Friday, April 28, 2006

Follow Up to Bad Pitch Blog Post

I urge everyone who read not only my post on the Bad Pitch Blog entry commenting on a pitch that had not yet been sent to the media to visit not only the comments section of my blog for an update, but also to visit the Bad Pitch Blog itself for additional comments from Kevin Dugan.

I mention this in my comments, but I also want to point out the fact that I missed where the BPB itself mentioned that the post was a proposed pitch. Part of this confusion was due to the fact that, as Kevin admitted, the BPB has not set out a "rules of engagement" policy for what it publishes and does not publish. However, the BPB does consider a proposed pitch fair game. As long as that is known, then that’s their option.

I hope this post clears up any confusion about the entry, and I again urge any practitioner to regularly visit the BPB.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bad Pitch Blog Goes Too Far

The Bad Pitch Blog was launched earlier this year with considerable fanfare, as people both inside and outside the industry were curious to see the impact that a blog promising to call people out on bad pitches would have on the industry.

While reaction to its launch was mixed, most PR professionals recognized the value that the blog could have in highlighting the mistakes made by a few practitioners that on occasion manage to tar an entire industry. And since its launch, the blog has been filled with examples of pitches that any honest and/or capable practitioner would admit were hardly “ready for prime time” to put it mildly. As is the case with any critical body of work, there will be times when someone’s efforts go too far, and The Bad Pitch Blog made its first misstep of that kind this week.

An entry on the blog on Monday chronicled a pitch that carried the subject line “What Do Katrina Victims and Osama (Bin Laden) Have In Common?” The body of the entry contains the words “here’s what I’m considering,” which was probably confusing to many, but speaks volumes. Why? The entry, which someone who subscribes to any one of several PR-related Yahoo! Groups forwarded to The BPB, merely makes an effort to sound members out about what the contributor said was admittedly a risky approach to a PR pitch.

I, and several others who are members of those groups, cautioned the contributor against using it, and in the end, he rewrote the pitch so that it would carry a different headline that better emphasized the work his non-profit client was doing in a more straightforward way.

The big problem with this blog entry is nowhere does it contain any phrasing to identify the fact that it was lifted from a Yahoo! Group and that it never made its way to any reporter or editor’s inbox or voice mail. I and several others have submitted comments to the BPB since discovering the snafu to clarify the situation, but as of yet, none have been posted.

Again, I want to emphasize that I approve of the concept of the BPB and respect the co-creators of the blog. But just as it’s important to call PR pros out on mistakes, the BPB needs to develop a system of standards that ensures everything’s being done in a forward and proper manner.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Positive Effect of The Bad Pitch Blog

Ever since it was launched in January, the PR world has been abuzz about The Bad Pitch Blog, an effort by Richard Laermer and Kevin Dugan to "showcase" the worst the PR profession has to offer.

Not only did news of the blog's launch receive mentions in BusinessWeek, CNET and a host of PR-related publications and blogs, it also got well covered in the blogosphere. From what I read, most of the comments were positive, although some of that had to do with the fact that they came from journalists rather than industry professionals. Please note I'm NOT saying those opinions should be taken with a grain of salt; rather, I believe in reality the opinions of journalists matter far more than those that come from within the profession.

I've gotten into a lot of heated discussions over this point through the years, but I've never really bought into the supposed "symbiotic relationship" that some say exists between PR professionals and journalists. Don't get me wrong, journalists at all levels and outlets appreciate the assistance of a good PR pro. But, by the same token, any good reporter likely doesn't need assistance from anybody to do a story. In other words, if a company won't cooperate, because of the controversial nature of a story or any other reason, the reporter will find a way around that through the use of anonymous sources, regulatory and/or legal filings, etc.

Given that fact, I think the best hope for PR professionals and the industry in general is to position ourselves as a value-added service. By that I mean, we should work with reporters and view them as our friends, rather than the enemy, and do all we can to make their jobs easier. If we do, the relationships will go far. Journalists will understand that our hands may be tied by a situation beyond our control, and PR pros will appreciate the fact that journalists generally go out every day and do the best job they can. Obviously, that means a negative story will sometimes result. But, as long as the reporting is accurate and fair, we really shouldn't expect to ask for anything more.

Which brings me back to the Bad Pitch Blog... Anyone in the profession owes it to themselves to stroll by and read some of the entries. I should sincerely hope you'll be smacking your heads in amazement that stuff this bad actually went out. For I think we have less to worry about someone shining an unfair light on PR than we do about improving the work of the industry's professionals as a whole. Obviously, there's no way to know whether the bad pitches came predominately from "green" PR pros, but let's hope the attention will bring changes that will be truly good for everybody.

I gave a presentation last week to about 30 students at Farleigh Dickenson University, as part of a panel discussion on how writing is used in careers. One of the reasons I urged the students to develop the ability to write well is that writing is a skill that will serve you well, no matter what path your career may take, because good communication skills are necessary for most any job today. When asked about ways to improve one's writing, one tip I gave the students is to read all they can in the areas that interest them because reading good writing is one of the best ways to improve one's one writing.

Well, let's hope the same thing goes for pitches. Hopefully reading bad pitches will get the profession as a whole to re-examine this widespread notion that everybody's out to get PR and that journalists don't give PR pros a fair shake. After all -- if you received some of the e-mails in your in-box that have been prominately featured on The Bad Pitch Blog, would you have an opinion that was any more favorable?