I love PR people. I really do. But *some* of them are a little much. This is another rant against the PR people that give everyone else a bad name.
I get that you have a job to do, and that job is booking your client somewhere, or finding a place for your client to share his or her thoughts. But the aggressiveness gets to me, especially as my inbox fills up with requests and “followups” and attempts to reach me on multiple fronts. I've ranted about PR people before, and after last weekend, I feel the need to rant some more.
As always, my rants should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, there are a number of lovely PR people that I think are AWESOME. And, of course, even the PR people that drive me the most nuts are just trying to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. But I've got to get this out there, and this is my platform. Feel free to share your own stories in the comments.
PR People Who Try to Connect with You Everywhere
My biggest issue recently has been PR people trying to connect with me everywhere, and then telling me about it. Recently, I've had a number of PR people follow this pattern:
- Answer a HARO request
- Send a separate email introducing themselves and reiterating the HARO request
- Asking to connect on LinkedIn, while referring to the email and HARO request as part of the message
- Follow me on Twitter and the DM me if I'm not paying enough attention and I follow back
Is there some sort of special “tactics” class out there that teaches PR people how to be aggressive on as many fronts as possible? I'm not the only blogger/freelance journalist dealing with these issues. One response to my Facebook post included someone whose pet peeve is this: “What drives me nuts is all the emails I get with a subject line that starts with ‘Re:' trying to con me into believing that this is a reply to something I started.”
Another commenter wondered if some PR people (male and female alike) take more liberties when the subject is a woman. He was responding to my frustration over a passive-aggressive email I received from a PR person who ended the email with a “winky face,” presumably to take the sting away from telling me that s/he (no way to tell the gender of the PR person) hoped I might actually answer this email (I didn't). My friend is pretty sure that, as a man, he wouldn't receive a “winky face” in a business/professional email.
I also received complaints from fellow writers who were also tired of being found on multiple social media channels and then inundated with information. “YES, I TOO HAVE AN APP THAT YOUR READERS WOULD LIKE TO HEAR ABOUT,” she posted, tongue-in-cheek, “I WILL FIND YOU ON ALL CHANNELS AND WRITE TO YOU IN ALL CAPS.”
It's hard to feel the love for PR people when it feels more like they are stalking you than anything else. There are PR people I feel comfortable with. They have usually either met me offline (perhaps at a conference), or they have provided me with useful information in the past. These are people I can notify when I have needs, and they can let me know if one of their clients fits the bill.
It's hard to feel the love when your inbox is out of control and the PR person just wants you to send a quick response. If I sent a quick response to every single pitch I received, I wouldn't have time to actually write for money.
We Have a Relationship. Well, We Did Until You Sent Your PR People Knocking.
One of the growing trends in the world of online brand and reputation building is to hire other people to place guest posts and schedule interviews. This is something I understand. I have toyed with the idea of getting someone to go out there and book me on podcasts, since I hate asking for things.
While this is kind of a cool concept, and I get why you would do it (outsourcing mundane tasks that someone else can do) so that you can focus on more important business issues, it would also be nice if your PR people did a little background.
Not too long ago, an enthusiastic PR person contacted me to tell me about a cool up-and-coming player in the financial services world. They could totally put me in touch with the CEO or someone else, and it would be great (and useful to my readers, of course) if I could write a review of the product. Here's why this was annoying:
I have already interviewed the CEO and other high-ups several times. I have already written a number of reviews, for different sites, about this product. I use the product and have written about how I use the product. I used to write for the company's blog.
A simple Google search with my name + the company's name yields about 1,220 results in 0.64 seconds. Sending a canned email introducing me to the company, and treating me like I need to be enlightened about your product doesn't endear me to you. Instead, it makes things painfully obvious that the “good” relationship I thought I had with the company is actually irrelevant. I know I'm really not a big deal. But you don't need to rub it in. You're a PR person. You're supposed to help me feel valued by the company.
I've also been somewhat disappointed to receive guest post requests on behalf of individual bloggers that I know personally. Do I get that they hire PR people and social media experts to schedule guest posts? Yes. I don't have a problem with it. But a little research would show you, gentle PR person, that I write for the blog you are pitching to me. Approaching me and asking “do you accept guest posts on your site” and making it painfully clear that you don't realize that I work with your client on a regular basis and that we actually know each other in real life is kind of a turn off.
Rather than saying, “Hey visit this site (that you write for) to learn more about my client,” try, “Hey, I know you work with my client. Can s/he send you a guest post?”
I know PR people are busy, and they have email blasting to do, but a little tailoring can go a long way in some cases.
When I receive communications like this, it makes me reluctant to hire PR people, since I don't want to be the person who approaches people I know and like through PR people who don't realize that we already have a relationship. I'd rather hop on groups I belong to on Facebook, tell people what I'm doing and what I need, and see who's interested in working with me. It takes up more of my time, but at least I'm not letting PR people ruin my relationships.
Do you think I'm being too sensitive? Where am I off base?