Gini Dietrich

Successful PR Pitches: Don’t Be a Goofus

By: Gini Dietrich | July 1, 2010 | 

Guest blog by Paige Worthy, a magazine editor for three horticultural trade publications

Remember Highlights magazine? It was in every single doctor’s office when I was kid. There was a black-and-white cartoon in each issue called “Goofus and Gallant” that was about two very different little boys. Goofus was bad: He pulled on puppies’ tails and played pranks. Gallant was great: He spent his free time helping old ladies cross the street. Goofus made Gallant look even better. And Gallant made Goofus look that much worse. 

Many people in my life have reminded me of Goofus and Gallant: Friends, men…PR professionals.

Gallant PR people know my editorial calendar and offer to write me stories aimed at positioning their clients as experts, not peddlers of goods. Their Monday morning emails ask how my weekend was. They know how to relate.

Goofus PR people? They send a PDF attachment that I have to spend half an hour reformatting before it’s usable, or they fax me — yes, fax — some bizarre blast about advances in soybean crop management. Sometimes they even send an email to my address but directed at a competitor. Mistakes happen, yes. But I’m not printing that.

Gallants send me releases for products my readers will actually want to sell in their stores: Innovative gardening gloves, new landscape edging, breakthrough insect repellents.

Goofuses got my email address from the press list of a trade show I attended two and a half years ago and wants to sell me a snow blower.

I’m pretty active on my professional Facebook and Twitter accounts, and a lot of PR people have connected with me there. Gallants know the difference between personal and professional, between good information and just plain TMI. They show goodwill: They retweet my interesting posts, direct interesting news at me to pass on to my readers. They’re polite and courteous, and know when enough is enough.

Goofuses? They invite me to their Farmville homestead and want me to join their Mafia. They clog my stream with repetitive posts and cluttered, hashtaggy, overly linky tweets. They send auto-DMs when I follow them back. (And if any of you are training companies on social media and think that’s OK…you’re fired.)

I adore the Internet. Nine times out of 10, I’d rather send an email than make a phone call, and I think everyone should be all over the social media thing. It is not a fad.

Five hundred words are not enough to cover that. Just remember: Being online might make it easier to blast information to the masses indiscriminately, but that doesn’t make it acceptable behavior.

Remember the “relations” in public relations, and don’t forget the “social” in social media.

If you want a successful PR pitch, don’t be a Goofus…your editor will thank you.

Paige Worthy — yes, that’s her real name — is a Chicago-based writer and editor. By day, she’s managing editor for Lawn & Garden Retailer magazine. At all points in between, she tweets as @paigeworthy and blogs at about life, love, and the pursuit of jeans that fit. (It’s not as easy as it sounds.) She can be reached at

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. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • I found the *Goofus* name funny but there is nothing funny about this. I hope the goofuses out there w/ their auto-dms will learn their lesson. May I say, AUTO-DELETE? There should be an app for that.

  • Hi, Amy! I agree. I know there are “apps” that will automatically unfollow anyone who unfollows you…hopefully an auto-unfollow for auto-DMers is coming soon! Grr.

  • Thanks for the insightful and fun post, Paige! I think a lot of our readers are the ones doing the pitching, so it’s very helpful to get the point of view from the other end.

    If there are other editors reading this, though, I’d be interested to hear if they have their own do’s and don’ts (that doesn’t look like a word) or even a few horror stories to share!

  • I told Amy she is a goofus and she thanked me for the compliment! LOVE YOU AMY!!

  • Thanks for the post. With the hiring level in social media nowadays, I guess you’ll get 10 times more Goofus in the coming months …

    The fight for attention is going to be very tough in the near future and relevance and targeting are going to be critical.


  • It is refreshing to hear first hand what editors face day to day and I shall have to refer my clients and PR associates to this great post. I have been fortunate to consider many editors as colleagues and our work has been mutually beneficial and enjoyable. It is not always easy, however, to make relationships and find the social as you rightly suggest PRs should do. In UK, editors often build impenetrable walls around themselves and journalists enjoy proving to novice PRs that there is a imbalance of power to be remembered at all times. A response, no doubt, to the unforgivable Goofus behaviour you describe of PRs and companies trying to randomly promote stuff using the online equivalent of a blanket junk mail campaign. I like to think that your blog post might restore the faith of a few novice PRs and remind them that publications are approachable if they apply serious thought to what each editor requires – and remember their manners.

  • Thanks, Paige and Gini. This should be required reading for university students studying PR, as well as current practitioners.

  • Paige Worthy

    Hi Catherine! What a great comment. As an editor I try to treat every PR on a case by case basis…there are firms I adore that, when they get some “new blood” in I actually make sure I introduce myself and let them know how best to get things into our magazines…because I know they’re working hard from the bottom up. We could all stand to remember the struggles of our opposite forces, I think. In the end, we’re all working to get the best, most targeted info out to readers. Right?

  • Paige Worthy

    Thanks also to Dominiq and Maureen for your thoughts! I hope you leaders in PR and social media will find ways to teach novices and well-ingrained Goofuses alike how NOT to communicate, whether it’s sharing this blog or simply leading by example.

  • “Their Monday morning emails ask how my weekend was. They know how to relate. ” Something as simple as that. Imagine. Love the Goofus & Gallant analogy. You remind me of a book I read long ago that said, “Losers spray. Winners focus.” When you focus, you know what is relevant to the people you are approaching. When you spray, you don’t care if your list is up to date or appropriate. Great message, Paige.

  • Great post, may we reference it by quoting you and posting a link?

  • I don’t have a problem with it, Humor!

  • Let’s see…

    I love the word Goofus…
    I’d rather text, email, tweet, or FB 9.5 out of 10 times..
    I have blocked all farmville, mafia, etc from my stream – but they keep inventing new apps!!
    I HATE the auto DM
    I loved your post 🙂
    Especially loved : Remember the “relations” in public relations, and don’t forget the “social” in social media.

  • Hi Paige (and Gini) – thanks for this terrific ammunition, which I’d love to use in my never-ending quest to educate clueless PR people. On my blog, I have a series of posts titled “So You Want to Write a Media Release and Influence a Journalist?”, where I list terrific articles like yours. See for Part 5 in the series (it includes links to Parts 1-4). May I include the link to this article in Part 6?

    • Hi Kay! I’d love it if you included this, but let me make sure it’s okay with Paige, too. Stay tuned!

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