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Gini Dietrich

Nine Communication Lessons from Hitting Reply All

By: Gini Dietrich | October 12, 2011 | 
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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, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

112 comments
stellery
stellery

My current work place LOVES reply all; claims it keeps everyone in the loop. Granted when I first started, I was a little weary but eventually it was engraved in my head to hit that reply all button. Trust me... it took a LONG time before I was mentally and physically okay with using it.

Of course the reply all button never got included in clients (thankfully) but I'm sure there are loads of stories floating around the office when we hit that reply-all button accidentally and the content within was only for certain eyes only :)

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

I'm just catching up on some blogs and SO glad I didn't delete this one:)

Working on training clients in Online Crisis Management AS WE SPEAK.

UmaChandran
UmaChandran

Great post, even more so because your use of Douchecanoe just made my day! Hilarious :)

AmandaOleson
AmandaOleson

Gini, you're my hero for using the word douchecanoe in a post. I've been waiting FOREVER for it to happen... You just made my life. :)

Brankica
Brankica

Just read her post. I hope that guy gets fired or something. That is so lame and then he gets not even defensive but offensive. Wow. I had my share of a--holes responding in similar way but this is amazing when a "business person" does something stupid like this. She really did a great job and I learned something from her approach as well :)

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

You've outlined some great lessons, Gini! Now, to send them to BrandLink. I think they might benefit from having someone like yourself who knows PR teach them how to run their PR business.

cloudspark
cloudspark

Thank you for #4 especially - hate it when folks try to leverage editorial by selling the advertorial opps.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

@jeffespo would be proud that you used the word "douchecanoe" in a blog post Gini. My question is -- if you were a subordinate of this VP in the PR firm, how could you ever expect to grow and mature under the leadership of someone who can't even get communication 101 right? Do you think a few of these folks dusted off their resumes and started sending them out after this debacle?

bdorman264
bdorman264

'Reply all' is bery, bery bad; I had my experience with that and it wasn't pretty; and of course I was trying to be 'funny' guy at someone's expense that wasn't supposed to see the e-mail.

I read Jenny's post on this encounter and thought she handled it very well. I was surprised at the way the individual responded to her in the first place and then proceeded just to dig a deeper hole. Sometimes people don't seem to have the least bit of common sense at times or they feel they have to get the last word in regardless of the consequences..........of course, if you are always right you can do that, huh?

Did you say DON'T send pictures for lesson # 1? It depends on if they are compromising pics and might be the tipping point to help you secure the deal...........just sayin'.............

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel

And Jose should be fired for being such an idiot.

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

Ok back to post a comment that doesn't involve taking a friendly jab at @ginidietrich .

I'm perpetually amazed by how many 'communications professionals' fail to understand the very basic premises of the services they portend to offer - clean, tight copy for one. I was just railing that morning about a local advertising/PR firm's blog posts that are stylistic and syntactical messes from beginning to end. If a prospective client comes across that post, what's the feeling that come away with? Certainly not one of particularly high confidence in the agency's abilities to represent my brand. Yeesh.

But I digress.

Lesson #5 needs to be plastered on the side of a building or something. Maybe then people would actually listen. ;)

Katie Gutwein
Katie Gutwein

Once again, my jaw is on the floor. Wow....just....wow.

In regards to #7, I believe "but" negates EVERYTHING you just said. In business, AND in life.

Remiliz
Remiliz

How many more social media gaffes have to make the PR trade news before we all learn our lesson? This story goes way beyond discerning when/whether to use "Reply All;" it demonstrates an aggressive ignorance of basic communication principles and common sense.

Leon
Leon

G'Day Gini,

I'm not in PR. But as i keep on saying, PR is only eight letters away from HR. Years ago I worked for a boss who'd always ask, when I was getting steamed up about something, "There's no doubt you're right: but what are you trying to achieve?"

And when my kids were growing up I used to say to them, "Anyone can win an argument. You just have to talk longer and louder than anyone else. But so what?"

I dunno what gets into these people's heads. But whatever it is there's nothing much there to share the space with.

All adds to the fun

Regards

leon

Collectual
Collectual

Wow! I've definitely fallen victim to the Reply-All fiasco before but fortunately mine has been more the variety of the harmless yet email inbox filling "Thanks for sharing the donuts" type. The guy's response was ridiculously out of line but what concerns me even more than this guy's anger issues is that pantyhose may becoming back. Please, dear gawd, no!

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

I think this is proof that no matter how fancy and important your title sounds, your title is not YOU.

You could be the Director, CEO, and Head Cheese of a multi-national company, but it ultimately won't matter if no-one likes you...

rosemaryoneill
rosemaryoneill

Wow. Just, wow. But now I'm mad at you for making me spend 30 minutes or so delving around on The Bloggess site instead of minding my own business. Sometimes wayward emails can be funny, though...like the time I thought I was forwarding a great @cspenn email/newsletter within my company and hit reply instead. He thought it was funny and replied back.

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

I'm sorry, but I think there is only one lesson here. Look at what was sent out - purest spam, with the text so poorly written it can hardly be called "English". Of course this is a shop run by scummy people who are probably so stupid they get angry when called out (especially with wit). So I really think there is only one lesson to be learned here:

#1: Do not hire stupid people.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@John_Trader1 I'd be surprised if the guy kept his job. If it were my agency, he'd be fired on the spot.

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel

Sorry, Urban Dictionary. I keep forgetting that little font of wisdom!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@jasonkonopinski I feel like all we do is talk about how to do our jobs, yet no one is listening. Is it because it's hard work?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Remiliz THANK YOU! That is exactly what I thought the first time I read the blog post. What is wrong with these people? Are you not in communication??

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Leon Or as I say...is this really a battle you want to fight? I realize our egos sometimes get the best of us and we just have to be right, but, you're right, what does it accomplish?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Collectual Mmmmm...donuts.

OMG! Pantyhose is totally coming back. First Kate and now the Kardashian sisters. WHY would anyone do that??! They're expensive, they look terrible, and they last only one wearing (if that).

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Stuart Mills Stuart! You got over not wanting to comment here. YAY!

You're so right about the way we behave. Why can't we all just get along?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@rosemaryoneill HAHAHAHAH! She's a great writer, is she not?! I will read her and cry from laughing so hard. Not even her swearing is offensive to me (which is rare). I think she's just darn funny.

Thank heaven you were saying something nice about Chris!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@wabbitoid The first time I read the blog post, that's totally what I focused on. I couldn't get past the apostrophes.

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

@ginidietrich Can't be that hard. I mean, you and I find the time to snipe at each other all day long. ;) I kid, I kid.

In all seriousness, it really bums me out that agencies like this exist and worse, in the case of Burston-Marsteller, that they land the big fish clients. Sigh.

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

I agree, it's like saying, "with all due respect..." before verbally trashing someone.

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

Yep, bringing awareness to a problem certainly helps in resolving it ;-)

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

@ginidietrich Its very frustrating to see people who are paid and have steady work doing such a terrible job. Perhaps it's jealousy on my part as much as anything, but I can't find steady work no matter what I do. I'd like to think that having a few working brain cells would count for me, but it doesn't. Why there is an agency like the one in question - with several employees and at least some source of income - able to do it where I cannot?

I find these times very frustrating. It seems as though craftsmanship and thoughtfulness are not valuable at all. Even common sense appears to be too much to ask much of the time.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@jasonkonopinski Well, no one ever got fired for hiring a big name PR firm. But they have gotten fired for taking a risk on a boutique agency.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@KevinVandever OMG! I HATE THAT!!!! I've had a few Baby Boomer men say that to me when I speak. It makes me want to punch them in the face. "With all due respect, your customer IS using the Internet. It's not my fault you're too stupid to realize it."

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@wabbitoid I agree with what Jack says, but I also know this is really rampant in agencies. Clients don't know what is deemed good work (or measurable work) and agencies put their junior level people on working with media and reporters. The big problem with this situation is the guy who called Jenny the name KNOWS better. He's a communication VP. I'm guessing it was just a lack in judgement.

TheJackB
TheJackB

@wabbitoid It is hard to say if they are working full time or not. The beauty of a website/blog is that you can make yourself appear to be bigger and busier than you are.@ginidietrich

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