Look what comedic material fell into my lap

Most of you know I work in the public relations industry. I did six-to-seven years in PR penitentiary, i.e. PR agency life. But now that I'm out on parole (i.e. the beautiful freedom of corporate life), it's interesting to see the industry through a different point-of-view and I'm really enjoying the experience. (In all seriousness, agency life isn't that bad...)

Anyways, in my inbox this morning was a cold-call e-mail from a boutique PR agency I've never heard of. I'm changing up the names/locations to protect the innocent (highlighted in red), but this was just so awful that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share how not to pitch your PR agency to someone:

Subject: Quick question about your media coverage


I want to take a minute and introduce myself. My name is Jane Doe and I am the CFO of Loony Bin Public Relations, an agency with offices in places that don’t have a large media presence. Loony Bin PR has strong media and analyst contacts and a reputation of being proactive in securing publicity for our clients, which helps them gain recognition to surpass
their competition.

Our seasoned media relations specialists have many success stories and we know how to get you attention during these turbulent times. While companies are cutting back spending on marketing, savvy companies are finding inexpensive ways like media relations to grab market share. We know how to maximize your story and product announcement potential to get this type of coverage. We consistently get our clients featured in industry publications as well as in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, etc. If you would like this type of exposure, let me know and I can call you at your convenience.

Best Regards,


Jane Doe
Website with awful bios
Twitter Account with less than 200 followers

Listen, I know that it is rough out there right now and people are desperate for business. But don't let that desperation shine through!! Besides doing some basic research about what I do for the company I work for and the kind of coverage we're after, here are some basic pointers to take a cold-call pitch to the next level:
  • Make sure your subject line actually states the objective of the e-mail. In this e-mail, Ms. Doe does not even ask me a question. Yet because of the subject line, I kept reading hoping to figure out exactly what her question was about my media coverage. I was hoping she had some kind of analysis, 'cause that would have been nice.
  • Fix the salutation. I'm not saying use "Ms. B." in the e-mail, but a "Hi" or "Dear" would have been pleasant. Let's not be too casual here. I haven't even met you.
  • The person sending the e-mail is just as important as who it is being sent to. Why is the CFO of the company e-mailing me? I work for a manufacturing company with a speciality in technology, and doing a quick search of Ms. Doe online shows that her background is in finance... how is that relevant to the technology industry? Next time, have someone e-mailing potential clients that has relevant experience. Do you target media contacts this poorly? Because it makes me wonder.
  • Spell-check/format check. No, that wasn't a bad copy/paste job on my part. The first paragraph was formatted that way. If you're this sloppy when trying to drum up business, how do you treat media?
  • If you can't say something smart, don't say it at all. Yeah, we live in a global world and most work is done remotely now, but don't advertise the fact that your three locations are in markets where there is absolutely no media presence. Just leave it out of the pitch... P.S. -- especially leave out your locations when I have zero presence in those locations too.
  • Give relevant examples. Why should I take your word that you have great media relations skills? If your form letter e-mail with no personalization or insight into what I DO in PR is any indication, I can only imagine how disastrous your media pitches to try and garner coverage are. This is the opportunity to show me that you have relevant experience in the areas where I need the most help!!
  • Research your targets. Similar to the above, I work for a company who is doing quite well in "turbulent times." Next time, spend five minutes on finance.yahoo.com to figure that out, please.
  • Don't devalue your service. Media relations done properly is not cheap. But it provides potentially a higher value than other forms of traditional marketing/advertising.
  • Of course I want WSJ coverage, but don't make promises you can't keep. Again, what do you know about my products or my company that makes you think you can secure that caliber of publications? Better yet, do you even know who I would target? Of course you don't.
  • Your online footprint is an embarrassment. Unfortunately, I can't show you these without ruining my vow to protect the innocent, but make sure your Website, LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, and Twitter handles are up-to-date and reflect the quality of work you conduct.
So, my fellow PR professionals, have you had any similar experiences or tips and tricks you would like to add to this list?

By the way, Loony Bin PR: It took me less than 10 minutes to figure out who you were, the type of clients you have, your previous experience, the works. And that 10 minutes is invaluable when you can use the information you gather to develop a pitch that would have had me calling you back. Just saying...

(P.S. Mad props to my pal @brittneydanne who really got into the sluething portion of this post)


Amelia said...

Great post Jenni! I have one that just adds the cherry to yours. I got a similar pitch but to my personal email box b/c the person sending the pitch didn't realize that some of my online personas are "personal" and others are part of my company. That just through me over the top! I slammed them in my response. Sorry but that was poor form all around on their part. Like you I will also protect the innocent and divulge who or what firm.
Amelia - fellow parolee!

John Yarbrough said...

Well, I'll give her credit. At least she inspired you to spend 10 minutes learning about her firm, even if it was primarily for entertainment.

Jenni said...

Ugh, that is a good point, John. Dang.

Babs said...

Eh, I get these too. But, since I am in the decorative plumbing industry I get them from companies in China trying to sell me toilets in broken English. It is really something to laugh at.