This first ran on Shonali Burke’s blog, Waxing Unlyrical. If you read it there, there is nothing new to see here. If you don’t know Shonali or her blog, I suggest high-tailing it over there. After you’ve read and commented on this piece first. Of course. Oh. And read the comments here. They’re new, too.

Week before last, TechCrunch took a stab at PR professional Timothy Johnson.

Actually, a stab is putting it mildly.

They called him a PR disaster and printed his emails to  Leena Rao, the “extremely sweet and mild-mannered colleague” of author  Robin Wauters.

Before you jump to a conclusion, let’s examine this from both sides: The side of reporter and writer Leena, and the side of PR pro Timothy.

Leena’s side:

  • She responded to his email (which doesn’t always happen) with a note asking for more information to make it more a story.
  • She asked him to circle back when he had something more newsworthy.
  • TechCrunch was left out of the initial announcement of Timothy’s client because they don’t honor embargoes.
  • A competitor to Timothy’s client sells double virtual gifts in a day that his client does in a year.
  • He wrote things such as “Seriously?” and “Really? Wait for a product announcement? Is that a joke, Leena?” which are full of conflict and could make one defensive.

Timothy’s side:

  • He was honest and upfront about why TechCrunch wasn’t included in the initial news last fall.
  • He doesn’t bury the news and is brief and to the point.
  • Only his emails were included in the TechCrunch “story;” Leena’s were not (minus her initial response).
  • What kind of publication, public or private, goes around bad-mouthing the people who help them get their content?
  • Who goes around telling a PR pro’s client they should fire that person and not sound like a complete jerk by doing so?

When I first saw the story, I tweeted it with a “whoa.” Then, last Sunday, Jeremy PepperShannon PaulMack Collier, and I debated its “merits” on Beth Harte’s Facebook wall.

I’m sure Timothy, Leena, and Robin are all very nice people (which came up during our debate on Beth’s wall).

That’s not the debate here.

The debate is:

a) whether or not a PR professional should ever write such an email to a reporter or blogger (if there are questions about the decision, a phone call ALWAYS works better), and

b) whether or not a publication or blog should print an email exchange and suggest the PR pro be fired.

My reaction?

They’re both in the wrong.

Timothy should never have written such a conflict-filled, defensive response. And TechCrunch should never have published it.

What do you think?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich