Darwin’s theory: PR pitches are improving

Since my last missive on this subject, I have continued to receive endless brain numbing e-mail press releases for topics that have no interest to me. 

My favourite off-target pitch was for a new sun tanning salon in New York.  Seriously lads, c’mon would you.

I really don’t think this blog is a terribly effective outlet for promoting products and services, however having said that, I think we should reward good blog relations.

Today’s Gold Star goes to Morgan van Ancken from Morton PR, for his pitch on Shutterstock:

Shutterstock is a stock photography and stock footage site that uses crowdsourcing to generate its image library (they have over 6 million stock photos). This means that by outsourcing the task of taking pictures to people around the world, they are able to offer extremely high quality stock imagery and footage at a more affordable price point than traditional agencies

Morgan wrote a great pitch, demonstrated he had wasted valuable time reading this blog :-) and weaved that well written pitch artfully with some standard blurb.

Good job Morgan.

I won’t be publishing the URL for the Tanning salon.

Call me Naive… Tom Naive..

Now I’m as cynical as the next person but I have to say I have been shocked surprised this week about the volume of shysters on the Internet.

With an imminent move to the US on the cards, we’ve been making preparations such as selling cars etc. After posting an ad on CarZone.ie last week myself and her indoors have been besieged with scammers, not only via e-mail but on the phone as well.

Now granted the efforts were pretty hamfisted, but I imagine if you weren’t quite as cynical as your correspondent, you might have entertained them.

At least I hope they were scammers….

Some light relief…

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, here it’s grey and wet. 

So here’s some light entertainment you might have seen before.

British comedian Eddie Izzard’s take on Darth Vader going to the Death Star cafeteria. Mild swearing… it put a smile on my face  (and 6,000,000 other people to date).… oh all set to motion capture lego.

Shocking! PR & Journalists giving out, awards, e-books, Olde Media, and explaining to your mother what you do for a living…


Just catching up on my lazy RSS reading.  You probably won’t be surprised to hear that there’s a lot of PR blogging about Twitter, from how you can become an expert, to how you can measure it etc. etc. etc.

I plan to skip it for the moment if that’s OK. Well I plan to skip it anyway actually. :-)

So, here, in no particular order at all, are some of the PR tidbits that I thought were worth sharing… (that don’t talk about Twitter directly)

PRs overcharge journalists shocker

Andrew Smith provides The Guardian’s Charles Arthur with 10 things to consider about the tech PR industry following Charles’ post concerning how PR people treat journalists like car companies treat parts suppliers. :-)

Every time someone like Charles bemoans the “did you get my press release” tactic, PRs rush to decry the practice: “Oh no, we don’t do that”. Then who the bloody hell is then? It clearly continues at a significant enough rate to remain an issue for journalists across the board.

It made me laugh anyway.

There’s life in the old media yet

There’s some interesting results from a survey conducted by Ketchum and USC Annenberg Strategic Public Relations Center and reported by eMarketer, which found that while online media usage continues to grow, traditional media consumption is stabilizing in the US. [Hat tip to Simon Wakeman]

Media Used by US Internet Users, 2006-2008 (% of respondents)

Read the eMarketer report here.

Trust me I’m a practitioner

Piaras Kelly has published the latest Edelman Trust Barometer for Ireland.  No surprise that trust is falling for the media, government and business (although Technology and Biotech continued to be the most trusted industries).  Trust in traditional media has fallen but it still outstrips online sources on this cold Emerald isle.

David Armano has another take on trust :-)



Nothing beats face-to-face communication

Jason Falls has an interesting post about how there are limits to how far you can go with social media alone.  I found the link via Bill Sledzik who writes that we shouldn’t forget the most effective form of communication is still face-to-face.

And the winner is…

Here is something that I had missed but found courtesy of Dan York.  It appears that Mr. Neville Hobson has won the 2009 IABC Chairman’s Award.  Congratulations to Neville!

What is it you do again?

Richard Laermer pens a thoughtful post of what PR actually is. I know how he feels, my mother still can’t grasp this “career” and I don’t think the advent of Twitter and Facebook is going to make the challenge any easier.

A(nother) book on social media marketing :-)

Todd Defren has released a collection of his “best thinking” from the past five years on social media marketing.

Time for a change

headerA colleague recently asked me would I mind giving their friend’s daughter some career advice.  She’s interested in a career in PR and in the current economic climate she was looking for guidance. 

Although I’m quickly becoming an elder lemon, I still remember what it’s like starting out.  I think we should all be ready and willing to hopefully pass on some useful advice.

Of course I always preface my “career advice” with the caveat that when I left college I didn’t know what I really wanted to do, but I did know that there were two things I wanted to avoid. Public Relations and Computers.

