Gini Dietrich

Nine Communication Lessons from Hitting Reply All

By: Gini Dietrich | October 12, 2011 | 
137

Alright. It’s time to have a little chat, particularly if you’re in the PR profession.

If you read Gin and Topics last week (or follow the industry news), you’ll know a PR “professional” (I use that term loosely, which is why it’s in quotes) called Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess a really bad name (I can’t even bring myself to type it here; it’s bad).

The background follows.

The Bloggess received the following pitch from a PR professional.

“The Kardashian’s once again show they are right on trend, and this is on (sic) Mommy’s are all going to want to follow.”

Never mind the fact that it’s full of misspellings and horrific grammar mistakes (that, alone, would have made me go off my track), it doesn’t fit ANYTHING The Bloggess writes about.

She responded in her typical snarky way which, if you read her at all, you’d know is typical.

She received this response from the PR professional:

Hi there,
That wasn’t very nice. We send certain pitches out to people so they have the chance of getting more hits on their page. We’ll make note of this email in moving forward and remember if we have any advertising opportunities with any of our clients not to go through you.
Best of luck to you.

But the real meat comes when the VP of said PR firm hit reply all with The Bloggess on the email.

“What a f—ing b—-!”

I told you it was bad. Except he spelled it out.

It’s not even so bad that he hit reply all on accident and wrote that. We’ve all done that. I think reply all should die. I hate that tool in email. Hate.

What’s bad is his response when she responded to him.

HE ARGUED WITH HER.

He initiated debate and he wouldn’t back down or apologize. If you want to read the entire exchange, it’s on her blog (and it’s entertaining, while a bit disturbing).

Communication Lessons

How many times have we told clients it’s not good to engage in written debate? Heck, we’re COMMUNICATION professionals. We know better. And, one would think by the time you make VP, you know better.

But not this guy. Nooooo. He continued to make matters worse.

I’m certainly not taking sides here (OK, maybe a little), but I do think there are some lessons we can all learn in order to do our jobs better.

Lesson #1: Know your audience. Do not (I repeat, do NOT) send pitches to journalists, editors, bloggers, producers, or a pet if it’s not a fit.

Lesson #2: Spell check and re-read your emails before hitting send.

Lesson #3: As a PR professional, is your job really to send pitches to people so they have the “chance of getting more hits on their page”? Really?!?

Lesson #4: As a PR professional, there is this thing called church and state. If your clients have “advertising opportunities,” they should be going through the advertising firm or department, not you. Sure, you can advise your advertising colleagues on which bloggers to reach, but give me a break. Using that as leverage because a blogger sent you a snarky email in response to your horrible pitch?

Lesson #5: Always respond professionally to a negative response, no matter if it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or email. Then take it offline. Immediately.

Lesson #6: Never, ever put in writing what you don’t want the rest of the world to see. It can, and will, be used against you.

Lesson #7: Don’t threaten the people you’re pitching. It’s not a good idea and makes you look like a douchecanoe.

Lesson #8: “I’m sorry” goes so much further than “I’m sorry, but…”

And finally…Lesson #9: Don’t use the reply all button!

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.

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137 Comments on "Nine Communication Lessons from Hitting Reply All"

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JeffOgden
4 years 7 months ago

Terrific post, Gini. Your tips are spot on too. Reminds me of my mom’s sage advice “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” spinsucks

JeffOgden
4 years 7 months ago

Terrific post, Gini. Your tips are spot on too. Reminds me of my mom’s sage advice “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” spinsucks

leobottary
leobottary
4 years 7 months ago

Nice post. A more overarching piece of advice (related to lesson #5) is to always write e-mails as if anyone will read them. In the event you inadvertently hit “reply all,” no worries.

leobottary
leobottary
4 years 7 months ago

Nice post. A more overarching piece of advice (related to lesson #5) is to always write e-mails as if anyone will read them. In the event you inadvertently hit “reply all,” no worries.

DoTime_WX
DoTime_WX
4 years 7 months ago

ginidietrich Whether PR professional’s or not, it would be it one’s best interest to behave while communicating. The man who hit “reply all” with the “f……b…..” words lost credibility in a world where credibility is vital.

