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 www.paigeworthy.com about life, love, and the pursuit of jeans that fit. (It’s not as easy as it sounds.) She can be reached at email@example.com.