Gini Dietrich

Effective Ways to Respond to Bad PR Pitches

By: Gini Dietrich | November 3, 2011 | 

I can hear the wind blowing outside and it sounds like it’s really cold. So I’m pulling together this blog post in bed.

I don’t want to get up!

In some places in the country, wind like this is called a tornado or a hurricane. In Chicago? It’s just par for the course. It is, after all, the Windy City.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have Facebook question of the week (clap, clap, clap)!

This week’s question comes from Tinu Abayomi-Paul. She asks:

In light of recent examples of bad pitches and the potential havoc created by how a publisher/author/blogger might respond, what is the most effective way to respond to a bad PR pitch?

I answer her question in the video below (or click here and it will magically appear), but I’m curious if you agree or not.

And don’t forget! If you have a question for us, head over to our Facebook wall and ask it there. I’ll answer it in a coming week.

I guess I’ll get out of bed now…Pete the Tapeworm is really hungry.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • ginidietrich

    @belllindsay He was NOT happy to have been locked out

  • For the record, the wind is brutal out there. 60 and beautiful, yesterday…now this. Ah, Chicago :).

    • ginidietrich

      @Katie Gutwein I think winter is officially here. I do not want to go out there!

      • @ginidietrich@Katie Gutwein these past few days HAVE been awesome.

        • @Lisa Gerber@ginidietrich Agreed. We’ve been spoiled.

  • OK, wait. How come the video is not from bed? 🙂

    • @Marijean I second that motion.

    • ginidietrich

      @Marijean I did it last night, silly!

  • That first bark was perfectly on cue.

    • @jasonkonopinski I laughed out loud when I heard that.

      • @Lisa Gerber It was perfect.

        Now, as far as bad pitches? I haven’t grown a level of notoriety in the blogosphere where I get pitched – but I have started to develop a PR/blogger relations campaign related to the day job. As a small tech startup, we have to be careful that we’re pitching appropriately – both in who we’re targeting and when. Tech bloggers are notoriously unforgiving with new apps/products.

        • ginidietrich

          @jasonkonopinski If you do your homework and pitch something that is relevant, you’ll be successful. Why is that so hard for so many of our peers to understand?

        • @ginidietrich Because, my dear Gertrude, that takes, you know, work and effort. Gah.

        • ginidietrich

          @jasonkonopinski Ah man! I thought only faybiz called me that.

        • @ginidietrich@jasonkonopinski Let’s be clear – I go with Gertie- he can have the full name

    • ginidietrich

      @jasonkonopinski He was so mad at me for locking him out.

    • YES! I have to get a dog that well trained. 😉 @jasonkonopinski

  • enerdy

    I agree that it’s not a journalist/blogger/influencers job to take on the responsibility of schooling PR pros- a huge part of doing the job well means targeting appropriately, and it’s amazing to me how many PR pros don’t place a greater value on “doing your homework”.
    I like to consider three general categories for the bad pitch: the lazy pitch (let’s just blast this out to everyone and see what sticks to the wall!) the ego-issue pitch (I know your beat is software, but my hardware client is soo relevant. And plus I just really want an influencer like you to cover my client…) and lastly, the inexperienced pitch.

    The last of which can genuinely be unintentional; in which case, the kindest act would be to quickly explain why their pitch isn’t right for you. It’s easy to forget what’s its like to be a newbie, and if any bad pitch even deserves a response, I think in this particular case taking the time to respond may actually result in a positive impact within the industry.

    • ginidietrich

      @enerdy OMG! She commented! She really commented!

      I agree with you on the inexperienced PR pro. I’ll likely take the time to educate them. But the others? No freaking way.

    • HeatherTweedy

      @enerdy I love your point here. Especially since so many agencies/corporations tend to push “new media” (even though blogs have been around long enough) onto young employees. I remember being a newbie tasked with “blogger relations” when no one would have ever thought to let an intern connect with traditional media outlets unchecked. It shouldn’t be the bloggers responsibility to educate PR people, but it’s certainly appreciated by newer PR pros.

  • I do not have the time, as you said, to educate. HOWEVER, :), sometimes, I’ll say something like…. thanks for thinking of us, this is not a fit. I’ll do that when the pitch was targeted and personal, and even though it doesn’t work, maybe I would like to hear other ideas they have in the future.

    The really bad ones? I either delete or forward to dannybrown Cause he’ll cover anything.

    • ginidietrich

      @Lisa Gerber So I have a question…when you respond it’s not a fit, do they tend to respond and ask why?

      • @ginidietrich NO, they respond with gratitude. Sometimes I say I’ll keep it on hand…but I mean it. You know, maybe it’s something that might fit in a future round-up… I don’t know.

        Keep in mind, in this case I’m referring to decent pitches, not bad ones.

