Worst pitch of the month: Qpid.me and sharing STD results via text

This month's roundup of terrible PR pitches include using Facebook to find out if a spouse is cheating and "the cubicle walk of shame."
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Last month, we started a new column here on ZDNet dedicated to the worst pitches we receive from PR reps.

At first I was a little nervous at how this featurette would be received, but turns out a lot of my PR friends spread the word via email and Twitter -- either out of entertainment or as a warning to their colleagues.

Either way, let's continue as there will likely never be a shortage of fodder for this topic. The 194 voicemails on my phone can attest to that.

See also: Worst pitch of the month: Plantronics and the mass employee wedding

In February, the overwhelming theme that strung most of our winners together was Valentine's Day. Honestly, I don't see how business technology and romance mix in any plausible way. Perhaps I should give more credit to PR professionals for trying -- but really they were just trying too hard.

With South by Southwest earlier in March, naturally there was a deluge of pitches each day.

(For reference, while I typically receive many story ideas and press releases each day in my inbox, it tends to downpour at certain times of year, such as the holiday season and the few weeks leading up to CES in January.)

Considering SxSW attracts a wide range of interests and characters itself, there's not much room for surprise when it comes to just how ridiculous some of the story pitches were.

Nevertheless, one should never underestimate how outlandish (not to mention inappropriate) some of these emails can get.

Here's the worst (or maybe just creepiest) one, by far:

Is South by Southwest (SXSW) the new Spring Break for Emerging Tech Geeks? The must have mobile technology for SXSW isn’t a festival guide or chat/photo feature – it’s a new website that allows you to verify and check someone’s STD status on your mobile phone – Qpid.me. *Qpid.me is a free website for people who wants to privately share their verified STD results with anyone via text message or online*.

Geeks love it! It’s a known fact that there is a huge amount of "Sex" that happens at SXSW as creators, indie film makers, up-and-coming stars flock there to spark ideas, find investors, create together and…have sex. The panel sessions on Sex and Creativity tend to be most popular. But is the free love of the festival worth the after effects of coming home with an unwanted gift like some Spring Breakers, an STD?

If you would like to speak to the creator of Qpid.me – Ramin Bastani, please let us know!


It's not that such a service isn't useful. Certainly, it's a good idea to discuss things with a partner, and this potentially removes some of the embarrassment factor.

But besides potentially surpassing the boundaries of mobile notifications, all the spring break/SxSW/tech geek references are all just a bit much -- especially considering, once again, this doesn't relate to business and enterprise technology at all.

(Or at least not on the surface, but I digress...)

I also feel that I should include a few honorable mentions -- albeit they are not SxSW-related. However, this is more of a subcategory for the worst email subject lines.

Or perhaps I should rephrase that as the best worst subject lines because while they certainly caught my attention, the rest of the text was drab if not a complete letdown.

Here are two for your enjoyment and ridicule:

Subject line: Facebook, Is My Wife Cheating On Me?

Facebook’s social search via Graph has put the first nails in the coffin of multiple industries. It threatens to make marketing agencies, detectives, lawyers and more obsolete. Graph tells you the intersection of people, places, photos and interests from a billion members. The outcomes are very different than googling someone since you are getting references rather than simple look ups.

“Graph” is a computer science term for traversing data structures, not just up and down but in any direction.

Facebook Graph users (marketers, jealous spouses, potential employers) could potentially search your past or potential whereabouts, activities, opinions and “friends.” When using search engines people tend to believe the results as “fact” or “news.” The now famous State Farm, “Where’d you hear that?” commercial is a spoof on what happens when fact meets opinion.

I put Graph to the test on two highly talked about items last month. I asked who would win Grammy’s “Best New Artist.” The result “Scotty McCreery” (posted here) is a miss because he wasn’t nominated in 2013 though many people “like” him. I then asked who would win Best Picture for the Oscars (Academy Awards, I tried several variations), with oddly no results at all. Interpreting the results is too much like Fortunetelling. The system has the potential for sowing doubt without enough facts.

The implication is that we must give up more of our privacy to make Graph accurate or take ourselves completely “off the grid.” Cheating spouses and Grammy winners aside, the evolution of Social Search outlines new job opportunities just as the first Internet search engines did.

I am Lawrence I. Lerner (President LLBC, LLC) a recognized and published change agent. Last year I co-wrote ‘Facebook for Your Business.’ In this book I predicted the release of this latest feature in the world of Social Commerce. It’s my prediction that information privacy will be an important platform of the next presidential election.

Please let me know if you are interested in an interview and I will plan accordingly.



Subject line: The Cubicle Walk of Shame

Yahoo! has stunned the nation by its decision to no longer allow employees to work from home. Is their justification really about efficiency or is it merely a way to micro-manage? Tim Houlne and Terri Maxwell, authors of The New World of Work: From the Cube to the Cloud, offer a unique perspective on this highly controversial topic. They are phenomenal speakers and make entertaining guests.

Please read the following press release and let me know if I may schedule an interview with either Tim or Terri that is sure to be of interest to your audience. Thank you.



The Cubicle Walk of Shame

Irving, TX, March 13, 2013 - In one of the most stunning, non-progressive moves seen from a technology company, Yahoo! has banned working from home. The justification was to improve speed and quality by working side-by-side as one. This begs the question – is the issue really virtual work or the lack of good management coupled with an inability to capitalize on the virtual work environment?

There is a New Currency:

The truth is that the new currency for top tier talent is freedom. These people came to the realization long ago that gold-watch retirements are a thing of the past, and to ensure a long-term career meant taking matters into their own hands. Since the benefits offered by corporations such as insurance and paid vacations are not part of this new world of work, freedom and flexibility became the desirable traits.

Spend the New Currency with Better Management:

Progressive companies attract creative, productive talent with the way they “manage people,” which truthfully is not to manage people at all. Rather than buy into the “productivity can only be seen” mode of thinking, companies that embrace the virtualization of work product attract that always sought after motivated self-starter.

To capitalize on this new work currency, companies must:

• Manage the process and outcome, not the people.

• Utilize more peer to peer management to encourage collaboration.

• Invest in cloud technology to manage projects.

• Understand virtual collaboration both from a technology and communication standpoint in order to get the best ideas.

• Physical presence does not improve creativity. Creative people engaged in the idea and committed to a solid outcome do.

$2 Bills Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time:

Forcing people to return to a cubicle breeds a level of mistrust. Obviously those who have enjoyed the freedom of virtual work environments will feel that they are not empowered to perform their job on their own. The top tier talent won’t make the cubicle walk of shame. They will simply find another place to commit their talents. Only those who feel they do not have a choice will succumb.

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