DoTime_WX
DoTime_WX
4 years 7 months ago

ginidietrich Whether PR professional’s or not, it would be it one’s best interest to behave while communicating. The man who hit “reply all” with the “f……b…..” words lost credibility in a world where credibility is vital.

debdobson62
debdobson62
4 years 7 months ago

Good post Gini. I have seen a number of the “reply all” mistakes. One at my former firm by a young attorney who successfully managed to piss off a number of partners. Young attorney thought he was replying to only the sender. Let’s just say he managed to shorten his tenure with his response. A good reminder to all.

debdobson62
debdobson62
4 years 7 months ago

Good post Gini. I have seen a number of the “reply all” mistakes. One at my former firm by a young attorney who successfully managed to piss off a number of partners. Young attorney thought he was replying to only the sender. Let’s just say he managed to shorten his tenure with his response. A good reminder to all.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@JeffOgden That is VERY sage advice!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@JeffOgden That is VERY sage advice!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@leobottary Great point! I get wanting to back up your team and feel their emotion with them, but perhaps those words (if used at all) are better said in the AE’s office.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@leobottary Great point! I get wanting to back up your team and feel their emotion with them, but perhaps those words (if used at all) are better said in the AE’s office.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@DoTime_WX The funny thing about it is he went on to tell the blogger that she was going to lose credibility. It wasn’t her who did at all.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@debdobson62 I had a boss at FH who pretty much did this very thing…except to a client. Fortunately she was a SVP and she DID know communication and crisis and how to manage herself out of it. Two words: I’m sorry.

KenMueller
4 years 7 months ago

Wow. I’ve only seen this happen once when some a client of mine was in the reply all from a group of clients for whom she was working. They started trashing her in the emails, and it was obviously very embarrassing for them. She fired them as clients.

KenMueller
4 years 7 months ago

Wow. I’ve only seen this happen once when some a client of mine was in the reply all from a group of clients for whom she was working. They started trashing her in the emails, and it was obviously very embarrassing for them. She fired them as clients.

leobottary
leobottary
4 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich So true, and to your point, there are many forms of communication at our disposal, we’d be smart to utilize them 😉

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@leobottary Great seeing you here. Hope things are good!

NancyD68
4 years 7 months ago
It stuns me that people are this stupid. It seems that no one wants to take the time to even see if the person they pitch is even relevant. That is why I am glad I am such a small fry. I don’t get these kinds of messages. I think Klout is to blame. Companies use Klout, but don’t do any other research. The few times i have pitched something, i keep it relevant and triple check those emails before they ever go out! The last thing I ever want to do is look foolish in front of someone else!… Read more »
DoTime_WX
DoTime_WX
4 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich Apologies, meant to say “it would be to one’s best interest…”

Then he continued to argue his point, which seems like a waste of time. Once you label another with total lack of respect, the discourse is pretty much over.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@KenMueller Good for her! I get it happens, but come on, people! I’ve always said we would be better off without reply all.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@DoTime_WX Precisely.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@NancyD68 I got a pitch yesterday that floored me. I mean, floored me. And when I politely responded that it didn’t fit anything I would ever even consider writing, the woman responded with some rhetoric about why I’m doing my readers a disservice and telling me how to run my blog. That’s not nearly as bad as being called names, but it’s how the PR industry is run and I really, really hate it.

NancyD68
4 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich Do you think the stupidity/laziness level has gone up since Klout or is it about the same?

leobottary
leobottary
4 years 7 months ago

I enjoy your blog. I’ll be sure to participate more frequently and welcome you to do the same on our Executive Street blog! Cheers!

sydcon_mktg
4 years 7 months ago
Its amazing what people will say when hiding behind email!! You may remember Gini, me telling you about this tool who said and I quote “Nor am i going to have a mom from the suburbs tell me that I don’t know technology. That’s absurd.” All this after a conversation initiated by him about his website not being mobile! Am I a Mom from the suburbs, yes? But seriously what the hell does that have to do with technology and/or what I know about it? And, I wasnt claiming to be an expert (upfront that I was marketing/biz development). As… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@NancyD68 Oh it’s the same. It’s just that now we can see it.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@sydcon_mktg Now come on, Jenn. We all know women can only pretend to have brains until they have babies. And then we can’t even pretend after that. GOOD LORD! I wonder if that guy had kids or a wife?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@sydcon_mktg Now come on, Jenn. We all know women can only pretend to have brains until they have babies. And then we can’t even pretend after that. GOOD LORD! I wonder if that guy had kids or a wife?

jasonkonopinski
4 years 7 months ago

I’ll comment more in depth a bit later – but douchecanoe is one of my favorite expressions, Gumby.

Tinu
4 years 7 months ago
I’m always SO horrified to even Think I hit reply to all, even when I’ve been *asked* to hit reply to all that I waste a lot of time creating new emails with different subject line in my paranoia. Because the one time I did it was in my corporate days, and I said the DUMBEST thing ever. They must have thought the lye from my perm was seeping into my brain. These are all good lessons, though a mutual friend of ours said when I sent the link to her that there were “no winners here.” I love the… Read more »
rachaelseda
4 years 7 months ago

HAHAHA douchecanoe….I seriously laughed out loud. I’m going to steal that 😉

I think people tend to hide behind email which is unfortunate. If you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face then don’t write it. Of course, there are always going to be people who would also say ridiculous things to someone’s face but I think the lesson is not to be unprofessional. Your reputation follows you for a long time to come and believe it or not every person you meet can have a profound effect on your career in the long run.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@jasonkonopinski Do not make me disown you!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@Tinu “The lye from my perm was seeping into my brain.” HAHHAHAHAHA!!