    • @Lisa Gerber I particularly cover myself in the winter months.

      • @DannyBrown@Lisa Gerber Going kilted in Canada is a particularly risky proposition. 🙂

        • @jasonkonopinski@Lisa Gerber Certainly not for the faint-hearted or small of stature. 😉

  • I remember sending you an email I got from a very large agency a few months ago.

    It was generic and obviously a mail merge with a press release attached to it.

    I don’t feel comfortable naming and shaming the agency online ( like some bloggers do)

    I was an AE once and we all make mistakes. Although in this case I doubt it was the AE who decided to spam a bunch of bloggers with a mail merge.

    I contacted the client (which was named at the bottom of the release) and asked them why?

    Why are they paying so much in retainer when this is what they get?

    Long story short, they apologized and we have built a relationship since they work in the same niche as me.

    Saying that, the agency has now become completly obsolete. So I guess the damage is done when it comes to them, I do have zero ill will towards the brand now.

    • ginidietrich

      @John Falchetto If I remember correctly, the person’s title was VP. So they definitely know better. It’s an interesting case study that the agency has become obsolete. We all need to be nimble and flexible in how we do our jobs. It’s changing too rapidly not to pay attention.

      • @ginidietrich@John Falchetto Back in my AE/AM days in the stock photography world, we were given wide latitude to cultivate those accounts in whatever manner we wanted as long as we were showing positive growth within our segments. Some were obviously content to rely on marketing to distribute materials, etc and do the phone call thing – but I always experienced the most success with personal visits and using this new-fangled thing called ‘social media’ (this was 2005 – 2009).

        • @jasonkonopinski@ginidietrich@John Falchetto It’s amazing how even a LITTLE bit of effort at personal visits and being social gets the job done. So amazing that I simply cannot fathom why there are still folks who know they could do it but still won’t.

  • DKS_Systems

    @SeoKungFu Hey thanks for the RT, Boris!

  • I typically don’t respond either. I freelance for an online fashion magazine occasionally so sometimes I’ll get a fashion pitch for the Cision blog and I do respond to those to let them know they’re pitching the wrong blog/magazine. But most of the stuff I get says “Hey Lady” or “Hey Blogger” and those automatically get deleted…my name is Yvette not Blogger or Lady and if they don’t take the time to get my name right, I don’t feel like I need to take the time to read their pitch. Maybe that’s just me being crabby though?! This Chicago weather makes me cranky sometimes 😛

    • @Cision I get called Spinsucks a lot. I don’t like that either. 🙂

      • ginidietrich

        @Lisa Gerber@Cision Note to self: Call Yvette lady and Lisa spinsucks.

  • If this problem continues to grow something will need to be done about it, maybe a stream lining of the UCE (Un-authorized commercial email) complaint process would help. I like your advice though, ignoring it. Though if they are semi legit a simple response like:

    “I am not interested in receiving messages of this nature, here is a link to my UCE policy”

    You could then even track how many of them click through to read it. The UCE policy could basically describe the kinds of things you don’t mind getting which for most of us is probably quite limited. It could also say they continue to send you inappropriate pitches they will be shared with the inter-webs. Shame can be a powerful tool, and for those who have been warned and choose to ignore it, appropriate.

    I started writing said policy, wow it’s hard to do, harder than I thought it would be. Draft saved anyway. 🙂

    • ginidietrich

      @hackmanj You know, that’s not a bad idea. @Lisa Gerber you see this?

      • @ginidietrich@Lisa Gerber yeah, it’s hard to write though. Let me know if you guys come up with something.

  • One of these days when I get a pitch addressed to “Dear Mom Blogger” I am going to dress up as a woman and send them a video response. I figure that ought to get their attention.

    Most of the time I send a kindly worded note back to them explaining why it doesn’t work. I try not to make them feel stupid. That sort of approach has generated a lot of business for me in the past.

    • ginidietrich

      @TheJackB Oh please, please, PLEASE do that! And BCC me when you send it. I have to see you in drag!

    • Literally laughing out loud. Please share the video when you do. @TheJackB

  • kcossin

    Gini, I think you make a great point of not focusing your attention on those who “don’t get it” in terms of blogging. But as a professor, I am quite torn by your statement about not educating individuals on the correct way of responding to a bad PR pitch. I am driven to continually educate individuals on the most constructive forms of criticism. I want my bloggers to be well informed and instrumental in making change for the good of mankind. What are your overall thoughts on my comment and your overall statement on educating those who wish to truly make a difference?

    • smccollo

      I am afraid too many PR pro’s ‘know’ the pitch is bad but genuinely do not care and will not take your advice anyway, so I don’t believe it would make a difference.

