Reminder: The Importance of Research

We’ve all been told since our first day in PR to make sure to do your research before pitching.

But how often is it overlooked for the sake of getting a pitch out before [insert deadline from supervisor]?

Case in point: The Bloggess vs. Brandlink Communications.

Jenny Lawson, aka “The Bloggess” posted about her receipt of an irrelevant pitch more than once, and replied with her standard response for pitches sent from people who clearly did not do their research.

She received a response from the woman who sent the pitch, noting that they would remove her from their mailing list and she would thus miss any advertising opportunities with their clients.

To make matters worse, a Vice President of the company hit reply all and added, “What a fucking bitch!”

Don’t fight fire with fire. It doesn’t work. Oh, and it’s not professional.

Jenny’s response included:

“If you’ve read my blog you would know that a great deal of my blog deals with the importance of public relations companies doing research before sending form letters to bloggers. Specifically, I’m very vocal about ridiculous pitches involving celebrities using products. So much so that I made that actual Wil Wheaton collating paper page to combat this very sort of thing in a quick and painless way.”

“Plus, you’ve sent me this form letter TWICE today. I only point this out so you can delete this *ahem* “fucking bitch” from all of the mailing lists you have me on, rather than just one.”

The VP’s response:

“I get it and I was out of line by saying that however you put way too much effort into your approach. A simple “I don’t cover this, no thanks” or “Please remove” would suffice. To go out of your way to be snarky and rude is a little inappropriate. Again, I should’ve been less harsh – but I also feel like your email was rude and unprofessional as well. We will do a better job to research who we are pitching but maybe you should be flattered that you are even viewed relevant enough to be pitched at all instead of alienated PR firms and PR people – who are actually the livelihood of any journalists business. Don’t be offended, you started the cursing game so maybe we should all just laugh it off and plan not to work together in the future.”

Jenny took it to Twitter, and many of her followers replied and retweeted.

The result: more snark from the agency.

Agreed, if the lesson is not learned, then all of this is pointless.

I’m not writing this to bash Brandlink or any other communications agency, I am writing this to remind all PR professionals, the individuals, to save themselves from a similar situation and to always be  professional. When you send a pitch, your name is on it, so you represent yourself, your agency/company, and your client.Do your research.

The internet is a two way street.

Kelly is a traveler, New York native, public relations and social media professionalavid music lover , techie, and psychologist. She is passionate about enabling meaningful conversations and connections via the social web, believes that learning is lifelong and enjoys discovering new tactics to create and sustain brand identity and influence and maintain advocates.

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  • Great post and I agree with the importance of research. I’m glad you recognized that tyrannical bosses are partly to blame for un-targeted pitches. At times though, you can do in-depth research and still have a hard time determining whether the outlet is appropriate or not especially when the blogger covers a broad scope. I think the first stray pitch would’ve been forgiven, but to send it twice, and get cursed at by the VP even if it was unintentional,shows a deeper problem at this particular agency. In any context, it was not an appropriate remark especially to a female subordinate. I’m not a therapist, but I think someone there needs some anger management classes.

    A quick tip to PR dudes/dudettes: if you’re a publicist that will blast pitch a dumb pitch not because you want to, but because you have to, remove the top blogs that can make your life hell. And no.2, create a fake name and email address so if you get “outed,” your real name will never be attached to a blogger’s rant forever.

    • It’s true that after spending time researching it still may be the case that an outlet/contact is irrelevant, but that is part of the industry and the chosen information shared by bloggers and media. Multiple mailing lists that are being used in tandem should always be cross checked to avoid duplicates.

      This case is indeed unique, both the reaction and language used by the agency.

      Good point. Hopefully this story and message will reach above middle management to avoid anyone sending a pitch they deem as being “dumb” with any form of their namesake attached.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Liz

    Right on! As a book club organizer and podcast producer, I’ve been sent many irrelevant pitches from publicists, authors, talent, and the like. In many cases, these “wild” pitches are, also, awkward and poorly written. Extremely disappointing!
    On the other hand, I’ve learned a LOT about how to pitch and how not to pitch by observing the mistakes of others.
    Thanks for writing about this issue. Hopefully, it will help others to elevate their game!
    Hopefully, blogs like yours will educate others and help them to strengthen PR game

    • Liz,

      Thank you for your feedback and perspective. I hope that this blog and others like it become used even broader as a resource for the day-to-day “do’s and don’ts” of the industry.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Harrison636

    Lesson learned. That “reply all” button can be a real downer. I agree his choice of describing words were quite harsh, but that is his personal opinion and he is entitled to that. On the other hand, this gentlemen should have kept his thoughts and concerns to himself or expressed them not via e-mail.
    Either way the bickering between the two professional was slightly childish and could have been avoided had both parties remained professional and curtiously about the situation, and perhaps offered some constructive critism to each toher rather than bashing and name calling.
    The professional work force sometimes calls for what us sorority women like to call our “recruitment faces”. You may be talking to a client or Potenial New Member (do not refer to them as rushess, GDIs, ect. please!) and thinking, “This person’s got it all wrong! What are they thinking?” But alas, you’re not in a circumstance where it’s appropriate to lash out and right them on thier wrongs with all your rage; therefore, it’s crucial to bite one’s tongue and use that “recruitment face” and politely finished your (possibly horrible) interaction and continue on your way.