I agree there are no winners here, but there are HUGE communication lessons. The very first thing I thought when I read it was, “Oh VP. You know better.” It hurts me and the industry that people behave this way. As my dad always said, “If you don’t want it public, don’t put it in writing.”

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@rachaelseda Thank you for noticing! 🙂

I think people hide behind their computers. Period. Totally agree with you that if you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face you shouldn’t say it. I once had to ban internal email at the office because our junior staffers were saying AWFUL things to one another in email. From the next cube over. It was killing morale and it took me a long time to figure out what was going on. So I banned email and I made them all sit at one big table to work out their problems, day after day.

it worked.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@rachaelseda Thank you for noticing! 🙂

I think people hide behind their computers. Period. Totally agree with you that if you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face you shouldn’t say it. I once had to ban internal email at the office because our junior staffers were saying AWFUL things to one another in email. From the next cube over. It was killing morale and it took me a long time to figure out what was going on. So I banned email and I made them all sit at one big table to work out their problems, day after day.

it worked.

NancyMyrland
4 years 7 months ago

Wow, amazing, simply amazing ginidietrich !

#10: Everyone…just grow up!! We aren’t children out here playing grownup, we ARE grownups, so act like it. If you want to revert to childhood, then quit your job and go find a pack of little kids that you best fit, then stay there. Don’t infect the rest of the business world with your immaturity.

sydcon_mktg
4 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich How silly of me! Thats right I forgot, women are only good for making babies & doing laundry & making dinner!

I doubt from his twitter ramblings that he has a wife, kids or significant other. He is so consumed with criticizing others & his ego not much room for anyone else!

sydcon_mktg
4 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich How silly of me! Thats right I forgot, women are only good for making babies & doing laundry & making dinner!

I doubt from his twitter ramblings that he has a wife, kids or significant other. He is so consumed with criticizing others & his ego not much room for anyone else!

terence.stephens
terence.stephens
4 years 7 months ago

This story has been making me laugh for a few days now.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@sydcon_mktg Um. And cleaning the house. Don’t forget cleaning the house.

Well, we’ll chalk this guy up to being a douchecanoe and take great pleasure in the fact that he has a serious lesson coming when he finds the perfect mate.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@terence.stephens Seriously! It’s like a train wreck…you just can’t help but watch!

And I owe you an email back. Coming later today.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@NancyMyrland Hi love! Yes, grow up! Very, very good point.

jasonkonopinski
4 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich Don’t sing it, bring it.

JayDolan
4 years 7 months ago
As a social media professional, I’m amazed. As a blogger, I’m not. I got an email for my blog yesterday from a “PR Professional.” It read “I wanted you to know that you’d be interested in this [link to crappy blog post]” What. The. [Word I can’t say on Spin Sucks]. Seriously? Who are you to make such a presumptuous statement? You obviously didn’t bother to take the time to even read my blog. You didn’t even offer me anything exclusive. This PR person just threw a half-hearted blog post my way and wanted me to give them a back… Read more »
Anthony_Rodriguez
4 years 7 months ago

Douchecanoe; ha! I can’t decide what’s making me laugh more, that or a picture of Wil Wheaton collating paper.

rachelrodenborg
rachelrodenborg
4 years 7 months ago

I would agree. The harsh reality is that email is rarely only seen by the intended recipient and even if the message only goes to one in box, it can go -anywhere- from there with the click of a mouse. I’ve seen the use of reply all blow up in so many people’s faces that I am hesitant to use it.

Another good tidbit–if you have something snarky to share, don’t email it. Stroll over and share it in person if you must. Or pick up the phone. By for goodness sake, don’t document it in email!

Cheers!

Rachel

rachelrodenborg
rachelrodenborg
4 years 7 months ago

I would agree. The harsh reality is that email is rarely only seen by the intended recipient and even if the message only goes to one in box, it can go -anywhere- from there with the click of a mouse. I’ve seen the use of reply all blow up in so many people’s faces that I am hesitant to use it.

Another good tidbit–if you have something snarky to share, don’t email it. Stroll over and share it in person if you must. Or pick up the phone. By for goodness sake, don’t document it in email!

Cheers!

Rachel

rachelrodenborg
rachelrodenborg
4 years 7 months ago

Shoot. That should have said, “But for goodness sake…” Need more coffee.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@rachelrodenborg VERY good point about an email being able to be forwarded. If I felt I needed to emotionally support my AE because of a snarky response she got from a blogger, I would get out of my chair and walk over to her to say whatever it is I had to say. I would never email it. Well, that and it’s against our policy to swear in writing. 🙂

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