      • ginidietrich

        @smccollo You might be right. Too often we’re approached by clients who just want to see how many emails and phone calls were made and are less concerned about the results.

    • ginidietrich

      @kcossin It’s a tough one because, if I answered every bad PR pitch I received each day, I’d spend two or three hours on that alone. So, if I can tell the PR pro is young or inexperienced, I’ll typically respond in a friendly and helpful way. But if the person’s title is VP, no way. They’re not getting any of my time.

    • @kcossin But you see, YOU are a professor… Gini is not. She doesn’t owe inexperienced PR people anything… think Brett Favre/Aaron Rogers. As much as Favre may infuriate us all, I agreed with him that it wasn’t his job to teach his replacement.

      • kcossin

        @AmyMccTobin You are 100% correct in your statement :). I love to see the thoughts, ideas, and communication that can develop with respect to any given topic. You hit the nail on the head that, as a professor, I am compelled to educate. Awesome comments, and I look forward to hearing what else everyone else has to say! I LOVE this post, and I LOVE this discussion! May everyone have an awesome Thursday 🙂

        • @kcossin Is this your first visit to SpinSucks… I have to warn you that you’ll ‘waste’ countless hours in here:)Why isn’t your livefyre bio approved yet? Tried to connect on Twitter.

        • kcossin

          @AmyMccTobin I’ve been reading “SpinSucks” for about a month now. I find the information provided to be quite engaging! I have not signed up yet, but let me do that now. Therefore, we can connect on Twitter 🙂

        • SpinSucks: now with CRACK. 🙂 @kcossin @AmyMccTobin

    • I’d love to teach whenever I can too, even though I’m not cool enough to be a professor yet (that takes commitment and book learning, doesn’t it?) But it seems like that audience isn’t receptive. Either they’re in the unenviable position of carrying out someone else’s orders, or they don’t care – it’s not like the evidence isn’t out ther. @kcossin . Then there’s the time factor – how would you manage your time in responding, in a way that wasn’t automated?

  • Tinu

    @ginidietrich That sounds juicy! Gotta go see that. 🙂

  • Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! I’m a celebrity now, right? Have a meeting now but will be back to shove the fact that you answered MY question in everyone’s faces! yeah! (Hehe, I kid. But I am excited that you answered my question.)

    • ginidietrich

      @Tinu You shall experience fame and fortune now!

      • Good. I’m getting tired of being a loud nobody. Now I can be annoying and self centered in front of an audience! @ginidietrich

        • ginidietrich

          @Tinu Atta girl! I’ll be there cheering you on!

        • @Tinu You’re a loud nobody? Pull the other one, my dear! @ginidietrich

  • Tinu

    rt @ginidietrich In which she answers my PR question in a video because I am clearly totally awesome. –>

  • Is it true starting next week this will be retitled the G+ question of the week? Rumors are swirling!

    I love how Jack Bauer is becoming my favorite guerrilla marketing acolyte!

    since I don’t get pitched nor am I in PR let’s talk Skiing!

    • ginidietrich

      @HowieSPM Skiing it is!

  • I love that Jack responded on cue. And I love your response to the question. My logic is this: you want to react in a way that would most prevent the objective from happening and let that be the response UNLESS there’s some other reason to get more involved. I mean various bloggers and their responses are entertaining, but the pitch was a ploy for your attention and even negative attention is attention. So that’s my serious response. Gonna go read what every one else said.

    • ginidietrich

      @Tinu “Even negative attention is attention.” You are SO RIGHT! And I know, from experience, the PR pro would tell the client, “Well, so and so blogger isn’t interested right now, but we’re building the relationship for later.” When, in fact, that’s not the case…from the blogger’s perspective.

  • Tinu

    Great video –> rt @ginidietrich Video: Is it our responsibility to educate PR pros on blogger relations?

  • ginidietrich

    @kbkcomm LOL

  • I think I might have a post coming up that spins off of this. And I love the way you snuck DB in there!

    If I replied to every bad pitch I got, I’d never do anything else. I know I wrote about us (PR pros) being educators whether or not we’re labeled as such earlier this week, but there are exceptions to every rule. I’m pretty much with you on this one… and you know how/when I respond… usually way before anyone else does!

    • ginidietrich

      @Shonali I thought this blog post was PERFECT timing based on the email exchange we just had. HAHAHAHAH!

      • @ginidietrich@Shonali wow I’ll say 🙂

        • @hackmanj@ginidietrich@Shonali I’m off to buy coke and OJ 🙂

      • @ginidietrich I’m STILL mulling over that one…

  • bonnie67

    RT @bdorman264 Effective Ways to Respond to Bad PR Pitches via @ginidietrich

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  • cloudspark

    Effective Ways to Respond to Bad #PR Pitches via @ginidietrich rt @kmueller62

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