friends who were subjected to the list that they'd requested removal hours earlier but were still getting spammed. Granted, replying all is a sin in and of itself. I eventually did so only to ask people to shut up and focus their requests to the original sender, which was done in a moment of outrage. Interestingly enough, very few of us read the actual pitch in the email -- so if they were trying to annoy us into submission that didn't work.

I'm sure some people will read this and think, "Why is she blogging about this?" Well, one, I'm annoyed. Hey, at least I am honest. And two, I think there is a lesson here. For those of us who have been good PR people -- or are good PR people -- it's seethe-worthy when we see the craft violated in such a way. Many bloggers and journalists believe that PR as an entity sucks but that is not true. There are a lot of amazing PR professionals out there who provide me with a wealth of ideas and support (hint: scroll over for some names). But actions like this make it near impossible for the media to take PR people seriously.

I personally have blocked pitches and emails from the above violators. I am not saying that you should blacklist them. Then again, no apology has yet to be received from either of them in the near four hours that the spam emails have been floating around.

If you're a PR person reading this, I highly suggest NOT pitching anyone in social media today.

Other takes on the issue from AdAge and SocialMedia.biz.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration

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24 comments
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  • This is not a PR thing

    This is a email etiquette thing. Whenever somebody emails in bulk, BCC should be used. This ranges from sending a link to those puppies on YouTube (you know who you are) to professional ads.
    happyharry_z
    • Not entirely, but kind of is

      Harry,

      I don't disagree with you that this is an email etiquette thing, but to be perfectly frank this type of sophomoric blunder is all too frequent in the PR realm.

      It bothers me because not only have I done the work myself in the past, but because I have the pleasure of knowing some of the most amazing communications professionals around ... and things like this make it hard for those who are truly good at their job.

      People like this have no business in the business.
      cathybrooks
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  • RE: Public relations fail: A lesson and a rant

    Jennifer - whenever I read these, I feel like I should
    be apologizing on behalf of my profession. Its beyond
    my understanding how these practices still go on - I
    have never once sent a mass email to journalists and I
    can't imagine how this could possibly benefit a PR
    person or their client. I don't read mass emails sent
    to me, so why would we think a journalist would?

    I am flattered that you mentioned me in the good
    section, but I can't really be happy until there is no
    need to write articles like these anymore.

    I think we needed a SXSW track for PR people called:
    REALLY? You're still doing that?

    I hope the "reply alls" stop soon.

    -pprlisa (Lisa Dilg, PerkettPR)
    lisa@...
  • RE: Public relations fail: A lesson and a rant

    As a PR professional but also one of the list victims, I'm only sorry that I didn't have time to blog it before you did. Well said.
    jason@...
  • RE: Public relations fail: A lesson and a rant

    is this news? Are you just blogging about your job to other people with your job? Like you somehow do it so much better than them? I wish I could be you and be smarmy AND perfect, but then I wouldn't know what to do, or is this the limit of your imagination and the best non-pitched article you could write?
    pearlybaker
    • :)

      Yes.
      Jennifer Leggio
  • RE: Public relations fail: A lesson and a rant

    Well, starting an online war complete with publicly naming
    names is not much better. Writing a blog about the practice
    itself and proper e-mail etiquette would have been a good
    move.

    Naming people and ranting about them. Unprofessional at
    best.
    David Moyle
    • War.

      I wouldn't call this a war. Though several other bloggers have written about this issue today doing the very same thing (not saying it's right, just saying...). The point of me writing this, as I stated, is that I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned in this industry. Should I have not named names? Should I have dug more into the offenses? Maybe. That's all subjective. But it is what it is, and from the feedback I am getting it has sparked a little bit of a wake-up call among some members of the PR community. That's all I really wanted.
      Jennifer Leggio
      • Maybe not

        I just seem to remember that I was taught it isn't always good PR for
        oneself or one's company to go naming names and using other people as
        a public example on a blog of what not to do in a situation like this. It
        can come across as petty.

        Further, it subjects you to others waiting for you to make a mistake and
        making it public. Just seems silly and counterproductive in the long run.

        And, I have seen some rather lengthy online battles started this way
        David Moyle
        • Well...

          I guess I was more concerned with creating a lesson than PR for myself. As a matter of fact, I rarely think about PR for myself. I also know that regardless of whether I did this or not, if I ever screw up (which I will) others will jump on the bandwagon. Right or not, nothing I do will make it worse, or better.
          Jennifer Leggio
    • I completely disagree. Naming names is a cleanser.

      The offenders already publicly embarrassed themselves by sending out mass e-mails in the first place. I'm not sure that it qualifies as an outing, since the people in question pretty much did the outing themselves by their stupidity.
      bhartman36
  • RE: Public relations fail: A lesson and a rant

    As a PR person, I'll be sure to avoid sending you a pitch today. PR practitioners already have a bad rap as "spin doctors," and now this case is added to the list of "why PR people are annoying."
    LauraLLL
    • What's interesting...

      ...is that had the offenders been culpable, sent apologies, etc., they could've avoided this blog, or AdAge's blog, or Chris Abraham's blog, etc. Live and learn.
      Jennifer Leggio
  • RE: Public relations fail: A lesson and a rant

    While this, as I understand it, was not a direct solicitation to buy, CAN SPAM still applies and is pretty clear on this.

    All professionals should be aware of correct outreach process, yes?

    Opt-out and BCCs at the very least.

    http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/ecommerce/bus61.shtm

    @OPCGal on Twitter
    OPCGal
  • RE: Public relations fail: A lesson and a rant

    An apology from Brody PR - I created a list of social media experts who might be interested in reviewing a new guide to social media for small biz. I inadvertently put the list name in the cc: box, rather than the bcc: box. A few folks must have hit the "reply all" button, rather than clicking on the ?unsubscribe link? at the bottom, which started a stream of spam. Please accept my personal apology, albeit a little late in the day, since I was trying to remove everyone who wanted to be unsubscribed from the list immediately.
    rbbb1
    • Thanks.

      Appreciate the apology. It's part the BCC issue. It's also that such an impersonal email is not going to be effective for a long-term success, nor is creating an email list such as that without the members opting in good email etiquette in general. Lesson learned, it seems. :)
      Jennifer Leggio
  • Well you know Jennifer...

    ...YOU'RE a proponent of this "Social Networking" crap, where people put their personal info on the web for all to find...so it looks like you just got bitten in the a$$, and don't like it.

    Poor baby. :-(
    IT_Guy_z
    • Hm.

      Not at all the point.
      Jennifer Leggio
  • It's happened far too often

    These people get tech tools w/o out any training or without any impetus to find out what the protocol is for using them. Some of the instances I've had occur to me have been biggies, too (think "IBM" and "Oracle").

    Bash away - hopefully they'll learn a lesson. They weren't shy about involving you, no need to be shy in letting them know they screwed up.
    ejhonda