Pitch of the day

Yesterday somebody using the Robwalker.net contact form sent a message, and all it said was: “Read my blog.” Followed by a link.

I found this depressing. Somehow it seemed to sum up the entire state of online “dialogue” these days — a blunt demand for attention. But points for honesty, I guess.

Almost satire

Shouts & Murmers this week is written in the form of a note to an author from one Gineen Klein, “an intern to replace the promotion department here at Propensity Books.”

To start: Do you blog? If not, get in touch with Kris and Christopher from our online department, although at this point I think only Christopher is left. I’ll be out of the office from tomorrow until Monday, but when I get back I’ll ask him if he spoke to you. We use CopyBuoy via Hoster Broaster, because it streams really easily into a Plaxo/LinkedIn yak-fest meld.

When you register, click “Endless,” and under “Contacts” just list everyone you’ve ever met. It would be great if you could post at least six hundred words every day until further notice.

This is actually pretty much how it works. Although you might read it in a way that suggests a system shot through with techno-fluency. You shouldn’t. Anyway, this is pretty good too:

I’ve attached a list of celebrities we think would be great to blurb your book, so find out their numbers and call them up. Be sure to do all this by Monday, because Sales Conference starts Tuesday. We come back Friday and then immediately on Saturday (!) all of editorial (Janet, plus probably Michelle, her assistant) and I go to the Frankfurt Book Fair for a week. During that time the office will be closed. …

Once we get back from Frankfurt, we’d like to see you on morning talk shows like the “Today” show and “The View,” so please get yourself booked on them and keep us “in the loop.”

Ha ha.

PR Corner: Pitching a coinage

Peddling a coinage that supposedly summarizes a trend is a stalwart promotional tactic. Today, for instance, I got a pitch that was built around this coinage: “deepre(ce)ssion.”

“There is a thin line between the play on words ‘deepre(ce)ssion’ and ‘deep recession,'” the pitch continued, going on to say that whoever these people are, they are a great resource for expertise for a story “on any subject relating to the oncoming deep recession.” Noted.

But I must say, “deepre(ce)ssion” is the worst portmanteau I have encountered in some time. I’m not sure how it qualifies as a play on words, nor do I understand what idea it is trying to communicate. It’s also not fun to say.

It is portmanteau that has failed.

It is a coinage manqué.

It is — yes! — a portmanqué.

PR Corner: Tragedy as hook

Is it just me, or is this pitch a bit disturbing?

Dear Rob,

In light of the recent Wal-Mart tragedy, I would like to offer a conversation with [redacted; name of consultant], who can offer tips on holiday shopping etiquette during the craziest shopping days of the year.

[Redacted] can discuss best practices consumers should consider when venturing out to the major shopping centers in the weeks leading up to the holidays.

Put aside the fact that there’s absolutely no relation between the suggested story and the stuff I write about. I’m curious about the notion that someone getting killed in a Wal-Mart sales frenzy is a good jumping-off point for a list of “tips on holiday shopping etiquette.”

I mean, etiquette? “Tip One: Trampling a man to death is very poor etiquette.”

I’m also a little disturbed at the idea that it’s consumers who are supposed to take away some kind of lesson about “best practices” after that incident. Maybe the retailers ought to be thinking about and improving, or at least reviewing, their “best practices” for handling Black Friday “door buster” promotions, no? Or are we now down to a sort of “shop at your own risk” scenario when it comes to the big holiday sales?

PR Corner: Why do some publicists offer me “bylined articles”?

Today’s voluminous digital PR mailbag includes a note from someone who has written to me many times — always addressing me by name — to offer me an article. Not an idea, a complete article. “Would you be interested in the 1,000 word bylined article below? …. Kindly let me know if you plan to publish the article…”

“Article” isn’t actually the most accurate word — the piece is sort of an opinion thing about business coaching, written by the head of a business-coaching company, or something. Sort of one of these “Six Rules of Whatever” writeups. I didn’t actually read it.

How am I on this PR person’s blast list? She seems to know my name — but at the same clearly has absolutely no idea who she is writing to.

I get these things all the time. Do they work? Are there publications that accept and publish “articles” like this? What value do they have? Seems like a waste of money to pay someone to send stuff like this around. And since I always tag such solicitations as junk, it kind of eliminates the publicist my from radar permanently.

PR Corner: Is it good to dis another journalist in your pitch?

This morning the ever-busy transom included a blast note from a PR person I don’t believe I’ve ever heard from before. It included an attachment — an article from another publication.

And it began: “The attached is worth noting, despite the fact that the reporter chose to disregard all the research [we] shared with her on” etc., etc.

It continued from there to make the pitch, which had something to do with said data. (The actual subject of the pitch is beside the point for my purposes here.)

Now, as a journalist, I’m not sure how excited I am supposed to be about dealing with a PR person whose pitch includes a de facto slam of some other journalist (whose byline was obviously on the attached article), distributed to an untold number of others.

It seems to imply a set of terms: If I don’t see the story exactly the way the pitch sees the story, then I’m “disregarding” the most important facts. Not only that, I’ll be labeled unprofessional, and that charge will be blasted around indiscriminately in a way that I can’t even respond to it. (I have no idea if the reporter in this case even knows about it.) So my basic reaction to this pitch was: Here’s a PR person I don’t trust.

It would be really easy for the PR person to have made the same point differently — and actually in a way that would make it more appealing for another journalist to pursue. “The attached is worth noting. One surprising angle not explored here is our research showing” etc.

No cheap shots at third parties. No implied confrontation about what the “real” story is (and that the only way it can be told is by mindlesslessly regurgitating the pitch).

Just a thought.

A new PR record

Yesterday three publicists at the same PR firm pitched me three different stories in the space of less than four hours.

All three were on the same basic theme — weight loss — and two were kind of just different versions of pitches for essentially the same client. All were clearly canned pitches, but addressed to me personally.

None of it was interesting, and the net effect was further annoyance with a firm that pitches me way too often as it is.

But putting that aside, it doesn’t suggest a great deal of internal efficiency and coordination, does it?