No Room for Error

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Perplexed ManRecently, TechCrunch featured a post about an e-mail they received from a PR firm, which the publicist obviously didn’t mean to send. To summarize, the firm accidentally left an internal exchange at the bottom of the e-mail that discussed the actual art of pitching TechCrunch.

Since I started out in the PR industry, I’ve quickly seen more and more publicists get blasted throughout the interwebs for their mistakes. Granted this public exhibition of PR faux pas has made communications professionals more aware and cautious about what they send out for mass consumption. One could also argue that at the same time, it’s made us totally terrified.

Why so scared? It seems in today’s public relations world, you just aren’t allowed to make mistakes. With blogs, web sites, Twitter, etc., anyone can blast a publicist in a public forum for making an error.  Yes, some PR slip-ups are worse than others, and those super awful ones probably deserve the heckling – but do all of them?

Take the TechCrunch incident for example. Should the publicist have been more careful? Yes. However, at least within the context of the e-mail, the PR firm was having a slightly on point discussion on how to pitch the writer.

Before I hit the send button, I try and quadruple check everything to make sure I’m not doing something totally stupid. Is this comma in the right place? Wait, wait the journalist totally covers this topic correct? Let me go online and triple check and make sure. I refer to this practice as heightened e-mail anxiety. This routine doesn’t mean I never make mistakes. I will be the first to admit that I’ve had a few “oops” over the years.

In any job, especially if you are new and learning the ropes, you are bound to make a mistake here and there. It’s normal – or should I be so bold as to say it’s human. In PR it’s a whole different ballgame. One lapse in judgment and your reputation, job security, PR future, and self-esteem could all be at risk.

I understand the relevance of blogs like the Bad Pitch Blog that try to educate the public relations community by showing us what not to do.  Yet, the practice of PR bashing on the internet is becoming an all too common occurrence – I mean major technology web sites are talking about our mistakes. It seems as though anything is fair game. As publicists, are we just not allowed to make mistakes?

What do you think readers:  Should everyone lighten up a little bit? Do you think PR bashing has gone too far? Or, do you say game on?

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  • http://rpulvino.wordpress.com Rich Pulvino

    Great post here, Marie. I think people need to lighten up a little bit in terms of who gets mocked and pretty much ostracized. I read the TechCrunch article and many of the comments. The firm definitely made a mistake, and while embarrassing, it should be something to learn, and bounce back, from. I Arrington's time would be better spent sending a personal message to firm with a warning saying, “If this happens again I'll post it on TechCrunch,” instead of immediately writing the article for all to see.

    While a mistake, I wouldn't even consider this THAT bad of an offense. It wasn't a spam message, or a message from a bulk email list – it was a targeted pitch that didn't get double/triple checked. There are definitely worse offenders that actually need to be called out and exposed. This firm made a minor slip up compared to others, but so it goes in the digitized world.

    Cheers,
    Rich

  • http://rpulvino.wordpress.com Rich Pulvino

    Great post here, Marie. I think people need to lighten up a little bit in terms of who gets mocked and pretty much ostracized. I read the TechCrunch article and many of the comments. The firm definitely made a mistake, and while embarrassing, it should be something to learn, and bounce back, from. I Arrington's time would be better spent sending a personal message to firm with a warning saying, “If this happens again I'll post it on TechCrunch,” instead of immediately writing the article for all to see.

    While a mistake, I wouldn't even consider this THAT bad of an offense. It wasn't a spam message, or a message from a bulk email list – it was a targeted pitch that didn't get double/triple checked. There are definitely worse offenders that actually need to be called out and exposed. This firm made a minor slip up compared to others, but so it goes in the digitized world.

    Cheers,
    Rich

  • http://prmama.com/ Stephanie Smirnov

    At the risk of sounding humorless, I'm in the “enough is enough” camp. Truly ham-handed pitches are fair game but to showcase an innocent mistake for all to revile doesn't seem fair. It would be different if the bloggers who engage in this kind of sport had never made a professional misstep themselves but come on…really? Who among us is perfect?

  • gailsideman

    PR professionals are certainly held to a higher standard. In the digital world, that standard is ramped that much higher. Since bloggers can hit “send” on a whim, we are expected to be much more thorough as professionals.

    While I don't believe that this PR firm needed to be called out in public for one “transgression,” it serves as a reminder for us all to proof, edit and proof again.

    I, too, have made errors (I know — shocking!) and have called and emailed apologies with corrections immediately…it's not fun. It has to be done, though. It's our crisis, and we need to own up to it and move on as quickly as possible.

  • http://bradmarley.com/ Brad

    Like Rich said, if this was a poorly researched pitch with no relevance to the TechCrunch's audience, I would understand Arrington's anger.

    But now he's just making PR errors public for the sake of making them public.

    We get it. He hates PR people. Maybe we should grant him his wish and just leave him alone.

  • jesakalong

    Very thoughtful post, Marie. While I do like the premise behind the Bad Pitch Blog, I'm with you (and the readers here): enough with the bashing. What an embarrassing–and human–mistake for the PR pro to make with that TechCrunch email. That didn't need to go public!

    I would also point out that if that same TechCrunch writer wrote and published a book, he'd be singing a different tune about publicists. Who do you think helps authors push their books up the best-seller lists?

  • http://twitter.com/snepromo Shamekko Early

    I'm still relatively new to the world of PR and it frightens me to make mistakes. Then again, we're human. In the case of Tech Crunch, was it really necessary to put the mistake on blast for the Internet to see? It could have been handled internally versus placing it into the public domain.