Wednesday, January 24

Pitching Public Relations: Monster

Jim Durbin was a recruiting blogger back when he was an account manager for staffing firms, but he says in his profile that the crazy success of blogging led him to start his own blog consulting company Durbin Media. Indeed, Durbin has about a dozen or so clients and the blogs look pretty darn good.

At, he recently wrote a pointed post called How Many PR folks at Monster Does It Take To Send An E-mail? It's a spot on lesson for public relations professionals sporting a second job title, something like "spam e-mailer."

Instead of writing about Monster's contest, Durbin shares the pitch letter. If you want to read the whole letter, he published it in his post.

I won't post it here, but I will focus in a few highlights: there was no greeting, which is indicative of a spam e-mail (Monster should know better ... I mean, gee, at least buy a program that fills in the names); it's a social media release pitch that screams: try our game and write about it (they say let us know what you think, but they don't care unless he writes about it); and it closes with "public relations account executive," which is a sure bet as to the intent of the e-mail to begin with. It was a poorly written PR pitch.

Durbin did exactly what Monster wanted him to do, but not the way it wanted him to. He wrote a post on a well-read blog in the recruiting industry, chastising the e-mail. His response starts: "There are so many things wrong with this e-mail that I feel the need to correct you." Good for him.

You see, right now, public relations professionals are making a long overdue push into the world of social media and most of them are going to fail miserably if they do things to bloggers like they do with traditional journalists — send news releases and pitches that are impersonal, impractical, and irrelevant to what the blogger is writing about.

As editor of a concierge and hospitality trade publication a few years ago, I saw (and still see despite selling the publication years ago) mountains of poorly crafted public relations pitches that are supposed to attract my attention. My response (assuming I just didn't file the release or pitch letter in the trash) was pretty similar: if you have not read the publication, which is obvious based on the pitch you're sending me, why on earth do you think I'd publish it other than to let people know why I didn't want to publish it ... or, in other words, before you blast e-mails and faxes (which was the rage back then), you should really consider reading the publication or connecting with some concierges to build a relationship.

Sound familiar? It should. Durbin writes: "Before you blast off e-mails to bloggers, you should really consider joining the community, contacting them, or building a relationship."

Durbin might not know how some public relations professionals answer, but I do. Those who practice "spam pitching" profess that they are "too busy to read everybody's publication (or blog) and certainly too busy to cultivate a relationship."

Yeah, right. And every editor or writer on the planet isn't busy. Nope. They just sit in front of their faxes, phones, and computers waiting for someone send them a pitch that has nothing to do with what they write about ... so they can spend an hour or two figuring out a way to write about your client.

The most common response to this revelation? "Do you mean I should take them to lunch and then pitch them?"

Oh, you mean bribe them with food? Yeah, that will help. It will help you lose even more credibility.

Sure, there are some strategic uses for pitching a story under some circumstances, but most pitches are nothing more than a novice public relations professional unable to find a real story about their client. So, they call or e-mail with the hope that the writer just might.

If you're a blogger, get used to it because it's going to get worse before it gets better. As public relations professionals set their sights on social media, expect mountains of pitches to come your way. Nothing will change it. I've been telling public relations professionals not to spam pitch for years and they just don't believe me, until fine people like Jim Durbin teach them the hard way. Of course, even then, they still don't get it.


James Durbin on 1/24/07, 3:28 PM said...


Thank you for the kind comment and the post. In defense of this particular PR person, they did write back and apologize, admitting they didn't know how to pitch bloggers. I removed their name from the original post when requested, because I have no wish to hurt someone's employment, and the person did respond, which made it clear they had made a mistake, not a deliberate spam attempt.

In fact, I have volunteered to post the PR Agent's point of view, unedited, if they wish on and, and when they do I will send you a note and see if you think they have the appropriate response.

Rich on 1/24/07, 3:53 PM said...

Hey James,

I really appreciate your addition. I guess I'm a bit tougher on my peers sometimes because they send the same e-mails to journalists (which really isn't the right way either).

It's great they sent an apology to you, especially since you were so nice to respond. The sad reality is that most bloggers, journalists, and editors won't take the time (and I'm not saying they should), leaving some pr folks to wonder why their releases never run and pitches die in silence.

Good call removing their name from the e-mail too. I respect that. I don't want to hurt someone's employment either, especially because what was done was pretty industry standard. (I always remove names from the releases I share in class for this reason as well.)

If they do share their point of view, I would love to see it. Thank you so much for offering to forward it along. You deserve extra kudos though; you helped them more than you know. — Rich


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