Given I’ve spent the last 16 years doing PR in the IT industry, I might not be the best person to advise anyone…

I think I’ve been incredibly lucky.  I’ve worked with fantastic people whether they were colleagues, clients, journalists or analysts.  I’ve worked hard but have fantastic times and have always had the opportunity to continue to learn and develop.

I took up my current role with Microsoft Ireland back in August 2005 and have thoroughly enjoyed looking after the company’s local PR and CSR programmes. I’ve learned a lot, worked with great colleagues and enjoyed every minute.

Of course working in PR you know that there always comes time for a change. And this is that time.

So in March I am moving with my family to Seattle to take up a new job at Microsoft. 

With a new job, in a new country, with a new baby, I guess it’ll be a busy 2009. But as they say a change is as good as a rest, and I’m sure I’ll soon find out!

I’ll keep you posted.

Get personal – the good and the bad

Following on from my previous post on e-mail pitches… relax it’s not a rant.

This blog is neither influential nor widely read. That’s a fact mum.

I got two pitches today that show the right and the wrong way to pitch.

The good…

Adam Abu-Nab from Rubber Republic sent me a well written “personal” pitch, with a good common sense subject line that explained about Computertan.com (see the video below).  The one small blip was the usual (untrue) flattery about my influence – I’m sure some people like it, I just cringe a little :-)

But to reward a well written pitch take a look at why Computertan.com is worth a click and why not visit their site as well.


The missed opportunity

So on the other hand, here’s a lesson in how to lose an easy win in a single blog pitch.

I received a pitch for a new book on how you can turn a crisis into an opportunity… that’s the subject line, so far so good, relevant book, relevant subject line, then you open the e-mail:


Hi Murphy


Do you think this is a personalized pitch or a botched mail merge? I’m willing to bet the latter. Not really a big deal, but a silly mistake.

A good example of turning an easy opportunity into a missed opportunity. Attention to detail was something drummed into me in my first days in a PR agency in the early 1990s.  It’s as relevant today as it was then.

Is the glass(house) half empty yet?

I have always taken the conservative route along the road of “naming and shaming” embarrassingly inept PR e-mail pitches based on the glasshouse theory.

The reality is that we ALL have bad days at the office.  In truth I fear that the one time I do name and shame it’ll come back to bite me – call it the coward’s dilemma.

However, it appears to me that the volume of these PR e-mails seems to be increasing.

My favourite piece of PR Spam today is so wrong on a number of levels. 

Firstly, what value does this blog have for any client interested in reaching a broad audience? None.

So the agency is wasting their client’s “time” – although you could argue spamming thousands of blogs doesn’t take a lot of time at all – and maybe by spamming they believe they are saving time.

Secondly spamming me about a service for a “phone” that I have never blogged about (a cursory look at my bio would underline why it’s highly unlikely I ever would blog about that particular phone – send your guesses to someone else’s e-mail address) is pretty dumb.

Finally spamming me about a service that’ll help me “date on the go” doesn’t really fit with:

  1. the irregular musings on this blog
  2. my marital status

There was a time I used to gently reply to these twits and try and help them see the error of their ways.  Now I don’t bother.

Hopefully some of them will come to their senses. If this is the “value” we’re offering our clients, we’re in trouble.


Just as I hit publish I got a really interesting pitch on a medical records company. Sigh.

Social media and PR?

Browsing through many neglected RSS feeds today, there wasn’t a lot that tickled my fancy (so to speak).

Once again, I did see a couple of posts that probably should have been held in a “drafts” folder overnight – and then deleted. 

I don’t wish to pour salt on the wounds, but there are a couple of PR bloggers who would be well advised to take a deep breath before hitting publish.  I mean it’s never nice to lose a client, but writing a post on why the client was wrong (thankfully without naming names) is at best ill-advised – no matter how much better you feel about it – and writing posts in that vein every time you lose a client, can start to look as though your business is dissolving in real-time. Perception is, after all, often reality.

Enough said.

Over time you see the PR blog community converging on a small number of similar themes. 

It will be no surprise that Twitter continues to be the subject of much attention, for example:

  • Drew offers 10 ways Twitter can be useful to a PR practitioner
  • Dave Fleet offers a list of 40 PR-related people to follow on Twitter.
  • Andrew Smith ponders the challenge of so little time, so many Tweets.

Elsewhere the subject of “social media” is attracting some commentary from the UK fraternity.

The Chartered Institute of PR has released “Social Media Guidelines” (hat tip to Richard Bailey). (Disclaimer: In true blogging fashion I haven’t actually read the guidelines (though it has been added to an ever-growing “to-read” list), but I know some men who have.)

Stuart thinks they’re half-baked, while Simon points out that there’s some legal poetic license in there.

The cynics might say that about sums up Social Media. LOL.  Not me obviously gentle reader, no, not me. 



Talking of Social Media…. the excellent Don’t Panic Guide to Social Media (PDF) is coming to London in April, featuring a great line-up of speakers. Highly recommended.