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May 8th, 2009

Out, Out Damn Emotion: Had Shakespeare Written Emails…

The world needs a better alert icon to put on emails to reporters. Something more specific than Outlook’s burnt orange exclamation point image indicating an email of high importance. Those exclamation point emails usually come from spammers and deal with anatomical issues, and that little blue arrow pointing downward has the opposite desired effect.

The dreaded blue arrow says:

“…I am not all that important. Get to me only when ready. Peruse those burnt orange exclamation points about increasing potency first. I will just be waiting patiently here in your inbox, twiddling my thumbs, eating Mallomars, and doing a crossword until you’re ready to check me out.”

We need something attention-grabbing. Something that indicates to a reporter: “I did my homework. Enclosed is a well tailored, carefully crafted pitch. This story idea is perfectly suited to your beat and your publication.”

We need a better way to distinguish the forces of PR good from the forces of PR evil. Crafting a good pitch is half the battle. The other struggle is just getting attention. It can be a bit like shouting in a room where everyone else is shouting in the same room.

One of RLM’s folks responded to a reporter query recently for information; the notice was sent to many, many PR professionals. The request was, however, so perfect for our client that he picked up the phone and called the reporter within seconds of getting his email. Following is an improvised interpretation of that conversation delivered in one death-defying act:

Jaded Reporter: You have no idea how many phone calls I get every time I send out a query.

PR Hero: Yes, I can imagine, but this, this will blow your mind. This is gargantuan. I lack the necessary words to convey to you the enormity, gravity, and absolute perfection of my client to your needs. Your readers will weep in the streets. They will hoist you onto their shoulders and carry you off the field of journalistic battle.

Jaded Reporter:

PR Hero:
Oh, nothing… I can give you the background research and set up your interviews with these sources… It would make for a totally easy day.

Jaded Reporter: Can you just send me an email?

PR Hero: No… But… This is perfect. If you would just listen to me, this is perfect for you (INCOHERENT BABBLE TURNS TO SOBBING).

Jaded Reporter: (SILENCE)

PR Hero:
(BROKEN) I guess I will just send it in an email.

Well, okay. Who can blame the JR? Many of us PRHs have been on the receiving end of those phone calls. I have agonized over whether or not to pick up my phone. The thought that many reporters have is, “Will there be something tangible, or is there a PR zombie on the other end?”

There are certain broken PR professionals, soulless shells, zombies forever wandering Earth looking for hapless journalists on whom to prey.

FACT: Regular zombies feed on brains!

FACT: PR zombies feed on wasted time!

Maybe we don’t need an alert button but instead we brand PR zombies with a skull-and-crossbones (mandated by federal law) next to the subject line. What I am proposing is a new kind of Scarlet letter, a kind of A that weeds out the weak and undeserving. A warning to reporters, “Tread carefully here, ye purveyor of the First Amendment, for herein lies ennui.”

Twitter @laermer for regular findings plus irregular commenting.

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